As It Happens

This prof is turning Homer's Iliad into a weekly, serialized 1-person bar show

Lynn Kozak is spending their sabbatical from McGill University in a bar on Montreal's Park Avenue, starring in a solo-series called Happy Hour Homer.
McGill University classical studies professor Lynn Kozak is spending their sabbatical performing Homer's Iliad in weekly instalments at a Montreal bar. (Submitted by Lynn Kozak) (Shanon Fitzpatrick)

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Lynn Kozak says Homer's Iliad is a lot like HBO's Game of Thrones.

"Because of the number of characters that you have to keep up with," the McGill University classical studies professor told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"And also because of the fact that there's not always clean-cut kind of villains or who you're supposed to be rooting for in any major scene — especially in battle scenes."

Kozak is playing all those complex and opposing characters in their one-person, serialized rendition of the epic Greek poem called Previously on ... The Iliad.

And just like Game of Thrones, you can catch it in weekly instalments. 

"A lot of [The Illiad's] features that people think about in terms of its oral composition are actually similar to some of our longform narratives now in terms of how things are repeated or recapped," Kozak said.

"So I wanted to sort of test those ideas out in real time."

Lynn Kozak's weekly one-person performance of The Iliad is inspired by serialized television shows. ( Previously On... THE ILIAD/YouTube)

Every Monday, Kozak performs a one-hour segment of the classic war story at a downtown Montreal bar.

There's no stage, no dramatic lights, no elaborate props — just Kozak performing for a beer-swilling audience during an event dubbed Happy Hour Homer. 

"The Iliad isn't really a theatre piece," they said. 

"It's really a story. It's really a one-person show. And for me it's just important to be in a place that's casual and where I'm with the audience."

Tune in next week 

On top of starring in the series, Kozak also translates Homer's words from the original Greek. That gives the professor one week translate, memorize and rehearse ahead of each new instalment.

Working with directors to figure out where each "episode" begins and ends makes for a fascinating study of Homer, Kozak said.

"We're not really sure how The Iliad was broken up originally, and so thinking about where or if episodes exist in the epic is part of what I'm thinking about," Kozak said.

"Sometimes there are cliffhangers. Sometimes they have resolutions. It's been an interesting mix so far."

You can catch Previously on ... The Iliad every Monday at 6 p.m. at Bar des Pins in Montreal, or follow along on YouTube.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Previously on ... The Iliad took place every Tuesday at 6 p.m. In fact, it takes place on Mondays.


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