UC Santa Cruz Arts Division presents "An Iliad"

A retelling of Homer’s classic through a modern lens

“I feel like I'm going to be spending a lot of time in this wandering Bard’s tattered shoes,” says Patty Gallagher, a professor for the department of Performance, Play, and Design (PPD). She is set to star in an upcoming performance of An Iliad, a play in which a wandering Bard (known as The Poet) who’s been alive for thousands of years retells the story of the Trojan War and what Gallagher calls “the human propensity for rage and its disruptive powers.”

Written by Lisa Peterson and Tony award winner Denis O’Hare, An Iliad originally premiered in 2013 at the New York Theater Workshop. Gallagher and Kirsten Brandt, a former lecturer for PPD  and now the Chair of The Department of Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,  started working on their own version of the show in 2022. This will be their fourth iteration of An Iliad; previous versions played locally at the Jewel Theater, in Bangalore, India,  and a co-production with the Rogue Theatre in Arizona.

Despite being based on a myth from thousands of years ago, An Iliad is about the present day. “It's really about you today, your anger, your rage, and its destructive possibilities,” says Gallagher. She notes a moment in the play when the Poet tries to compare the Trojan War to another similar event using the ancient Conquest of Sargon, then moving through every war in human history up until the present moment. “The playwrights are asking us to think about what these epic texts  mean today, and how we are still implicated in these narratives of conquering and otherness under the guise of heroism and glory,” says Gallagher.

While the story is largely about the futility of war and its constant presence in human society, the  ultimate goal of the Poet is a hopeful one.  If she can  tell the story perfectly enough, she will be free of the burden of retelling it : “Every time I sing this song I hope it's the last time.” But to achieve that goal the audience needs to understand the enduring cycle of violence and must find a way to stop it.

Peterson and O’Hare’s script changes the model of solo performer to incorporate a character known as The Muse  whose music accompanies and inspires the Poet’s text. This production will feature original music composed and performed  by Ben Leeds Carson, a professor of music. “He’s a brilliant composer, I treasure him as a collaborator,” says Gallagher. Other collaborators include PPD Professors David Lee Cuthbert and Pamela Rodriguez-Montero, who once again provide lighting, set, and costume design for the show. 

When this run of the show is over, Gallagher has been invited to perform An Iliad in locations including Bogota, Colombia and Belfast, UK. “There's an urgent need to talk about these issues right now,” says Gallagher. “There’s a reason these invitations keep coming.”

An Iliad will be playing the weekend of May 10-12, with tickets ranging from $0-$20. “We want to invite everyone to come and money is no obstacle,” says Gallagher. “I'm just really honored to be presenting this with my UCSC colleagues and for our campus community.”

More Information

Friday, May 10 & Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m.

Opening night reception: Friday, May 10, 7:00 p.m.

UC Santa Cruz

Theater Arts Second Stage

Santa Cruz, CA 95064

Tickets on Eventbrite

Pay What You Like: $0-$20

Lot 126 is the closest parking lot to the event

Parking is by UCSC permit, Park Mobile, or pay $5 cash/credit to the on-site parking attendant in Lot 126

More visitor parking information here