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.