TH.143 The People’s Voice

Meeting times: T, W, TR, F. 2:30-5:50 PM

Meeting place:  Studio Theater, Los Prietos Boys Camp

Instructor:  Michael Morgan –323-376-3687 (cell)


Course Description:

This course is collaboration between the university and the community.  UC students will partner with teenagers from Los Prietos Boys Camp to process and perform an original theater piece.  The framework for this class is classical literature that has healing and heroic dimensions.  For the current class, The Odyssey of Homer provides the template.  Through a series of exercises, the participants discover the mythic elements in their lives and how to utilize them to tell the story of The Odyssey in their own words and the author’s.  


By it’s nature, this class is not exclusive to theater students.  It is open to anyone seeking a fieldwork component with an educational or social service mission.   The course is also open to students that are interested in the power of language in our culture.  The focus is on theater as a tool for social justice, transformation, understanding and growth.  The goal is to merge the epic and the personal in such a way that the storyteller reveals inner truths within the structure of larger story as outlined by the author’s text and plot.  By exploring a great work of literature, participants will tell the tale from their own life perspective.  The process will culminate in a performance involving both teens and UC students. 


  It is important to establish a level playing field between the two groups in order to create an open dialog.  UC students benefit by learning that a valuable source of their inspiration as artists, educators, and social workers emanates from human stories, both their own and others.  The teens will benefit by finding validation for their voices and sharing a creative endeavor in an environment of higher learning.   One of the aims of this course is to inspire teenagers’ interest in college by having them work closely with university students.


Those teens interested in gaining university credit can enroll in the parallel course TD 43 through Summer Sessions provided that they meet the pre-requisites.  


It is important that the participants experience the significance of their unique contribution to this event.  To that end, there will be discussion concerning the individuals’ vision for the project and how they want to manifest it through performance.  Everyone in the class is the hero in this journey.  


Course Objectives:  Upon completion of this course the student should understand:

1. How the use of creative imagination is vital to learning

2. How personal stories can take on mythic proportions

3. How to find the poet within

4. How theater can be utilized for personal empowerment and transformation

5. How theater can build a sense of community between diverse groups



1. Growth and Development during the course

2. Talent – the ability to do the work

3. Professional Discipline – attendance, attitude, completion of assignments on time, etc.


Important Considerations:


This class has an enormous scope.  It is crucial that everyone assembles on time, so that we are ready to work at the top of the class.  We work as an ensemble.  That means every member of the company has huge importance.  The work is highly participatory.  Absences and lateness is both disruptive and damaging to the process.  Since the work is experiential and improvisatory, classes can’t be made up.  Keeping this in mind, take the necessary precautions so that you are in good health and fully capable of giving your best.  If it is absolutely necessary for you to miss or be late to a session, please notify either the teacher or the stage manager via phone, text or e-mail. 


There are a number of writing assignments.  Most of these will be done in class, but sometimes there is the need for homework.  Often this will be in the form of tweaking what you wrote in class.  Usually, I will provide you with paper and pen, but if you prefer to keep your own journal that’s fine.  I ask, however, that you use a loose-leaf notebook so that you can give me the pages.  I will collect your writings so that I can put the final script together. The originals will be returned to you at your request.  


The final product must be learned by heart for performance, so there will be the need to memorize lines and stage business.  Much of this memorization work will constitute homework.  


We will build the project through improvisations, so wear loose clothing that you can move in.  Also, be prepared to lie down on the floor.  Always wear comfortable shoes.  This class is physical; yet, there is no need to push beyond one’s edges to cause injury.  The purpose of this work is to learn how to respect the messages your body and voice send you in order to pursue creative expression.  The balance we seek is between activity and receptivity.


Requirements for Upper Division:  The Odyssey, Homer, Fitzgerald - translator 


I chose Fitzgerald because he features the poetry and music in the text, although he takes more artistic liberty.  This translation, I hope, will give the actors a text that is jammed full of images, metaphor and rhythm.  


UC Students are also required to write a paper that relates how their experience of The Odyssey Project can be utilized beyond the class, how it informs their career objectives or life objectives. Papers are due September 14th, 2015. They can be turned in, dropped off in Michael’s mailbox in the department or emailed.


Please note that an important post-production feedback session with the audience will follow the downtown performance.  Also, a crucial dialog will also take place between the UC students and teens from LPBC in order to exchange insights and discuss ways of how to keep the conversation going beyond the project.  This discussion will occur after the audience talkback.  Both UC students and teens will be given course evaluations to fill out.


Optional:  A Journal.  Preferably, this should be a book with easily detachable pages that I can collect, such as a loose-leaf binder or a legal pad.  


Some Rules:

  1. 1. Wear comfortable shoes that give good balance, i.e. no high heels.
  2. 2. No gum chewing.
  3. 3. Be attentive when others are working.
  4. 4. No talking when others are working.
  5. 5. Wear loose clothes that are appropriate for moving and getting on the floor.
  6. 6. No revealing clothing like cut-offs and abbreviated tops.
  7. 7. Cell phones and other electronics must be turned off and put away.
  8. 8. No food is allowed in the theater or classroom spaces.
  9. 9. Please be quiet and respectful when others are working.



Some of the classes and rehearsals will be filmed using a hand held camcorder or a smart phone. The project director, projection artist or stage manager may ask both staff and cast to film on a designated camera that they will keep. Excerpts of this film may be used in the show as part of the production concept this year. The film will be used for production purposes only and should not be duplicated or circulated outside of the theatrical and rehearsal spaces that we inhabit. 


Program Metrics

One goal of The Odyssey Project this year is to keep track of the journey each participating student goes through in finding their own voice to work through life experiences in a creative setting. We have partnered with Dr. Jill Sharkey in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology and graduate student Aileen Fullchange so they can collect program metrics. Their role will be to interview you about your experiences before and after the summer session as well as next year. They will also collect from you brief weekly notes on prompts they will provide on a web survey. The information they collect will be kept confidential from the Theater instructors and partners so you can provide your honest input and they can better understand in what ways The Odyssey Project impacts participants. 



  1. 1. Initial Meeting prior to the first class
  2. 2. Weekly Journal Entry
  3. 3. Exit Meeting
  4. 4. Quarterly Web Survey through Summer 2016


ASAP - Please contact Aileen Fullchange to set up your initial meeting.



The schedule that follows is somewhat subject to change and we will need to adhere to rather tight deadlines, particularly as we enter the last two weeks of rehearsal.  A variety of mentors and teaching artists will contribute to the building of the project.  These include martial artist, yoga teacher, storyteller, mime artist, dance choreographer, mask maker, lighting designer, costume designer, projection designer and stage manager.  These contributors will enter the project at various points, conducting workshops in their area of expertise and interweaving into the theater-making process throughout. 


The Odyssey Project Mentors and Production Team


Ahmed Asi  - Assistant Director/Publicity & Marketing 

Joe Caldwell – Lighting and Sound Supervisor

Brittany Castillo – Dance Choreography 

Aileen Fullchange - Researcher

Art Cisneros – Traditional Indigenous Ceremony

Dani Hernandez – Mask Designer/Maker 

Ryan Howard – Light and Sound Assistant

Shari Howard – Assistant Stage Manger

Clarissa Koenig - Photographer

Haddy Kreie – Teaching Assistant

Ginny Kuhn – Yoga, Meditation and Chants

Christina McCarthy – Mask Designer/Maker

Ian Messersmith – Stage Manger 

Greg Mitchell –Projections and Animation

Michael Morgan – Voice and Creative Director

Zachary Price – Martial Arts 

Roc$teady – Rap Music Coach

Jill Sharkey - Researcher

Raven Skye – Community Activist, Liaison and Coordinator

Matthew Tavianini – Mime Artist

Bonnie Thor - Costumes




 Week One Sessions


Session One: 8/4.

Introductions, Discuss Project, Orientation, Actor/Audience, Voice Questions, Voice with Michael, Naming the Ally and Invocation, Introduce Writing & Metaphor, First Writing Exercise: The Ally Writes, Debrief. 


Session Two: 8/5.

Yoga with Ginny, Voice with Michael, Naming the hero/heroine, Drawing the Map of Home and the Map of Adventure, Blunder Exercise/Self-Portrait, and Second Writing Exercise: Life Stories. Read the Ismaros scene, Third Writing Exercise: Building tension in a personal story, Fourth Writing Exercise: Exploring Addiction, Lotus Exercise/Addiction Machine, Mask work with Christina and Dani (plaster bandage).


Session Three: 8/6. 

Costume Introduction with Bonnie, Voice warm-up with Michael, Fifth Writing Exercise: Father/Telemachus’ perspective, The Cyclops section, Read the Cyclops scene, Drawing the Monster’s Eye, Sixth Writing Exercise: Wounding/The Monster Writes. Continue to build the Addiction Machine.


Session Four:  8/7. 

Bonnie with costumes, Yoga with Ginny, Read The Magic Helper: Aeolus/Ally, Voice workshop: Betrayal and Forgiveness, Seventh Writing Exercise: Odysseus writes about Betrayal and disappointment. Introduce Penelope, Eight Writing Exercise: The Lost Beloved, Debrief for the week. 


Week Two Sessions


Session Five: 8/11. 

Discuss Circe Section & Read scene, Ninth Writing Exercise: Assign Circe’s Song/women, Voice with Michael, Choreography with Brittany: Dance of the Gods, Dance of the Will/Dance for a Cause and statistics. Work Underworld Section, Tenth Writing Exercise: The Fallen Warrior and the Ancestor. 


Session Six: 8/12. 

Continue to build the Underworld, Eleventh Writing Exercise: Mother in the Underworld, Stage Cyclops scene with Matt. Twelfth Writing Exercise: Write Siren’s Songs, Work Sirens, Identifying and Drawing Scylla and Charybdis, Thirteenth Writing Exercise: Survival Tactics, Workshop Scylla/ through Tremoring, Stage Scylla & Charybdis. 


Session Seven. 8/13.  

Circe’s Songs, Circe’ Dance & Dance Review with Brittany, Helios Argument, Fourteenth Writing Exercise: Helios Rap war, Voice with Michael, Fifteenth Writing Exercise: Odysseus Meditation/Prayer, Sixteenth Writing Exercise: Write about total loss – someone who didn’t make it home/or your worst nightmare, Stage the final Shipwreck. Mask work with Christina.


Session Eight: 8/14. 

Projection/Animation Workshop with Greg, Stage Cyclopes scene with Matt, Cyclops Mask work with Christina, Seventeenth Writing Exercise: Tributes, Fight work with Zachary, Yoga Chant with Ginny. Debrief for the week.


Week Three Sessions


Session Nine: 8/18.  

Roc$teady coaching the raps, Dance with Brittany, Yoga with Ginny, Cyclops with Matt, Cyclops Mask work with Christina, Discussion and Eighteenth Writing Exercise: Home and the Hood, Draw the Map of Ithaca, Athena Strategy part 1: Nineteenth Writing Exercise, Athena Strategy part 2: Twentieth Writing Exercise. Debrief. 


Session Ten: 8/19. 

Workshop with Art on ritual of purification and clearing the monster, Voice with Michael, Draw and label the Suitors, Enemies and reconciling polarity. Work Penelope’s Dream, The Return of the Hero: Contest, Reunion & Revelation scene. 


Session Eleven: 8/20. 

Fight Call with Zachary, REVIEW ALL WORK: All Mentors Requested.


Session Twelve: 8/21. 

Work 1st half of Project, Fight, Dance, Mask, and Mime work as needed. Christina, Matt, Zachary, Michael. Debrief for the week.


Week Four Sessions


Session Thirteen: 8/25. 

Roc$teady coaching the raps. Continue to work 1st half of the Project with Brittany, Christina, Matt and Zachary. 


Session Fourteen: 8/26.  

Work the 2nd half of the Project. 


Session Fifteen: 8/27.  

Continue to work 2nd half of the Project from Underworld to end.  Zachary, Michael (includes Penelope relationship improvisation)


Session Sixteen: 8/28.

Review and work details of 1st and 2nd halves. Debrief for the week.



Week Five Sessions


Session Sixteen: 9/1. 

Yoga with Ginny, Soul Song with Michael, Review Dances with Brittany, work sections.  


Session Seventeen: 9/2. 

Review, sections, Deepen, Layer in sound and media.  Fight Call with Zachary, Stumble-Thru. 


Session Eighteen: 9/3.  

Roc$teady coaching the raps, Review and Deepen, Layer in sound and media. Fight Call with Zachary, Run-Thru. Notes.


Session Nineteen:  9/4.  

Review and Deepen, Fight Call, Run-Thru with invited audience. Notes. Debrief for the week.


Week Six Sessions


Session Twenty: 9/8. Move into Center Stage Theater. Adjust to the Space. Work Sections as needed. Mentors requested as needed.


Session Twenty-One:  9/9.  Tech. 


Session Twenty-Two:  9/10. First Dress. All mentors requested. 


Session Twenty-Three: 9/11.  Final Dress at Center Stage Theater.


Session Twenty-Four: 9/13. 12:30 PM Call for 2PM Performance at Center Stage Theater. Talk-back with audience, talk back with class, Evaluations. Papers due Sept. 15th.


*Please note: Schedule is subject to change based on availability of the mentors.