Today I had my students watch a clip from a live performance of Gilgamesh by my friend, Charlie Bethel. Since we are beginning The Odyssey, we have been discussing what a live performance by Homer might have been like. Like Homer, Charlie performs as a one-man show without costumes, sets, or props– he relies on his voice, facial expressions, and gesticulations. As we watched, I asked students to write down ten things they noticed about his performance. After the clip, students then shared their observations and went on to write three things they thought and three things they wondered about the actor’s performance.
While they were writing their thinks and wonders, I called Charlie and then put him on speaker-phone so that he could hear their responses and answer their questions (wonders). First, they applauded him enthusiastically. When he began to speak, it was amazing how quiet the room became as students leaned in to hear what he had to say (the speaker on my phone was not very loud). They took turns sharing first what they saw, then what they thought, and finally what they wondered as they came up to place their Post-It Notes on the front board. They took care to come to the phone to speak into it as they were sharing their notes, and Charlie was gracious enough to answer all of their questions about his preparations for such a performance.
All of this is leading up to their own performances of the New York Odyssey that they will be creating. Students then wrote paragraphs describing what they saw in Gilgamesh and how they could take the advice of the actor to aid in their own renditions of The Odyssey.
I think this was a great interaction between the actor and the students, and their enthusiasm for the upcoming assignment was evident. I look forward to seeing what they will come up with!
Thank you, Charlie Bethel!