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OCU hosts American premiere of ‘Paradise’

Oklahoma City University is staging the American premiere of “Paradise,” a modern take on a classical Greek tale, Dec. 7-10 in the Burg Theatre of the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center. Award-winning director Leslie Swackhamer is taking the helm for the production by renowned U.K. playwright and hip-hop artist Kae Tempest.

“Paradise” unfolds the epic tale of Philoctetes, a once-celebrated wartime hero-turned wounded outcast, as he navigates a world filled with suspicion, revenge and the complexities of human relationships. Odysseus and the son of Achilles embark on a mission to bring Philoctetes back to Troy to help them win the war.

Directed by Swackhamer, an accomplished director known for her work with bold visuals, the play explores themes of consumerism, environmental collapse and late-stage capitalism.

“For Tempest’s ‘Paradise,’ the all-female-identifying cast features women playing the soldiers, highlighting the performative nature of toxic masculinity,” Swackhamer said.

Swackhamer notes the increasing relevance of “Paradise” to the modern world, with themes of social isolation, cycles of violence, and collective societal trauma resonating deeply in the post-pandemic era. The play’s exploration of these issues becomes even more poignant against the backdrop of ongoing global conflicts and refugee crises.

Swackhamer, also the executive director of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, discovered “Paradise” when it became a finalist for the prestigious international playwriting prize. The play originally premiered at London’s National Theatre in August 2021.

Swackhamer, whose fascination with ancient Greek theatre texts is evident in her previous work, said she is thrilled to return to OCU after previously directing acting professor Lance Marsh’s adaptation of “The House of Atreus: Part One.”

For “Paradise,” the production team has embraced the ethos of reusing and recycling, reflecting the play’s themes of environmental devastation while showing the plight of refugees as they use waste as a tool for their survival. The set and costumes incorporate materials sourced with sustainability in mind, avoiding the creation of additional waste.

Tickets are available online at okcu.edu/tickets or by calling 405-208-5227.

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