My stop at Needham High School (just outside of Boston) came after having endured a red-eye flight home from Seattle early Tuesday morning and tempting the travel gods (Hermes?) by flying to Boston early on Thursday and leaving myself just barely enough time to grab an Uber, navigate rush hour traffic, and arrive at the well-manicured suburban high school with 45 minutes to set up for the first of what were to be two Odyssey shows.
Most if not all of the first 50 or so Odyssey performances I did were for high school audiences and while I'm at the point now that about 80% are at universities, the roots of what I do and why I do it lie in hoping that my piece might open up some avenues of connection for high school freshman as they read what can be a really challenging piece of literature for a fourteen year-old (and really a forty year-old too).
So I look upon high school performances with a special sort of fondness and am to this day amazed at some of the wisdom and insight high school audiences have provided me in our discussions.
Needham High School was also notable because it was the first gig of what will be many that came about as a direct result of my partnership with The Paideia Institute, the New York-based humanities education non-profit with which I signed an exclusive representation agreement for this year.
So in my somewhat groggy and rushed state, I set up in the high school's auditorium with a special anticipation around these two shows.
I've become more and more interested in appraising very simple aspects of how a stage and room are set up for my performances. I hate clutter on the stage and always take a couple extra minutes to explore lighting options. In this auditorium, all but one of the large windows could be covered by shades. The remaining window was missing the shade, but it allowed me to turn all the house lights down and still have some nice indirect ambient light on the audience, which felt natural and peaceful. 200 plus performances have taught me that small things like this make a difference in how the audience perceives me and the performance.
The first performance went great and after a lunch with several of the teachers I returned to the auditorium for the second. As much as I talk about enjoying performing the show fully acoustic I was grateful for my microphone and the PA system as my voice was road worn pretty hard from my shows in Texas and Washington and the early travel.
Just like that the second show was over and I was out in the beautiful spring afternoon, drinking an iced Dunkin Donuts coffee, and waiting for a bus to take me to Cambridge where I was staying that night.
The final show of this early April tour was the next day at Harvard.
A show 3 years in the making logistically and possibly 20 years in the making intellectually.
I was so caught up in my mental preparations for this milestone show that I didn't even mind that they put sugar in my coffee when I'd asked for only cream.