MENTORS AND TELEMACHI
Mentor was the man entrusted with teaching and guiding Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, while Odysseus was away at the wars. His teaching, in loco parentis, was informal, organic: a story of experience and wisdom in dialogue with a searching inquisitive potential. So far, so didactic. But there is more to the myth. Mentor’s open approach allowed for a spiritual, even divine intervention – the Goddess Athene was able to speak through his form, and not just to Telemachus, but also the restless father, Odysseus.
Mentor’s reward? His name has become a verb. (Sadly Telemachus has become a passive Mentee – for my taste sounding too much like manatee, the sweet but rather gormless South American sea cow.)
I am proud of my dad for many reasons, but high on the list of qualities I admire was his endless capacity for learning. Right until the end he was studying technique and interpretation, often looking again with an open mind at pieces he had been performing for decades. He approached each new role with the enthusiasm and concern of a young actor on his first job after college. He read, he talked it through, he thought, he tried things, he talked, he listened, he questioned, he talked (did I mention that?), he tried something else… and in the end, he shared it all in performance. At the same time in his communication classes he experimented with ways of reaching, helping, supporting, challenging young singers to make a personal connection with whatever they were singing, and to communicate with the public. This work with students in turn fed back directly into his own work. A two way process. For himself and his students he aimed at emotional commitment, risk, and believed the right to fail. Here’s an extract from a talk he gave for the RPS:
“We can only bare our souls in public if we play and sing with true meaning, coming directly from us. If we put up a veneer to cover ourselves, and just play or sing the notes, leaving out any personal involvement, then of course we will be safe, but frankly there will be no real performance.”
These are the ideas underpinning the RPS/YCAT Mentoring Scheme: two artists at different stages in life and career coming together to learn, enquire and develop. An exemplary and radical idea, and one which I know dad supported energetically. He might have found it rather too grand to have his name in the title of the scheme, but we are proud to see it there.