Kansas University classics professor emeritus Stanley Lombardo’s dramatic reading of his translation of “Inferno” at this weekend’s Fringe Festival KC may be abridged, but he doesn’t leave out author Dante Alighieri’s famously ominous line, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Over the next 45 minutes — the max time allowed for Fringe performances — Lombardo, his drum and a walking stick will transport the audience through the 14th-century poem’s circles of hell, complete with sodomites wandering beneath an eternal rain of fire flakes and sinners in a frozen lake gnawing on one another’s skulls.
Not your typical poetry slam material.
We asked Lombardo a little more about himself and his unusual craft. Five things to know:
1 — Who is he?
Lombardo, 72, retired in May 2014 after 37 years at KU. He’s renowned for translating ancient epics. Since his own college days, he said, he wanted to write poetry and study Greek. He started with Homer.
2 — What does translation have to do with performance?
When it comes to ancient poets like Homer, a lot. “Homer composed for performance — for generations, it wasn’t written down,” Lombardo said, explaining that he takes that to heart in his written translations. “If it doesn’t work as a performance for me, it won’t work on the page ... I want it to come to life.”
3 — Why Dante?
Lombardo’s done a lot of Homer performances, but only excerpts here and there from Dante — nothing this “elaborate.” His director for “The Inferno,” KU theater professor John Gronbeck-Tedesco, suggested it. Plus, Fringe material has to be new.
4 — Favorite thing about performing?
“Occupying the mind of the original author in the most intimate way,” Lombardo said. “For me, translation has always been not just, ‘What do these words mean?’ but ‘What is the mind that produced this amazing piece of poetry?’”
5 — What else is he up to these days?
Translating “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” which has required studying Akkadian (an extinct east Semitic language). Also continuing to perform dramatic readings at colleges campuses across the country.
If you go
Lombardo will perform ‘The Inferno’ at 6 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 9 p.m. July 25 at Westport Coffee House, 4010 Pennsylvania Ave. in Kansas City, Mo. Find a full Fringe schedule online at kcfringe.org. Read about other highlights in Lawrence.com’s latest Kansas City Connection column.
Shane Lopez of the KU School of Business, set to take part in a public event at the Lawrence Arts Center this very evening, worked on a Gallup poll that was featured yesterday by the New York Times.
The poll of about 172,000 people had to do with the "well-being" of Americans by occupation, and per the Times and Gallup it was most notable for how highly teachers ranked on the list, trailing physicians on how they rate the quality of their lives. Lopez is a senior scientist for Gallup as well as a professor of the practice in the business school.
When I talked to him this week about his new book on hope and Lawrence events related to it, he told me he uses his psychology background to help Gallup craft questions and scales to measure concepts like hope and well-being. He doesn't have to handle the mathematical heavy-lifting of coming up with representative samples to poll.
This post also gives me an excuse to include a quote from Lopez that is tremendous but did not fit in my story earlier this week.
He was telling me about how he worked with Stan Lombardo, a KU professor of classics, to help put together an iPhone app that aims to help people become more hopeful with a story alluding to Homer's "The Odyssey." Lombardo, who writes and publicly reads translations of ancient Greek works such as Homer's poetry, is literally a Zen master and has a Wikipedia page.
Anyway, here's what Lopez said when describing Lombardo, whom he also called a "renaissance man": "He's a modern-day Hemingway, without the alcohol and depression."
I'm sure that bit of praise will be printed on the back of Lombardo's next translation.
Lopez's "Making Hope Happen in Our City" event is at 7 p.m. today at the Lawrence Arts Center.
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Your weekly update on where folks from KU have popped up in the news around the country:
• The Minnesota Star Tribune cited a study by assistant professor of business Felix Meschke, along with two University of Minnesota researchers, that found companies that make big political donations don't really tend to help their bottom lines. That study has been mentioned in the New York Times and Time magazine, too.
• Chip Taylor, director of KU's Monarch Watch Program, talked with the Washington Post's kids' section about monarch butterflies' annual migration to Mexico and back.
• Stanley Lombardo, a professor of classics, took part in a "Homerathon" at Ave Maria University in Florida, per the Naples Daily News. A Homerathon is a 24-hour reading of all 24 books of Homer's "Iliad," and the translation used was Lombardo's.
• Shane Lopez, a professor of the practice in the KU School of Business, talked with the Gallup Business Journal about his research on the importance of hope in business.
• Phillip Hofstra, a professor of design at KU and the most recent winner of the HOPE teaching award from students, got a mention in this Kansas City Star story about Shea Rush, the son of former KC high school basketball star JaRon Rush (and nephew of former KU star Brandon). Shea, 15, is also Hofstra's grandson, and the story says Hofstra's work has inspired his grandson to consider a career in architecture.
If you spot any KU mentions somewhere out there in the vast expanse of the Internet, feel free to shoot me a link at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, please, don't forget to send your KU news tips there, too.