Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Anon(ymous): An epic odyssey reimagined

Theatre production explores the refugee experience through classical lens

Anon(ymous): An epic odyssey reimagined

Photo by Ken Jacques

By Teresa Monaco

Anony(mous) is a play by Naomi Iizuka based on Homer’s classic Greek poem The Odyssey. Iizuka’s play parallels The Odyssey’s themes of epic journeys and searching for home, comparing Odysseus’ long journey to that of a modern day refugee—both having to overcome immeasurable obstacles along the way.

Ancient Grecian heroes and modern-day refugees

Randy Reinholz, Director of SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film’s production of Anon(ymous) describes the play as “Both modern and ancient in the same moment,” and explains the similarities between the epic poem and Anon(ymous) saying “Iizuka replaces the main character Odysseus, the Grecian war hero who journeyed home for ten years, with a young refugee looking for home in a new land in modern times. Trucks and trains replace the ships of Odysseus. The monsters come right from the headlines of today’s news stories.”

Anon(ymous) was originally commission by the Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis, yet confronts adult issues like sweat shop workers and attempted enslavement, among others (hence Reinholz’s allusion to “monsters”). “There are exquisitely paced moments of tenderness, romance, and beauty,” says Reinholz. “The sweet parts of the play balance the savage reality faced by refugees in first world countries today.”

A timely political issue

Although written in 2006, Iizuka’s script is more relevant than ever in today’s political climate. In a 2007 interview, Iizuka was asked about how much of the play was influenced by the times in which she was writing it. She responded “I want very much for the play to speak to our times—and these are times that have been particularly harsh and unforgiving to refugees and recent immigrants. I hope the play begins to honor some of their experiences and stories.”

Reinholz recently echoed Iizuka’s 2007 sentiments saying “At a time when there are more than 22 million refugees in the world and more than 65 million people forcibly displaced globally, it is clear that we must engage and support these populations as they seek a safe place to live.”

“Most important about Anon(ymous) is that it is a beautiful text. It is poetic and soulful, while depicting the best of humanity and the generosity shown in an all too often cruel world,” says Reinholz.

The SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film will present Anon(ymous) September 29 through October 8 in the Experimental Theatre. To purchase tickets, visit this link. For supplementary materials, including related news stories, behind the scenes, community resources for refugees, and more, click here.

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