The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble was founded in 1969 when Ron Sossi decided to demonstrate that experiment-oriented theatre could have populist appeal and be fiscally solvent, while maintaining the highest artistic standards. Wildly successful and innovative productions such as THE SERPENT and Brecht's THREEPENNY OPERA immediately gained the Odyssey its reputation for producing dangerous, magical, and experimental work.
In 1973, the Odyssey moved from a Hollywood storefront to Ohio Avenue in West Los Angeles, building the city's largest 99-seat theatre stage and producing such international works as Ibsen's PEER GYNT, Brecht's BAAL, the Polish WHITE MARRIAGE, and controversial productions of company-evolved pieces such as THE ADOLPH HITLER SHOW.
The 1979 season resulted in a record-breaking 15-month run of the Odyssey-created CHICAGO CONSPIRACY TRIAL, the first production in Odyssey 2, the theatre's second space. (This play, written by Ron Sossi and Frank Condon, was translated to the screen as an HBO Special Presentation in May, 1987, which itself won the Cable Industry's ACE Award.) 1980 saw the addition of a third space, Odyssey 3, in which the highly acclaimed TRACERS (a powerful collaboration with Vietnam veterans) began its successful production history, eventually playing to audiences at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre, the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and the Royal Court Theatre in London.
In 1982, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's most prestigious honor, the Margaret Harford Award, was presented to Ron Sossi and the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble for "demonstrating a continual willingness to experiment provocatively in the process of theatre." The following year saw multiple awards for the theatre's productions of MARY BARNES, BRECHTFEST, and SOMETHING'S ROCKIN' IN DENMARK.
In 1984, the Odyssey was selected to participate in the Olympic Arts Festival. Its production of David Mamet's EDMOND was recognized by two German television networks, the British press, and East Coast theatre periodicals as being "the best of the American entries." In 1985, the Odyssey's unique production of Garry Trudeau's and Elizabeth Swados' RAP MASTER RONNIE moved to a commercial run in a larger facility and saw subsequent productions in major US cities. The final 1986 season production, the world premiere of Steven Berkoff's KVETCH, opened Off Broadway in 1987, while continuing to play to sold-out houses at the Odyssey where it ran for 8 years. Successes in the 1988 season included the theatre's multiple-award-winning production of MASTER CLASS by David Pownall and THREE TOP HATS by the Spanish playwright Miguel Mihura. This latter play was the first production of LAAFO (Latin Actors and A Few Others), an ensemble established at the Odyssey to make the wealth of Hispanic theatre, old and new, accessible to English-speaking audiences.
1988 saw the Odyssey production of the world premiere of McCARTHY by Jeff Goldsmith. This explosive original drama from the OTE's Play Development Program ran for eight months and was then selected as a main-season production by the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.
Due to the sale of the building on Ohio in July, 1989, the OTE family--made up of staff, board members, volunteers, actors, and friends--spent many months converting a city-owned vacant warehouse into a three-theatre complex. FAITH HEALER, the first production in the new facility, opened in September, 1989. The 1990 world premiere STRUGGLING TRUTHS and the compelling hit TEA in 1991 examined Eastern concerns, while Arthur Kopit's irreverent THE ROAD TO NIRVANA, also in '91, slaughtered Hollywood's sacred cows. Recent successes such as David Hare's A MAP OF THE WORLD , Euripides' THE BACCHAE , Suzan Lori-Park's IMPERCEPTIBLE MUTABILITIES IN THE THIRD KINGDOM, and the cabaret FRAULEINS IN UNDERWEAR are evidence of the OTE's cultural eclecticism. The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is currently planning expansion into a major International Experimental Theatre Center. In the meantime, the OTE explores, produces and presents works on the forefront of contemporary theatre art.