In a world where technology is always shortening attention spans, Sebastian Lockwood, a traveling bard and rhapsode, still has the ability to put people in a story trance. Lockwood will use his gift for oratory on Saturday, Oct. 9, when he performs a live reading of The Odyssey at the Old Meeting House of Francestown.
Lockwood is perhaps the perfect person to bring alive the words of Homer, as his life has been an odyssey, which has allowed him to harness the skills to properly tell an epic story. As a young boy in English boarding school, Lockwood became fascinated with stories of Native Americans. When he was around 11 years old an aunt gave him a novel and he learned a story can take you out of a difficult present and transport you to a magical place. When he read Homer’s The Odyssey as a teenager, it is safe to say he was hooked. In an effort to read more stories, legends and myths, Lockwood studied anthropology, classics and literature at Boston University. His graduate studies at Cambridge University in England focused on anthropology and education. It seems Lockwood was born and then educated to tell stories.
“I’m just one person with nothing else,” Lockwood said. “No digital help. Just the power of voice and a story.”
Telling a story like The Odyssey is intensely physical, according to Lockwood. This can help win over a skeptical audience.
Lockwood said he once performed at a middle school in Hudson and stepped into the gymnasium where 1,200 students crowded around a small circle of space where he was supposed to perform.
“Within a few minutes I always say, ‘Thank you, Homer,’” Lockwood said. “Throughout the performance, I felt I was there, back in time. That is what Homer can do.”
Lockwood performs many of the classics, from Beowulf to The Epic of Gilgamesh. Over the years he’s honed his craft and has performed The Odyssey nearly 75 times. The Odyssey tells the story of the hero Odysseus, who, after 10 years, is still trying to make his way home to Ithaca following the Trojan War.
While the story is familiar to most, Lockwood has an intimacy with the text that allows him to appreciate the language but be comfortable enough to add in occasional improv to bring the story closer to home.
Besides practice, Lockwood said writing his own novels and poems has helped make him a better storyteller.
“I’m glad I spent so much time bloodying my knuckles writing novels,” Lockwood said. “That way when the big stories flow through me it is a beautiful influence.”
Of course, not all stories are epic, and in fact Lockwood appreciates reality TV as a form of storytelling. He said one of the most important aspects of storytelling is conveying reality to others.
“When I teach,” said Lockwood, who teaches at the NH Institute of Art and Nashua Community College, “I tell my students that they tell stories all of the time. But now let’s tell a public story.”
Naturally, Lockwood is an avid reader and believes reading provides a great experience for an individual but he said there is nothing quite like the experience of having 60 people hearing one person recite Homer.