Margaret Atwood’s ‘Penelopiad’ Opens Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s 2018-19 Mainstage Season in New Courtyard Theater Oct. 17-27

The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department opens its 2018-2019 Mainstage Season with a rarity: The Penelopiad, Canadian author Margaret Atwood‘s retelling of Homer’s Iliad from the perspective of the women. Performed by an all-female, all-student cast under the direction of Columbia College alum AJ Ware ’09, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s Theatre Directing program, The Penelopiad has one preview performance on Wednesday, October 17, at 7:30 PM. It then opens Friday, October 19, running through October 27. The show is the first production in the splendid new Courtyard Theater at the renovated Getz Theater Center of Columbia College, located at 72 E. 11th St. in Chicago’s South Loop. For tickets and a performance schedule, click here.

Opening night — Friday, October 19 — is a special performance offered as part of a Columbia College Chicago Theatre Reunion Weekend. The evening also includes a pre-show reception at 5 PM and welcoming comments by two distinguished guests: Jim Jacobs HDR ’14, coauthor of the hit musical Grease and benefactor of the Jim Jacobs Musical Theatre Scholarship at Columbia College, and Mark Kelly HDR ’17, Chicago’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and former Vice President of Student Success at Columbia College. Both Kelly and Jacobs are recipients of Honorary Doctorates from Columbia College.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of former Columbia College Theatre Department student Carol Cohen, co-founder and executive director of Haven TheatreThe Penelopiad has a design team of professional guest artists, including Columbia College alumni Grant Sabin ’05 (set), alum Alaina Moore ’13 (costumes), Jessica Harpenau-Krometis ’09 (lighting), and Kevin Rolfs ’17 (props). They join director AJ Ware — co-founder of Chicago’s innovative, award-winning Jackalope Theatre — in leading and mentoring the show’s student cast and production team. For a full list of cast and creatives, click here.

Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad was published as a novella in 2005 and adapted for the stage by Margaret Atwood — author of The Handmaid’s Tale — in 2007. It chronicles the life of Penelope, queen of the ancient Greek island kingdom of Ithaca, in hindsight from 21st century Hades, as Penelope recalls her family life in Sparta, her marriage to Odysseus, her dealing with suitors during his decades-long absence during and after the Trojan War, and the aftermath of Odysseus’ return.

AJ Ware

Here’s how director AJ Ware describes The Penelopiad:

“The oldest surviving literature in the Western canon are the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer. Together they tell the tale of the Trojan War (epic, exciting, and seemingly endless) and the many years after that it takes Odysseus (a king, a warrior, a rogue) to return to his home, Ithaca, and his wife, Penelope. On the way he fights monsters, sleeps with sea nymphs, and has a generally thrilling adventure.

“For ten years, though, he doesn’t write home. Assuming he’s died, a horde of thirsty suitors descend on the kingdom intending to marry the queen and assume the wealth and power of Ithaca’s throne. Penelope (a mother, a ruler, a peacekeeper) wants nothing to do with them, and with her maids/friends crafts a plan to keep them at bay.

“In Margaret Atwood’s adaptation (you know her if you’ve read/watched The Handmaid’s Tale) we hear from Penelope for the first time. We hear about the challenges, the occasional humor, and the ultimate tragedy of being a woman in a man’s world. The Penelopiad asks us to examine the violence and secrecy that we consider ‘normal,’ to embrace sisterhood, and to consider our own loyalties. In light of our current political climate, it’s particularly interesting to consider the humanity that exists and resists in a patriarchal world.”

Performances of The Penelopiad are:
  • Wednesday, October 17, 7:30 PM (preview)
  • Friday, October 19, 7:30 PM (opening night — Theatre Reunion performance)
  • Saturday, October 20, 3 and 7:30 PM
  • Wednesday, October 24, 7:30 PM
  • Thursday, October 25, 7:30 PM
  • Friday, October 26, 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, October 27, 2 PM (closing)

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for senior citizens and students of other schools, and free for all Columbia College Chicago students (code: CCCSTU) and faculty (code: TCFAC). For tickets, click here.