This winter, Touchstone Theatre rehearses for its spring production of a new adaptation of Homer's The Odyssey. The play, entitled Ulysses Dreams, will perform April 13-21 and features original music and poetic text by Touchstone Artistic Director Jp Jordan and Ensemble Associate Christopher Shorr.
The story of Ulysses Dreams, performed in the form of a song cycle, explores the story of Ulysses from early childhood, to the Trojan War, to his long and perilous journey over the ocean, and finally home to his loving wife Penelope. Along the way, he is beset by gods and monsters, nymphs and natural disasters. In Ulysses Dreams, however, the focus is on Ulysses' personal journey, his growth as a hero, and his relationship with various women in his life.
Preparations for this production have been underway since the fall, with Touchstone company members proposing themes and rehearsing staging ideas for the show. From these devisings and improvisation, Jordan and Shorr began gathering common themes and conceiving what form the play might take.
"We came up with lots of ideas," says Shorr, "from a fully scripted dramatic play, to a series of audience participation games-until we settled on the current plan. We wrote seven pieces of instrumental music-each inspired by a female force that guided or impacted Ulysses on his journey-and seven pieces of poetic text to accompany them. We came up with a framework, and now Jp has taken this back into the rehearsal room with the actors to continue the devising process."
Following the success of Touchstone's spring production last year, Ulysses Dreams will be performed outdoors, behind Touchstone Theatre on the Bethlehem Greenway's new amphitheater. Jordan says, "After the experience of A Resting Place, we knew we wanted to be outside again with our next big project. Performing outside is like speaking to the heavens."
Shorr adds, "This is a process unlike any that I've encountered as a writer, director, or performer. It's unusual, but it feels right for this project. One of the big challenges of any non-traditional theatre process is being able to change the approach to fit the needs of the situation-the company, the themes, the time, and the spirit of the project."
Ulysses Dreams plays April 13-21, Saturdays and Sundays at 12p and 4p, on the Bethlehem Greenway behind Touchstone Theatre. Tickets are $25, $15 for students and seniors. Sunday at 12p, Touchstone offers Pay-What-You-Will, where patrons purchasing tickets at the door may name their own price. To purchase tickets or for more information on the project, contact Touchstone Theatre at 610-867-1689 or visit www.touchstone.org.
Celebrating over thirty years, Touchstone Theatre produces and presents both original and classic productions, with a dedication to the renewal of theatre as a vital art form. Touchstone works to foster collaboration on a local and national level through educational and youth empowerment programs, using theatre as a community-building tool.