SHERIDAN — Going into the first episode of Sheridan resident Aaron Odom’s new podcast, you have to ask yourself: What exactly is a “Euripides Eumenides”?
Well, it’s many things. For one, it’s the title of the podcast. For another, it’s tied to Greek theater history — Euripides was a tragedian of classical Athens and Eumenides was a play written by Aeschylus.
But, most of all, it is a really bad dad joke.
“My deep appreciation of theater history was instilled in me by (Casper College theater professor) Tom Empey, a college mentor to me and hundreds of others,” Odom said in the early going of the podcast’s first episode, which was released earlier this week. “While teaching Greek theater terms, he would grab his slacks and say ‘You see these pants? Euripides (You-rip-a-these) Eumenides (You-mend-a-these)’ — making light of content that could be considered dry and stuffy while also maintaining respect for the art.”
Empey passed in 2016, but his legacy of theater history mixed with the right amount of dad jokes lives on in Odom’s new podcast.
“It’s a theater history podcast, but it’s not just for theater nerds,” Odom said. “It was a huge goal of mine to make it relatable and fun for everybody in the same way Tom Empey did in our classes at Casper College.”
Every episode of “Euripides Eumenides” follows the same basic format: Odom invites a friend he made during his career in the theater to discuss an undisclosed “weird or fascinating topic from theater history.”
One of the show’s early guests is Karen Knappenberger, who first met Odom in the theater program at Casper College in 1999.
“I think what Aaron’s done is taken a different approach to teaching theater history in a way that’s interesting and fun,” said Knappenberger, who currently works as a drama therapist in Kansas. “He’s taking some of the lesser-known pieces of that history and making it easily understandable, in a way that it sometimes isn’t.”
If the conversations come off as spontaneous and relaxed, the final product obscures the countless hours of hard work that go into each episode, Odom said. Odom spends hours taking a deep dive into each episode’s topic and eventually compiles a script — “It’s basically a 15-page essay,” he said.
Odom also hosts, records and edits each episode. As someone who’s spent more time on the stage than in front of a microphone, Odom admits it has taken some time to get used to this new art form.
“My primary education is in acting and directing, and I forgot just how much is done visually,” Odom said. “I’ve instructed my guests to turn their reactions audible because the audience can’t hear you roll your eyes. That’s something I’ve had to teach myself too.”
“Euripides Eumenides” is the latest production of Odom’s private production company, Trident Theatre, which was formed in 2016 with the goal of “engaging audiences and creating experiences they want to talk about,” Odom said. This has manifested itself in multiple ways over the years — from two live stage productions to a classic horror film series at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center to historic reenactments at Fort Phil Kearny.
Trident has always strived to be flexible, Odom said, and that virtue has become increasingly valuable in the last year as COVID-19 has shattered the “typical” theatrical experience.
“With everything going on with the coronavirus, we don’t know what performing arts is going to look like for the next little while,” Odom said. “But I knew I wanted to do something that connected the theater community during this time when we were apart… I always ask myself ‘What’s the challenge today?’ and ‘What is going to speak to this community the best right now?’ For now, the answer is a podcast.”
Knappenberger said the podcast’s sense of community was one of its greatest values, and Odom helped return something to the theater world the pandemic had ripped from them.
“Theater is a collaborative art that requires us to be together — not just the actors on the stage, but those behind the scenes as well,” Knappenberger said. “When we lose that opportunity, there is almost a grief process involved. When you lose that support system, it can create a lot of distress. Being connected through the technology — I think it’s very important in maintaining that identity of who we are as a theatrical community.”
Odom noted this wasn’t the first time in theater history when the drama world slowed to a stop. During the Dark Ages, there was no theater for six centuries.
“I think live theater will come back, and I’m interested to see how that will happen,” Odom said. “But for now, the circumstances of the world are what they are, and the theater community is just trying to figure out how we can get around them and adapt to them. But I think we can take comfort in knowing theater has survived worse.”
Odom said it was hard to predict just what 2021 would bring for the theater community. But one thing is for sure: Every two weeks, a new episode of “Euripides Eumenides” will arrive, providing an ample source of community, education and bad dad jokes.
“We have to keep evolving, and we have to choose to do so,” Odom said. “That’s Trident really. It means a lot to me to stay flexible and fluid. I never saw myself getting into podcasts, but that’s the main focus of what Trident is now. Because, at this moment, this is the best way for me to engage with our theatrical community.”
The first episode of “Euripides Eumenides” is now available on most major podcast providers including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.