Done in participation with Citiparks, the free installation — which is available throughout the entire month of October — is described in a press release as an “interactive audio odyssey spanning two miles of trails in Schenley Park.” Much like with the titular hero and king, OK Odysseus takes guests on a journey of discovery, where instead of gods and monsters, they find pre-recorded readings of Odyssey put in a historical context by playwright Jay Ball.
Ball wrote Quantum’s contemporary Homer adaptation, An Odyssey, which was postponed due to the pandemic. It's now set to debut at the Schenley Park Ice Rink in summer 2021.
OK Odysseus and the upcoming An Odyssey adds to Quantum's dedication to taking experiences beyond the stage. In the past, the company has staged shows in Frick Park, the Carrie Furnaces, and the grand Trinity Cathedral, an Episcopal church located in Downtown.
After An Odyssey was put on hold, Quantum executive director Stewart Urist says Quantum decided to work with Citiparks to find a fun, safe way to reach audiences. With OK Odysseus, guests are outdoors and able to social distance as they walk through Schenley Park, beginning at Panther Hollow Lake. Along the predetermined path, they stop at five Greek columns outfitted with QR codes.
“When it became clear that An Odyssey would have to be postponed into 2021 as a matter of safety, we still wanted to find a way to offer art in these spaces which are so special to us and to Quantum’s history,” says Urist. “OK Odysseus was the perfect answer — a safe, socially distanced experience that can be experienced in-person, that showcases the interrogation of classic text and contemporary feel that we love so much in Jay’s script.”
Quantum founding artistic director Karla Boos expands on this statement, describing how Ball used the first-ever translation of Odyssey by a woman, Emily Wilson. A 2017 Guardian review lauds Wilson's translation for the way it “exposes centuries of masculinist readings of the poem,” showing how male translators often projected less-nuanced biases on the text.
“Through her writers’ sensibility, she gave the ancient words an encounter with a 21st-century value system, and Jay nudged the poem even further into the immediate, fraught, present,” says Boos. “We hope our guests will enjoy our beautiful parks as they reflect on what it means to be a hero and how this ancient story still resonates across millennia.”
OK Odysseus will be available in Schenley Park through October 2020.