On June 16 2012, eighteen storytellers will gather at the National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage to bring listeners on a journey with Odysseus, from the fall of Troy to the shores of Ithaca. The show is a collaboration between the Ottawa Storytellers and 2 women productions, and is artistically coordinated by Jan Andrews (one of Canada's most acclaimed storytellers) and Jennifer Cayley (ditto).
I looked at the show as a journey of learning and training. Just as Odysseus made his way home, so too would I make my way somewhere. Probably not home (unless things go terribly wrong), but art informs art, so skills learned creating this show will be applied to future tellings.
All performers already met once and did some basic exploration of Odysseus' stories, themes, and of our own perceptions. But the fun didn't really start until last night.
We met, five of us. Jan and Jennifer, myself, and two other tellers, Ruthanne Edward (a fellow Kymera) and Mary Wiggin (I performed with Mary last year at the Shenkman Centre. We told sci-fi stories accompanied by a theremin. I know - awesome!)
We were doing some explorative exercises of our own pieces. We started by sitting around a fire and just chatting about the story, what it meant to us, and where we felt Odysseus was emotionally in our pieces. We sipped tea and enjoyed the soothing fire, sitting on comfy chairs, chatting sometimes in whispers about the great journey we would undertake in bringing Odysseus home.
I was all comfortable and cozy when Jennifer suddenly exclaimed "Okay, let's go into the other room."
Now, I don't know if this stems from my upbringing or life experiences, but generally, when someone in authority brings you in the other room, I know it means that you're either in trouble, or things are about to change drastically.
And boy did things change! It was time to ignite our pieces within us. Mary was up first, shouting her story, whispering her story, evoking the ethereal dawn. Mary gets to launch Odysseus to certain doom (go, Mary!), so she had to be mad, determined, unwilling to bend to the winds or seas. Next thing I know, she's pushing forward, Jennifer trying to hold her back, Jan trying to block her, me whooping at her to deck them, Mary grabbing Ruthanne's chair and refusing to be held back or stopped.
Let me make this clear - none of these women are below fifty, so it was even more awesome fun to watch. Spitfires all!
When the "brawl" was over and Mary stepped back in "centre stage," that strength and ferocity informed her telling. Who knew duking it out with the artistic directors could bring such strength to a telling?
I was up next, and I was pretty stoked at this point. What fun would I have? Jennifer started by using sublime words that basically meant I was very girly. Point. I really, really am. But Odysseus is not. Also a good point. Odysseus is like the Klingon of ancient Greece. I'm totally not that. (Odysseus is totally Klingon-esque. I researched it! See? It's the bathing in blood that gives it away.)
So we started off by me going fully girly, telling the story completely from a highly feminine telling. It was great fun. I was hitting on myself! It's not everyday one gets to do that.
Next thing I know, I've got Jan and Jennifer pulling on each arm as I take on the male persona, or at least the masculine strength. It worked, too. It was a shift - my voice came from deeper, my telling was more powerful. Mary sat forward in her chair, as entertained by my exercise as I had been by hers.
It'll be interesting to see how I can learn to apply these different ways of visualizing and experiencing story. By the time Odysseus reaches the shores of Ithaca in June, I'm sure my telling will have grown thanks to the wonderful and albeit sometimes strange experiences I'll take away from this show.
Remember - eighteen tellers, twelve hours, one stage, one unforgettable journey. Don't miss it!