HE HAS BEEN CALLED the man of a thousand voices. From the tiny squeak of a fairy to the thunderous roar of an ogre, from racing hoof beats to raging windstorms, storyteller Odds Bodkin is a one-man symphony of sound.
Performing on a bare stage with only a chair, microphone and a few stringed instruments, Bodkin creates entire worlds using his impressive vocal range. Saturday in Arlington, the New Hampshire-based bard presents "StoryBlast!," a family-friendly concert of multicultural fables and fairy tales -- the show recently ran in an extended engagement at the Clark Studio Theater at New York's Lincoln Center. Combining spoken-word performance with a music score, Bodkin delivers what he describes as a "visual movie of the imagination."
"It works much the way a motion picture works: When children and parents become still and focused, enraptured by a story, they forget they're even sitting there. As the storyteller, I quickly disappear, replaced by their own imaginations," he says.
Traditional storytelling, as Bodkin explains it, developed from a third-person narrative, where listeners had to work hard to imagine story lines. Bodkin parts company with other storytellers by inhabiting his characters, providing full sensory surroundings -- with characters and narrative and constant musical score -- making it easier for audiences to become lost in their own visual version of the story.
Bodkin (yes, he swears it's his original surname; the "Odds" was added later) has been performing for adults and children for the past 20 years. He has taught graduate courses at Antioch College in Ohio in storytelling and myth, and has an undergraduate degree in cognitive psychology. He firmly believes in the power of storytelling as an important key to unlocking a child's imagination.
"I've learned that modern kids, because they experience a lot of screen life, don't have quite as much access to their native imaginations as they have in past generations. But in the presence of a performance where they're given enough energy and mental stimulations, suddenly that ability to imagine just surfaces, and they realize they have this gift of imaginative ability that they often don't get a chance to use.
"It's a wonderful discovery that, yes, indeed they can be creative -- it's all right there, inside."
ODDS BODKIN'S "STORYBLAST!" -- Saturday at 7 at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, 4444 Arlington Blvd., Arlington. 703-528-5406. $8 for advance tickets, $6 for children 12 and younger, $30 per family (maximum of six people). $9 at the door, $7 for children 12 and younger, $35 per family (maximum of six people). The show is co-sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. For tickets and information, call the Park Authority's Potomac Overlook Regional Park Nature Center at the number above or visit 2845 N. Marcey Rd. in north Arlington. For more information on Odds Bodkin, visit www.oddsbodkin.com.