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Scene 1
Open stage. Lighting suggests sky and water. Orchestral introduction.

Odysseus enters carrying a bow and arrow "I am Odysseus, man of triumph and sorrow, I sing of your past, present, and tomorrow." Traveling home from the sack of Troy, the sea tosses him through endless space, he lands in "A place so wondrous and strange, The New York Stock

c. Marjorie M. Rusche, November 22, 2021

Exchange." The Cyclops enters holding fistfuls of ticker tape and entices Odysseus to join him in wild speculative trading. Odysseus plays along, the mortgage-backed securities slump in value and the Dow keeps sinking. The Cyclops struts around the stage and boasts "I'm too big to fail." Odysseus shoots an arrow into the eye of the Cyclops, who stumbles offstage. Odysseus rues his losses in battle and the market, “The market’s bust, now I’m no one.” Hope and unexpected grace lead him to envision a better world and strengthen his resolve to return to his true home, Penelope.

Scene 2
Postmodern Ithaca. Penelope’s banquet hall.

The chorus of suitors clamor for more food and drink while harassing the frazzled, tired maids. Their power-mad ringleader, Antinous, plans to marry Penelope and thus become King of Ithaca. Penelope enters and stops the chaos. Antinous proposes to Penelope. She refuses - Antinous is objectionable to her in every possible way and she is still waiting for the return of her husband, Odysseus. Antinous declares that Odysseus is dead, and the suitors will not leave her house until she marries one of them. Custom decrees that she must provide hospitality. She asks for privacy in order to fulfill her duty of weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law. The crowd leaves and in “Penelope’s Lament” she sings about the precariousness of her position and her grief and longing for Odysseus.

Scene 3
Circe’s Malibu Spiritual Retreat.

Circe, a ditzy New Age hustler, is peddling enlightenment. Odysseus marches in and demands the release of his crew, Circe has turned them into pigs. He agrees to pay a ransom and undergo a past life regression session so Circe can write off her expenses. To everyone’s surprise, the session works and Penelope appears. Odysseus asks Penelope to wait for his return home, she agrees.


Scene 1
Postmodern Ithaca. Penelope’s home studio. Contemporary wall hangings incorporating classical Greek meanders and labyrinths.

Penelope is happily creating fiber art. Clea, Penelope’s assistant, informs her that all of the maids are going to quit, they are tired of being mistreated by the suitors. Penelope reveals her plan. She will host an archery competition with herself as the prize. However, the rules will make it impossible for any suitor to win, and then the suitors must leave her house. She asks Clea to encourage the maids to stay. Penelope inquires about Clea’s upcoming interview with the immigration authorities. Clea sings of her struggle to obtain a secure home, while also realizing her fate could be much worse -- she’s not a child confined in a cage or a migrant worker living in a COVID infested camp. The two women comfort each other.

Clea exits to confer with the maids. Penelope vows to reinvigorate her life.

Scene 2
Calypso’s Cayman Island luxury resort paradise with offshore banking.

Calypso and Odysseus relaxing with lotus pina coladas. Calypso offers to make Odysseus immortal so he can always be with her. He refuses. She doesn’t understand why he would turn down immortality. He sings of his love for Penelope and his wish to return home. Calypso threatens to make him immortal against his will. Odysseus responds that even if she does, his sole love will always be Penelope. Calypso exits in a fury. Odysseus reflects on mortality and his willingness to endure pain to be able to return to his true home and identity.

Scene 3
Postmodern Ithaca. Penelope’s home studio.

Penelope is working in her studio. A shabby-looking Odysseus enters in disguise. Penelope welcomes the stranger and asks if he has any news of Odysseus. He tells her he has met Odysseus in his travels, knows him very well and has heard rumors that Odysseus is on his way home to participate in tomorrow’s archery competition. Penelope wonders if the rumors are true or an illusion. Odysseus moves nearer. She unburdens herself to him while becoming increasingly certain that they have met before. She encourages him to enter the competition.

Scene 4
Postmodern Ithaca. Open stage.

Festive atmosphere with Clea, Antinous, Maids and Suitors milling about the stage. Penelope enters, carrying Odysseus’s bow, greets her guests and explains the rules of the archery competition. The winner must shoot the invisible target with a bullseye, the arrow will burst into flames, she will retrieve the arrow and marry the winner. Antinous objects since it is impossible to hit an invisible target. Penelope advises all to see with more than your eyes, see with your heart. Odysseus enters and blends into the crowd. All of the suitors miss the mark. Odysseus hits the bullseye and reveals himself -- home at last. Penelope finally accepts his presence as real. The Suitors vow to respect the Maids. Antinous exits, while plotting his return to power. Clea celebrates her new citizenship. Reunited, Penelope and Odysseus rejoice in their love and vision of a flourishing society.

Our American Odyssey
by Marjorie Rusche 
Hannah McDermott and Laurel Thomas, text contributors


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