Iowa State's Department of Music and Theatre is performing “Anon(ymous),” a retelling of the Greek epic poem “The Odyssey” as a modern-day refugee story.
The department’s main goal is to inspire and create a community with creativity and diversity at Iowa State; as a push for that goal, the theatre department will be performing “Anon(ymous)” by Naomi Iizuka.
“Anon(ymous)” is an adaptation of Homer's "The Odyssey,” where a young refugee, Anon, encounters new friends and dangerous enemies while on a search for his family through ocean settings to urban cities throughout the U.S. This production is directed by Arpita Mukherjee.
Mukherjee, artistic director of the New York-based Hypokrit Theatre Company, is guest directing the production as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) dean’s artist-in-residence.
“It’s been a joy and privilege to be the LAS dean’s artist-in-residence,” Mukherjee said. “ISU Theatre is cultivating the citizen artists of the future, with the key word being citizen. These young citizen artists are dynamic, fierce and bright. Collaborating with them, listening to them and learning from them has been an extraordinary experience and has fortified my belief that they are the answer to the great challenges we face today.”
Mukherjee said the stories of those who are immigrants or refugees are some of the most important stories but are rarely told on an American stage, especially when the protagonists of the story are those refugees. The refugees often also serve as larger-than-life heroes, where the audience has the opportunity to watch them not just survive, but thrive.
Olly Manning, a senior in music, is playing the lead role in the production as Anon. Manning said they are hopeful the show’s exploration of refugee stories and xenophobia will ignite understanding and empathy within the audience and the Iowa State community.
“I hope audiences can see their experiences highlighted in this show, be it the refugee experiences, shared trauma, friendship or the sweet reminders of home,” Manning said. “I hope that if the audience doesn’t see a little bit of themselves in this show, they learn about what other people go through in America.”
Manning also said it was important to have such a diverse team, and they said it adds a powerful dynamic to the production. They described this production as an "amazing opportunity" for themself as a transgender actor of color and how the representation in this production will impact the community.
In this production the cast and crew is as follows:
Nemasani — Anika Slowing Romero
Anon — Olly Manning
Mr. Yuri Mackus/Barfly/Ensemble — Sam Huhn
Senator Laius/Mr. Zyclo/Nice American Father/Ensemble — Samuel Elliott-Rude
Helen Laius/Zyclo's Pet Bird/Nice American Mother/Ensemble — Morgan Mulford
Calista/Sewing Lady #3/Nice American Daughter/Ensemble — Jessica Fenton
Naja/Ensemble — Bethmari Marquez
Ali/Proteus/Ignacio/Ensemble — Jamal Johnson
Nasreen/Sewing Lady #2/Belen/Ensemble — Nicole Foldi Martinez
Ritu/Sewing Lady #1/Serza/Ensemble — Tiffany Liechty
Pascal/Ensemble — Al Moore
Strygal/Barfly/Ensemble — Kai Cravens
Director — Arpita Mukherjee
Scenic designer — Rob Sunderman
Costume designer — Doris Nash
Stage manager — Sydni Lapsley
Assistant stage manager — Andy Funke
Lighting designer — Will Coeur
Assistant to the scenic designer — Courtney Sabotta
Sound designer — Will Coeur
Fight choreographer — Brandon Brockshus
“Anon(ymous)” performance dates are at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14, as well as a matinee performance at 1 p.m. Dec. 8.
All of these performances will be taking place at Fisher Theater. Tickets are available through the Stephens Auditorium ticket office, Ticketmaster or the Fisher Theater box office prior to performances.
The Iowa State theatre department will also be holding a panel discussion titled “An Unending Odyssey: Immigration, Intersectionality and the Arts,” which will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday in 004 Scheman Building.
Community members are invited and encouraged to go and engage in a roundtable discussion with local, regional and national artists and scholars as part of ISU Theatre's year-long symposium series, "HERoic: Gender Equity in the Arts.”