THE DEATH AND RE-BIRTH OF STORYTELLING

THE DEATH OF STORYTELLING

My last show before a flesh and blood audience was at Grendel’s Den, a famous watering hole in Cambridge, MA, on March 8th . Even then, that Sunday night, waiting backstage in the sold-out club, I felt a squirt of paranoia. Word was there was a deadly new virus loose on the streets of America. Meanwhile, here I was telling Norse myths with huge voices and guitar music to a bustling crowd in a single big room in Boston.

Squirting hand sanitizer on me, I remember telling myself, “Well, if it’s here, there’s nothing you can do about it. Do your show and get home.”

Turns out it wasn’t there.

Since my business is to travel places to meet live audiences, I’d always used hand sanitizer during the flu season, but that night, no one at Grendel’s wore a mask. It was unthinkable and not yet necessary. Mask-wearing in public was what they did in the crowded lands of SARS. Places like Hong Kong and China, not the U.S.

How things have changed.

The next week, mid-March, as I’m sure you remember, the country shut down. Schools closed. Restaurants. Sports events. Gatherings of any kind. We all went into isolation, if we were lucky, just after we stripped store shelves of sanitizer, TP, water and food.

The hard waves of the pandemic then struck, particularly in New York, where I’d spent my twenties. Meanwhile, so many people tumbled out of work, Congress passed the CARE Act, an unheardof moment of generosity in America, but also, an act of economic self-preservation for a government wary of food riots.

Now here it is, months later, just after a Fourth of July like no other, midway through a summer of discontentment riots, which are much the same thing. Most of the rioters wear masks. In New Hampshire where I live, everybody wears one in public now. Elsewhere, though, freedom-loving mask-deniers laugh at kow-towed mask-wearers, while mask-wearers despise mask-deniers for what they deem selfish ignorance and the idiotic spreading of predictable death. Certain industries—sports, cruise lines, hotels, eateries—have taken a tragic downturn and a new, distanced normal has set in, except wherever in beach country they’re not hurriedly shutting the beaches again as cases surge.

2020. A year for the history books.

Meanwhile, in my little world, live storytelling for crowds of happy kids has become illegal. So has live storytelling for crowds of happy adults, as I was doing back on March 8th. It’s the same for everybody else in the people business. Late night hosts working alone in their basements aren’t funny any more. Newscasters with their makeup and hair looking funky endure interruptions by their bored kids while on live TV.

The glitz is gone.

And this Fourth of July weekend, millions of families aren’t driving anywhere. Instead, they’re getting together with grandma and grandpa over Zoom.

 

THE REBIRTH OF STORYTELLING

Looking to adapt, even I’ve done a few shows on Zoom, from my attic studio. Two schools, both in Massachusetts, and a public library in New York State, have bought and paid for Zoom shows. Not that many, but enough for me to have tested the system, and with my producer, Gavin, perfected HD sound and video. Unlike most other entertainers, I’m already stripped down and have been for decades. My hair is already bad. I don’t wear makeup. I have no backup dancers. And my kids are grown up, so they won’t interrupt me. In fact, they’re helping me.

Back to Grendel’s Den, because Kari, who owns the place and runs it, and I, who have performed there for years, have ongoing intersecting business interests. She’s just recently been able to go from take-out only to socially distanced outdoor seating, so at least she’s getting to sell food and drink again. But inside, there’s no way shows can be mounted. Not yet. Many are saying not until a vaccine is ready. Meanwhile, Kari wants to maintain the zeitgeist of her operation, and part of that is me.

Back to Zoom. A month ago Kari and her team decided to sponsor and promote a show of mine, one of Kari’s favorites, Fall of the Titans. So I said sure, let’s try it. Instead of tickets for seats in your club, we’ll sell tickets for a Zoom meeting URL and a password. I’ve got a pretty solid base of fans down in Boston and elsewhere, so maybe they’ll go for this, we reasoned. The storytelling won’t be live in space but it will be live in time, so that’s something. In her club, people sat way in the back, sixty feet away, for a $20 ticket. For most, I’d think, I was too far away for them to watch the characters’ facial expressions I create as I work, but with Zoom, well, the camera’s just a couple of feet away. So every seat in a Zoom show is better than the best of the VIP front row table seats folks were paying for before in a live show. Plus, Kari suggested, we could do a Q&A afterwards, taking questions from the audience, something unworkable in a club setting. She wants to be the MC for those questions. Sure, I said, let’s give it a try. Fall of the Titans is at 7 pm on the East Coast, so Californians could watch it live at 4 pm. Folks in Europe would need to stay up until 1 in the morning to start watching, but who knows, this is live on the web and you never know what people will do.

So it’s on for July 19th at 7 pm EST.

Fall of the Titans is too intense a tale for young children. It’s cosmic and elemental Greek mythology with some very disturbing scenes. It is, however, the story of how the Greek gods came to be born, and why the Titans, their parents, fell. Hot stuff if you like myths.

On my blog here I’m writing semi-scholarly articles about it leading up to the performance. They’re good for background because even people familiar with Greek mythology aren’t necessarily familiar with this earliest of origin tales.

So, we’ll try to re-birth my storytelling in pandemic times and see what happens. If it works, we’ll do more of these adult shows on Zoom. I hope you attend.

Tickets $15

GAIA’S SECRET WEAPON: Mythological Background for Odds Bodkin’s FALL OF THE TITANS Adult Storytelling July 19th on Zoom

You can feel your immense dragon wings folded flat against your mile-long body as you grind through the dark tunnels of Tartarus, Gaia’s subterranean womb. You, Typhon, are her secret killing machine, her ultimate monster. With your dragon heads and giant claws and your sheer immensity, she’s placed her last hopes for victory in you. Overhead, the war on Earth’s surface against the gods has been going on for ten years now, and Gaia is worried the Titans will soon be defeated. If that moment comes, she will free you through the Earth’s crust with one mission only: to swiftly grasp and kill the god Zeus. Only you, Typhon, are powerful enough to do it.

Zeus’s betrayal is especially bitter for Gaia, because it was she who saved him as a baby from Cronus, his father, who had devoured all Zeus’s siblings up until that point. It was she who had hidden newborn Zeus on Crete, far from Cronus’s seeking gaze. She’d secretly visited the young god and watched him grow up. He’d called her “grandmother dear,” and she’d loved that. In her wildest dreams she’d never imagined he was capable of such treachery.

He’d hidden his true powers from her all along.

Well, Typhon, now it is Gaia’s turn to be treacherous, because she has hidden you from Zeus. He has no idea you exist.

That will be a fatal mistake.


FALL OF THE TITANS: An Epic Tale from Greek Mythology

Adult Storytelling with Characters and Live Music by Odds Bodkin

Sunday, July 19th at 7 pm EST on Zoom

TICKETS: $15

 

SPONSORED BY GRENDEL’S DEN IN CAMBRIDGE, MA

Odds Bodkin performs THE ODYSSEY on Harvard Square Sunday Feb. 9

Grendel’s Den hosts Odds Bodkin for the second show in his winter adult storytelling series, THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST. Eat Greek specialty menu items, drink, and then settle in for hypnotic music on 12-string guitar as Bodkin spins mythic magic with vocal effects, character voices and narration.

Introduction to Homer and Greek mythology on Celtic harp.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

 

 

WHITEWATER RAFTING AND EPIC STORYTELLING

Years ago, I wasn’t a storyteller. I was a rafting guide.

Instead of telling stories with music, I rode whitewater rivers.

If the story is the river, then the music is the rapids and words are your tossing boat. Coming at you in the surge ahead, the rocks are events to be described or embodied, and once you’re past them, there’s no time to look back. Your paddles are your syntax, basically, madly splashing you this way and that, keeping you straight in the current of music.

Whether it’s a river or a performance tale, the ride is fun and overwhelming.

I’m offering two pubic shows for adults this coming January 2020. Fittingly for winter, both howl of Viking life. Each is a full evening’s entertainment with music on Celtic harp and 12-string guitars.

Beowulf: The Only One is January 12 at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA.

Odin and Thor Battle the Frost Giants is January 17 at Zinger’s in Milford, NH.

Tickets are on sale now.

NEXT SUNDAY IN CAMBRIDGE: Fall of the Titans Adult Epic Storytelling

This coming Sunday, March 24th, Odds Bodkin performs FALL OF THE TITANS: The Original Game of Thrones at Gendel’s Den in Cambridge MA at 5 pm. Character voices, sound effects and a full score on 12-string guitar bring this epic Greek myth to life.

After sold-out shows this winter, this is Bodkin’s last appearance on Harvard Square this season.

Arrive at 5, order drinks and food from a great menu, and then settle in for this cosmic tale of creation, family jealousy and the overthrow of worlds.

Tickets $15

 

 

 

AMBITION, JEALOUSY AND HIGH IRONY: Cronus the Titan

He’s Gaia’s last-born Titan child and talentless, his mother observes. All the other Titans build things—seas, mountains, river systems—but not Cronus. He simply wants to control everything others build.

By the time he’s grown, he’s insanely jealous of Ouranos, his father and Gaia’s husband.

Ouranos rules the universe well until he makes the mistake of angering Gaia by imprisoning a few of her monstrous offspring. Cyclopses and others. In her fury she promises Cronus he can become king if he topples his father from power.

He does it, becomes king and marries his sister Rhea, also, it seems, a talentless Titan. That is until she becomes pregnant and a prophecy is whispered: one of Cronus’s children will overthrow him.

In a rage of fear, he swallows down each of Rhea’s babies after they are born. Demeter. Hades. Hera. Poseidon.

The irony of the overthrower living in fear of being overthrown is not lost on Gaia, but she’s busy creating plants and animals, watching life thrive on her surface, and so let’s things stay as they are. At least for now…

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Come listen to Fall of the Titans, my last show at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square for this winter. Told with a full score on 12-string guitar, character voices and vocal effects, it’s a full evening of adult storytelling. Introduction on Celtic harp. No children please.

Fall of the Titans

March 24, 2019 at 5 pm

Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA

Tickets are $15.

FALL OF THE TITANS at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA/Adult storytelling on March 24th

The poet Hesiod was a contemporary of Homer, circa 700 B.C. in ancient Greece, and together, the two of them essentially codified the Greek myths into the wondrously creative interlocking system of magical adventures we still marvel at, to this very day.

Zeus. Hera. Poseidon. Hades. Demeter. Ares. Aphrodite. Apollo. Hestia. Eris. The strange whole bunch of them.

Without a doubt, they were ancient projections of human truths, utterly imaginary, but who, in ancient times, the Greeks took extremely seriously, as did the Romans after them.

The Olympian Gods.

It’s always good to bear in mind when thinking about fossil spiritual systems like this, that as fervently as whatever deity, if any, or deities, that you yourself, dear reader, might worship today–if you worship any at all–well, the ancient Greeks worshiped their pantheon of imperfect gods just as fervently.

Every day.

Prayers for survival.

Supplications before tiny statuettes lit by burning oil in dark, elemental dwellings or stone palaces where, above everybody, equally, the lightning flashed, nearby volcanoes erupted, invisible diseases appeared and storms inexplicably swept in from the sea.

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Odds Bodkin

FALL OF THE TITANS: An Adult Storytelling Performance at Grendel’s Den

Sunday, March 24th, 2019 at 5 p.m.

Tickets: $15

 

 

 

 

 

 

ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS…Close to Sold Out!

Just a few tickets remain for Odds Bodkin’s performance of Viking myths and lore tomorrow night at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA, so grab yours now while they last!

ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS.

Sunday, Jan. 6th at 5 p.m. on Harvard Square.

Drink like a Viking.

Feast like a Viking.

But just don’t behave like one.

Why? Because this crowd has come to listen to Celtic harp, 12-string guitars and Odds Bodkin’s crazy voices for dwarves, Norse gods and giants.

 

TICKETS $15


Like merch? These will be available after the show!

 

 

 

 

 

 

HARPING FOR BEOWULF

HARPING FOR BEOWULF/Video

I sat in my living room beneath my old tin ceiling this morning and recorded this quick extemporization on my Celtic harp. It’s a lovely instrument that creates an atmospheric music, which fits well while describing how in 1563, the year before Shakespeare’s birth, a scholar named Lawrence Nowell discovered the dusty manuscript of Beowulf in his master’s library. No one had seen it in five hundred years.

I’ll be returning to Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square this Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. to talk about that and then perform BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE, probably my favorite story to tell these days. The score is on 12-string guitar, with leitmotifs for various characters. It’s a rather bloody and elemental story, and so children aren’t invited to experience it. But adults are.

Details and tickets are here.

HAUNTED BY THE MUSIC

Mostly the music haunts me. I still recall sitting out on my back porch under the sun umbrella one summer day trying to stitch the heartbreak together. “What can get at this tragic mood?” I kept asking myself, conducting experiments up and down the 12-string’s fingerboard. New chords I’d never played slowly revealed the sculpture-in-the-stone moment, the “ah ha!” release, when I finally said, “Wow. That’s it. That is beautiful. That has the dignity, the elemental loneliness and the magnificence I need.”

I was searching for a leitmotif for Beowulf the Viking hero. Having composed them for Odysseus in The Odyssey, David in David and Goliath, young Percival the knight in The Hidden Grail and other of my long-form bardic tales, musically it was a familiar creative process, but not emotionally.

You can get a flavor of Beowulf’s theme at 3:27 in this live recording of the tale.

 

I’ll be performing Beowulf: The Only One twice in the next weeks, and will be playing Beowulf’s theme and others as I do my best to enact him, King Hrothgar, Grendel the Beast and his vengeful monster mother. I still remember how when I recorded this tale live, the music worked. Two women in the audience felt the way I felt. Right there, in the middle of all those people, so loudly I heard it from the stage, they burst into tears.

 

Tickets and information:

Sunday, March 4 at 7 p.m. at the Riverwalk Music Bar, Nashua, N

Sunday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Grendel’s Den, Cambridge, MA

 

 

With all of the sounds he was able to make, the unique voices of each person, and intricate guitar playing…it was unbelievable.

Martha Taylor, Chair of Classics at Loyola University Maryland, passed this note on to me after an Odyssey performance last September. It was written by a college freshman.

“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. 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.”

I’ll be at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square, February 11th at 5:30 p.m., to tell this tale again, with Celtic harp and 12-string guitar.

Catch some adult storytelling this February. THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST at Grendel’s Den.

Tickets at tables are $15.