THANK YOU, DAVID MILLSTONE

Thank you, David Millstone.

“I’m writing to New England storytellers with a request,” David Millstone, a fifth grade teacher in Norwich, Vermont wrote many years ago. “Can any of you tell an episode from The Odyssey? The Sirens. The Cyclops. Calypso. Any episode will do.” I’m paraphrasing, but that was his basic request. I immediately wrote back (paper letter) and told him I could tell the whole thing.

I didn’t know the story at all.

To my delight, he wrote back and said I was hired. He was building an interdisciplinary unit around Homer’s great myth, and instead of asking his students to read a version, since Homer was a spoken-word artist, he’d like to introduce his students to the tale in this more authentic way.

My knowledge of The Odyssey was limited to a movie I’d seen as a kid starring Kirk Douglas, Ulysses. And having read Joyce’s take on the tale by the same name. I had three months to prepare. I got to work.

I’ll be telling THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST, the early episodes of what ended up a 4-hour epic, for an adult audience at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA this coming Sunday night beginning at 5:30. Introduction with music on Celtic harp, then into the tale itself with a 12-string guitar accompaniment.

The 12-string not a lyre, but it does have more strings.

A few tickets remain.

THE BENEFIT OF HORROR

Yes, it’s a benefit show for an up and coming business in my town, but it’s also a delightfully horrible evening. ‘Tis the season, after all, for lycanthropes and wraiths, not to mention the Devil––both imitated by a fool and as a very real presence on the dance floor.

I’ll be performing four tales tomorrow night at 8 pm on the lawn at the Sweet Beet Market in Bradford, NH, each story more unsettling than the last. Plus the origins of Halloween, going all the way back to the Druids of ancient England and Julius Caesar.

First, Rose Latulippe and the Devil, a French Canadian story deceptively scored with lovely Celtic harp music, even as Rose dances closer and closer to the elegant man with claws in his gloves. Unaware that her body parts are falling away, she just keeps dancing.

Next, The Storm Breeder, a classic New England ghost legend about how Jonathan Dunwell of New York received the hideous burn scar across his neck in the shape of a gripping hand. Wind, whiplashes, horse gallops and driving 12-string effects weave in and out of vivid characters in this tale.

In Eastern Europe they’re werewolves, in Russia, werebears, but in China, they’re werepanthers. In The Panther Boys, two fine young sons are cursed to take the skins of seven men of their village by turning to supernatural night cats. Kill they do, but the tale turns terrifying when their father realizes they must come for him next. This tale is told with creepy, wind-blown alto recorder and panther screams.

Last comes Treasure Trove, a tale from Russia’s serfs. It’s too dark and brooding even to begin to describe, other than there’s vodka, a funeral and hoof-prints of the Cossacks. That and it features a human devil.

HEARTPOUNDERS: Halloween Tales of Horror begins at 8 pm tomorrow night, Friday the 13th, at the Sweet Beet Market on Main Street in Bradford, NH. Food and hot drinks will be available. It’s an outdoor show under the stars, so bring a blanket, have dinner, find a good seat. No kids, please. These stories aren’t for them.

All ticket sales go to benefit the Kearsarge Food Hub. $10 in advance, $12 at the gate. Come support this young business and enjoy being horrified!

HERCULES IN LOCK-UP

Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall is the lock-up for dangerous teens in California’s Central Valley, and until that day, the girls and boys incarcerated there had never been allowed into the same room. The warden, however, had okayed it for my show. With arms crossed and hands on opposite shoulders so nobody could hit anybody, the kids filed in, about forty miserable, thrown away children, past the guards with sidearms and pepper spray. There wasn’t a single African American kid among them, I noticed, just whites and Latinos. Some were quite young, nine or ten, but most were twelve to sixteen. Forbidden to speak to each other, they sat in chairs and listened to the 12-string guitar music I was playing through a couple of massive speakers. They were seated about six feet away from me. What these kids had done to end up in this hellhole, I had no idea. My friend, Roy Stevens, opera singer and polymath, had set up the show.

 
By then I’d told this hour-long story, Hercules in Hell, many times. Earlier in the week I’d performed it at the men’s prison, and they’d asked for autographs afterwards, so I knew the story worked. It moves people who are in trouble because the genuine Hercules of myth is nothing but trouble. Incredibly strong, he suffers from blinding rages, even as a teen. After each one he wakes up and sees the death he’s just dealt. But like a werewolf returning to human form, he can’t remember having done it.

 
It’s a good story for kids in lock-up, and for folks in general. I perform it often and will be telling an adult version of it this coming Sunday, April 23rd at 8:00 pm for my final appearance at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. The other shows have gone remarkably well, with wonderful audiences. As with all these epics, I’ll be playing the 12-string guitar to accompany myself. The Hercules score is unique among all my scores, employing a tuning I use for no other tale. It certainly mesmerized the kids in Juvenile Hall that day. They sat there for an hour in silence and then asked questions for twenty minutes. And nobody hit anybody.

 
Tickets for Hercules in Hell, if you’re interested, are here.