As the Odyssey shows pile up and my touring schedule has evolved in complexity, I've found that the most difficult type of performance for me is the simple one-off.
Sure, doing longer runs of many shows with multiple legs of travel has its own challenges, but as far as the actual performing, I've discovered that I'm the type of performer that gets better and stronger as tours go on and that the first show of a trip is almost always the trickiest. When that "first show" is the only show, things can get a little strange.
Take, for instance, the type of schedule that I had for my show at The University of Dallas two Fridays ago.
My flight out of Chicago was civil: 9:00 a.m.
I arrived in Dallas with no issues and met my contact, the president of the Classics Club of the small Catholic college located about 15 minutes from the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.
After lunch we proceeded to the campus where I got a tour of the grounds and located my accommodations, a somewhat strange but more than adequate and very convenient two room suite located in the student activities center.
I was thrilled to have traded Chicago's mid-30 degree temps for Dallas' 80's and the warm humid wind carried the sounds of students enjoying the late Friday afternoon sun up to my window out of which I could see the room in which I'd perform later that evening.
I was part of a program that included two guest professors speaking for an hour each on oral aspects of Greek and Latin poetry. Following their lectures, I'd perform my Odyssey as a way to finish off the event.
The room was an intimate seminar space with couches and full-wall windows that looked out onto the student mall. The professors did their things: they were both great and the audience seemed primed for my Odyssey.
The Friday student ruckus from outside had quieted as I begun my song and I plowed through all 30 minutes without incident and into an intense and heartfelt discussion. One of the professors kindly said my performance had inspired him to change the way he would teach The Odyssey to his classes. The University of Dallas students were razor-sharp with their questions and feedback.
Afterwards a big group went out for Tex-Mex and drinks.
Before I knew it, I was on my way back to the airport at 4:00 a.m. to catch a 5:15 a.m. flight back to Chicago.
The performance, I feel fairly certain, was very good from a technical standpoint. I sang well and felt fine about how I represented the material. I had, after all, performed it three times earlier that week (at Indiana University) and two times the week before (at Polytechnic) to say nothing of the the fact that Dallas was the 19th performance in less than 7 weeks.
But as I closed my eyes and tried to get a little sleep on my way home I couldn't help but feel as if something had been missing for me: something felt a little more shallow in the whirlwind of the 16 hours I'd been on the ground in Texas.
I think in order for me to fully sink into the material emotionally, to connect with my road-weary long-suffering protagonist, I need to be a little road-weary myself. Or at least it helps. It might not matter for the sake of how my performances come off to my audiences but it is something that feels different to me internally.
Maybe the simplest way to put it is this: There's a small but important difference between how I relate to the material on days on which I've woken up in my own bed and on those on which I've woken up in a strange bed.
The flight home was as turbulent as I've every experienced: two hours of it. The flight crew never got out of their seats and I wasn't really able to sleep.
If I wasn't able to connect with my hero's travels this time, I was surely able to connect with his relief at finally being on the firm ground of home.