Last week Tuesday the Rockstar Storytellers hosted their now-regular Word Ninjas open mic night at Kieran’s Irish pub in Minneapolis. I’m familiar with the Rockstars only by reputation and these Open Mic nights, but I look forward to following them and seeing what happens at them.
Hosted last month by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low (really sir, who uses all of those names all at once?), last week’s open mic was hosted by the vivacious Courtney McLean and featured Phillip’s own storytelling stylings. I was lucky enough to have photographic talents of Michael Tran to stand in for my camera’s dead battery. Thanks, Mike.
Courtney opened the night up with a story of her own, a rather surprising piece about jealous revenge taken on an ex’s new girlfriend, exacted by doing some rather disgusting prank on the new girl’s toothbrush. Honestly, this piece threw me for a loop- McLean is a great performer, but the line between nasty and funny felt off balance during a great portion of the piece. Probably just not my taste- I look forward to seeing more of Courtney’s work in the future.
Mark Ehling followed Courtney with a story that defied all of the rules for writing and performing an interesting piece, but so cleverly that it had the audience in rolls of laughter throughout the reading. He introduced the piece as an interview of himself, conducted by himself, regarding a marketing concept called Slamz. Mark played straighter man to his own straight man act, comedically emotionless and monotone as he recounted the emphatic exclamations the product was supposed to embody. “I am so done with this soft drink.” Generally, we look for spoken words to be expressive and emotive for biggest impact, for the subject matter to be more dramatic or at least dramatically rendered- Mark worked against these much to his piece’s benefit.
Zach Coulter read his piece, “The Beavers Must Die”, a quirkily charming piece about his grandfather’s battles versus the beavers of Siren, Wisconsin. Some of the piece was much stronger than other parts, Coulter packed a poetic punch with occasional consonant descriptions like, “bobbing bloated body of a bygone beaver”.
Vicki Joan Koeck made quite the entrance, wearing a little orphan Annie wig, as she’d come from doing a singing telegram. Koeck performed weather related poems she’d written for the light rail art projects.
In one of the more strange spoken word performances I’ve seen, Lori Mocha retold the entirety of Rocky Balboa (Rocky VI). This should indicate a little of the range of what sort of things can be considered spoken word art.
Keven Krein followed Mocha with a story of Hell and Insomnia in Iowa.
Ben Sandell brought his stand-up comedy act to the stage, and I was charmed to hear his “bad with women” piece updated. Sandell talks about being a creepy guy in the most sweetly awkward way possible.
Ben Egerman told the conspiracy theory story of dealing with the culture shock of moving to rural Minnesota, where the residents spoke Minnesotish- a code language that veiled all its hidden messages in talk about the weather.
Poet Casey Degnan rounded out the open mic, with his poems “Chameleon” and “Can’t Touch the Ground”- beautiful crossover pieces somewhere between page poems and slam poems, between adulthood and childhood.
Finally, feature Rockstar Storyteller Phillip Andrew Bennett Low performed his piece “Quantum Suicide”, which exhibited just about every one of my favorite dynamics of good spoken word performance. Phillip was able to pull of a beautiful piece about quantum mechanics and love, time and mistakes, without losing the audience once. Beyond being a piece that wasn’t dumbed down, the piece was also longer than I imagined appropriate for spoken word performance, without being taxing or losing the audience to distractions. I wish I’d had a working camera to document the performance. The writing was tight, the pace was perfect, and the writer engaged the audience in a smooth and engrossing style. I look forward to seeing more of the work of the Rockstar Storytellers- if P.A.B.L.’s “Quantum Suicide” and Courtney McLean’s story about visiting the playboy mansion (from a prior evening) are any indication of the talents of the group, they are definitely to be watched and learned from.
Finally, I’d like to touch on a pleasant aspect of the evening- a large group of teens accompanied by teachers or parents, balanced the night out with the kind of writing that reminds us where we come from, our most passionate moments- rebellion and depression. I was pleased to see young folks at the event, not just watching, but also performing. Unfortunately, neither I nor my photographer got permission to make the photographs of the two performers, so we’re leaving them off the net at present, out of respect for the minors and their parents/guardians.
The Rockstar Storytellers’ event was not the only one that I was lucky to find young performers- I hope in the near future to also write up the Depot Coffeehouse, if the short open mic prior to their hiphop residency show was indicative of the timbre of their open mics and events- the young people coming out of that venue are definitely to be watched as they grow into themselves as artists.
So many more words and images to come!