As a storyteller—as a Black storyteller, rarely are you given the chance to be a part of an entire cast that looks like you without the story being racially charged. So when John approached me with Picnic, it was so refreshing to know the storyline had nothing to do with the color of my skin; a privilege that is even unbeknownst to the very people who have it-a privilege of being able to express all the range that the human species can have with no repercussions or doubts. This production isn’t to challenge but to open and share the very commonalities we think are so different.

After the script, I remember instantly falling in love with the entire community. William Inge lays out this simplistic town lead by dynamic people. Whether from cross generations, different levels of education to the knowledge of dance moves, the ensemble works so intricately together in carrying out the message of Love and Legacy. I feel our version of Picnic will only heighten this heartfelt experience Inge intended.

To our Odyssey community

June 30, 2020

Hello dear audience and supporters,

The temper of these times is hard to fathom for most of us. The pandemic, social unrest, a divided populace, rampant unemployment, the coming election and now, growing disregard for health and safety measures, etc., boggle the mind. I can only hope that, as has been proven in the past, the arts will survive and will ultimately rise like the Phoenix and reflect upon the enormity and absurdity of these times.

Of course, Theatre is a crucial part of these arts and perhaps the most graphic in finally reflecting upon what has happened and what is happening. At the same time, because we are a “live” form, dependent upon human congregation, we will be at the bottom of the list in terms of safely reopening. (And we’re committed to going substantially beyond the legal requirements.)

As an update, I can only tell you that we’re stubbornly holding our own and ardently preparing for the future. At the Odyssey it’s been a flurry of activity, utilizing our small SBA loan/grant, to do eight weeks of overhauling the building, making it more functional and safe for our forthcoming reopening.

This includes stripping away carpeting and rebuilding seating risers with hardwood surfaces (much more easily sanitized), re-doing seating plans to accommodate social distancing, strategizing new ways to implement safe ticket buying and use of the bathrooms, secure paths to our three theatre spaces and an added outdoor box office window that will accommodate distancing, etc.

Simultaneously, on the creative and programmatic side we’re looking not only at projects we had previously planned, but also ones relevant to the current situation

Meanwhile, I’m hoping sincerely that you are all secure and safe, and I really look forward to our meeting again…sooner rather than later. I wish you the very best. We miss you.

Warmly,

Ron Sossi
Artistic Director

If you wish to send a contribution by mail, please send to:

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025

To donate by phone or for more information please contact Beth at [email protected] or 310-477-2055 ext. 107




Now, in this suspended state where GATHERINGS have become dangerous to our health, us theater-makers are ESPECIALLY CHERISHING memories of recent work which had a special impact on audiences. “IN CIRCLES” the musical by GERTRUDE STEIN and AL CARMINES from fifty years ago that I directed for the Odyssey Theatre in 2019 was a fresh, magical dialogue between words and music and logic and absurdity which somehow also succeeded in telling a story of how MAGICAL EMOTIONS can sustain us. All of us who created the project together ADORED working on it. And now, and for a long time to come, it WILL SUSTAIN US. —David Schweizer

Cast members include Henry Arber, Jacque Lynn Colton, Shelby Corley,
Ashlee Dutson, Kenneth J. Grimes, Kyle G. Fuller,
Chloe Haven, Aaron Jung, P.T. Mahoney. Musical director Kenneth J. Grimes.

Black Lives Matter

June 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter

“It’s Monday and, yet, another inspiring week of seeing the democratic process in action. The hearty souls who have marched for over 2 weeks stir the blood and make one, once again, hopeful about the American dream.

The Odyssey Theatre most emphatically stands in support of this mighty movement. It’s been a long time coming and it’s encouraging to see this burst of new energy promoting racial equality and the confrontation of police violence.

Since we began, the Odyssey has always stood for equal opportunities for all ethnicities and minority groups in terms of both artists and audiences… and we’ll continue to maintain and escalate these efforts. The last couple of weeks have been truly inspirational.

Yes, yes, yes, we stand in total solidarity!”

#BlackLivesMatter #LAThtr

Not Your Average Western

February 20, 2020 | Heather Cunnningham

Although I had studied Sam Shepard in college, I didn’t remember learning about the sci-fi western, The Unseen Hand. I remember the intensity of his play, The Buried Child, and I recall his great love for the West, which seeped into the atmosphere of all his writing. In large part, however, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I took my seat in front of a battered convertible resting comfortably on the Odyssey’s stage. I did know I was excited for the ride. Before I could think too deeply about what I learned in World Theatre History, the lights came up to reveal Steve Howey in an electric chair, and I was suddenly struck by the recollection of what makes Shepard unique…he goes there. Many legendary playwrights use the act of playwriting to explore life, society, and perspective, but few can accomplish this while balancing shock and mystery all at once. Shepard’s work combines the two, offering its audiences equal parts drama and nuanced introspection. The Odyssey’s production of Killer’s Head/The Unseen Hand is a thrilling example of this dichotomy.

When I think of Westerns, I don’t typically think of metaphor or complexity. I attribute the genre to something akin to an action film, where the actual story is far less interesting than the excitement of combat. This is a generalization, of course, but a stereotype nonetheless. Shepard, on the other hand, uses the Western archetype as a backdrop to explore the motivation behind the excitement. The three brothers in The Unseen Hand enter the scene ready to fight, looking for any outlet to express their aggression, especially since the apparent lack of trains has forced them toward more creative pursuits. It’s a Western, but they’re in the future—train heists are therefore impossible. They release their aggression in various ways throughout the play, but there is an underlying question which pervades both the characters and the viewers: why? Why, upon returning from the dead, are they fixated on using their guns? Why are they obsessed with finishing the unfinished, even though they’re in the future now? Why do they jump to planning a revolt? These are the questions that make Shepard’s version of a Western distinct. Because it is not about the action at all, but rather why we crave it. The Unseen Hand with all its guns, southern slang, and glamorizing of the pioneer age, is really a play about the human psyche and our relationship to freedom.

Darrell Larson, the director, says The Unseen Hand is a play about toxic masculinity. In an even broader sense, I view it as a play about the roles we choose to perform on a daily basis. And it’s the roles we play that keep us from living a life that is truly free. I believe Sam Shepard understood this. When the actors emerged to take their final bows, I felt truly inspired to live more freely. What better way to honor Shepard and our lives than to experience the magic of his work through this fantastic production. To put it simply, this play is not your average Western.