Writers’ panel


by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low • July 24, 2008 • I’m a big fan of panel discussions – but I have to confess that this was a bit of a disappointing experience for me. It was a table with some very cool writers – Matthew Everett, Anton Jones, and Michael Shaeffer – as well as some first-time Fringers who seemed to have intriguing stories to tell.

But we never really got into anything that was really interesting to me – the bulk of the questions seemed to be of the “How do you get postcards printed” variety, and I was really craving the opportunity to hear them get their teeth into a subject with some meat in it. I’m not sure what would have helped that to happen – perhaps an aggressive moderator, rather than the open-forum “town-hall” style of the proceedings.

Womb With a View is the blog of Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, one of five bloggers covering the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the Daily Planet.

In any case, there were also several table readings of upcoming scripts. It was interesting to have such a text-focused approach to developing Fringe shows, stripped of the performance polish that so many seem to live or die on.

All Rights Reserved: A Libertarian Rage by Maximum Verbosity

Mine, so I’ll leave it to the discretion of others to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the text.

Bronze Bitch and Dog Tag by Matthew Everett

I had the pleasure of reading this dialogue, along with the playwright. I’ll confess that his favored genre – romantic comedy – is one that leaves me cold. But his facility for well-constructed dialogue is well in evidence – it’s quick and clever, fun to read and fun to listen to. The subject matter – at least of what I’ve heard – is a bit fluffy for my tastes; but fans of this style will find much to enjoy here.

Roofies in the Mochaccino by Michael Shaeffer

I’ve sung his praises plenty, and I was as usual impressed with his material – but this time around, I noted his strengths as a vocal performer. As a fan of slam poetry, I’m critical of how shallow so much of it is – with such a limited time period in which to hit, poets will often hit a single level of intensity and maintain it throughout. But sustaining a full-length show is a different animal entirely – and Michael’s able to hit a range of levels within a single piece. (This was an excellent poem to demonstrate that, a vision of heaven populated by jazz legends. It helps that I’m deeply in love with the subject.)

Trying Guilt by Culture Mesh Collective

I first ran into this dude completely by accident – at his show “Same Difference” last year, which I saw because I stumbled into the wrong theatre while Fringing frantically. It was pretty awesome, an intelligent script about racial identity that shifted easily between prose and slam verse – and I’m a real sucker for those kinds of linguistic acrobatics. He seems to be doing something similar this time around: his preview was a slam piece, performed by one of his cast members, a cute white girl playing a homeless person. The cadence was engaging, but I had some difficulty following the content of what was said – I imagine that finding actors who have that kind of facility with stylized language, as well as the ability to emotionally engage with it, is challenging. Regardless, I’m sold on this show, if only because I so fondly remember the writer’s previous work.

Skunkape Sexkult by Mother/Destroyer

I think that this guy probably made a mistake, in attempting to read all of the dialogue himself: vocally distinguishing multiple characters is something that even the most skilled actors struggle with, and I got lost in the muddle of characters he was interpreting. Regardless, there were several clever phrases that leapt out at me – “the heaving bosom of academia” is one that I recall off the top of my head. He seems to have an ear for that kind of comedy – if he has a cast that can back it up, and the ability to structure it within a script, he’ll probably have a good show.

10.10 Post 9-11: Laughter in the Aftermath by Adam Sharp

I’m actually really glad that I got to see these guys again, since my only previous exposure was sort of half-seeing them from the back during the Fringe-For-All, and what I saw there…really didn’t impress me, much. It was fast-paced, but largely seemed to be coasting on a single Bush-bashing joke, which really makes me roll my eyes in annoyance. This President seems to be well on his way to becoming a comic stock character for generations to come, a la Richard Nixon, and at this point that character is about as socially relevant as jokes about mimes and insurance salesmen. But! This piece pleased me much better – a Romeo-and-Juliet style parody of Middle-Eastern tensions, built on over-the-top racial stereotypes. I do with they’d pushed it further – I suggested they stick one of the actors in black-face – but it was a solid joke and solidly played. More like this, please.

Phillip Andrew Bennett Low (maximumverbosityonline@gmail.com) is a playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theatre 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 theatre troupe that is in a state of constantly re-defining itself.