Shawn Odyssey’s one-man show chronicles an ill-fated road trip with ‘Once in a Lifetime’
June 7, 2018
Poet. Composer. Author.
Shawn Odyssey has achieved success as a poet, as an author of two young-adult themed mystery/fantasy novels that garnered Edgar and Agatha award nominations, and as a composer of music for films, video games and TV shows, including "Deadwood."
But Odyssey is following his muse in a completely different direction these days.
On Saturday, he will be at Wild Eye Pub with "Once in a Lifetime," a live performance featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra. In the one-man show, Odyssey tells the true story of how he fell in love with his best friend's girlfriend during a cross-country road trip.
It's not that much of a departure, he insists, pointing out that his creative endeavors all revolve around all story-telling.
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"I see these live performances as part of a natural expansion of my writing," Odyssey said. "Writing novels is certainly my first love — I am always working on a book — but taking my writing directly to the people feels like a natural progression, and a way to bring all the varied mediums I work in (literature, music, theater) together into one package."
Odyssey cites monologist Spalding Gray as an inspiration along with Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, both of whom toured extensively. In a more modern context, he says, humorist David Sedaris brings his autobiographical style directly to the masses.
"It feels right," Odyssey said. "It keeps me growing as an artist. It challenges me to think about writing differently for different mediums, and to bring the work to life on stage. And connecting with a live audience is an intimate experience you just don't get sitting alone in a room and typing on a keyboard … So I figured, why not have it both ways?"
A new trajectory
Odyssey, who was raised in a small town near Bakersfield, is no stranger to performing in front of an audience. He spent eight years in theater in Santa Barbara, doing everything from casting to acting to set design.
"I lived and breathed and drank theater," he said, recalling those 18-hour days.
After he burned out, he turned to composing music for TV and film full-time. Working on "Deadwood" was a definite high point — he called it a dream job from an artistic standpoint, where the composers were handed a tape of the show and given free rein.
He also began writing, eventually writing three novels in the "Oona Crate" series, with a 12-year-old magician/detective heroine.
"I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan — and I love the Harry Potter series as well," Odyssey said. "I liked the idea of magic and mystery together. Almost everything I've written has an element of the supernatural."
He began exploring poetry in more depth when he moved to Nevada County, eventually connecting with a group called the Poetry Crashers and headlining the inaugural Sierra Poetry Festival.
"Getting that response when I read, connecting directly with people — it kicks it up several notches," he said.
Writing is a solitary exercise, a selfish endeavor, Odyssey said, adding that sharing your writing in a public forum makes it a little less of a selfish thing.
"I don't want to psycho-analyze myself, but that's how I connect with people," he said. "That's the best way I know how, to connect with people."
He dates his addiction to the adrenaline rush of performing back to his youth when, before a showing of the movie "Die Hard," he ran up to the front of the theater and told the three worst jokes he could think of. One wasn't even a joke, he said, marveling that it didn't matter, the audience still laughed.
"I saw the power, the momentum (you could build)," he said. "I was hooked."
While he has always enjoyed performing, getting up on stage with your own material is much harder, Odyssey admits.
"This new direction scares me," he said. "It's not the (easy) thing. But I think it's the right thing."
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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