By Megan K. Pence
After my first year of grad school in the hot swampy weather of Florida, I was thrilled for a chance to return to the Commonweal and direct An Iliad. Wealhouse has been a twinkle in our eye for many years, and I was honored to play a small part of its inaugural season. Getting to come home to my Commonweal family for three whole weeks during a glorious Lanesboro summer was a wonderful gift, and one of the best working “vacations” I’ve ever had. An Iliad opened this past Sunday to a sold-out crowd, and is an incredible performance which I am so excited to share!
Though less popular than its companion The Odyssey, you may recall The Iliad as one of those long, complicated tales with a million pages and about as many characters that you were forced to read in high school or Western Civilization 101. In this adaptation by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, these Greek battles no longer feel ancient, irrelevant or overly long as the audience is transported to the shores of Troy in a mere 105 minutes. Through both poetry and contemporary language, we are fighting alongside Achilles and Hector, and the human price of war becomes very real.
While this show tackles huge themes – war, fate, pride, honor, love – what excites me about this piece is the exploration of storytelling. One man (Ben Gorman) embodies not only The Poet, but also a dozen other characters. The Poet is doomed to tell this tale, each time hoping it may be his last. As an audience, we are left to wonder how our own stories help us make sense of the world and of ourselves.
And oh, how Ben Gorman tells this story! While I love directing shows with many actors, there is something truly special about the collaboration and partnership of a one-person show. We learned how to trust one another, developed our own shared language, and ultimately became each other’s Muse. This truly is a tour de force performance that you will not want to miss.