October 26, 2017 - Hamilton College

I wrote about my Odyssey as a two-headed monster that craves both artistic and intellectual validation HERE.

That monster has largely been sleeping peacefully since that watershed April performance at Harvard, satiated by a great 2017 and a 2018 that's shaping up to be even better. 

That being said, I am hyper-vigilant about collecting material to feed it should it awake hungry and I was lucky enough to get a morsel during my visit to Hamilton College.

For my fall tour I was able to put together a nice condensed run of 9 shows in two weeks broken into two parts: 4 shows in New York, a couple of days back home in Chicago, and then 5 shows around the Midwest in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.  

The series of 4 shows in New York came to an end at Hamilton College, a small liberal arts college with an enrollment of under 2000 in Clinton, a small town with a population under 2000.  

Like essentially my whole week in New York, I was blessed with perfect fall weather: it was in the lower 60's and sunny as I drove the hour from Syracuse to Clinton and checked into the bed and breakfast secured for me by the college.

My professor contact, Jesse Weiner, picked me up and after checking out the performance space we spent a couple of hours walking the college's grounds, some of it in the beautiful arboretum and gardens that are right on campus.  This was such a joy: a stunning day and great conversation about the Classics and life.  

As we kicked around The Odyssey, Jesse put forward the idea that Homer's original was (with a couple of notable examples) not overtly empathetic. We see the characters emote at times and emotions are described in broad formulaic strokes (e.g. Odysseus is "honing his heart's sorrow") but there isn't empathy in the way we understand it is and as present in modern literature.

Enter my version of The Odyssey, which is nothing if not a 30 minute commercial for empathy.

This was a eureka moment for me.

In the field of Classical Reception, particular attention is paid to how later cultures took (and take) classical source material and represented it in contemporary terms, examining what has been added to the classical source material by the artist.

Here was a simple and elegant way to look at what I do with The Odyssey in an academic framework: I take Homer's Odyssey and add empathy.

The performance was excellent.  I'm not sure I've ever sung a better group of four shows.  The discussion was even better: the students were inquisitive and I fielded a pointed question from another professor with (I think) dexterity and grace.

After dinner and drinks I found myself back at the bed & breakfast in the quiet of my room, reflecting on my small contribution to the millennia-long tradition of Odysseus and his story. The validation monster was still sound asleep but I knew I had something good for him if (or rather when) he awoke again.

Leave a comment

Add comment