A Modern Retelling Of The ‘Iliad’ Comes To An Unlikely Location


Imagine, thousands of years ago, sitting around a fire while Homer tells the captivating story of the “Iliad.” Hearing the epic poem recited for the first time, before it was internationally known, would be a dream for fans of Greek mythology. Brad Learmonth tries to re-create that experience in a contemporary setting—in this case, a Sag Harbor junkyard.

“An Iliad,” produced by Sag Harbor resident Mr. Learmonth and directed by his friend James Blaszko, is beginning its East Coast tour at the Reid Brothers Automotive Junkyard from August 4 through 6. This play will solely be performed by actor Patrick Vincent Curran as The Poet, who will retell the story in true Homeric style. This emerging actor has been recently featured on Fox’s “Gotham” and FX’s “Louie,” as well as in various classical plays.

The Southampton Cultural Center, which is presenting the play, is selling only 30 tickets for each night so that the audience can gather around the campfire and intimately listen to Mr. Curran’s words.

“The idea of sitting around a campfire and having a story told by a dynamic storyteller is as old as we are,” explained Mr. Learmonth, an award-winning arts professional for more than 30 years. “I’m looking forward to seeing people’s responses to the play and I’m praying for good weather.”

In 2015, Mr. Learmonth watched Mr. Curran and Mr. Blaszko perform a prototype of the play at an historic Jersey City cemetery. He was so impressed with the outdoor concept that he wanted to produce it in Sag Harbor and later take it elsewhere. Teaming up, he and Mr. Blaszko began searching for a location in January until Mr. Learmonth’s neighbors, who own the Reid Brothers Automotive Repair shop in Sag Harbor, offered the junkyard space behind their shop. They thought it was perfect.

They wanted to find a site that not only reflected the tale’s Trojan War setting, but also addressed the world’s modern wars and the current state of human nature.

“You have the leftovers of human progress—cars, trucks, piles of rock, sand and wood and containers of this and that,” Mr. Learmonth said of the junkyard. “It is the perfect backdrop that has a lot of personality.”

The original production of “An Iliad” by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare has been staged countrywide in cities such as Seattle, Chicago, New York and Princeton, but always in a theater. By delivering the play in a natural outdoor setting, Mr. Learmonth and Mr. Blaszko introduce a new level of intimacy absent from previous adaptations.

“This play is very site-responsive,” said the producer. “Wherever it’s performed, it adapts and takes a particular personality.”

The duo began a Kickstarter campaign to fully fund the production and East Coast tour. With 115 backers, they reached their $15,000 goal on July 8 and have since been rehearsing for opening night.

Percussionist Courtnee Roze will be featured as the Muses. To further add a modern twist to the ancient story, the characters will use props that include a truck Mr. Curran arrives in, a car that Ms. Roze arrives in, and a drone that plays a pivotal role in the play’s development.

“An Iliad” will be performed at Reid Brothers Automotive Repair, 1810 Sag Harbor Turnpike, Sag Harbor, on August 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. with a rain date on August 7. Tickets are $40. To purchase, visit scc-arts.org or call 631-287-4377.

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