Every year, a magical event happens here in little ol’ Omaha: the Great Plains Theater Conference. At the end of May, theater artists from all over the world work together to share in their love of their craft and support playwrights. There are workshops, design displays, free plays, free food and a lot of nerding out about theater.
The conference itself is only a week, but the work leading up to it is in process all year. Case in point is the focus of this post: Ellen Struve’s “Epic.” It is one of the top notch pieces of theater you can go see this week. Epic weaves together the stories of contemporary South Omaha Mayan and artist communities, and includes the ancient Mayan stories of the Popol Vuh. The script is in three languages: English, Spanish and a Mayan dialect called Q’anjob’al.
The script was written with material gathered from an interview technique called Story Circles, used by the Cornerstone Theater Company. The Cornerstone method is a community-centered one where you not only focus on the authentic voices of people from a given community, but those very people are part of every step of the production. It’s an inclusive, and honestly way more fun, approach to theater-making. Haley has been trained in the method, and we are using it as part of some of our projects at Anastasis.
You can imagine we were thrilled when the director of the production, and Cornerstone vet, Michael John Garcés, asked us to assist in directing “Epic”. With the play being in three languages, and the actors coming from varying levels of experience in traditional western theater, it was decided that a little extra rehearsal time might be helpful for all involved. So we got to cast the production in March and host rehearsals in April. There are no words for how heart-warming, fun and humbling this process has been for us.
The cast is not only talented, but hard-working and, most importantly, so kind. We all came to the table with different levels of speaking abilities in each other’s languages, yet nobody missed a beat in helping each other understand the script and one another. Everyone is working on a million different projects, taking care of families and doing incredibly important work in the community, and still we all came together to be part of a different kind of important work. The crew is making technical magic happen with puppets, light and sound as we speak.
This show is the product of so many wonderful people combining their time and talent. If you get a chance, give yourself a treat and go see this play.