Live reading of 'Odyssey' gives audience an ancient Greek experience

By Leslie King | Emory Report | Jan. 22, 2014

A live, three-day reading of all 24 books of "The Odyssey" begins Friday, Jan. 24, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Michael C. Carlos Museum. The event is in conjunction with the exhibition "Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey," and is being co-sponsored by Theater Emory and the museum.

Emory and Oxford faculty, a student, an alumnus and familiar names from the Atlanta community will read from the Stanley Lombardo translation of Homer’s epic poem of the Greek hero Odysseus' long journey home from the Trojan War in 12th century B.C.

Lombardo, professor of classics at the University of Kansas, will be on campus to open the reading with the first book on Friday evening and will close it with the final book on Sunday afternoon. Readings will run from 7 p.m. to 11p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. All end times are approximate.

"A live reading aptly reflects the origins of Homeric epic in oral poetry and public recitation; it brings the modern audience closer to the traditional ways of experiencing this poetry in ancient Greece," says Henry Bayerle, associate professor of classics at Oxford who will read Book 6 on Friday evening. 

"I feel honored to participate in this reading in conjunction with the Bearden exhibit.  I think the historical continuity and the communal aspect of the reading help to convey the fundamental importance of the 'Odyssey' that Romare Bearden emphasized: its universality as a tool to help us better understand and communicate about the human experience," Bayerle says.

"The audience plays a vital role in this, taking the riveting story and re-imagining it in their own minds as Bearden has done in his art," says Niall Slater, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Latin and Greek, who will take a turn reading.

Readers with name recognition

Atlanta actors E. Roger Mitchell, Chris Kayser, Tiffany Mitchenor, Lisa Paulsen, Tom Key, Janice Akers, and Tim McDonough are among the readers. Akers and McDonough are members of the Theater Studies faculty. Other faculty reading include Lisa Paulsen, Theater Studies; Henry Bayerle, Classical Languages, Oxford; Pellom McDaniels III, faculty curator; Mark Sanders, English and African American Studies; and Joseph Skibell, Creative Writing. Listen to Mark Sanders read a portion from Book Nine.

Jim Grimsley, Creative Writing Fellow; James Zainaldin, McCord Latin Medal in Classics; Bruce Covey, poet; and Jake Krakovsky, C '13, will also read.

Well-known metro Atlanta readers include former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and local television and radio personalities Rose Scott, Jovita Moore and Valerie Jackson.

See the full list of readers and times.

Throughout the readings, the galleries hosting the Bearden exhibition and the permanent collection where Greek objects relating to Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" epics and African and Egyptian art of the sort that inspired Bearden will be open. Visitors for the readings are encouraged to take breaks and view the galleries' objects.

During the event, Zoe’s Kitchen will offer Mediterranean snacks for sale including hummus and pita, and Greek chicken and slaw wraps.

The program is free and open to the public.