The 'Forgotten Dawn' Arrives at Sunset

News Image In Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance’s ‘Rosy-Crimson,’ a non-male cast writes themselves back into the male-dominated world of ‘The Odyssey’

By: Clarissa Shirley ’22  Saturday, April 2, 2022 11:52 PM

About 60 English translations of Homer’s “Odyssey” have been published in the last 400 years. Of those, only one was written by a woman — Emily Wilson, in 2017.

“If you’re going to admit that stories matter, then it matters how we tell them,” she told the New York Times. “The whole question of ‘What is that story?’ is going to depend on the language, the words that you use.”

Kim Hoeckele, a professor of photography at Muhlenberg, shares Wilson's fascination with the linguistics of 'The Odyssey' canon, as she embarks on her performance art piece “Rosy-Crimson,” which will have its Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance premiere, April 11-13. The show will be performed daily at sunset.

When they began to compare multiple English translations of the Odyssey, Hoeckele came across one recurring phrase: “Dawn’s rosy fingers.” This repetition was a device to help the orator remember their spot or keep rhythm in the epic poem. Hoeckele says that most translators take creative liberties with that phrase.

As she came across the different variations of “Dawn’s rosy fingers,” she found herself particularly interested in the personification of dawn — the way that figure was portrayed from translation to translation.

“Dawn is a minor goddess, and while they function as a fringe character in ‘The Odyssey,’ dawn is the central character in this script,” Hoeckele says, “So I am interested in thinking about those gender dynamics as a starting point, while also working to integrate each cast member's experience.”

Larissa Dowling, a senior at Muhlenberg, says that she has enjoyed the process of talking about the manipulations of language through a feminist lens. 

“With a cast of all female and non-binary actors,” she says, “we’ve been able to use that misplacement of the ‘strong male’ character and rewrite ourselves back into it.”

The subject of Homer's epic tale is the hero Odysseus’ long journey home to his wife following the Trojan War. Dating to the eighth century BCE, it is one of the oldest works of literature still widely read by modern readers, and it’s the source of many well-known mythological stories.

Hocekele’s artistic practice has led them to imaginatively reconsider the male-dominant viewpoints carried through literary, historical, and philosophical works of the Western Canon. By drawing from found images, objects, and texts, they aim to construct work that quotes from and continuously reconfigures established narratives. Hocekele says that there is much to be gained from the crossover of creative thought and production within the disciplines of theater and art. 

“My work is generally rooted in photography, but I also think it intersects with performance in more abstract ways,” they say, “whether that's performing for a camera or residue of a performance via a form of documentation or creative documentation. I would love it if those opportunities presented themselves, especially in ways that can generate something that's more experimental for both mediums.”

Dowling says that Hoeckele’s expertise has led them to create stage pictures that are aesthetically complex and balanced. 

“Every moment, she wants to see something that she could make a photo of,” she says, “if everything were to be frozen.”

“Rosy Crimson” runs April 11-13, at the Robertson and South Ampitheatre, behind the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College. Showtimes are Monday through Wednesday at 7 p.m. All tickets are $5. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or online.

About the Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theatre program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theatre and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theatre and dance.

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of nearly 2,000 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 23 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.