Pre-Fringe Profile: Agamemnon


by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low | 7/19/09 • SHOW TITLE: Agamemnon
PRODUCER: Shadow & Substance Theatre
SHOW DESCRIPTION: In this darkly comic adaptation of Aeschylus’ 458 BC award-winning tragedy, Agamemnon comes home after ten long years at the Trojan Wars to a wife who is plotting to kill him and a ghost who is bent on revenge. Hilarity, violence and incest ensue. Join us for this murderous family reunion!
WHAT CAUGHT MY INTEREST: I ran into this dude hanging out with an old friend from high school I hadn’t seen in years. When I described my show as following the old Fringe formula of “It’s like this, only it’s set in this!”, he sheepishly confessed that that was the nature of his show, as well. Fiddling around with Greek nonsense? I’m surprised this didn’t land on my radar before now. Also, he coins the term “Logorrheic.”

Just who do you think you are, anyway?

womb with a view is the blog of phillip andrew bennett low, one of six bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival and other theater for the daily planet.

Shadow & Substance started in 2007 as my brainchild out of two desires, though it took a while to get going, with several major life changes for me—being out of work for a few months, changing careers, and finding a satisfactory balance between my personal and work life. I wanted to form a company around the group of creative friends that had come together over several years, and build on the network of artists, directors, designers and actors I came across—people I wanted to work with, who have similar artistic philosophies and aims, and just want to do theatre. Second, it was in response to the belief that much of theatre today has gotten away from the main objective of telling good stories in favour of making a profit—the catch-22 for any creative person or group today, that you’ve got to make money in order to make art. With the heartbreaking closing of the Jeune Lune in 2008, I knew that I had to take Dominique Serrand’s words to heart to come up with a vision to create “agile, nomadic, entrepreneurial theatre.” And now the dream is finally coming together.

So what’s the big idea?

We decided to take a classic, beloved, hallowed piece of dusty ancient Greek theatre about a woman tired of her husband coming home late after work (ten years late, to be precise); twist, bastardise and maim it into something silly and comedic; and serve it up chilled with some after-dinner cocktails and a flagon of whiskey.

In the original there’s lots and lots of talking and hinkle-pinkling around, and Clytemnestra spends most of her time brooding and trying to decide how to kill her husband who has suddenly returned from the Trojan wars. Arguably she had ten years to think this through (one of the worst documented cases of procrastination ever), but she was busy fucking her husband’s first cousin (or first-cousin once removed—those incestuous family trees are so tough to trace) so it’s understandable how that might have slipped her mind.

Our version is much less logorrheic. Modern audiences really can’t handle that much prolonged talking (ourselves included), so we try to do as little of it as possible in this production. We’ve retained a skeletal outline of the plot of Agamemnon, so the basic show is there. We just updated it with a sort of psychedelic 70s feel.

How did you come up with a screwy idea like that?

Several years ago, writer and director (and titular character) Eric Netterlund showed me the first couple of pages of an adaptation he was writing of an ancient Greek tragedy that he was doing up as a dark comedy. I’d seen some of Eric’s writing before and knew that it was brilliant, hilarious and engaging, and those first few pages were wonderful; but he didn’t do anything with it for the longest time. Then came time for the 2009 Fringe applications, so I told him that if he would finish the script I’d enter it under my company and produce. It took some persistent, patient prodding, but eventually we brought a completed first draft to the lottery in February. The rest is history. One thing I will say is that each character in this show bears resemblance to characters from Alice in Wonderland in terms of the madcap nature of the story, with a little more violence and hilarity.

Why should I care?

Murder! Revenge! Betrayal! Ghosts! Sock puppets!

Justify your show’s existence in haiku form.

When you knock up your
daughter to kill your brother
bad things will happen.

Phillip Andrew Bennett Low ( is a playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theater critic and libertarian activist, who lurks ominously in the desert wilds of St. Louis Park, feasting upon the hygienically-prepared flesh of the once-living. His main claim to fame is probably as co-founder of the Rockstar Storytellers, and as founder/producer of Maximum Verbosity, a garage-band-like theater troupe that is in a state of constantly re-defining itself.

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