Fairway artists’ ‘After Persephone’ reinterprets Greek myth for #MeToo era

Donna Ziegenhorn and Marcey Smalley.

Inspired in part by the #MeToo movement, two Fairway artists have re-worked a Greek myth for our time by giving a kidnapped woman control of her own destiny.

Donna Ziegenhorn and Marcy Smalley have collaborated on “After Persephone: A Musical” that tells the story of Persephone’s journey “from victim to victor.”

“If you want to see change in the world, you have to change the story,” said Smalley. “I think we’re driven by stories and assumptions about how life should be.”

In the original myth, Persephone, the maiden daughter of Demeter, gets kidnapped by Hades, who wants to marry her and rule the underworld together. Ziegenhorn had been working on a production centered on that story for years, but hadn’t found the angle to make it pop. When the #MeToo movement began gaining momentum, though, the duo got inspired.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘We can’t tell this story!’” Ziegenhorn said.

“At this time in history, why would you tell the story of a woman who’s getting kidnapped and then just goes about her business being married to the guy that kidnapped her in the underground?” Smalley added.

Their production, which will debut in the Fringe Festival KC later this month, starts off like the traditional myth but winds up someplace different to reflect a modern interpretation.

“In the traditional myth, Persephone starts out a victim and she ends up a victim because her destiny is determined by the men,” Ziegenhorn said. “I think what the play hopes to do is look at the patterns of male and female power and some gender issues and, ultimately, who decides our futures.”

Ziegenhorn has been play-writing since the 1990s and has worked with Kansas City Repertory Theatre. As her first musical, “After Persephone” is a concept she’s been developing for about 15 years; in fact, it continues to evolve as she and Smalley build upon each scene and flesh out each character.

“Marcy and I started working on this together about a year and a half ago, and it’s because of Marcy that this thing is ever leaving the ground,” Ziegenhorn said. “I had worked on the script, but I had never found a person to collaborate with me on the music that I felt good about working with. Marcy and I have a great rapport and creative energy working together.

“You might say we’ve been to hell and back.”

“After Persephone” will debut its “smart, lyrical, bluesy and raucous” self at Fringe Festival KC; select dates are July 20, 21, 25, 26 and 28. Talent in the 12-member cast, six-musician ensemble is primarily based in Kansas City, including actors Calvin Arsenia, Celia Gannon, Marilyn Lynch and debut talent Diana Edwin, as well as musical director Ile Haggins.