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Staging Homer for Generation Simpson

Odyssey by Derek WalcottTHE ODYSSEY,
A STAGE VERSION-
Greek myth would be no more complicated than JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, or GRG Lucas, but I suspect that to impress Homer unto modern audiences might have the disagreeable consequence of educating them.

This weekend Colorado College students staged Derek Walcott’s 1992 The Odyssey in the South Theater of the Cornerstone Arts Building. And performed it brilliantly. Every role, every effect, executed with vitality and aplomb.

Except for the Jamaican nursemaid and Aussie shepherd, the CC actors dropped Walcott’s New World islander accents, but their production honored his post imperialism critique.

My favorite sequence depicted Cyclops as an all-seeing 1984 distillation of mortal man’s inclination toward totalitarianism. The Circe episode is nagging me for further reflection, if I’m to imagine that Walcott would not succumb to the traditional Siren/Mermaid/Nymph misogyny.

If you can’t shake the admonition that rational man’s chief torment is woman, you need look for no literary antecedent before Homer.

Obviously, not all that is Greek is instructional, but wouldn’t it serve our education nicely if, instead of the insipid nuances of fictional worlds imagined by scribes steeped in the decay of Western Civilization, our children could commit to their memories the literary plots –no less compelling– which form the building blocks to a greater appreciation of all art?

We told the kids that the Odyssey was Western Civilization’s first sequel. Of course, the Iliad was a lot to have to recap. Not surprisingly, their experience was “the most random ever.” But while I lamented my missed advance opportunity to have brought them up to speed on the gods and heroes of antiquity, our eleven year old noted, of the lines spoken by the mysterious personages: “Everything they said was always about something else!”

Poetry!

OF FURTHER INTEREST:
Creolizing Homer for the stage: Walcott’s The Odyssey, by Robert D. Hamner, Twentieth Century Literature, Fall, 2001

Playing With Europe: Derek Walcott’s Retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, by Irene Martyniuk, Callaloo 28.1, 2005

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