On a warm July evening, on the grassy lawn of the Wilder Observatory, six actors and a musician from the Mettawee River Theatre Company gathered in front of an audience of all ages and used puppets and poetry to bring a medieval Welsh tale to life. Taliesin—which blends mythology and real historical figures—tells of a boy magically reborn as a sorcerer-poet and adopted by a fisherman and his wife, who uses his extraordinary gifts to shake things up in the king’s court. The performance was the result of a joint effort between two theater professionals who first collaborated at Amherst College more than 55 years ago.
At first glance, it looks like a tiny housing development has cropped up in the environs of the Emily Dickinson Museum. The 40 little white houses are like the words of the poet herself: carefully prepared, diligently arranged and deceptively spare. There aren’t any tiny people living here, though—just big ideas.
In general terms, an epic is a grandiose literary history of a people. This usually includes founding stories, battles, and etiologies. Although the components of these tales may seem absurd at the moment in which they are set and/or created, truly successful epics transcend eras and become accepted in times far removed from their inception points. Oftentimes, myths accompany epics as driving forces or scapegoats for the more extreme aspects of the stories. Epics that survive their inception describe ideologies that are bigger than the epics themselves.