Stepping into the dimly-lit Kirkland Junior Common Room with its opulent armchairs and the elegant paneling feels like entering the 19th century. But on the evenings of Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, following in the footsteps of “Hocodysseus” on his epic “Quadyssey,” courtesy of the Kirkland Drama Society, the room brought to mind the image of ancient Greece with a Harvard spin.
The history of the Kirkland Drama Society’s semesterly productions goes all the way back to the 1930s. Traditionally, the group would be staging Shakespeare, but in recent years, they have ventured into other types of productions, including original plays. This year, they also broke with the mold by putting on the Odyssey-inspired “Quadyssey,” a play that follows Hocodysseus, the House Committee chair from Ithakirk, on his epic trek back home after a night of too much partying that ended up with him stuck in the Quad.
The choice of the play is not an accident. The KDS offers a role to all the Kirklanders who express interest in participating. The number has been steadily increasing in the last couple of semesters, and it rose from 22 a year ago to more than 40 this year. As a result, the production would have to include more than 40 actors — a feat hard to accomplish with a Shakespearean play.
The search for alternatives wasn’t long. “One of our first thoughts was, if we're not going to do something Shakespeare, but we want to keep something that has that same kind of classic cannon weight [it has to be] the Odyssey,” said Samuel Murdock ’23, who plays the main protagonist, Hocodysseus.
The idea to put a spin on Homer’s story was largely accidental. “Sam came up with the idea of making a pun off it to do ‘The Odyssey,’” said Adam V. Aleksic ’23, one of the play’s co-writers. “We were thinking ‘The Quadyssey’ might be a fun play to do because we knew we were going to have a large cast,” he said.
“The good thing about ‘The Odyssey’ is that [Odysseus] is traveling through these different places and meeting all these different people,” Aleksic said. “So we thought, how could we theme all the monsters around Harvard?”
What followed was a hectic time, with less than six weeks between conceptualizing the show in early September and its Oct. 21 premiere. But the tight turnaround was by no means unusual. “That's the KDS tradition. It's always been: you take however long to write it and then you have five days of rehearsal,” said Ivor K. Zimmerman ’23, a Crimson Editorial editor and another of the play’s co-writers.
“We spent a lot of time with a group of very funny people coming up with ideas, and we finished like four days before we started rehearsing,” Aleksic said.
The end result was a distinctly Harvard play, with the monsters becoming BCG — “Beta Kappa Gamma” — recruiters, Delphic lotus eaters, and members of the “Charymson” and “Scalient,” both trying to convince Hocodysseus to join, while arguing if “Plato's Republic” is indeed one of the ten failures “of the radical left.”
The KDS left no stone unturned, touching on what seems like every aspect of Harvard’s traditions and culture, even poking some light-hearted fun at the former Swedish prime minister, and current Institute of Politics fellow, Stefan Löfven, who got a cameo role in the show.
Still, despite its many Harvard references, the play remains firmly centered on Kirkland.
Mariana Juarez ’24, who played the role of Calypso, was initially nervous about participating, but the community aspect took much of the stress off. “The play is for the rest of Kirkland [but] it’s also for us just to enjoy ourselves and have a good time,” she said. “I've already got to talk to so many people in Kirkland that I never got the chance to talk to [before]. So it's been an amazing experience so far.”
Indeed, “The Quadyssey” might have been less about theater, and more about building community and house pride.
“One thing that I love about all KDS plays is the Kirkland pride in the story lines themselves,” said Michelle A. Stegawski ’23, playing the recurring role of Ann Ecdote. “The whole idea is that Hocodysseus is trying to get back to Kirkland … Last semester it was ‘Back to the Future’ and it was all based on getting back to Kirkland.”
She’s not alone in sharing the sentiment. House pride seemed to be a common denominator.
“I think it's one of the times where Kirkland's like has pride and community,” Zimmerman said.
“I think it's my favorite Kirkland tradition,” Aleksic added. “It's what really showcases our strength as a community.”