'Anon(ymous)' offers modern twist on Greek classic

Panel discussion

A panel discussion following the final performance is planned as part of ISU Theatre's year-long symposium series. Community members are invited to enjoy refreshments and engage in a roundtable discussion with local, regional and national artists and scholars.

"An Unending Odyssey: Immigration, Intersectionality and the Arts"
Sunday, Dec. 8, 3 p.m.
004 Scheman Building

Refugees are the larger-than-life heroes in ISU Theatre's "Anon(ymous)" -- a poetic and action-packed retelling of Homer's "The Odyssey." Opening Dec. 6 in Fisher Theater, the classic Greek drama is reimagined as a young refugee's epic search for his family in the United States.

Arpita Mukherjee, artistic director of the New York-based Hypokrit Theatre Company, is guest directing the production as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) Dean's artist-in-residence.

"It's been a joy and privilege to be the LAS Dean's artist-in-residence," Mukherjee said. "ISU Theatre is cultivating the citizen artists of the future, with the key word being citizen. These young citizen artists are dynamic, fierce and bright. Collaborating with them, listening to them and learning from them has been an extraordinary experience and has fortified my belief that they are the answer to the great challenges we face today."

Written by playwright Naomi lizuka, "Anon(ymous)" follows Anon on a desperate search for his mother, from vast oceans to urban realities. Along the way, he meets new friends and dangerous foes.

"In 2018, 70.8 million people were forcefully displaced around the world -- that's 37,000 people per day," Mukherjee said. "These stories are one of the most vital stories of the world and yet rarely seen on the American stage. Here, the refugees are the larger-than-life heroes, and we watch them not just survive, but thrive."

Senior Olly Manning mastered physically demanding choreography involving somersaults and fist fighting to play the role of Anon. Manning hopes the show's exploration of refugee stories and xenophobia will ignite understanding and empathy.

"I hope audiences can see their experiences highlighted in this show, be it the refugee experiences, shared trauma, friendship or the sweet reminders of home," Manning said. "I hope that if the audience doesn't see a little bit of themselves in this show, they learn about what other people go through in America."

While "Anon(ymous)" represents the stories of immigrants, Manning emphasized that working with the production's diverse team has been a powerful personal experience.

"Being cast as a lead as a transgender actor, especially as a trans actor of color, is something I never thought would happen to me," Manning said. "Representation is incredibly important for us, given that we're routinely erased, caricatured or replaced. I hope younger kids like us out in the community see that they can achieve their goals in the 'real' world."

 "Anon(ymous)" performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14, and at 1 p.m. on Dec. 8. Tickets ($20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for students) are available through the Stephens Auditorium ticket office, Ticketmaster or at Fisher Theater ticket office prior to the performances.