by Margaret Atwood
Directed by Dr. Jennifer S. Holmes, Professor of Theatre
& Communication Arts
Scenic & Lighting Design by Brian Alan Reed
Costume Design by Monica French
The Robinson Theatre
November 30 - December 2 2017 (Thursday-Saturday) - 7:30 p.m.
December 3, 2017 (Sunday) - 2:00 p.m.
Seniors & Students: $10.00
As portrayed in Homer's Odyssey,
Penelope - wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful
Helen of Troy - has become a symbol of wifely duty and
devotion, enduring twenty years of waiting when her
husband goes to fight in the Trojan War. As she fends
off the attentions of a hundred greedy suitors,
travelling minstrels regale her with news of Odysseus'
epic adventures around the Mediterranean - slaying
monsters and grappling with amorous goddesses. When
Odysseus finally comes home, he kills her suitors and
then, in an act that served as little more than a
footnote in Homer's original story, inexplicably hangs
Penelope's twelve maids.
Now, Penelope and her chorus of wronged maids tell their
side of the story in a new stage version by Margaret
Atwood, adapted from her own wry, witty and wise novel.
The Penelopiad premiered with the Royal
Shakespeare Company in association with Canada's
National Arts Centre at the Swan Theatre,
Stratford-upon-Avon, in July 2007.
We meet Penelope whiling away her time in Hades, unhappy
about being misunderstood by centuries of readers
familiar with her as a faithful wife. She has her
personal story to tell and she also has her opinions
about her famous husband and his exploits to ponder.
With her in Hades are her maids, whom Homer says were
hanged by Odysseus upon his return. They too have their
story of unfair treatment to tell. While Penelope
relates her story – that of her birth in Sparta,
relationship with her glamorous cousin Helen, arranged
marriage, acceptance into Odysseus’ household in Ithaca
and long wait for him to return from the Trojan Wars -
the ghosts of her maids, in true Greek chorus fashion,
act out the scenes of the story. Between narrative
interludes, the maids also have a chance to explain
their situation and plead their case. Penelope’s story
varies little from the classic tale told by Homer,
except in pointing out that there are other explanations
for the heroic escapades. She also points out that she
clearly recognized the disguised Odysseus on his return
but felt it important to flatter his ego by playing
along. Her memory of the actual slaughter of the suitors
and her maids is conveniently murky. Her narration
continues the story past the time of her death and that
of her husband into the 21st century where a modern
court of justice tries Odysseus for the murder charges.
The task of determining the truth surrounding the
murders is thwarted by divine intervention however,
leaving us to draw our own conclusions.
Theater Department Homepage at Whittier.edu