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Playwright Aline Lathrop Retells The Odyssey in QUEEN OF ITHACA

A FREE Online Reading on Friday, October 7 at 7 p.m.

Playwright Aline Lathrop Retells The Odyssey in QUEEN OF ITHACA

Chicago playwright Aline Lathrop's play "Queen of Ithaca" will be presented as a free, online Write Collective reading on Friday, October 7, 2022, at 7 p.m. The running time of this Zoom presentation is two hours, with one five-minute intermission, followed by a 15-minute talkback. Tickets are FREE at®id=23& and 708-795-6704.

Penelope doesn't recognize her husband when he returns home from twenty years of war and adventure. Or does she? Set in ancient Greece with modern language, Lathrop's two-hander reimagines Odysseus' return from Penelope's point of view. Queen of Ithaca is the story of love and desire, cunning and power, and of a mother who will protect her son at any cost. The reading features Melissa Van Kersen as Penelope, Reno McClinton as Odysseus, and is directed by Karin McKie.

Lathrop said, "As a storyteller, I know I'm supposed to revere 'The Odyssey' for its foundational role in Western literature. But Odysseus never held my attention as a protagonist. If he's such a great leader, why do all his men end up dead? If he's truly clever, why does it take him ten years to return from the Trojan War? If he misses home so much, why does he depart again after only one night in his own bed with his wife?

A few years ago my daughter was reading 'The Odyssey' in school, voicing the same questions, as well as complaints about the descriptions of his 'rippling thighs.' I started to think about Penelope. We know her as the ideal wife, the one who waited faithfully at home. But she was also queen in his absence for twenty years. What if her will could explain his second leaving? That was a protagonist I wanted to know.

So I reread 'The Odyssey' like a mystery, consulting other sources of Greek mythology, searching for clues to my questions, with my only guide the single and simple assumption that Penelope is a woman with agency. I was surprised by how easily what I considered to be the missing plot points fell into place, but not in all the ways I expected. I anticipated a queen hungry for power, but instead found one driven by love. My Penelope is a woman with agency, yes: one with the type of cunning that is honed from necessity, neither immune to nor controlled by desire, and with a ruthless and intimate understanding of sacrifice. She is also a mother you should cross at your peril. 'Queen of Ithaca' is her story, and my great pleasure to tell."

Aline Lathrop's plays have been produced at 16th Street Theater, and include The Hero's Wife (Jeff nomination, New Work), and Merchild (Jeff recommended). At Chicago Dramatists, she's mounted Bordello (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize nominee), and Feast (NewCity's "Top 5 Best New Plays"). Her Jeff-recommended world premiere A Piece of Bone was performed at Circle Theatre. She has also developed plays at Abingdon Theatre Company, American Theatre Company, The Artistic Home, Boarshead Theatre, Chicago Cultural Center, Columbia College, Concordia University, Famous Door, Polarity Ensemble, Stage Left, Step Up Productions, and Theatre Seven. A Northwestern University Theatre graduate, she has received an Illinois Art Council fellowship, and a Dr. Donohue Tremaine grant.

Since 1994, Melissa Van Kersen has worked with Profiles, Irish Repertory, Yugen, NOW, and was a Footsteps ensemble member from 1995-2000. Favorite roles include Feste in Twelfth Night, Wife in Buckets of Beckett's Play, Marshael in The Wake of Jamey Foster, and Arlene in Getting Out. Commercial projects include BMO Harris, University of Chicago Medicine, Kellogg's and Juven.

Reno McClinton is from Louisiana, where he studied theater performance with an emphasis in Meyerhold Bio-mechanics, Shakespeare, and oral history. Previous credits include Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Tartuffe, Toussaint L'overture A Free Man of Color, Aaron in Titus Andronicus, and Victor in Our Lady of 121st Street.

The 16th Street Theater NFP is partially funded by the Oak Park Area Arts Council, in partnership with the Village of Oak Park, the American Rescue Plan Act, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funds are provided by The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, The Driehaus Foundation, The Oak Park River Forest Future Philanthropists Program and The Arts Midwest GIG Fund.

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