In the 1964 play “Telemachus Clay,” a young man leaves the East Coast for California. He needs to find himself.
In real life Jahari Dodd left California 4 years ago, also to find himself. He ended up in Westport, as an ABC Scholar.
Now he’s directing “Telemachus Clay” — a Staples Players studio production that debuts this weekend at Toquet Hall.
“A young person’s journey spoke to me,” Jahari said of his reaction when Players director David Roth showed him the script. The colorful cast of characters; the play’s ’60s sensibility; the funky yet linear story; the concept of no set, no real makeup, minimal costumes — all impelled Jahari to stage the show.
Toquet — where people sit in chairs and couches — is a perfect venue for “Telemachus.” “When you walk in, you know it’s not your average show,” says Jahari. “It’s like a place where audiences would watch this play in the 1960s.
“All the action goes out to the audience,” Jahari explains. “The actors are part of the crowd. Characters run out the back, and come from the fly. Everyone in the audience should feel a Telemachus-like connection, because all of us should go on a journey to find ourselves.”
As a director, Jahari’s biggest challenge has been to get his actors as loose and fun as the show is. “It’s hard to pull a spiritual experience out of a high school kid,” he notes. “But the cast has gone out of their comfort zone. And I think the audience will feel as free and loose as the cast.”
Glenn Leo, as Telemachus, “embodies the young man who’s searching, but knows he lost,” Jahari says.
Jahari is excited to have Whitney Andrews play The Prophet. Though written for a male, the role seems perfect for her. “My mother is a pastor, very open and exuberant,” Jahari says. “I saw the same free-flowing child of the ’60s in Whitney. The audience will really be drawn to her.”
Jahari — who in addition to directing has been a dancer, TV star and all-around goodwill ambassador for Staples — graduates in June. “Telemachus Clay,” he says, is “the best way for me to give back to a theater program that’s given so much to me.”
Four years ago, Jahari Dodd came East. Here he has found a home, resounding success — and himself.
(“Telemachus Clay” will be performed at Toquet Hall, 58 Post Road East — access through the alley to Jesup Road — this Friday [March 12] at 8 p.m., and Saturday [March 13] at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door, and for Staples students during lunch periods this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)