Backstage on Broadway: The Public Theater brings community together to perform ‘The Odyssey’

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The songs of the sea are coming to the New York stage.

“I’ve been singing since the 4th grade,” Mayelyn Perdomo said.

A lifelong passion of Mayelyn Perdomo’s will soon be heard in The Odyssey.

“I’m a Calliope, which is a muse of music,” she explained.

The age-old epic is being reborn this summer by the Public Theater.

“When we first started rehearsing none of us knew how awesome it would be or what this was,” Perdomo remembered. “We were just like, ‘Oh wow, we’re in a big production.”

But this 20-year-old will take the stage, not as a professional actor, but as a member of the community.

“Our chorus is based up in Harlem,” she said. “It’s just a beautiful support system as well as a really fun place to go to and sing.”

The Children’s Aid Society is just one of several groups involved in ‘Public Works.’

“Public Works is the Public Theater’s program for radically inclusive theater,” Lear deBessonet, director of Public Works, “It’s about deep relationships with community partner organizations.”

The free performance features 200 non-professional performers from across the city.

“We have people from the age of two all the way to 80,” deBessonet explained. “The experience as a whole is bringing a depth of humanity.”

Five working Broadway actors will join them on stage.

“[The Odyssey is] a community story, it’s a universal story,” Brandon Victor Dixon said. “So I think what they’ve really done here is really immerse it in its roots.”

Tony and Grammy Award winner Brandon Victor Dixon stars as Odysseus.

“Just as Odysseus’s journey is to find his way home, the last one or two years really have been about finding what my center truly is and recognizing the things that are most important to me,” he explained.

Both Dixon and Perdomo have taken away a lot from this experience.

“A lot of love and joy,” Dixon said. “Also an appreciation for [these people] to take time out of their lives.”

“To be bold, to love people and to just go for it,” Perdomo smiled. “We want people who come out to see the show to say that’s me on stage and I can do this.”

Public Work’s The Odyssey will be performed at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park from September 4-7. And remember all tickets are free!

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi

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