Performers in rehearse for their unique spin-off of Homer’s “Odyssey.” Photo by Rosario Serna.
Performers in rehearse for their unique spin-off of Homer’s “Odyssey.” Photo by Rosario Serna.

Most people read “The Odyssey” in high school, but few have seen it the way UC Santa Cruz theater arts students will perform it this weekend. The idea of a student sitting on West Cliff and reading a novel may not sound much like a Greek epic poem, but that is the opening scene of the campus adaptation.

The campus offshoot of the 1999 Mary Zimmerman script is a performance that incorporates aspects of college life not present in the B.C.- dated tale. The entire piece is student-run, and graduate student and director Jocelyn Shratter said that people will be surprised by the differences between her version and the original.

“It is honestly a mixture of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” Shratter said of the play. “And Greek literature. And alcohol.”

The staging, elaborate costumes, and overall set design of the play are intended to involve the audience and make sure that they are not just watching, but experiencing.

“The Odyssey” is an epic poem by Homer, the ancient Greek poet who lived in the eighth century B.C. The poem, a travel narrative, follows lead character Odysseus on a journey in which he meets the individuals that contribute to his ultimate self-discovery.

“It’s an amazing story about identity and how the people you encounter in your life can shape it,” Shratter said. In her version of the play, each character that Odysseus encounters in his journey at some point becomes a part of him. As they encounter him, they become him.

Without giving too much away, Shratter explained that she chose to begin the play with a student reading the poem in an attempt to make students and audience members feel connected to the story. The student becomes a part of the book, and then the travels of Odysseus begin.

Boris Volkov, a third-year theater arts major from Kresge, plays Antinous. He explained that the production was prepared much faster than almost anything he has ever worked on.

“We’ve fought really hard against very strict time limitations,” Volkov said.

Like most departments at UCSC, theater arts is experiencing cuts that can potentially be limiting.

However, Volkov said that the situation forced them to think creatively and improvise. As a result, the set is on wheels and is in constant conversation with the cast’s movement on stage.

Shratter submitted her vision for the presentation last year, and the performance and her work spent directing it will go towards her graduate certificate program. Though the idea has been in the works for about a year, rehearsals have been condensed into five weeks.

“This past weekend we were in the theater everyday,” said Jillian Bartels, a third-year theater arts major from Porter who plays Odysseus’ wife Penelope in the play. “I think 24-hour rehearsals all weekend with beautiful weather outside really shows how hard we’ve been working.”

Both Bartels and Shratter emphasized that this play is not going to be anything that people think they know about “The Odyssey.”

“Homer’s version certainly didn’t have rock music playing in the Greek court,” Bartels said. “This is my last show with the UCSC theater arts department and I couldn’t be more proud to go out this way.”

All in all, actors, directors, stage directors, and everyone involved in the show agree that the modernization will be exciting.

“It is going to be epic,” Shratter said. “And yes, that’s a pun, but it’s true.”


“The Odyssey” will be performed at the Theater Arts Experimental Theater

Friday, May 7 through Sunday, May 9, and Thursday, May 13 through Sunday, May 16. Starts at 7:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. Sundays).

$11 general, $10 senior, $10 student, $2 TA majors

Free for UCSC undergrads

More info at