Leda Hoffmann’s underworld, under the Holton Street Bridge
The local director will stage a production of Margaret Atwood's "Penelopiad," a female-focused look at the characters of Homer's "Odyssey," in the pop-up park.
Burgeoning director Leda Hoffmann will soon make use of one of Milwaukee’s diamonds in the rough — the park space under the Holton Street bridge. It’ll be the site of her upcoming production: a dramatic adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novella, The Penelopiad.
The all-female Penelopiad, a companion piece to Homer’s Odyssey that follows Odysseus’ wife Penelope and the afterlives of her 12 maids hanged for presumed disloyalty, requires a unique, underworld setting – one Hoffmann wasn’t sure she could find until she stumbled across it on accident. “I read The Penelopiad and thought, ‘This is hard, I don’t know how I would do this play,’” Hoffmann said. “Then one day I was driving to UWM and saw the park out of the corner of my eye. I thought ‘Is that the place? I think that’s the place.’”
Hoffmann didn’t latch on to the urban park simply for its novelty as a setting. She sees it as a natural fit for an interpretive setting. “Every day in rehearsal we find more ways to embrace the space. The Penelopiad doesn’t take place in a park, it uses it,” Hoffmann said. For example, the novella works with a lot of rope imagery, so the many swings hanging in the park are a particularly fitting touch. And the surrounding city noise — cars from Holton Street above, voices carried from Lakefront Brewery and Trocadero — creates an apt accompaniment.
“What does hell sound like? Probably a city at night,” Hoffmann said. “The noise doesn’t sound like interruption, it’s a built-in soundscape.”
In addition to ambient sounds, The Penelopiad relies heavily on music. Madison-based musician Terrance Barrett created original music for the play, while cast member and singer/songwriter Joanna Kerner also contributed original folk songs.
“I’m hoping the same thing happens during the run—that people riding by on their bikes or whatever will stop and watch,” said Hoffman. “The audience will be seated anywhere, in and around the action.”
The park under the Holton Street bridge is super centrally located. Get yourself over there for an uncommon, end-of-summer experience.
The Penelopiad opens Wednesday, August 21 at 8 p.m., and runs at 8 p.m. every night through Tuesday August 27. Tickets are pay-what-you-can upon arrival. 10% of all proceeds will go to the Milwaukee Women’s Center.
*Note: you may park by Lakefront Brewery and cross the bridge to enter the park.