Features, Local, Theater

TTU faculty present ‘An Iliad’ as first production for new theater company

From June 27-29, two TTU faculty members will be presenting the play “An Iliad” by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center. “An Iliad” will be the first production for James Alder and Joseph Clark’s theater company Alder & Clark Present.

   Alder has worked as the Facilities Manager at Tech’s Backdoor Playhouse for the past four years and Clark has spent the last month as a Federal Work Study Coordinator, but both have been key members of Cookeville’s vast theater community for years.  

   The two have been working on theater productions together for years and decided this was the perfect time to get their company off the ground. 

   “Joe and I have been toying around with some sort of theater project and we’ve even taken the first few steps a couple of times, but this is the first one where we’re going straight for the show,” Alder said.

   “We love our theater community, and we love that it is such a large community, especially for the size of Cookeville, but we are at a point where we want to do our own thing,” Clark said. “We plan to work with students, but we are not a school. We are getting to put on plays that we love,” Alder added. 

   “An Iliad” is written as a one-man show, with the character of the Poet, played by Clark, representing the voice of a soldier on the ground during the Trojan War. The play tackles Homer’s epic poem “Iliad” and presents it from the Poet’s vast perspective as a one-act consisting of seven parts. 

   Authors Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson began writing “An Iliad” in 2003 when the United States entered Iraq and by the time of publication in 2012, the United States had exited Iraq but instead housed soldiers in Afghanistan. Nowadays the commentary on war continues with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the United States’ subsequent assistance of Ukraine, leading to portions of text that may require modern adaptations. 

   What makes “An Iliad” unique from other socially conscious plays is the author’s encouragement to keep the script up to date regarding the world’s current perspective on war and what conversational climate the play is performed amidst. 

   “Nothing in the show reads as aging poorly – in fact it’s aged very well,” Clark said. “It’s more the question of how we phrase these things.” 

      “What is so brilliant about this play is that it distills [Homer’s “Iliad”] and makes it consumable for an audience,” Alder said. “In an hour and a half, you come and learn the story in a way you’ve never heard before – as the Greeks would have heard it.” 

   “We live in a world where war is a universal thing and as far as we can tell it’s never going away, so the story is still relevant,” Clark added. “One of the things that this play does well is say to not forget that there are people, whether willing or not, fighting. Think about the humans who are fighting.” 

   “An Iliad” will be presented from June 27-29 at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center. The show will begin at 7:30 pm and tickets will be $15 for adults, $10 for students, and $5 for children/veterans and can be purchased either online or at the CPAC box office. Come out to celebrate the new company and theater in our community!