There are probably more than a few of us who almost nodded off while trying to read the ancient Greek poem “The Odyssey” in school.

Well, now the Shoestring Theater is giving us a version of Homer’s classic that is sure to be nap-proof.

The Portland-based puppet troupe is putting on “The Odyssey” with Sicilian-style marionettes over four weekends in March at Mayo Street Arts in Portland.

Some of the marionettes — hero Odysseus and his men — will encounter other marionettes who are gods, goddesses or sea monsters. There will be elaborate backgrounds and musicians providing sound effects and backing music.

If all that isn’t enough to keep you awake, the marionettes will be talking to the audience while brandishing weapons.

“There’s a lot of back and forth between the marionettes and the audience, asking questions, addressing the audience,” said Blainor McGough, director of Mayo Street Arts and one of the people who made the puppets to be used in the show.

“There’s also a lot of sword fighting and battling.”

Just as “The Odyssey” is an epic of literature, Shoestring Theater’s production is an epic of a puppet show.

So epic, in fact, that you can’t see it all in one sitting — it takes four.

The performance will take place in four parts over four weekends, starting this Friday and Saturday. There’ll be a Friday evening showing and a Saturday matinee showing of the same part each weekend.

This weekend kicks off with Part I — “Circonians, Lotus Eaters, Cyclops” — to be followed by Part II the following week, and so on.

If you want to see the whole thing, you’ll need to go to at least one show each weekend for the next four weekends.

An epic four-part puppet show may sound a little odd here in Maine. But McGough says such shows are common in Europe, where they use Sicilian-style marionettes — classic-looking rod marionettes operated by puppeteers standing above the stage on a bridge.

“This would be a typical show for (puppeteers) to do in Sicily or Italy,” said McGough, who’s a puppeteer herself.

The dialogue in the performance is adapted — for puppets, of course — by Shoestring Theater director Nance Parker.

Shoestring has performed “The Odyssey” around Maine in the past, but never at Mayo Street Arts.

And because this is an epic puppet show, there is a cast of 30 marionettes to be operated by four puppeteers. Ten to 12 marionettes will be performing at any one time.

The reason this show is being held in March is at least partly because March in Maine — coming at the end of a long, drab winter — can seem pretty epic itself.

“March is a long month,” said McGough. “So having an intense performance like this gives people something to focus on.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @RayRouthier

 

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