It took Odysseus nearly 20 years to get home after fighting a great war. It took a large group of young Huntsville actors considerably less to practice a show detailing that long journey.
The cast has been set and rehearsals have been held as the Children's Theatre Festival is gearing up for its production of Homer's "The Odyssey."
The play, which is sponsored by Sam Houston State University's Department of Theatre and Dance and the Huntsville Arts Commission, is running Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the school's University Theatre Center. The show features 45 children, ages 6 to 17, from all across Huntsville.
"It details Odysseus' journey back after he goes to fight for Troy. It takes him 19 years to get back home," director Penny Hasekoester said. "He meets up with, and bests, the Cyclops, he has interventions by the gods like Zeus, Apollo and Athena and eventually he comes home to find that Penelope, his wife, has been holding suitors at bay for 19 years. There's a lot of stuff in one big show."
While the most common translation of the story can be difficult for younger children, the Children's Theatre Festival is using an alternate version adapted by Gregory A. Falls and Kurt Beattie, which is easier for younger actors and actresses to comprehend and perform.
"They do use a formal language, but it's not so formal that it's hard to follow," Hasekoester said. "It is, to some degree, in vernacular, but it's phrased so that it is very accessible to the public at large."
So far, things have been going well for the program. With opening night less than a week away, the cast and crew are beginning final rehearsals and making sure things are running smoothly.
"We're getting ready to have a dress rehearsal, where they will all be clothed in Greek garb and most of them have swords, which is exciting." Hasekoester said. "Some of the older students have just finished reading the real (version of) 'The Odyssey' in school, and also, a lot of them are familiar with the different myths, like Cyclops."
Although Hasekoester has some experience in children's theater, this is her first time with this specific program. She is taking over for Maureen McIntyre, who retired from the Children's Theatre Festival last year.
In going from dealing with college students to school-aged children, Hasekoester said most of the differences come from experience and knowledge of theater jargon, which is overcome fairly quickly.
"Some of them have never done theater before, so it's establishing a type of vocabulary so that everybody knows where upstage is and downstage, stage right and stage left," she said. "With some, though, it's no different at all. Many of them have done theater before and I feel like it's a nice, communal atmosphere, because they really work together well. They have learned how to become an ensemble and how to help one another."
Even if people do not know anybody in the production, Hasekoester encourages them to come see these children perform.
"I think they'll enjoy the story because it's a good adventure," she said. "I think it's really exciting to see students tackling this difficult of a piece and I just think it's a lot of fun and very enjoyable to watch."