April 20, 2024 - University of Oxford, England

On a Friday morning in April, I woke up in England.

Which was a good thing, because I went to sleep Thursday night above the Atlantic Ocean on a flight to London.

On the ground, I successfully found a bus that took me to the campus of the University of Oxford, at which I was to give a talk and then perform my Odyssey the next day as part of a conference called Reworking Epic: Across Time, Media and Cultures.

2024 is a transition year for my classics performance work. The Blues of Achilles is now my primary booking and touring focus and for the first time in 22 years, I'm not chasing my 50 state Odyssey goal. 

As sometimes happens with achievements, I'm looking backwards as much as I'm looking forwards, trying to make sense of the complex road that brought me to where I am in the hope that it will tell me where I should go. 

Which is very Odyssean.

The Oxford show is the first of six in England, Ireland, and Scotland, spread over fifteen days.

Friday night in Oxford is full of socialization with my generous hosts, wine, and jet lag. 

Saturday is bright and crisp and I walk the mile to the lecture hall at which I'll first speak and then perform to close out a day of lectures about classical reception through the ages.  The talks are varied and great. I give mine about the process of reworking the Iliad into The Blues of Achilles. 

After a short reception, I reset and perform my Odyssey for an an expanded audience.

It goes very well as does the informed discussion which continues after the formal event and gives me a lot more to think about around both of my works and makes me very aware of how the cultural differences in audiences impact perception of my creative choices and agendas.  To put it simply, an American bard abroad singing about war hits a lot differently than one singing at home.

The next morning, still fighting jet lag, I force myself out early for a slow but productive run along the Oxford canal in the cold morning sun.  Then it's back on the bus to the airport for a quick flight to Dublin.
The genesis for this tour lies all the way back in 2019 at my performance for the Orality and Literacy Conference in Austin. Several of the shows were supposed to happen in the fall of 2020 but that tour fell victim to the pandemic. Bringing another 3 and half years of experience to a trip of this magnitude feels right. That time period has been important for my work and myself and I'm not sure I was in a place to fully execute or appreciate it in 2020.

Looking backwards and forwards is helpful to the extent you do so without losing track of the present, which is really the best teacher there is especially if you can bring yourself to pay close attention to the people around you. 

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