Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, a local Asian American actor, playwright, and founder of Maximum Verbosity Theater Group, will premiere his solo storytelling performance, Descendant of Dragons, as part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Low is a Chinese-American on a quest to find his ancestors and himself across four continents and four thousand years.
In the character of his first non-fiction show, and in real life, Low is the only member of his immediate family who is not an immigrant. He struggles with discovering with what it means to be Chinese, and then with becoming an American again, within the larger scope of what it means to be pinned between humanity’s youngest and most ancient civilizations.
From the beaches of the Fiji Islands to Buddhist temples in Vancouver; to the Amsterdam’s Red Light District to the heart of Red China, Low’s adventure follows the spirit of Mark Twain’s ‘The Innocents Abroad’ in its cranky libertarian narrative against Communist bureaucracy.
After touring to surrounding communities, Maximum Verbosity ventured out of state for the first time to perform at an Iowa festival. While on the road he worked to improve the show on the road, because he felt its relevance as a comic travelogue.
Low presents his trademark physical comedy, with a little copious bilingual profanity using prose and spoken word, and cautions that he doesn’t follow the party line with the “API scene” which he clarifies as “Asian-Pacific Islander” and not “Application Programming Interface.”
“I’m marginally less qualified to talk about (the latter),” he said. “Actually, I question how qualified I am to talk about the former.
“I was, after all, born and raised in this country,” he added. “To be honest, I have something of an ambivalent relationship with the Asian-American community.”
Low said that tension stems from embracing different political notions, and often questions the issues that the API communities tend to focus on in recent years.
“That tension is in fact a large part of the show, that I suspect a lot of other ABC’s (American Born Chinese) like me will be able to relate to: trying to come to terms with a four-thousand-year-old tradition, and coming to terms with it from an extremely Western, irreverent, individualistic point of view.”
“As I say in the show, ‘I can tell you a hell of a lot more about Aquaman’s post-Zero-Hour continuity than I can about ancient Chinese history.”
Low approached this story as with his other scripts. He had accumulated a subconscious of thoughts and experiences to the point where they began to emerge and formulate ideas, which then ran through his entertaining style of storytelling.
“I really wanted to hone in on is this idea of individualism versus collectivism,” he said. “It ties into my relationship with my family, concepts of filial piety, and ultimately the ideological differences between East and West.
With a background in physical comedy, particularly Lecoq-based clowning and Decroux-based mime, Low has worked with FoolFest, Minnesota Fringe and the Renaissance Festivals. “Yet I’ve somehow built the bulk of my reputation as a wordsmith,” said Low.
Described as a “playwright, poet, mime, theatre critic, and political activist; Low says that like many Asians, he became something of an overachiever in his area of specialization.
“I’m also a high-school dropout with a healthy contempt for authority, which may possibly be accounted for by the Western half of my heritage,” he said. “My main claim to fame is founding the Minneapolis theatre troupe Maximum Verbosity, which has been going strong – or at least going) since 2004. That’s, like, eight hundred years old, considering the mortality rate of theatre in this town.”
Tickets are $12 for adults with student and senior discounts. Show times are Aug. 9, 8:30 p.m., Aug. 10, 10:00 p.m., Aug. 11, 5:30 p.m., Aug. 12, 1:00 p.m. and Aug 12, 7:00 p.m. All performances are at Patrick’s Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Ave S., Minneapolis. www.maximumverbosityonline.org