In June, the Ottawa Storytellers will be hosting The Iliad, produced by 2Women Productions. We're taking things a bit backward - we did The Odyssey in 2012. But, still, what a journey!
I have to admit that, at some point during the journey of preparing for The Odyssey, I felt I would never undertake something that big again. I've done big shows and cooperative ones - The Kymeras' Bouddica show comes foremost to mind, as well as our recent Evelyn: A Time Travel Love Story. But three or four performers are nothing compared to 18. Or to twelve hours of telling.
One of the most important steps of preparing for any set is immersing in the story. It's figuring out its quirks and substituting part of our soul with the soul of the story. It's similar to what writers do, except more so, since storytellers have to physically conveny the tale as well as with words. It's a fabulous but at times draining journey.
Immersing in The Odyssey was tough for me. At heart, it's a story about post-traumatic stress disorder, so it's not an easy topic to tackle. Plus, the language was a barrier. The epic language isn't the same as the language of the fantastic and I had a steep hill to climb to master that part of the English language. I hadn't struggled with my adopted beloved language in a while, but there I struggled a lot.
We also had to condense the story down so it would work with 18 tellers. The Odyssey is huge, after all. We had to cut some stuff, and we had to make sure the same stuff was cut throughout the tale. So it was a lot of work, and with books and cons, it's a lot of work piled on top of a lot of work, all while marching to someone else's drum.
I was excited to tell The Odyssey, but I was also just looking forward to getting it done.
And then the day of the show came and enthusiastic listeners arrived as we were still warming up. And the room darkened and candles danced and we all stood, all 18 tellers, and said (unrehearsed), one after the other, something that the story is...
"I am the black sails."
"I am Ithaca."
"I am a father's heart."
... one after the other, flowing into one another, a perfect performance that could never be repeated. Not in the same way.
Teller after teller then took the stage, taking up the thread of the story. I cried when Odysseus finally held his family. I cheered when he killed the suitors.
And I realized that all of that work had made it all the more real. That, in a very small way like Odysseus' own long journey, the longer and more difficult the ride, the better it was in the end.
Then I knew, without a doubt, that I would do this again and again, for as long as I was asked, because I had learned and overcome so much that to say no would be to cheat myself.
So today, in just a few minutes, we're kicking off The Iliad. We've all read Rieu's translation and we're ready to start the work. Look out, next seven months. You're going to be a wild ride!