Written by and Starring
Claire Kaplan and Sam Hunter
In 2015 Claire Kaplan had a surgical abortion. In the wake of it she lost everything: her childhood home, her apartment, her relationship, even her own body as she knew it. Though she resolved to normalize her experiences and talk about them openly, it is nonetheless difficult. It helped to tie it to her own family myth—how her great grandmother left Italy and came to America, how her mother left New York for California. The women in her family have a history of leaving everything behind and choosing a new life, even when it’s painful.
Claire performs four generations of stories, mixing them with poetry, music, dance, New Yorker articles, and even the film Moonstruck to explore the power the women in her family have had to summon in order to choose what they want when it means leaving what they have. She gathers the audience in an inviting, comfortable space and tells the story simply.
Olympia! Olympia! Olympia! began in 2018 as part of arthaus.berlin’s master’s program in devised performance. It was performed at Dock 11 Eden in Berlin, Germany, with Georgina Edwards on the Mandolin and titled Little Green. This performance featured only the story of Claire’s great-grandmother.
In Chicago the piece expanded to become more personal and include other stories, including “How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity” by Rachel Aviv, and John Patrick Shanley’s Moonstruck. It also included musical arrangements by Jon Schneidman. It was retitled and presented as part of the Third Mask Festival, performed by Claire Kaplan, Warren Wernick, and Jon Schneidman.
In July of 2019 the piece underwent an additional week of development with Sam Hunter as director, performing at Theaterhaus Mitte in Berlin to a sold-out house. It included Jon Schneidman’s arrangements, as well as original music by Warren Wernick and Martin Gutfeld. It was performed by Claire Kaplan, Warren Wernick, and Martin Gutfeld and produced in association with the Whisper Theater Collective.
In August of 2019, it returned to Chicago, where the ending was expanded and the music further refined. It was performed once more by Claire Kaplan, Warren Wernick, and Martin Gutfeld, this time at the Otherworld Theater in association with Luna Nova Theater Company.
Number of people on the road
Number of people onstage
Suitable for small and mid-scale theaters. Minimum playing area 4.5m x 4.5m (15 ft x 15 ft)
Approximately 1 hour
for US and European touring from October 2020
Freight best estimate (to be confirmed)
2 cubic meters, 120kg (71 cubic feet, 265 lbs.)
Olympia! Olympia! Olympia! contains frank and open discussions of abortion and child abandonment. It contains some profanity.
Workshops and education
Members of The West are highly sought after as teachers and directors for their original and singular work. Since forming in 2007, The West uses techniques developed to help participants unlock their own unique style of work through a range of workshops in devising, movement, voice and speech, and Viewpoints. Please contact Sam Hunter to discuss a curriculum that might be appropriate for your community.
Sam Hunter for additional details
Claire Kaplan, Warren Wernick, and Martin Gutfeld
Claire Kaplan and Sam Hunter
Original music by
Warren Wernick and Martin Gutfeld
Musical arrangements by
With text and music derived from works by
Rachel Aviv, Jon Patrick Shanley, Lady Lamb, Martha Wainwright, and Bedouine
arthaus.berlin, Columbia College Chicago, Whisper Theater Collective, and Luna Nova
THE WEST was founded in 2009 at the University of California, San Diego by Sam Hunter, Claire Kaplan, Spencer Devlin Howard, and Nathan Turner. Originally founded as a sketch comedy group, The West expanded its focus to theater and film in 2014. Hailed as one of “Los Angeles’s best theater companies” (Mark Hein, Theater Ghost) and now creating work between Los Angeles, Chicago, and Berlin, The West is a leader when it comes to deceptively simple, intimate performances enjoyed by and accessible to a wide range of audiences. Together they have created Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk’s The Suitcase with the Echo Theater Company, The Soyuz Files, Kristin Idaszak’s Second Skin, and Lady Into Fox. More information can be found here.
CLAIRE KAPLAN is a theater creator and teacher from Long Beach, California. She’s a founding member of the Hungry River Theater Company, a theater collective that started making work in Ridgecrest, California, in 2011. Claire is also a founding member of The West. She has collaborated with the New York based company THE TRIP and has worked at regional theaters in California, such as La Jolla Playhouse and South Coast Rep. She has also performed at the Oval House in London. She is a co-creator of Wild Women, which performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as a piece based on The Yellow Wallpaper which was developed as part of a residency with Links Hall in Chicago. Claire recently received her MFA in Devised Performance from Columbia Chicago and arthaus.berlin. More information is available here.
WARREN WERNICK was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he studied theater at the Foothill Theater Conservatory. He moved to Chicago in 2015, where he has worked as a scenic carpenter, technical director, and musician. He has worked with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Broadway by the Bay, the Drury Lane Theater, Rough House, and Jackalope. He also creates custom furniture.