A “TRANSCENDENT AND EFFORTLESS GIFT”

It’s four hours and ten minutes long and sticks with kids all their lives. I still perform it, although not in one sitting. It’s The Odyssey: An Epic Telling. No, it’s not Homer’s verse in ancient Greek or a scholarly translation to English, but as a Dartmouth classic professor once wrote, “it’s the closest thing we have to a genuine Homeric performance.”

The reason? Scholars think that Homer, the great Singer of Tales from 700 B.C., created character voices and played music as he performed. In my case, it’s a 12-string guitar and Celtic harp, not a lyre, but the effect is the same. An epic imaginative experience.

As I do each year, this past September I performed the story’s first scenes at Loyola University Maryland for the Classics and Honors students. Before I went onstage, two tall young guys passed me in the hall, not knowing who I was. One said to the other, “I hear this one is actually fun.”

Let’s hope, I thought, and twenty minutes later went out with my Taylor guitar and sat down before two hundred college students and faculty. Seventy-five minutes later I exited my quasi dream state and the show was over.

Upon my returned home, I received a forwarded message from Martha Taylor, Chair of Classics at Loyola. A freshman student had sent the following email.

“I also wanted to talk about how fantastic the Odds Bodkin performance was! I didn’t know what to expect and I was completely blown away by the whole thing. The way he told the stories was so captivating! With all of the sounds he was able to make, the unique voices of each person, and intricate guitar playing…it was unbelievable. I was hanging on each and every word and if possible I would have stayed all night long. I can’t wait to go next year if he comes to Loyola again!!! With all of the sensory details he provided it really was as if I was there, during ancient times, transported to 700 B.C. in the “Belly of the Beast” so to speak. I absolutely loved his Polyphemus voice, the old man/priest in Apollo’s temple who gave Odysseus the brandy, the men who accompanied him during the travels, the people in the lotus flower scene within the ivy of the sickly-sweet perfumed island–everything! The way he created such a vivid scene made imagining a transcendent and effortless gift. While I don’t think I blinked for five minutes straight because I was in complete awe of his talent and skill, other times I would close my eyes for a brief moment to fully picture it.”

I guess it was fun, I thought.

You can find the full-length recording of the tale here.

THE MYTHIC CAR TRIP SALE: 50% OFF ODDS BODKIN’S EPIC ADVENTURES (TEN HOURS OF STORYTELLING)

Become lost in classic myths and legends told by Master Storyteller Odds Bodkin. Pre-teens to adults will enjoy The Odyssey, Beowulf (NEW), Hercules, Sir Percival, Viking Myths, The Iliad: Book I (video) and David and Goliath, all told with unforgettable characters and music. Find out more here!

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Storyteller Odds Bodkin’s 4-hour epic telling of The Odyssey is on sale at 50% off this week through Sunday, June 25th. Visit Odds’ Shop.

Telling The Odyssey to Eight Hundred High School Students

I’m looking forward to it. This coming Friday I’ll drive down to the Dana Center at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH. This is the hall used for presidential primary debates and other performances, and I’ve been onstage there many times, sometimes for the college itself, but this time to perform The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast for the New Hampshire Classical Association’s hundreds of high school Latin students for Classics Day. They come in buses from all over the state. I guess this is my 8th time doing this. Maybe more times than that, I’m not sure.

 
The stage has a thrust. Like a ship’s bow, it sticks out into the waves of seats that slope upward into the eight hundred seat space. Way up there is the balcony. And it will be filled with kids who’ll be asked to turn off their cellphones as I wait backstage, taking the last few passes at tuning the 12-string before I step out, walk to my chair there at the bow, and hit the summoning motif, which I’ll play for a few seconds before saying anything. Two elemental bass notes at the bottom with harmonic sparkles at the top. This motif is meant to launch my listeners into a receptive level of consciousness, heroic and somewhat dark as it is. The promise of things to come.

 
Briefly I’ll describe how in 700 B.C. in ancient Greece, not many people could read, books had yet to be invented, and people either told stories themselves or relied upon professional “Singers of Tales,” the most famous of whom was Homer. I’ll mention how in Homer’s time, when he was performing his Odyssey and Iliad poems with character voices and a lyre, his stories weren’t myths, but were more like forms of religious worship. How he and his listeners believed in the gods and goddesses of Olympus as surely as we believe whatever we do today. And how like William Shakespeare, writing about Julius Caesar long after the fact, the Trojan War was already five hundred years in the past in Homer’s time.

 
And then the story will begin. I’ll enter the dream, which lasts about an hour, become all sorts of characters, play the 12-string guitar like a bat out of hell and emerge at the end ready for something new this year. A Q&A. In the past I’ve just stepped offstage, but Flora Sapsin, she who arranges for my performances, has asked me to take questions from the kids and teachers this year. Usually high school audiences have all kinds of good questions. How do I remember all that? Did I make up that music? How do I change my voice? Do I have a favorite color? Do I own a dog? Why did I become a storyteller? On and on they’ll go until we run out of time, since I’ve done this sort of thing with lots of young audiences. It’s always fun and rewarding and I’ll try to crack a few jokes along the way.

 
And then I’ll pack up and drive home, too exhausted to do much else for the rest of the day. As I said, I’m looking forward to it.

 

You can purchase an mp3 of the entire four hours of The Odyssey here at my shop, if you’re interested.