Brandon Victor Dixon, Karen Olivo and More to Lead Musical Version of THE ODYSSEY Tonight at The Public

Brandon Victor Dixon, Karen Olivo and More to Lead Musical Version of THE ODYSSEY Tonight at The Public

The Public Theater will kick off the 2015-16 season in September with a free Public Works musical adaptation of Homer's THE ODYSSEY, conceived and directed by Public Works Director Lear deBessonet, with music, lyrics and book by Todd Almond. THE ODYSSEY will once again feature over 200 actors and community members alongside five equity actors, including this year Brandon Victor Dixon as Odysseus and Karen Olivo as Penelope.

This unforgettable Public Works event will run for four nights, tonight, September 4, through September 7, at the Delacorte Theater with free tickets being distributed, two per person, at 12:00 p.m. on the day of the show at the Delacorte Theater and via the Virtual Ticketing lottery at www.publictheater.org.

Now in its third year, Public Works annually creates ambitious works of participatory theater in partnership with community organizations from all five boroughs of New York City. This year, Obie Award-winning director Lear deBessonet and lyricist/composer Todd Almond, the team behind the acclaimed Public Works productions of The Tempest and The Winter's Tale, will create a breathtaking new musical adaptation, THE ODYSSEY. Inspired by the historical pageantry movement of the early 1900s-known for blending mass spectacle with community engagement-this latest work in deBessonet and Almond's grand trilogy reimagines the Greek epic with Public Works' signature blend of professional actors, community members and special guests. Man-eating Cyclops, a sorceress that turns sailors to beasts, and the deadly sweet song of the Sirens explode onto the stage with spectacular dance numbers in this joyful, larger-than-life musical about finding your way home-no matter where fate may lead you. This adaptation of THE ODYSSEY, conceived and directed by deBessonet, first premiered at The Old Globe in San Diego in 2011.

THE ODYSSEY features equity actors Todd Almond (Singer); Brandon Victor Dixon (Odysseus); Andy Grotelueschen (Cyclops); Karen Olivo (Penelope); and Lucas Caleb Rooney (Antinous); along with cameo group performances by The Bobby Lewis Ensemble; The D.R.E.A.M. Ring; Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana II; The Marching Cobras; The New York Youth Symphony; TADA! Youth Theater and NYC bikers from Old Bones, N.Y.C. Fire Riders, and MLC Crew Riding Club.

"Amid the glory and celebration of Fun Home and Hamilton, Public Works remains at the heart of The Public Theater's mission," said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. "For the last two summers, Lear deBessonet and Todd Almond have given us euphoric, magical re-workings of Shakespeare's late romances. This year, they are reaching back to the first great Western writer, Homer. Their version of The Odyssey is a thrilling and visionary journey home, for Odysseus and for us."

"Public Works invites us to radically re-think how we make theater and who has a stake in the work we do," said Public Works Director Lear deBessonet. "Exploring the genre of civic pageantry has given Todd and me a chance to collaborate with literally hundreds of New Yorkers in bringing these beautiful epics to life, and I couldn't be more proud to celebrate three years of immersive community work with The Odyssey."

DeBessonet is the recent recipient of two prestigious awards in 2015: the Doris Duke Impact Award, part of the Doris Duke foundation's 10-year initiative to empower, invest and celebrate artists; and the Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, presented at the Theatre Communications Group conference in June, which recognizes an individual or organization whose work reflects and promotes the ingenuity and artistic integrity prized by Peter Zeisler, late executive director of TCG. The honorees exemplify pioneering practices in theatre, are dedicated to the freedom of expression and are unafraid of taking risks for the advancement of the art form.

THE ODYSSEY features scenic and lighting design by Justin Townsend; costume design by Paul Carey; sound design by Acme Sound Partners; wig and make-up design by Dave Bova; and choreography by Lorin Latarro.

Tickets to THE ODYSSEY are free, continuing The Public Theater's long-standing tradition of free programming and community engagement. Since the opening of the Delacorte in 1962, more than five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at The Public's Central Park venue. Free tickets will be distributed, two per person, at 12:00 p.m. on the day of the show at the Delacorte Theater. Free tickets will also be available via the Virtual Ticketing lottery at www.publictheater.org on the day of the performance. You may become a Summer Supporter for a $75 tax-deductible donation and receive a reserved seat to the event. For information and to donate, call 212-967-7555.

The Public Theater, founded nearly 60 years ago by Joe Papp as one of the nation's first nonprofit theaters, has been an advocate for theater as an essential cultural force and forum for dialogue about issues of the day. As the only theater in New York producing Shakespeare and the classics, musicals, contemporary and experimental works in equal measure, The Public continues its long tradition of engaging a wide range of audiences and artists. Public Works exemplifies The Public's long-standing commitment to community engagement that is at the core of the theater's mission. It is animated by the idea that theater is a place of possibility, where the boundaries that separate us from each other in the rest of life can fall away.

THE ODYSSEY COMPANY:

LEAR deBESSONET (Public Works Director/The Odyssey Director) directed the previous free Public Works productions of The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, and has created large-scale theatrical events pairing artistic excellence with community organizing in New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Kazakhstan. Her previous large-scale community projects include The Odyssey at the Old Globe (2011) and her site-specific Don Quixote, a collaboration with homeless shelter Broad Street Ministry and the punk-gypsy ensemble The Psalters (2009). Her additional recent work includes Good Person of Szechwan featuring Taylor Mac for The Foundry Theatre at LaMaMa and The Public Theater (Obie Award, Drama Desk nom., Lilly Award, Lortel Award for Best Revival). She has directed shows for City Center Encores! Off-Center, LCT3, the Old Globe, the Intiman, the Guthrie, Joe's Pub, Women's Project, Performance Space 122, 13p, and Clubbed Thumb. For Ten Thousand Things in Minneapolis, she has directed productions of My Fair Lady, As You Like It, and The Music Man that toured to prisons, community centers, and homeless shelters. Recipient of the Doris Duke Impact Award, TCG's Peter Zeisler Award, the Meadow's Prize, and LMCC's Presidential Award for Artistic Excellence, she has also acted as a visiting professor at NYU-Tisch School of the Arts.

TODD ALMOND (Music, Lyrics, & Book, Singer in The Odyssey) is a composer, lyricist and playwright, whose recent collaborations with Lear deBessonet include the free Public Works productions of The Winter's Tale, for which he wrote the book, music and lyrics and performed the role of Antigonus, and The Tempest, for which he also wrote the book, music, and lyrics and performed the role of Ariel at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Almond's most recent musical Iowa, a collaboration with playwright Jenny Schwartz, received its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons this past March. His musical Girlfriend (using new arrangements of Matthew Sweet's eponymous cult album) will be produced at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles under the direction of Les Waters. He starred alongside Courtney Love in the rock opera Kansas City Choir Boy at the Prototype Festival, composed by Almond and directed by Kevin Newbury. Almond recently wrote the music for, and performed in, Sarah Ruhl's Stage Kiss at Playwrights Horizons. Almond's other credits include a musical version of Sarah Ruhl's Meloncholy Play, and music and lyrics for We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Almond was the music director/arranger for Laura Benanti's acclaimed solo show at 54 Below (NYC); and for Sherie Rene Scott's lauded Piece of Meat, also at 54 Below, and at the Hippodrome (London). Almond's albums include "Mexico City" and his newly released "Memorial Day."

LORIN LATARRO (Choreography) choreographed Broadway's Waiting For Godot with Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, Ira Glass's This American Life at BAM for Michael Mayer and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Peter and The Wolf at BAM, Beaches the Musical (Drury Lane), Jasper In Deadland, and Encore's Fanny. Broadway's Curious Incident..., American Idiot and The Met Opera's Rigoletto (Associate to Michael Mayer and Steven Hoggett), Cy Coleman's The Best Is Yet To Come (Drama Desk Award), Hands On A Hard Body (Associate to Sergio Trujillo). Latarro is an Artistic Associate for Robyn Goodman at Bucks County Playhouse and has starred in 14 Broadway shows.

BRANDON VICTOR DIXON (Odysseus) originated the role of Berry Gordy in Broadway's Motown the Musical and has also appeared in The Color Purple, earning a Tony Award nomination. His additional credits include The Scottsboro Boys, both Off-Broadway and West End; Cotton Club Parade at New York City Center; Rent; and Far From Heaven. He has appeared in film and on television in The Warrior and the Savior; "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"; "One Life to Live"; and "The Good Wife."

KAREN OLIVO (Penelope) has appeared on Broadway in West Side Story (Tony Award), In the Heights, Brooklyn, and Rent. Her Off-Broadway credits include Murder Ballad; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; In the Heights; and Miracle Brothers. She has appeared in film and on television in Holiday Spin; Generation Um...; Shanghai Hotel; The New Twenty; "Harry's Law"; "The Good Wife"; "Law & Order: SVU"; and "Criminal Minds."

LUCAS CALEB ROONEY (Antinous) has appeared at The Public Theater in The Mobile Shakespeare Unit's Much Ado About Nothing; Measure for Measure; All's Well That Ends Well; and Yellowface. His Broadway credits include Golden Boy, The Country Girl, and Henry IV. His additional Off-Broadway credits include Regrets, The Orphans' Home Cycle, and an oak tree. His film and television credits include The Magic of Belle Isle, "Elementary," "The Good Wife," "Boardwalk Empire," and "Person of Interest."

CAMEO APPEARANCES:

THE BOBBY LEWIS ENSEMBLE is a group of singers based out of The New Light Baptist Church in Harlem. The Senior Pastor of that church, Bobby Lewis, is the group's founder and director. The Bobby Lewis Ensemble has been singing together almost 20 years in churches, nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, youth shelters, street fairs, and much more. They have traveled the world singing everything from Gospel to recently performing their "Soulful Beatles Celebration" in Harlem. They have toured Taiwan and annually tour Spain, performing their incredible Gospel show to packed audiences. They love performing all styles of music from Southern gospel, to the great classics, to beautiful patriotic medleys, to Negro Spirituals, to contemporary gospel, and more. They recently performed with Norm Lewis at Lincoln Center in his cabaret, Who Am I, and have recorded three CD projects including "It Cometh from the Lord," "Live in New York City," and "Christmas in July."

THE D.R.E.A.M. RING (DANCE RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME) strives to provide quality competitions that honor the culture of the Brooklyn community, encourages artistic and character development, provides youth with a safe environment to express their artistry, ensures a wealth of opportunities such as performing in schools and teaching in after school programs, displays the young artist and their talents through social media marketing and branding through artists reels, dance videos, performances, and helps young artists gain the skills needed to build careers in the dance industry. The team-oriented company's purpose is to gain global popularity by exposing audiences to the various styles of street dance and inspiring them to embrace and join their distinctive aesthetic and cultural dance competition company, "THE D.R.E.A.M. RING."

FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA II is one of America's premier Spanish dance companies, dedicated to the belief that the universal spirit of flamenco, a multicultural art form, has the power to build bridges between cultures. Their mission includes raising public awareness of flamenco as an integral part of Hispanic heritage, creating and presenting new works and nurturing the next generations of flamenco artists. Founded in 1983, the company tours extensively nationwide, and serves New York audiences with an annual home season. Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana II is known for its innovative performances, community programs (including an annual "Flamenco in the Boros" tour which brings free performances to new audiences) and high-quality arts education projects in public schools. Flamenco Vivo also operates the Center for Flamenco Arts, one of only two NYC dance studios dedicated to the specific requirements of flamenco, and produces the NYS Flamenco Certamen, a competition for pre-professional dancers.

THE MARCHING COBRAS is New York's most exciting youth non-profit organization and has performed for the NFL Superbowl 48, and in the Oscar-winning 2015 movie, Birdman starring Michael Keaton and Emma Stone. The Marching Cobras perform in many parades in many cities and feature the beautiful Sapphire Danceline. The Marching Cobras is offered to all communities in New York City and is currently a year-round program. This summer they will take part in the 2015 Steve Harvey Awards in Atlanta, GA. The program open to ages 10 and up. For more information, visit www.marchingcobrasny.org.

THE NEW YORK YOUTH SYMPHONY is the most awarded youth program of its kind in the nation, recognized for its innovative, tuition-free educational programs for talented young musicians. Founded in 1963 as an orchestra to showcase the metropolitan area's most gifted musicians ages 12-22, its activities have since grown to encompass programs in chamber music, conducting, composition, and jazz, with performances at world class venues including Carnegie Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Through its commissioning program, First Music, the NYYS has commissioned over 100 works from young composers since 1984. The careers of world-renowned conductors, musicians, and composers have been assisted by their experiences with the New York Youth Symphony. Former music directors and program alumni include Leonard Slatkin, Myung-Whun Chung, David Alan, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Marin Alsop, Gary Levinson, Michael Tiscione, Lawrence Dutton, Kenneth Mirkin, Joel Smirnoff, and Pedro Diaz among many others.

TADA! YOUTH THEATER. Celebrating 30 years, TADA! - the first youth theater to win a Drama Desk Award - is one of NYC's leading producers of high-quality musical theater productions performed by NYC's talented kids and teens for family audiences; as well as Arts Education residencies, classes and camps. TADA! has produced 79 mainstage musicals for over 150,000 audience members, and has reached 750,000 kids in arts education and theater programs in and out of school. TADA!'s programs - which reach 30,000 people annually - provide a safe and creative place for kids and teens to grow emotionally, intellectually and socially through musical theater. At the heart of TADA! is the Resident Youth Ensemble Program, a unique, completely free, pre-professional program, which annually serves 80 talented children aged 8-18 from all different backgrounds. Once accepted, members receive free training and perform in all of TADA!'s mainstage productions and special events.

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