I've been doing my Odyssey for a long, long, long time.
Over 19 years to be exact, which means longer than some of my college audience members have been alive.
This is mostly a good thing.
No, it's entirely a good thing. To have created a piece of music and a show that has remained relevant and in-demand (or as in-demand as a folk opera based on Homeric epic can be) for almost two decades, a piece at which I'm still improving, that I still enjoy performing... what more can you ask for as a creator and artist?
Of course a good portion of this is owed to the source material.
I'm a broken record on this subject, but it is fascinating to engage consistently and intensely with the Homeric epics over a timeframe of decades. They are endless in their inspiration and capacity to provoke. They are behemoth and devastatingly efficient in turns. Some of their brilliance comes from their scope and pacing, some of it comes from the ability to render a human emotion or behavior perfectly in an image, a half a line of poetry, or even a single word.
After a wonderful virtual show for a great group of students at Kenyon College, I was asked how the years of doing my performance had changed my understanding of the Odyssey.
I started to give an answer about how we take different things from a text at different times in our lives but as I was talking I realized that my experience with the Odyssey is something a little more complex than that because of the relationship between the story, its original mode of presentation, and its subject.
For me, it isn't just a case of getting older and seeing different things in the text at 43 than I did at 23.
It's the fact that I've lived both something like the life of the creative class responsible for shaping what became the text of the epic and also the life of the protagonist.
Everything about the story, the form and the content, I now filter through years and years of going around doing the thing that was done to develop and transmit the story and also the thing that is done in the story.
It's a remarkable feedback loop I can't help but think was also present in some way for those ancient bards who sang Odysseus' story and it probably does the same thing for me that it did for them: creates an allegiance between me and my subject that colors my framing of him and pushes me towards empathy in my portrayal because oftentimes, even and maybe especially in his darker moments, I know exactly how he's feeling.