Three Queen Anne actresses are preparing to don siren costumes and seduce audiences to Taproot Theatre’s opening performance of “The Odyssey” later this week.
Nikki Visel, Jesse Notehelfer and Sarah Roquemore are joining 11 other actors to play more than 85 parts to begin Taproot’s 35th anniversary season.
Visel has been on stage at Taproot since 2001 and has worked with Notehelfer in a few shows since 2004. But the production of “The Odyssey” is the first time the three actresses have been together on one stage.
The Odyssey will be Roquemore’s first performance for Taproot, and she said that she’s excited to be a part of the adaptation, written by Mary Zimmerman who is known for modernizing ancient works like Homer’s epic poem for the stage.
“The adaptation is incredible because it brings modern experiences to something so classic and so human,” Roquemore said. “It makes you want to bring your own experiences in with you as source material for your parts.”
Taproot’s version of “Odyssey” will place almost the entirety of the storytelling on the actors and the imagination of the audience – there are no sets involved and only a few props.
“We’ve got a blank stage and poles and stools, but largely we create this whole world with a lot of movement and a lot of imagination,” Roquemore said. “How do I make the audience believe that I’m a sheep … and how do I make myself believe I’m a sheep?”
All three women will be playing at least five parts in the show in addition to those of the Sirens – the seductresses who lure sailors to their deaths. Visel said that every character is important because “there are so many great stories of heroism and so many heroes that remind us of the best parts of ourselves.”
Notehelfer said the challenge with playing so many characters – some that are only on stage for one line – is trying to bring each part to life.
“This is an ensemble play. Usually you have one character that you can really fall into and develop,” she said. “The challenge here is bringing each person to life while staying focused on the storytelling as a whole.”
Homer’s “Odyssey” is the classic tale about Odysseus, a hero plagued by misfortune for 10 years while trying to return home after years of war and the fall of Troy. All three women said they had read the poem before, but a stage interpretation has helped give the story life.
“I read the story in high school, but it’s amazing how much more the text comes alive now that I’ve seen so much of it created,” Visel said. “I reread the play when I found out about Taproot’s performance and it’s much more exciting, even the parts that aren’t performed.”
After the play Notehelfer said she would take a break from acting for a while; she has worked a few shows back to back with few breaks. But she added that acting “nourishes a whole different side and allows [her] to use a completely different part of the imagination.”
Both Visel and Roquemore echoed her thoughts, and said that the process of putting on a show in its entirety is just a wonderful gauntlet for the imagination, and allows the audience and the performers to nourish that artistic side.
“I really love stories, I love telling them, I love sharing them…to get up and tell a story with other people for other people in a space…it’s amazing,” Visel said.
Taproot’s production of “The Odyssey” opens Feb. 4 and runs through March 5; Wednesday and Thursday shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday matinees, 2 p.m. Tickets are $20-35, and $10 for those 25 and younger.