They Who Saw the Deep
A Ceaseless Fun Production
They Who Saw the Deep was an open-world immersive performance based on the Epic of Gilgamesh. We staged it in an abandoned 17,000 sq ft space containing 33 rooms, and reimagined the epic poem's "deep" not as a forest but as a deteriorating urban dreamscape.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, sometimes subtitled “He Who Saw the Deep”, has been processed through different languages, cultures, formats, and contexts over its 4,000+ years of existence. For this devised adaptation, I was interested in leaning into the fractal, pluralistic features of Gilgamesh. I wanted to filter the essence of the epic through different perspectives and different sorts of text. The “he” had to become a “they”.
What is Gilgamesh’s story about? In a line, it’s about immortality, legacy, and the fear of death. Gilgamesh is confronted with the death of his closest companion, and travels into the forest to find a way to avoid death entirely. But when the he becomes a they, the search becomes a conversation. We are no longer talking about a man, but about a community. We are no longer witnessing a journey, but a dialectic.
It’s only fitting that The Epic of Gilgamesh begins and ends not by describing the protagonist, but by describing his city. “A square mile is city, a square mile date-grove, a square mile is clay-pit, // Half a square mile is the Temple of Ishtar. // Three square miles and a half is Uruk’s expanse.” We read these lines first in the poem’s opening, as the narrator sets the scene for the tale to come. But then we read them again as the poem’s final lines. Gilgamesh has failed to find everlasting life on his journey, and has returned to Uruk. Standing on the ramparts, Gilgamesh finds his immortality in the city. The existential search always brings us back – not to ourselves, but to each other.
Creative Producer / Associate Director: Meredith Treinen
Ensemble: Juliet Deem, Lauren Hayes, Max Hersey, Jordana Lilly, Matthew Maguire, Mike Merchant, Scott Monahan, Soren Royer-McHugh, Jinny Ryann
Featuring music by: Dakota Loesch
Assistant Director: Madalina Nastaste
Production Design: Liam Moore
Stage Manager / Associate Designer: Britt Keller
Lighting Designer: Ian Momii
Costume Designer: Rosalinda Medina
Associate Artists: Julian Buchan, Kate Gnetetsky, Miles Gracey, Lexi Langill, Kellyanne McMahaon, Shannon Pollak, and Marshall Smith
Front of House Manager: Perry Powell
Special Thanks to: Don DeLeon, Tommy Honton, Halee Bernard, Laura Foody, Niyia Mack, Michele Treinen, and David Clifford Turner
All photos by Nerris Nassiri