Odds Bodkin School Performances for 2018-2019

What better way to start the school year than with magical harp music echoing through your school’s halls? The children wonder where it’s coming from, and teachers stand smiling at their doors because they know Odds Bodkin is beckoning to his audience. Soon the children file in and see a man playing the harp, surrounded by instruments. Quietly, three hundred students sit, forgetting to talk to each other, and Odds weaves the rich music, preparing them for stories.

“By the time I’m ready to speak words, we’re all friends,” says the storyteller. “The music does it. It uplifts them. The harp is a crystalline, magical starship, it really is.”

And then the stories for GOLDEN RULE begin. Stories from around the world that teach empathy. A collection for K-2 audiences. Another for grades 3-5. All with ongoing music, blended with the words.

It’s literacy, performing arts and solid ethical learning for kids, all in one show. To learn how to bring Odds Bodkin to your children’s school this year, visit:

Elementary School

 

 

 

 

“THE BEST ANTI-BULLYING ASSEMBLY WE’VE EVER HAD, HANDS-DOWN”

“THE BEST ANTI-BULLYING ASSEMBLY WE’VE EVER HAD, HANDS-DOWN”

A school principal wrote me recently, commenting on GOLDEN RULE, my storytelling assembly for elementary kids. Sure, I tell stories for adults, but it’s close to my heart, this empathy issue. Kids raised without notions of civility and simple human kindness toward others––no matter what somebody else looks like or where they come from––just makes the bullies feel that power. In the long run, though, it hurts them just as much.

Although many Americans follow faith traditions, just as many don’t these days, and with that change has come a loss of religious teaching stories, traditionally told to kids by adults in their lives. In their absence and in the presence of cynical cartoons and visual games, the fabric of civility has worn thin in lots of children. It’s not their fault. They’re kids. They’re not born civil; they need to be taught why it’s important.

Be kind. Treat others honorably. Yes, you can say those things to kids, but nothing penetrates the cruelty they see in media like a spoken-world story told by an adult. Instead of saying “do this,” a good Golden Rule story simply offers a lesson about power and its uses. Kids can’t help but internalize its impact because they’ve been opened up. They’ve been opened up because their minds are overwhelmed. The boys. The girls. The ADHD kids, all attentive. With the voices, music and wild sounds, the storytelling is too evanescent for them to ignore.

At a public school in Massachusetts the other day, my young audience looked like the United Nations. Kids from everywhere. Never knowing what religions, if any, their families practice at home, I tell stories from non-religious wisdom traditions. Folktales from Japan, Ireland, Africa, India and Italy. And Aesop’s Fables from ancient Greece, which is about all I can fit into an hour. But I always ask the kids the same questions about them afterwards, and about the Golden Rule.

And if they’ve never heard “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” before they’ve attended a GOLDEN RULE assembly, they certainly know it by the time it’s over.

If kids don’t get these kinds of stories from adults in America when they’re young, stories that buoy up their best angels and sink into their souls, when they get to high school, more and more of them are so fragile and full of violence that they misuse their power and end up thinking it’s okay to bring guns to class, and all to often these days, in the ultimate act of bullying, to use them.

 

–Odds Bodkin

 

 

BOOKING NOW: World Stories About Empathy for Schoolchildren

I read countless news reports about kids treating one another badly in schools. Lately, it appears, things have grown worse. Telling kids how to behave is less effective than it’s ever been, it seems.

For some years now I’ve offered a school assembly program called GOLDEN RULE: World Stories About Empathy in two versions, K-3 and 3-5. Using ancient stories from world cultures, GOLDEN RULE taps the unconscious in kids and delivers a message while they’re completely entertained and having fun.

One principal called it “The best anti-bullying program we’ve ever had, hands down.”

If you know any schools who are facing this problem, find out about GOLDEN RULE and pass the word along.

–Odds Bodkin

THE ODYSSEY: Belly of the Beast this Friday at Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA. The public is welcome.

Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA presents The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, Odds Bodkin’s telling of Homer’s classic this Friday, January 12th at 6:30 p.m. With his 12-string guitar and panoply of characters and sounds, Odds will take the stage to offer this evening of entertainment and education for students and faculty. Generously, Lawrence Academy is also inviting the public to attend, free of charge.

AN ODDS BODKIN CLASSICS MONTH IN GROTON, MASSACHUSETTS

The stars have aligned for Homer’s tales this coming January 2018 in Groton, Massachusetts. Two fine independent schools, Lawrence Academy and Groton School, have invited Odds Bodkin to perform his Homeric classics two weeks apart.

First, on January 12th at 6 p.m., Lawrence Academy hosts The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, Odds’ 75-minute storytelling powerhouse tale, as a performance for students and open to the public. Haunting 12-string guitar music, grafted adroitly onto Bodkin’s characters, plus narrative and uncanny vocal effects, all combine to take listeners through the beginning of Odysseus’s wild journey. Longing for his wife and son after ten years of war, he’s homeward bound from Troy at last, but the Fates intervene. The tale includes the Fall of Troy, Death on the Beach, the Great Storm, Isle of the Lotus Eaters and lastly, the deadly Cave of the Cyclops.

But Homer’s other great work, The Iliad, goes back in time to before Troy falls. And so Groton School has invited Odds to perform The Iliad: Book I, his hour-long psychodrama with music that explores everything from insulted goddesses to furious men at loggerheads on the battlefield. The show is at 8 p.m. on January 26th, 2017. Characters for Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Athena, Achilles, Agamemnon and a host of others bring the tale to life, along with Olympian themes performed on 12-string guitar.

Two of the greatest tales of Western literature, performed in modern storytelling style along with background lore, are coming to Groton, MA.

If you can’t be in New England next month, you can still experience them as an audio and a video, here at Odds Bodkin’s Shop.

Absolutely Gushing

The highest hilltop in Greenwich, Connecticut is the location of Sacred Heart, a fine school for girls. On the sunny day I was there last week, Long Island Sound was visible in the distance. In the school’s big empty auditorium, as I warmed up my 12-string guitar to perform The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, the doors were open. The PA was blasting and the music was lyrical, and as I played onstage I noticed girls peering in from the hall to listen. It takes me a half hour of playing to ready my hands for the seventy-minute story, and whoever’s in earshot gets to listen. They smiled and waved and I waved back. Sacred Heart School enrolls elementary through high school girls, and I’d been told by Megan, the English teacher who’d brought me in, who I’d not met before, to expect 5th and 9th graders. 5th was studying Greek mythology. 9th was reading The Odyssey.

 

So to give them something to listen to as they filed in, I decided to play them an overture. It’s a free-flowing exploration of my story’s musical leitmotifs. The 5th and 9th graders sat, but then other grades began to arrive. 4th graders, I found out later during the Q&A, 7th graders, and others. The auditorium kept filling up, which was fine with me, of course. I think it was the music’s Siren Song that wooed them in. That and a very civilized faculty willing to let them go, I suspect.

 

Afterwards I drove home on the Merritt Parkway in rush hour traffic and arrived back in New Hampshire five hours later, somewhat bedraggled and too tired to wonder how the show went. The next morning I received this email. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if things go well. That afternoon, I think things did.

Dear Odds, 

This morning all of the students arrived to school absolutely gushing about yesterday’s performance. In my classes this morning, all the girls wanted to discuss the wonder of the performance. We were all absolutely captivated. It was a magical and transportive experience. Thank you so much for giving us such a gift. We hope you will be able to visit us again. 

Kind Regards,
Megan Monaghan

 

Megan gave me permission to share her letter. Reactions like this remind me of why I got into this business, and I’m still in it, enjoying every rarefied moment. It’s an aesthetic delight for me, and kids never forget this show. If you know anyone who’d like to invite me to tell The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast at any elementary, middle school, high school or university, send them to this link. Kids don’t forget it. Why? Because their Muse has been summoned. It shocks them, since often it’s the first time they discover they’ve got one.