Well, we kicked off 2023 with the opening of Icarus Livingstone Falls Into the Sea produced by Acme Theatre Company in my hometown. It’s one of the most complicated plays I’ve written, and this company run by teenagers created a beautiful, lyrical production.
Icarus Livingstone is a coming-of-age story built out of the myths of Icarus, Theseus, and the Minotaur. It’s a queer love story as well, a comedy at times, a drama about parent-child relationships. In the five years since I built the current labyrinth of story, this is the first production.
(Photos from Acme)
Over the year I’ve returned to this story many, many times, because every time I’ve played with these myths, I’ve found something most people overlook. Once upon a time, I wrote a monologue from Icarus’s mother’s POV, and then another short piece with many voices as a flock of seagulls; a friend then built a series of gorgeous masks that I then turned into a play, starting a habit of design-driven work that I still use. In both of these, I was interested in the people on the periphery of the story. And yet, as I built this world, I could see a bigger one behind it. Over the centuries, artists (especially painters) focused on the moment of the fall – it’s a tragedy, it’s a punishment for the father’s hubris or about Icarus not listening to adults – but I wasn’t interested in these readings. I was interested in creating a story behind the story.
Then, fall of 2018, I had a large high school crew who joined me in making this play. Many young people are on their own journeys through a labyrinth of identities and wrestling with family expectations and the like, and I think this crew brought something magical into a story built from those themes.
We imagine Icarus and the Minotaur (“Tor”) as childhood more-than-friends. They also know Theseus, who would later kill the Minotaur. And things get… complicated. As the director Emily in her program note put it, “the boys struggle to live past the endings that their fathers dreaded and grow into the hopes that their mothers imagined.”
I had a reading with ACME the summer after the show. And someone in that cast connected with the script, and has advocated for it ever since. And thanks to the advocacy, they produced it. As a playwright and educator, I have a boring life punctuated by strange and special experiences. Writing plays (and representing/marketing myself) means that I spend so much time looking at words on the page or screen, deleting these, and putting different words on the page. Then you get moments like this, when something you love and put time and energy into, something that seems like everyone else overlooks, connects with some kid or kids who then advocate for it, who wish it into production.
They don’t make awards for what I do, but man, we do get some cool things instead.
The Odyssey will be getting another update soon. I will re-reimagine the text for a different kind of theatre and audience. More info soon.
The current draft is posted here. This one will continue to be available.
I have focused on showcasing that it fits cafetoriums and alternative spaces, but I think what’s actually more interesting to me is how making it about Odysseus’s growth as a character fundamentally changes the text. After reluctantly killing the suitors at the instructions of Athena, Odysseus is about to be attacked by their upset parents, and he chooses instead to defy the Gods, picking exile over more slaughter.