Monday, 18 June 2012

The Odyssey: Coming Home

The final post in a series on the Odyssey storytelling adventure.  I undertook this show hoping to challenge myself and grow as a teller. I was not disappointed, and I learned so much more along the way than I could have even imagined.

Saturday was the culmination of almost a year's worth of preparation, as 18 tellers brought Odysseus home to Ithaca in an epic 12-hour production at Ottawa's National Arts Centre.

All the tellers met more than an hour before the doors opened, to get "in the zone" and prepare ourselves for the journey. Epic listening has its challenges - including numb-butt syndrom - but when you're also telling, there's a whole other level of concentration and engagement that's required. So we needed to get ready.

When the house opened, we were amazed at the fullness of the room.  It wasn't a sold out show, but it was still a full house for a 12-hour show.  And these people were into it.  They stuck it out, from beginning to end, and they brought the energy.

The audience shared the tellers' love for words, imagery, irony and well-placed foreshadowing. We knew we were all in for a treat when they laughed at all the right spots.

At the beginning of the day, in the green room, a few tellers and I were wondering if we'd undertake something this epic again. I mean, it's a lot of work.  You have to study the full text, and then really work your portion down to the golden kernel.  You have to study the language, and then, as a group, decide how the characters will be portrayed, and how their names will be pronounced.  Then all the bits have to go together.  Twelve hours is a long time, of course, but the Odyssey is a much longer text to tell, so many cuts were made.  We had to make sure the text still jived.

And, remember, we were 18, with two artistic directors, Jan Andrews and Jennifer Cayley, guiding our words.  That's a lot of coordination, a lot of time, and a lot of work. Their commitment and enthusiasm was unflinching, which kept us all focused.

I admit that, at the beginning of the day, I wasn't sure I would ever undertake such an extravagant storytelling journey again.  But then, Odysseus kissed the sands of his homeland, the loyal dog Argus died after seeing his master's return, and Penelope embraced her long-longed for husband.  And I knew, right there and then, that I would do this again.

Without a doubt, and without hesitation.  And all of the other tellers agreed.

Because, in the end, we realized that our journey had been long and riddled with both beauty and difficulty and, although we faced no real-life cyclops (thankfully) nor did we ride the sea down to the Halls of Hades (again, a good thing), it had still been riddled with challenges and tested our will and faith.  So when the day was over and Odysseus spent a long, lingering night in Penelope's arms, we felt we had come home, too.

A sweet homecoming after a long journey steals our breath and dulls the difficult memories of the journey, amplifying only the amazement at having done it, survived it, not scaring us away from undertaking the next journey, knowing that, at the end, another homecoming awaits us.

And that the journey, in all of its discoveries and marvels, will have been entirely worth it.

Thanks to everyone who made this journey possible, especially 2 Women Productions and the Ottawa Storytellers.  Thanks to Jan and Jennifer for their vision, and for their belief in all of their tellers.  Thanks to all of the tellers who made the day ripe with possibility and wonder!  


And, most of all, thank you for reminding me that the safest paths are rarely the best paths.
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