A WORLD PREMIERE
“I could wait for you forever, If you told me what forever was for.”
A re-imagining of the story of The Odyssey from the point of view of a character often relegated to the margins of the story, Penelope is a musical love letter to all those who wait: For someone they love. For something they believe in. And hope that the wait will end well. An intimate and explosive music theater piece, Penelope invites the audience to join in a ritual act of storytelling to release the pent-up grief, anger, love and longing that are so familiar after the last three years. Penelope was developed, in part, through the Founders’ Club Residency as part of the Orchard Project (Ari Edelson, Artistic Director.)
Penelope, Tatiana Wechsler
Penelope Understudy Christine Bokhour
Orchestrator, Author, Alex Bechtel
Props Designer, Buffy Cardoza
Music Director, Daniel Kelly
Lighting Designer, Oona Curley
Costume Designer Rebecca Kanach
Sound Designer Palmer Hefferan
Stage ManagerJo Fernandez
Viola Rachel Evans
Piano Daniel Kelly
Violin Daisy Jopling
Drums Dave Previ
Cello Patricia Santos
The Odyssey and Penelope
The Odyssey is an epic poem, originally composed around the 8th or 7th century BC. It tells the story of Odysseus, who is trying to return home to Ithaca after fighting in the Trojan War.
Odysseus’ journey from Troy to Ithaca takes ten years — the same amount of time that the Trojan War lasted. This means that Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, had to wait twenty years for him to return.
The extraordinary length of Odysseus’ voyage is due to his encounters with the god Poseidon, the nymph Calypso, the Sirens, an affair with the witch/goddess Circe (which resulted in him living with her and fathering her children) and more.
Meanwhile, in Ithaca, Penelope waited. She is besieged by suitors during her husband’s absence and must find ways to keep them at bay. In The College magazine article “Penelope: The Odyssey’s Creative Thinker,” author Michael Grenke writes:
“Her suitors have put Penelope on the clock. They are aggressive and avaricious… Although Penelope is not wholly opposed to coming to some kind of arrangement with the suitors, she tries to delay them. She tries to put herself in a situation where there is more time to think more fully and on more sufficient grounds. She tries to defend her marriage, but what is she defending? The fate of her husband is unknown. No contact for nearly twenty years. What have they shared? What have they done together? Nothing. Each has been married to the other Separately.”
Penelope at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival imagines the story from Penelope’s point of view, and looks at a woman who waits, with hope in her heart, for the return of the husband she hasn’t seen for twenty years.
Penelope began as a writing project for Alex Bechtel at the start of the pandemic. Forced to quarantine from his romantic partner, he found comfort and healing in writing songs from the point of view of Penelope, Odysseus’ waiting wife in Homer’s Odyssey. Penelope is a musical love letter to all those who wait: For someone they love. For something they believe in. And hope that the wait will end well. Penelope is an act of communal healing for audiences to gather and express and release the grief, anger, longing, and pain we have been feeling during this time.
What Makes It Unique?
- Single Actor: Tatiana Wechsler performs all roles.
- Live Band: Accompanying the lone actor.
- Themes: Explores love, longing, grief, and the emotional essence of waiting.
- Communal Healing: Serves as a therapeutic space for audiences to confront collective emotions.