An Iliad is a modern day retelling of Homer’s Iliad. The setting is a room – a theatre, a bar, an empty space in the present day. The time is now – the present moment - when this classic story of man’s need for violence and man’s longing for peace is most relevant. The lone man onstage is a storyteller – possibly Homer, possibly one of the many bards who followed in his footsteps. He is doomed to tell this story throughout history and is spirited to this present location by his masters – the gods and aided throughout the evening by his inspiration – the muses. The evening seems fraught with failure as this hollowed-out, tortured soul channels the mysteries and the miseries of that long ago battle beneath the walls of Troy. He finds inspiration, inhabits the characters, is stymied by ferociously painful memories, finds his feet again and throughout the evening catapults the story into our very hearts by speaking in our idiom, with examples from our lives. We become implicit. We are there. The evening ends with a collapse, a renunciation, a rebellion and finally an offering as our embattled narrator looks into the abyss and pleads for our understanding. Although it is essentially a one man show, the muse is inhabited by a bass player – a live musician whose presence transforms the performance into a series of dialogues – between actor and musician, actor and audience, musician and audience.
When we first started writing our piece, we were responding to the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and we were worried about the seemingly endless wars that yawned in front of us. As we investigated violence, war, and rage we came to see that we human beings have been struggling with these realities since we first started writing down our stories. We also realized, as we performed our play, that story-telling itself is one of the most basic of human impulses. Our play speaks of war and violence, of grief and compassion and it does so through the device of a story-teller. The audience sits in the darkness and watches the images that spring to their mind’s-eye through the ancient vocabulary and rhythms of Homer. No country is immune from violence. Everyone needs to hear a good story. We think An Iliad can provide an audience 100 minutes of respite from their daily lives – time to think, time to remember, time to resolve to change– for the better.
AN ILIAD started out as an examination of war and man’s tendency toward war. In the end, it also became an examination of the theater and the way in which we still tell each other stories in order to try to make sense of ourselves, and our behavior. Someone started telling the story of the Trojan War, in all its glory and devastation and surprise, over 3,000 years ago. We pass it on.
AN ILIAD was originally produced by Seattle Repertory Theatre (Jerry Manning, Producing Artistic Director; Benjamin Moore, Managing Director) in Seattle, Washington, opening on April 9, 2010. It was directed by Lisa Peterson; the set design was by Rachel Hauck; the costume design was by Marcia Dicxy Jory; the lighting design was by Scott Zielinski; the original music and sound design were by Paul James Prendergast; the stage manager was Michael B. Paul; and the dramaturg was Janice Paran. The production featured Hans Altwies as The Poet.
AN ILIAD was produced at the McCarter Theatre Center (Emily Mann, Artistic Director; Timothy J. Shields, Managing Director; Mara Isaacs, Producing Director) in Princeton, New Jersey, opening on October 29, 2010. It was directed by Lisa Peterson; the set design was by Rachel Hauck; the costume design was by Marina Draghici; the lighting design was by Scott Zielinski; and the original music and sound design were by Mark Bennett. The production featured Stephen Spinella as The Poet.
AN ILIAD was produced at New York Theater Workshop (James C. Nicola, Artistic Director; William Russo, Managing Director) in New York City, opening on March 7, 2012. It was directed by Lisa Peterson; the set design was by Rachel Hauck; the costume design was by Marina Draghici; the lighting design was by Scott Zielinski; the original music and sound design were by Mark Bennett; and the production stage manager was Donald Fried. The production featured Denis O’Hare and Stephen Spinelli as The Poet on alternating nights.
“The strength of AN ILIAD resides in the combination of a naturally exciting narrative and the engaged, virtuosic performance of...Mr. O’Hare...a supple, gifted and engaging performer.” - Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
“With the article ‘an’ proposing but a single contribution to the diversity of Iliads, co-writer/performer O’Hare and his artistic team have distinguished their oft-told story amongst its many retellings simply as the moving and thoroughly personal investiture of the unique human who appears on the stage. How incredibly powerful this work of theatre is as a result.” - Van Badham, The Guardian
“To call this a one-man show is really an understatement, as the scale of this work is genuinely epic. There are moments in An Iliad that will make you shed a tear for humankind...An Iliad does a magnificent job of retelling this Greek epic, making it accessible and timeless to the uninitiated; it’s sweeping, sobering, it hits you in the solar plexus, and it puts into staggering perspective just how obsessed with war-mongering humans have always been and continue to be.” - Cicely Binford, Australian Stage
“An Iliad is pure theater: shocking, glorious, primal and deeply satisfying.” - David Cote, Time Out New York
“A mesmerizing play...a wrenching theatrical experience” - Jennier Farrar, SF Gate
“The show is a sweeping, visceral theatrical event that not only commands attention from start to finish, but can prove to be a touching ode to the tradition of storytelling and an excursion into the magic of simple stagecraft.” - Andy Propst, TheaterMania
“Listening to An Iliad in a manner that could be breathtakingly close to the way its first audiences heard and saw it is a treat too good to miss.” - David Finkle, The Huffington Post
“A starkly powerful experience that leaves you with not just a sense of the horror and absurdity of war, but also — and this part makes the heart sink — its inevitability.” - Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe
“An Iliad is unquestionably a victory of the theatrical imagination...At the center of it all is one of the greatest stories ever told.” - Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times
“This is a formidably powerful piece of solo theater, that evokes the rubble of history and of lessons mankind consistently fails to learn.” - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune