Mason County Eastern’s theater students are ready to bring an ancient Greek epic to life during their upcoming production of “The Odyssey.”
The play opens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sherman Township Hall in Fountain, continuing with shows at the same time on Friday and Saturday.
Director Anesa Beilfuss-Gulembo told the Daily News the production features about 50 MCE students lending their talents to the show in various ways. High school art students have been hard at work creating props and scenery, while more than 30 students are in the cast and crew.
The play is based on the classic poem written by Homer, chronicling the Greek hero Odysseus and his return home after war.
Beilfuss-Gulembo said inspiration to have the students perform “The Odyssey” struck while she was taking photos sometime last spring, after MCE’s production of “Robin Hood” wrapped.
“The way my subject looked out by the water reminded me of Penelope waiting for Odysseus to return from the Trojan War,” she stated. “I am a bit of a nerd about ancient Greek Mythology but so are my drama students, so I thought it would be the perfect fit.”
She said she ordered several scripts based on Homer’s work, but “none of them fit my group the way I wanted.”
So she adapted it herself.
“I took the time to write my own over the summer,” she said. “I was able to create an adventurous script full of sea voyages, epic battles, gods vs. mortals, love, humor and magic spells. I can’t wait for our crowd to enjoy it.”
How did she approach such an undertaking? With ease and exuberance, she said.
“My job was easy as I already had a rubric or outline drafted up for me. I just knew I had to script it for 20 to 30 kids,” she said. “I’ve always been drawn to period adventure pieces, stories like ‘The Three Musketeers,’ ‘Robin Hood,’ kings and queens or pirate stories. I love sword play and accents and magic. … So ‘The Odyssey’ is the perfect match for me and my group.”
Even with the adaptation, the material is “quite advanced,” Beilfuss-Gulembo said, but students were up to the challenge.
“I expect a lot out of my students, and they always rise to the occasion,” she said. “These are some of the brightest and best seventh- through 12th-graders in our area — they are Math Counts kids, spelling bee kids, National Honor Society and dual-enrollment kids.”
Still, she said she’s grateful she and her students had as much time as they did to get everything right.
The school’s drama program is “unique” in that it meets during school hours throughout the year, as opposed to working with a six- to eight-week schedule.
“Normally in six weeks, directors are competing with sports, after-school activities, sickness and absences. Because we have six months … we can focus on fun things like stage combat, accents, character development and building relationships within our drama team.
“Also because our rehearsals are during school hours, I don’t have to compete with sports or other extracurriculars. My cast consists of basketball teams, volleyball teams, bowling teams, Quiz Bowl teams, and 29 out of 31 of them are in the band program. They all have excellent grades and they are a fantastic group of reliable kids. I am so proud of each of them and what we’ve been able to accomplish this year.”
Beilfuss-Gulembo said the production has “a little something for everyone to enjoy.”
“There are many themes involved as it’s sort of a multi-genre production: Action, comedy, love and loyalty, friendship, mythology, fantasy and magic,” she said. “We hit it all in 90 minutes.”
Admission to “The Odyssey” is $10. The production is recommended for ages 5 and older. Seating is limited, so theatergoers are encouraged to arrive early to secure spots at the township hall.
CAST AND CREW
The cast of “The Odyssey” features Jude Mickevich as Odysseus; Maxwell Smith as Patroclus; Kirsten Bacon as Penelope; Aubrey Myers as Lucretius; Avery Crawford as Athena; Isabella Gulembo as Calypso; Kennady Tyler as Circe; Morgan Stocks as Ajax; Haley Bacon as Jason; Dawson White as Kyros; Bridget Whitaker as Ophelia; Annabelle Zwagerman as Octavia; Elena Hopkins as Iris; Kasey Gaudette as Bersellis; Milo Shoup as Sir Devon; Rylee Storm as Sir Norman; Kaiden Lague as Sir Morgan; Kyan Leisure as Sir Brendan; Corliss Gulembo as The Cyclops; Brooke Hawke as The Cyclops; Lilly O’Connor as Zeus; Daniel Bothwell as Hermes; Tristan Johnson and Devon Gauthier as sailors; Mackenzie Wright, Meredith Fisher, Leia Weaver, Abby Allen, Mackenzie Wright, Meredith Fisher, Leia Weaver and Abby Allen as priestesses; and Klaire Leisure as servant.
Miley Kessel is the stage manager and Mallory Oomen is the lighting technician.