The act, “The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast”, given by Odds Bodkin in McGuire Hall, was a completely different type of onstage act. Bodkin sat on a stool, with a guitar in hand, and a microphone in front of him. He said that he was going to tell a story about the tragic hero, Odysseus, and his incredible journey. Odysseus is the king of Ithaca who runs into many difficult situations on his way home from fighting in the Trojan War. Bodkin told the audience to let their minds run freely and ultimately allow him to “disappear” onstage. Although I figured that I would be unable to really “see” the story, I closed my eyes and pretended that I was dreaming. As he began telling this story he set the tone with his guitar and created voices for each of the story’s characters. I went along with it allowing my mind to run freely, which ended up being a lot easier than I had ever expected.
Immediately after he started telling this tale, I wondered whether or not I would be able to imagine what was happening in order to make this event worthwhile. To my surprise, each of the scenes took place with a great amount of description so that I was able to “see” exactly what was occurring in great detail. In this moment, I grasped the idea of this type of storytelling. Time stood still and I began to feel like a spectator watching Odysseus’ actions. I could literally feel Odysseus’ anxiety and anticipation as he found himself in life or death situations. As the story continued to unfold, I found myself on the edge of my seat because of all of the suspense that Bodkin had built up.
I had completely disregarded all other thoughts in my mind and concentrated solely on Odysseus’ adventure. I wondered whether or not he and his men would escape their situations alive. I felt like I was watching this all take place in front of me and that I would witness the occurrences first-hand. When the story would have a twist in it I grew impatient to see what would happen next. My anticipation continued to grow when Odysseus was the last of his men to survive. I thought that there would be a chance for him to die in the end, but he was the only one to outsmart his enemy, the Cyclops.
I couldn’t believe that a man onstage simply telling a story could be so entertaining and engaging. I enabled myself to gain a much deeper insight by keeping an open mind and tentatively listening to the story. In the beginning, I assumed that it was going to be a quite boring story about “The Odyssey”. Instead, my mind was able to paint the picture of scenes and characters better than I had ever imagined. I didn’t realize how dramatic and graphic a simple story could become when spoken. The sound effects that he made with both his mouth and guitar were extremely impressive because it made the story that much more realistic.
In relation to our current readings in class, I feel like this experience closely related to the poem “Slam, Dunk, and Hook” by Yusef Komunyakaa. This music-filled storytelling experience and this poem both intended for time to stand still. During this storytelling, I completely forgot about everything and focused solely on the story. I disregarded anything that was going on around me and only wanted to hear what was going to happen to Odysseus next. The poem also creates a mythical atmosphere where the men playing the game of basketball feel like time stands still. The author states, “Created, we could almost last forever, poised in mid air” (lines 8 & 9). It represents the power and the beauty of athleticism, which seems very natural. Komunyakaa suggests that it is natural for human beings to live freely and simply enjoy themselves. This storytelling seemed very natural as well because keeping an open mind and listening tentatively allowed the audience to “see” everything that was happening without it physically occurring. Whether people let their minds run freely as they are listening to a story or they are actively playing a sport that they love, each can be seen as a natural experience where people allow their minds to run freely.