NEW YORK – Actor Joseph Medeiros was featured in New Yorker magazine for his one-man performance in East River Park at dawn of Book II of Homer’s Odyssey in ancient Greek. Medeiros, carrying “42 theatrical props, a watermelon, a loom, a rain stick, a goddess headdress, and a Cyclops eye fashioned out of leather,” rode his bike across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan for the performance, the New Yorker reported on October 11 in an article titled Ancient Greek on the Grass.
“This weighs at least fifty pounds,” Medeiros told the New Yorker of the bag of props.
“A few years ago, Medeiros decided that he would memorize Homer’s epic poem in ancient Greek— 12,109 lines— and perform it in the course of twenty-four hours,” the New Yorker reported.
“I’ve always wanted some sort of large-scale solo performance, the idea of a little man in a big world,” he told the New Yorker, adding that “he later opted to stage each of the twenty-four books individually, in outdoor locations around New York,” and “Book II was the project’s public debut (Medeiros performed Book I for a private indoor audience in 2020), and he’d decided to stage it near a cluster of trees beside the East River Park amphitheatre.”
“Someone recommended the amphitheatre,” Medeiros told the New Yorker, “but it’s not welcoming. There’s, like, gravel and dirt, and the stage itself is rough cement.”
“But he liked the idea of performing near the East River, in the morning sun,” the New Yorker reported, noting that “Medeiros, who is 37, has gray-blue eyes and dark-brown hair.”
“When he was a child, in Modesto, California, his parents would take him on road trips to Los Angeles and flights to New York so that he could try out for musicals,” the New Yorker reported, adding that “he made his Broadway debut at the age of eleven, in Big, the Musical.”
Among Medeiros’ other more recent credits are Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women and Claudia Rankine’s Help. While in Chicago performing in Wicked in 2007, “he spent his free time teaching himself ancient Greek” and “10 years later, he enrolled in a classics program at Columbia,” the New Yorker reported.
“I translated a little Emerson into Greek as my final project,” he told the New Yorker.
“In December, Medeiros began memorizing the more than 400 lines of Book II,” the New Yorker reported, adding that “it took him six months.”
“I made recordings of seven to twelve lines at a time, and I’d listen to them while riding my bike around New York,” he told the New Yorker.
“He earned money by babysitting and working for the census,” the New Yorker reported.
While people went about their early morning exercise routines in East River Park, Medeiros set up for his performance and “three guests took seats on the grass,” the New Yorker reported, adding that “at 6:30, the performance began.”
“Medeiros used visual cues to help listeners understand the story, including a sign that read ‘telemachus is sent on a journey’ and an array of nine T-shirts with heat-transferred letters that he rapidly changed in and out of, to designate the speaker,” the New Yorker reported, noting that “like Odysseus, he navigated his share of distractions.” “In the opening scene of Book II (in which ‘two swift dogs’ follow Telemachus), a couple of pups on the loose sprinted across the grass, their panting owner in pursuit,” and “during the last third of the book (Telemachus preparing to load the vessel for his journey), a sunrise party boat drifted by on the river, blasting house music” at 7:20 AM, the New Yorker reported, adding that Medeiros “turned toward the boat and shouted, in English: ‘It’s a f***ing Sunday! We’re doing ancient Greek over here!’ Then, back in character, in Greek: ‘Do not go searching for danger out on restless seas!’”
“As he chanted, power walkers stopped in their tracks; a few circled the improvised stage, curious,” the New Yorker reported, noting that “in the final scene, Medeiros did a costume mashup— the Telemachus T-shirt with the goddess headdress, which spelled out ‘Athena’ in glitter.”
After the show, one of the audience members, Joseph Grochowalski, a statistician, said: “When I got here, it was a little bit weird, a lot of people were exercising. But there was this beautiful angle of the sun. I felt I could relate to every emotion,” the New Yorker reported.