by Margaret Atwood
Directed by Jen Quinn
October 31 at 8pm
November 5 at 1:30 pm
Tickets are $20, $15 for students/seniors, artists or
Pay-What-You-Decide at the door
Deena Aziz as Penelope,
Gitu Jain as Musical Director and
Melantho of the Pretty Cheeks,
Alex Petrachuk, Athena Trinh,
Katherine Turnbull, Leni Parker
and Stefanie Buxton as Maids.
‘Now that I am dead, I know everything.” – Penelope
If you didn’t see The Penelopiad last year, don’t miss it this time around.
And even if you did, it’s worth a revisit…” – NOW
4 out of 4 stars “The Penelopiad is stunning theatre”
– The Toronto Star
“…an absolute triumph”
– The Globe and Mail
4 out of 4 stars “The Penelopiad makes history”
– Toronto Sun
“This is a superb show – smart, beautiful and superbly executed.”
– Now Magazine
“…vibrant, moving and darkly, explosively funny.”
– National Post
How does she revision?
Margaret Atwood has chosen to retell this iconic myth from the perspective of Penelope and her twelve maids. She asks the question: “What led to the hanging of the maids?”
Homer’s The Odyssey is an epic account of Odysseus’ 10-year struggle to return home after the Trojan War. In Homer’s account of The Odyssey, Penelope—wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy—is portrayed as faithful, one-dimensional and unwavering in her affection for her husband. While Odysseus fights in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, battling mythical creatures and facing the wrath of gods, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus are left alone for twenty years.
Water does not resist.
water is patient.
dripping water wears away a stone.
remember you are half water.
if you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it.
In the face of scandalous rumours, Penelope maintains the kingdom of Ithaca, brings up her wayward son and keeps over a hundred suitors at bay. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and—curiously—twelve of her maids.
Homer’s Odyssey is not the only version of the story. Mythic material was originally oral, and also local–a myth would be told one way in one place and quite differently in another. Margaret Atwood’s the Penelopiad retells the story of The Odyssey from the perspective of Penelope and her Twelve Maids. It is an echo of an echo of an echo of an echo that paints the realities of voiceless women.The story is told in the afterlife, with Penelope and the Maids reflecting retrospectively on events that occurred centuries before.
By establishing the maids’ voices as counterpoint to Penelope’s, Atwood effectively undermines not only Homer’s account but that of her own heroine. It is the maids who crack open the shell of The Odyssey. They become “the main authority on the subject,” interrupting the heroine’s narrative. The wonder of the Penelopiad is that, as a piece that refuses to stop winking at the reader and/or audience, it still manages to evoke true pathos. In The Odyssey, the maids’ feet do not twitch for very long; in the Penelopiad, they never stop twitching, reaching and unearthing the secrets of the paths to bring Her Side of the Story to life.
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa, and grew up in northern Ontario and Quebec, and in Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.
Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Her latest book of short stories is Stone Mattress: Nine Tales (2014). Her MaddAddam trilogy – the Giller and Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009), and MaddAddam (2013) – is currently being adapted for HBO. The Door is her latest volume of poetry (2007). Her most recent non-fiction books are Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008) and In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (2011). Her novels include The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; and The Robber Bride, Cat’s Eye, The Handmaid’s Tale – an Emmy award-winning series – and The Penelopiad. Her new novel, The Heart Goes Last, was published in September 2015. Forthcoming in 2016 are Hag-Seed, a novel revisitation of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, for the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, and Angel Catbird – with a cat-bird superhero – a graphic novel with co-creator Johnnie Christmas. (Dark Horse.) Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.
Director Jen Quinn on The Penelopiad
“After I was dead, they turned me into a story; though not the kind of story I would have preferred to hear. I waited. I waited some more. Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn.” – Penelope
We all know the story of Odysseus and his 10 year journey to return home from Troy; these stories have been told over and over and over again. But what about Penelope? She was a model wife; she was faithful, considerate, trustworthy and all-suffering. That’s pretty much where the story ends for her. Why did she get reduced to an archetype? I’m so tired of women amounting to little more than how they serve the men in their lives. Being defined solely by their relationship to a man. And worse still, what about Penelope’s Maids? Already shackled to a life of servitude, but then so easily discarded without a second thought. All too often, still to this day, a woman’s life is worth less than a man’s, especially if she is perceived to have defied a man’s will. We need to hear stories that highlight the other perspective. We need react to injustices. We can’t let the same narrative continue to dominate our existence. Her Side of the Story is urgent and important. She cannot continue to be an object that is used and discarded at will.
In The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood has given Penelope and her Maids a chance to speak for themselves, to tell their omitted version of an iconic story. The script is playful and thought provoking. Penelope speaks to us from the Underworld with ease and humility and the Maids use this platform to illustrate the injustice of their untimely and violent death. They’ve waited for thousands of lifetimes to be heard. I think they have waited long enough. Let’s hear these women speak.