From one-eyed butchers to barflies in a sweatshop, a 12-year-old boy named Anon faces many obstacles as he travels alone to locate his mother. More importantly, he takes on this journey to find his identity as an immigrant in the United States.
Ithaca College’s nationally recognized Main Stage Theatre will produce Naomi Iizuka’s “Anon(ymous)” as its third show for the 2015–16 season. Based on Homer’s “The Odyssey,” this play retells the story of a man going on a self-fulfilling journey and explores the strong sense of adventure that drives Anon to work for what he wishes to achieve.
The play is guest directed by Jen Wineman, a New York City director and choreographer of plays, musicals and operas. She’s also toured with productions such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Hunchback of Seville” as well as many more. After discovering the opportunity to guest direct at the college through the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, she said she thought it would be fun to direct somewhere she’d heard so much about, and that there was the chance to direct a subject of her expertise.
Wineman said she chose “Anon(ymous)” because she was drawn to how the play is character-driven rather than plot-driven. She said she likes plays that invite a huge imagination and a strong sense of theatricality, as well as a sense of magic.
“Upon reading ‘Anon(ymous),’ it was clear this was the play for me,” Wineman said. “I was drawn to this play because it’s an adventure tale and because of the ways in which Naomi Iizuka appropriated the stories in ‘The Odyssey’ for theatrical purposes.”
Wineman said she not only appreciates the play for its tribute to “The Odyssey,” but also for the relations it holds to the current events that have been dominating the news, such as the Syrian refugee crisis.
“The image of hordes of women and children huddled together on the boat to escape a war torn country figures prominently in the play,” Wineman explained. “I’ve never directed a play that was more timely, or that was able to humanize world events more powerfully. ‘Anon(ymous)’ is ultimately a story about hope, and there is no emotion more human than that.”
The show has not only been an exploration for Wineman in recreating the emotional aspect of current events, but also for several people involved with the show. Sophomore Jordy Diaz, who plays Anon, said working on this show has opened his eyes to the events happening around the world. After the first week of rehearsal, Diaz said he received a wake-up call as racial tensions and the “No Confidence” vote at the college caused him to realize that these issues are proximate rather than distant.
“I’ve never called myself an activist, and I don’t think I could just yet,” Diaz said. “But I recognize that I’ve experienced a significant shift in perspective toward the current events happening around the world thanks to this play.”
Diaz also noted how this show and its themes of ambition have resonated with his personal drive. He said although the odds are completely against his character, Anon believes that his mother is alive and well. Diaz loves how self-motivated Anon is toward making his dreams a reality, and said both he and the character are very imaginative.
Sophomore Lea Sevola plays Naja, Anon’s guide who influences what happens around Anon, and also parallels the goddess Athena. She said not only does she love her role, but she also has loved being able to work under Wineman’s directing.
“Jen is such an easy person to work with and absolutely fits in with the attitude and vibe that I already love about Dillingham,” Sevola said. “I learned a lot about using people as storytellers rather than merely actors and characters.”
Sevola noted that Naja’s protectiveness, evident in her watching over Anon during the play, is incredibly relatable, which makes her role so enjoyable. She said there is an incredible story to be told from the script and it’s been exciting uncovering it.
“This play is so different — so rich and full of themes and ideas that aren’t always discussed in theater,” Sevola said. “It’s vivid, imaginative and so full of life. The characters are so charming and well fleshed out. I can’t wait for everyone to watch it.”
“Anon(ymous)” premieres on Dec. 1 in Clark Theatre and runs until a matinee performance Dec. 6. Tickets can be purchased at Dillingham Center’s box office or online. Tickets are $7 for students.