Lumen Scholar's 'Story of Home' opens onstage
Elon University senior Logan Sutton’s original play, based on Homer’s "Odyssey," explores the themes of family and relationships.
The hero, it seems, always gets the attention. From the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated by the exploits and adventures of legendary men and women whose acts of valor symbolize strength, courage and wit.
But what about the stories of those who surround the hero? The stories of the spouses and children and friends and neighbors? The stories of the hero’s home?
Elon University senior Logan Sutton asked himself those very questions after returning to his high school alma mater to watch a theatrical performance of Mary Zimmerman's "Odyssey," and now, three years later, he is using the university’s top award for creative endeavors to produce an original play that envisions a different view of the same myth. His work is the first to be featured this year in a series of E-net profiles on Lumen Scholars in the Class of 2013.
Directed by Associate Professor Kevin Otos, Logan’s “Story of Home” will be performed Oct. 5-11 in the Black Box Theatre. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling (336) 278-5650. Tickets are free with a Phoenix card and can be purchased for $12 by the general public.
The show runs Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m; Sunday at 2 p.m.; and Monday through Thursday next week at 7:30 p.m.
“I wanted to explore the parallels that even in ancient times people were struggling with,” Sutton said of his play, part of a bigger Elon College Fellow project supported with funding by the Lumen Prize at Elon University. “(The Odyssey) is the base of the Western canon and it may be the first story told of a ‘broken home.’”
“Story" recounts the Trojan War in Greek mythology, where the king of Ithaca, Odysseus, goes to fight and leaves his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, to maintain the kingdom in his absence. When the war ends and Odysseus fails to return, the mother and son, and a dwindling number of loyal citizens, face new trials as suitors arrive every day with aspirations for the throne.
Sutton said that many narratives penned throughout history have followed a hero, though few authors or playwrights explore themes of family, loyalty, relationships and longing as experienced by characters such as Penelope and Telemachus.
In many ways, Sutton can relate to how both Penelope and Telemachus feel. The youngest of three children, including older brother Landon Sutton ‘08, the North Carolina native watched siblings leave home for college and family dynamics change. Once on campus, Sutton dealt with turmoil of watching friends drift away and the excitement of new relationships forged, much like the characters in his play.
Sutton’s interest in theater developed as a child. Growing up in Wendell, N.C., with musically inclined parents and brothers interested the arts, Sutton watched brother Landon take a lead role in a local production of "Les Misérables" and transfix the audience with his acting acumen. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I saw my brother become this other person and people were hugely affected by the show,” Sutton said. “To see that someone in my family could do that got me excited about the potential of affecting others in a similar manner.”
Today, Sutton holds Hollywood actors like Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Robert Downey Jr. in high regards not only because of their acting abilities, but because of their humility, and their ability to direct and write. Elon University faculty recognize the same traits in Sutton.
“Logan’s always been a really bright fellow, but this has pushed him in new directions,” said Professor Fred Rubeck, chair of the Department of Performing Arts and Sutton’s Lumen Scholar mentor. “It’s really helped to define what he wants to do after he graduates.”
The Lumen prize, awarded for the first time in 2008, provides selected students with a $15,000 scholarship to support and celebrate their academic and creative achievements. Lumen scholars work closely with faculty mentors to pursue and complete their projects. Efforts include course work, study abroad, research both on campus and abroad as well as during the regular academic year and summers, internships locally and abroad, program development and creative productions and performances.
Sutton used part of his Lumen funding to travel to Greece with a Winter Term course and make site visits to areas that would be locations set in his play. He also was able to study at the National Theater Institute for its Theatermakers Summer Intensive program.
Outside of his studies, Sutton engages in an eclectic mix of interests, from founding Renegade Productions for student-developed work at the university to serving as inter-organization liaison of the Alpha Psi Omega theatre honor society. He periodically travels to his high school alma mater to give acting workshops, and as a hobby, Sutton cultivates water lilies.
The former competitive swimmer has also developed intense interest in stand-up comedy for its “performance path potential.”
Though Commencement remains seven months away, Sutton is in the process of applying for some of the nation’s top international fellowships, including the Fulbright and the Marshall, to fund master’s level studies next year in the United Kingdom. “I would not be at all unhappy by starting work with a theatre straight out of college,” he said. “But if there’s a time for me to attend graduate school, now feels like it.”