Notes on Notes


Who the hell are you?

I’m phillip low. I’ve been in show business in a pretty wide variety of capacities, but I would guess that I’m best-known as a touring storyteller.

I’m having a hard time following all of your reviews.

For ease of navigation, I’m keeping them linked from this frequently updated page.

Your reviews are weird.

My philosophy of reviewing is that this constitutes a kind of continuing education for me – I have a professional and technical interest in studying the decisions made by other artists. Writing these reviews keeps me from shrugging and asserting that “That was good” or “That was bad”, but rather analyzing what they did, and what my emotional and intellectual responses were.

So if that’s your approach, why would anyone else want to read that?

Honestly? Beats me. I’ve never sought out a reviewing job in my life, but in the past six years I’ve been approached by several organizations to keep doing this, so that leads me to believe that something I’m doing here is resonating for someone.

Why do you talk about yourself so much?

I’m as much a blogger as I am a critic, and, yeah, I tangent pretty freely – into how the show made me think about a book I just read, or a project I worked on a while back, or an old Buffy episode. I don’t believe in objective criticism. Every critic has prejudices – I state mine up front.

You said you don’t like this kind of show, but you reviewed it anyway. What gives?

I tend to try to see shows randomly, based almost entirely on location – where I need to be at any given moment, either for my writing assignments or for my own performances. Given the option, I will strike up conversations with others and tag along to whatever they’re seeing next. I like going in without a lot of preparation – I want to be surprised.

Why do you review people you know?

For a number of reasons, not least of which is how tightly incestuous the Minneapolis theatre community is – everyone works with everyone else sooner or later, and as I’ve been actively Fringing for nearly a decade now, it’s hugely challenging to find a show where I *don’t* know someone who’s worked on it.

As stated above, my primary function here is to study the work of others, and that includes many of my colleagues. I don’t give anyone special treatment – I’ve given some very negative reviews to some very close associates – and, when I have multiple options available, I try to see those who I haven’t seen before.

That said, I recognize that some have a real problem with this, so I clearly indicate at the top of the review my working relationship with anyone involved – you are more than welcome to skip to the next review down the line.

Man, why you gotta be hating on the kids?

Actually, I love good childrens’ theatre. I wrote and performed exclusively for children for nearly six years. Two of my three favorite Fringe shows last year were kids’ shows that prominently featured children in the central cast. I *do* think that there are a number of adults who phone in lazy and insulting work under the banner of childrens’ theatre, and I have very little patience for that.

When I was a child actor, I intensely appreciated the fact that there were adults who had enough respect for my abilities that they held me to a critical standard – and, indeed, I believe that to do any less is insulting to the children who choose to take the stage in a professional theatre festival.

You’re way too nice/mean.

I don’t really think in those terms when I’m writing – I think in terms of trying to be *clear*. It’s pretty unusual for me to actively ream a show, and I have to be pretty angry. The only times that happens are when I find what a show is doing to be morally reprehensible (which is rare) or when I think that the artists really, truly didn’t give a shit (which is *extremely* rare, but has happened a handful of times).

It’s equally unlikely for me to rave about something. I see a *lot* of theatre, and even when I’m really enjoying myself I’ll probably be surreptitiously checking the time more than once.

I absolutely disapprove of your methodology.

Then I cheerfully encourage you to check out some of the other writers we have this year!

I absolutely disapprove of your methodology, and want to give you an earful about it.

I welcome discussion, though unfortunately the Daily Planet doesn’t have a notification system for comments – I’ve often found myself glancing back through old reviews to find that people had left notes that I never heard about. If you’re inclined to contact me directly, you can find my information at this link.

It’s really easy to make yourself sound smart when you ask all the questions, isn’t it?