FUN SPOOKY TALES FOR YOUNG FAMILIES at The Burren in Somerville, MA

The Burren is a fine music venue, and since Tom Bianchi’s kids grew up listening to my stories (he books shows there), he’s invited me to perform this October 21st, Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Having worked with kid audiences for decades, I know they’re sensitive to good and bad, even good and evil, but are much too sensitive for truly frightening stories. Like the rest of us, they love to be just a little scared, but not so much that they have bad dreams afterwards. And so for this Halloween season, I’ve created a new storytelling show just for them and their parents.

FUN SPOOKY TALES FOR YOUNG FAMILIES features three tales, one based on The Banshee Train, a children’s book I wrote, one from Danny Kaye’s Around the World Storybook, and the last a galloping Italian fairytale with a witch who is roundly defeated by magical helpers who aid a little boy on a quest.

The Banshee Train, with a flat-picked country score on guitar, tells of a trainload of people saved by a banshee in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Kids learn all about steam trains in the process. The guitar playing is worth the price of admission, I’ll bet.

The Stranger at the Dance is a French Canadian story about a girl who almost disappears when Old Scratch, the devil, shows up at a barn dance. Because he’s well-dressed and handsome and she doesn’t know who he is, she dances with him. Luckily she’s saved by her fiancée and the village priest, and the devil is thrown out. It’s performed with a beautiful score on Celtic harp.

The Little Shepherd is a rollicking participatory adventure about a boy cursed by a witch never to grow an inch until he finds a mysterious fairy inside a singing apple. Wild vocal effects, hilarious character voices including tiny fairies and a fun participatory score on 12-string guitar makes this a slightly spooky, but mostly delightful tale, a great way to end this show of child-safe Halloween stories.

Hope to see you there. Please let friends with young kids know about this unique performance!

Tickets are $10 in advance, $14 at the door available here.

 

 

 

BACK TO THE CEMETERY: Heartpounders Horror Tales on Friday the 13th

Is it an old haunted inn? It looks that way. Abandoned for years, it sat overgrown and neglected, a hulking eyesore on Main Street in Bradford, New Hampshire, my town. Weeds grew. The old sign faded. I drove by it every day.

But then a group of young people in town had a dream. Now its ground floor is a thriving locavore food heaven, filled with organic produce and meats, ice creams and locally-made specialty items.

Today when I drive by it’s the Sweet Beet Market, and even bigger dreams surround it. A bakery. A new arts venue. A commercial kitchen for food artisans. On weekends, the parking lot is filled with cars. Folks eat freshly made breakfasts, cooked up on the wraparound veranda as families sit at picnic tables. At this time of year, artfully piled pumpkins have turned the place orange. The old inn has come alive.

To help with this Kearsarge Food Hub project, I’m donating the scariest show in my repertory this coming Friday the 13th at 8 pm, an outdoor event with jack-o-lanterns glowing, under the big tent. HEARTPOUNDERS: Halloween Tales of Horror is an adult evening of stories. No kids, please. Mini-horror movies for the mind’s eye, these tales have entertained audiences from Lincoln Center in New York to the National Storytelling Festival. Each with driving music on 12-string guitars, Celtic harp, and other instruments, plus lots of creepy character voices and sounds, they’re unnerving and fun. The show is two hours.

Hot cider. Good hot food. On a cool October evening beneath the waning moon, these stories will come to life, or horrible death (agh!!!) depending on how you like it.

If you know folks in New Hampshire, please let them know. Nothing like this anywhere else in the Granite State.

Tickets are $10, $12 at the door.

Check it out on Facebook.

HEARTPOUNDERS: Halloween Tales of Horror in Nashua, NH Oct. 8

From man-eating werepanthers (think werewolves) who must kill their own father to a dark road wraith chased across New England by Nature’s vengeance, these tales of horror build to climactic scenes in your imagination. Heck, they scare me!

Driven by virtuoso 12-string guitar playing, Celtic harp and other instruments along with riveting character voices and vocal effects, each of the evening’s tales are guaranteed to take you deep into your worst fears. And don’t forget the story of a greedy priest in Russia who bleeds everywhere he’s donned the skin of a dead goat.

Horrible, yes. Fun, yes. Plus ancient Celtic lore about the origins of All Hallow’s Eve.

Sunday, October 8th at 7 pm. at the Riverwalk Music Bar in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Tickets $13 at the door, $10 in advance here!

FAMILY STORIES EXTRAVAGANZA at The Livery in Sunapee NH this Friday!

Odds Bodkin’s best family-friendly stories come to The Livery in Sunapee, NH this Friday, August 11th at 7 p.m. With Celtic harp, 12-string guitars and other instruments, Odds uses character voices and natural sound effects to create “imagination movies” for listeners.

Come join the fun!

Tickets are $10 adult, $5 children, $25 for a family of 4. Get them here!

“I Cannot Stop Listening”

Simon Brooks is an Englishman and fellow professional storyteller. He recently wrote a review of my latest epic audio story, Beowulf: The Only One. I’ve excerpted it below.

“Like all of his work, Odds Bodkin’s ‘Beowulf’is deep, funny, and brilliantly told. Odds’ version is entertaining and pulls you in so you cannot back away from it… I have listened to it several times. In fact I am at the point where I cannot start it unless I have the time to finish it all. I cannot stop listening to the words and music which flow so wonderfully throughout the hour and twenty minutes or so it lasts.”

Want a good story to listen to? Told for adults? You can listen to a sample and buy it here.

Happy Summer! And thanks, Mr. Brooks.

HERCULES IN HELL/Odds Bodkin in Nashua, NH Sunday June 25th at 7 pm/Mythology Intro on Celtic Harp

Master Storyteller and Musician Odds Bodkin will perform Hercules in Hell, an epic story for adults, at the Riverwalk Music Bar this coming Sunday. Scored with 12-string guitar and introduced with a Celtic harp accompaniment, this is the myth of Hercules as few have heard it. His teenage rages and teacher murders. How he loses his mind and kills his wife and children. The only escape from his guilt the gods offer? Twelve Labors, done for a despised and weak cousin who orders Hercules to kill the Hydra, capture a stag only the virgin goddess of the hunt may touch, drive off giant birds with brass feathers, on and on. Greek mythology for grownups.

Performed with character voices and vocal effects, this is pure imagination entertainment.

Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Get them here.

The Helpless Sky

In the last line of a story I’ll be telling at the Climate Symposium in Boulder next fall, Gaia, the original Earth Mother, reflects on how uncomfortable anger makes her feel. Bad things happen when she senses injustice and she’s been implacably rough on her husband Ouranos and grandson Zeus during the story. What, she asks herself after she goes into hiding now that the Titans have fallen, could ever make her that angry again?

 
I guess the time has come. Our atmosphere is definitely angry nowadays. Basically, it’s drier dries, wetter wets, windier winds and hotter hots. Fire seasons continue to lengthen. Whether rain or snow, precipitation is heavier, hence floods in new places. When they do begin to spin, hurricanes and tornadoes are more destructive than before. Insurers are desperate for forecasts. For thousands of years, farmers and herders in Africa, South America and the Middle East counted on rainy seasons to avoid famines. Slowly drying out now, those lands are forcing migrants to flee what are essentially climate wars. We haven’t even mentioned our own great population centers, built at the sea’s edge.

 
Ever cooked spaghetti in a pot? You turn on the heat and wait for the boil. Long ago I learned that if I cover it with a lid, it boils twice as fast. Instead of letting heat escape out the top, I trap it in a closed system. Smart, right? It might be hard to imagine, but Earth’s atmospheric pot had no lid prior to the Industrial Revolution. Over the last 150 years, though, we’ve installed an invisible one made of greenhouse gasses from fossil fuels. It’s not anyone’s voluntary doing. We only figured this out a few decades ago. Up until then, all that exhaust was progress. As vast as it is, we’re slowly closing off Earth’s heat release system, high above our heads. Not completely yet, but we’re getting there, busily tossing tiny carbon footprints by the billions up into a helpless sky.

 
There has to be a way to figure this out before the thing boils, with us in it.

 
I’ll also be conducting a workshop designed to turn climate-aware people, including scientists, into The Cadre of Science Storytellers.

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.

The Real Hercules Was A Rage-Filled Killer

When the Art Institute of Chicago commissioned me to tell the story of Hercules for an exhibition, I wasn’t aware that the glossy hero Hollywood had told me about was actually a sociopath and killer. His temper was volcanic and nobody near him was safe. This is the actual myth we’re talking about.

 
In order to free himself from the guilt of murdering his young family in a blind rage, Hercules is given a way out: ten labors (it ends up twelve). Worse, he must perform them for his weak, cowardly cousin, the king of Mycenae. It makes for a good story, though, how his cousin hates him and tries to send Hercules on labors that will kill him. The Nemean Lion, for instance, has a hide that blades or arrows cannot pierce. Hercules breaks its neck and ends up skinning it with its own claw, hollowing out its skull and wearing the dead lion as a helmet and robe. After that, arrows bounce off him.

 
Later, as poison blood hisses onto his lion’s skin, he kills the Hydra by knocking off its many heads, but makes a fateful mistake by dipping his arrows in the blood, which kills on contact like VX. That one act haunts his life and in the end, kills him. But being less than immortal, he can’t know that will be his end. At first he thinks nothing of people, or of slaying them, until after his labors he is forced to live as a woman and a slave for three years. Something in him changes and he is free to love again, but even so, he must still kill again to save his newlywed wife.

 
Hercules in Hell is a full-blown immersion into Greek mythology, told in a very fun way. Lots of amusing character voices and a score on 12-string guitar. The show is on the The Boston Calendar. 8 pm, Sunday April 23rd. Tickets are here.

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.

A FEW TICKETS REMAIN…

A few tickets remain,
I make this claim,
For this evening’s show,
Just so you know.
Wily Odysseus, on his journey west,
Lost on the sea, doing his best
To hold things together
In all sorts of weather,
Missing his wife
And missing his boy,
Not having seen them in ten years at Troy,
Faces a beast with a glowering eye
And watches again as his best friends die.
But oh, he is wily, which gives him his fame.
Now journeys are odysseys, based on his name.

The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, an adult storytelling event with live music on harp and 12-string guitar is tonight at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. 8 pm, April 2. A few tickets remain.

Tickets.

WHEN A GUITAR SOUNDS SYMPHONIC

I’ve been playing 12-string guitars to accompany stories for a long time. Nowadays I play a Taylor 12 and a custom-built Ron Ho made in Port Townsend, Washington, both great instruments. This coming Sunday night I’ll be using the Taylor to score The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, tuned to a modified open E, a unique tuning that allows the guitar to sound, well, symphonic. Or at least that’s the goal.

 

The music is like a second voice, adding drama to the spoken words, much the way a movie score works. Leitmotif is a cool word coined by Richard Wagner denoting themes for characters and emotions, and The Odyssey is filled with many of them. One is a soothing, broad oceanic theme meant to relax my listeners. Another is a haunting, melancholy theme of longing that signifies Odysseus himself, wishing he were home even as he’s facing terrifying dangers. Polyphemus the Cyclops has his own music, too, bursting atonalities played in double-stops on the bass strings. Musicians tend to enjoy the accompaniment as much as the tale itself.

 

The show is at 8 pm on Sunday, April 2 at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. If you know anyone in New England who might enjoy this performance, please pass it on.

 
Tickets are $20 here.