Odysseus trying to find her way back to Ithaca
In Long Way Home
, the theater group Q Brothers Collective creates a contemporary mix on Homer’s epic the Odyssey
: instead of hypermasculine white men slaying mythical creatures or stirring grandiose battles, five black actors spin Homer as hip-hop verse.
The play follows MC Odysseus (aka "Ody"), a young black woman, and her clan on their journey home from the Rogers Park Jarvis stop to the mythical southwest neighborhood of Ithaca. Along the way, the crew travels on a magical el train that weaves throughout Chicago neighborhoods, highlighting the city’s diverse musical communities, from house to punk.
The adaptation portrays the heroine’s quest to get home as part of a larger theme of personal exploration. "Obviously hubris is a huge theme of the Odyssey,
and that meshes well with the world of hip-hop," says JQ, Q Brothers's creative and musical director. "[The characters] each have to overcome their vulnerabilities by the end of the piece to realize just how full and rich they've become on their journey."
Q Brothers is known for modern adaptations of classic literature, including Shakespeare’s Othello
and Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
. The play is the first collaboration between the theater company and the Chicago Children’s Choir, a non-profit organization that focuses on music education for Chicago youth through choral programs. In Long Way Home
, members of the choir both play lead roles and sing supporting vocals.
Long Way Home
is a landmark for both companies: It will be the choir’s first theatrical performance since 2012, mixing acting with vocal performance. It will also be the largest cast Q Brothers has ever worked with; they typically use micro-casts ranging from five to fifteen actors, many performing multiple parts.
"[The Chicago Children’s Choir] is more powerful than we ever could have imagined," says Jackson Doran, director of education at Q Brothers. Without prior acting experience, the group was able to learn 15 original songs and new choreography, which, Doran says, is "jaw-to-the-floor incredible."
Long Way Home Fri 3/9, 7:30 PM; Sat 3/10, 3 and 7 PM; Sun 3/11, 2 and 6 PM, Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan, 312-753-3210, ccchoir.org, $20-$40.