about mark flanigan

Cincinnati native Mark Flanigan has been writing and performing for over 14 years....Works from his collections Wrong-Way Poems For One-Way Streets, Not Necessarily God Stories and Next to Nothing have appeared in a variety of independent publications and, along with his performances, have garnered critical acclaim. He has also co-written a screenplay (“Midway,” with Brian Keizer), edited a literary publication (omnibscure) and worked to develop, produce and curate various gallery shows and performance readings -- notably, VOLK/c.s.p.i. and Intermedia Series readings at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Weston art gallery. Flanigan’s monthly column, “Exiled on Main Street,” appeared for over three years, first in x-ray, and upon his resignation there, at semantikon.com. Performances of his can be found on “the Volk/c.s.p.i. spoken word series CD (2001),” which he co-produced, and on the CD “One Night Only" (2002).   To learn more about his work, read his blog, review some of the works mentioned above, and listen to additional audio tracks:

Visit markflanigan.com

flanigan audio
mark flanigan exiled from archives

October 2007: The Dance

June 2007: Cake
May 2007: Special Edition "Light Travel" Mark Flanigan and Steve Proctor
April 2007: Zero Hour
March 2007: Prelude to a Kiss-Off
Jan 2007: State Of The Disunion Address 
Nov 2006: Youngblood
Oct 2006: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
exiled on main street archives

About Artist:

Dying To Tell III:

Part Six Growing Pains

                                             Mark Flanigan
                                             428 Milton St.
                                             Cincinnati, OH 45202
                                             (513) 608-3089

Contemporary Arts Center
Sixth and Walnut Streets
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Attention: Linda Shearer, Director

Dear Linda Shearer:

I am writing today with regards to an unfortunate series of events that occurred on June 10, 2005 while I was performing at your facility for the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. In an attempt to find out if in fact I have been banned from performing and/or entering your museum as a spectator, as I was informed by both the police and one of your security guards, Isaac. Also, to explain from my point of view the circumstances that prompted such a response from them.

First, some context: I am a local writer and performance artist that has had the luxury of performing in places such as the Aronoff Center for the Arts and The Playhouse in the Park, to name a few. My relationship with the CAC dates back to April 2001, where I put a program together for your Contemporary Fridays series; two other performances followed in your new building, the first of which during your inaugural weeks. All three came off without incident, and apart from this past instance, I have no experience with not being allowed back after performing at any other venue....

The following morning I barely noticed my hangover. After all, I was excited. For one, in a few hours, I’d be turning the corner and have the homestretch in sight: show number three, the musical set with my partner-in-crime Steven Proctor, the way I’d get there. And of all the shows thus far, this was the one I had prepared for the most. Which was good, because I was getting assurances at every turn that people were actually going to come out for this one.
     Still, there was some work to do before then. My good friend the guitar player, wonderful as he is, also has the propensity to utilize relatively singular tunings, and as such, in the past the onus had fallen on me to entertain the troops between songs. Something, it dawned on me around our tenth show, I wasn’t very good at doing. As a result, I figured I’d do it in advance by laying down some choice, lengthy samples that would lead into each song appropriately and lend the set a new seamlessness.
     It was hardly work, really. When in doubt, one could always rely on the infinite wisdom of our President for a few choice sound bites. The only thing it did, then, was eat up the day.
     Setup was more like a whirlwind, and sure enough, folks were filing in as advertised. Face after face came through, with a couple surprises even; namely, my father and my eleven-year-old sister, Danielle. The last time the former had come to one of my performances it was a different century; yeah, Christmas night and I had to leave the warmth of my family’s gathering early because, strangely enough, I had a rare gig. At the York Street Cafe, to be exact, for CincyRing.com, an online magazine run by some guy I didn’t even know by the name of Arie Vandenberg.
     I was reading with some friends, thankfully, and I’m not sure who but one of us thought it was a good idea, despite my not having read in public for four years, that we walk outside and share a joint before going on. This while also being more of a coke than pothead. Consequently, once back inside, I became increasingly nervous as I wrestled with the unbelievable fact that no one had yet to come up with a cure for cottonmouth when, bam, who do I see but my old man.... Fuck!
     I couldn’t believe it, so I responded by pretending I didn’t recognize him and high-tailed it to the bar for a double. And, while there, I forgot all about my stoned immaculateness as I remembered what I had prepared to read: a story wherein “the protagonist” (i.e. me) shoots up in the opening frames. All this and I wouldn’t be online the first time for another five years.
     It was quite the dilemma, really. Sure, I had other stuff with me, on the off chance that I happened to whip the crowd into such a frenzy with my prose that another five minutes was absolutely warranted, but I had practiced and wanted to read that particular story.
     But I didn’t, in the end. Fact was, unlike now of course, I was something of a speed freak at the time, and thus much more guarded about such things. I mean, throughout the nineties, I really thought I was the only one doing it. As a result, that night I read something else instead and suddenly, over half a decade later, my father’s sneaking in the theatre mid-opening song with little sis in tow....
     Say what you want about the old man, he’s full of surprises. Meanwhile, I’m not. The opener over, I quickly realize that next up is a little ditty in which “the protagonist” (i.e. me) shoots up in the opening frames.
     Well, it’s not even fair to say I must have grown up in the ensuing years, for I had no choice but to proceed; way I figured it, with my luck, it would be the first time the guy actually listened to me. And throughout the show, I longed to clasp my hands around my little sister’s ears as I had visions of an after show intervention.
     Obviously, there was no such thing. Or, if there was, at least it didn’t take. And that night, too, went well. If there was any shortcoming, it stemmed from the unfortunate fact that I can’t sing, not really, but we’re not talking about that.
     Instead, break the shit down and let’s get a drink. There was a fringe after party at one of my doctor recommended watering holes, the Courtyard Cafe on Main. Truth was, those folks at the festival had a party every night and I had yet to so much as show my face at one of them. Not sure how we had missed each other heretofore, but we had. What’s more, I was getting the feeling that the “fringers,” as they were known, were more of a close-knit community of net workers than a series of individuals thrown together by circumstance. And this no count ne’er-do-well black sheep recluse of a ‘fringer,’ for obvious reasons, had yet to take in any of the other performances, which didn’t help his box office receipts any, you can bet. Nor had he contributed anything to the festival’s blog even.
     I went to the bar instead. Besides, I had an ulterior motive. Earlier that night, I had overheard that both smoking and nudity were forbidden during performances, and it was of utmost import that I find out if this was true. Because in two nights I intended to perform a story in which I have to fuck an agent before he takes me on, and as such, I was in bad need of a dildo. Not that fucking myself on stage would be a wonderful sight to behold for those unfortunate enough to attend, but all the same I felt the need to, you know, stretch certain boundaries, or at least stir the pot.
     Let it also be said that I considered it an honor to perform at your institution; one that I did not take      lightly. I was performing five completely different one-hour shows, which was quite an      undertaking on my part. One I had quit my job of nine years in large part to see through. It was my      intention to approach each show as less performance and more as theatre, utilizing the space and      its lighting to get this point across....

     Amazingly, the producing director, Jason Bruffy, was in attendance and still standing. Talking to him, I thought to slip him some speed but decided to merely thank him for including me in his program. Then, asking him about the nudity thing, he replied, “That’s hogwash, nudity’s permitted so long as it’s announced beforehand.”
     Which, for a one-man show, pretty much shot the wad. But it would have to be good enough, I imagined, and then drank some more.

PART SEVEN: Gratitude

     That next afternoon I didn’t even bother with the paper, went straight to work. I was opening the next set with an a cappella song called “Everybody Get Up (I Need A Seat)” which would require a back-up singer; namely, me. So, I decided to put off my venture to one of the two adult bookstores in Cincinnati, and tackle said samples instead. Then, I practiced the narrative pieces with an eye to staging them. I’d need a table to go along with my dildo; that, and I figured I had better do some sit-ups or something. After that, I had to practice singing the song while plugging in the samples in time. Realized not long after that the samples I had laid down were horrid, that I had to do them over. I experimented with different sounds from my vocal FX processor, found some interesting ones but none that were quite appropriate. Ended up just re-recording them.
     Before long, the adult bookstores were closed and, if I was to get any sleep, I best do it now. I went to bed with one of the experimental sounds, a drumbeat with a delay, playing on repeat in my head. And laying there I thought to myself, hell, you’re reading a poem at the end of the night, you could record that beat with the melody and lyrics from the opening song mixed in, play it while reading the closing poem and thus bring the thing full circle. Yeah, the sound was in my head, my head on my pillow, and knowing me I knew the former wouldn’t be there in the morning, but I was simply too tired to do anything about it. I threw the dice.
     And, in the morning, jumped into the shower. To my surprise, there it was! As soon as I dried myself off, I went straight downstairs and laid down the basic track in one take. Then, I threw in some of the verses, some very bad fake guitar, ooohs and aaahs and nananas and so forth. As I practiced reciting the poem with the song playing in the background, I sensed it was the neatest thing I had ever done and thus couldn’t wait, truly for once, to perform it....
     I wouldn’t have long. Time to pack up again, load the car. I changed my underwear, weighing my choice more carefully than usual. Realized I had no dildo in hand, but I did have my little ditty.
     Still, I had a few minutes before load-in, so I checked my email. The festival was set to name their “Pick of Fringe” sometime today—a strange thing, considering I had two more shows—and, sure enough, the news was waiting for me. They had three “Picks”—Audience, Critic, and Producer—all of which would have a special performance on June 12th, with all the proceeds going to a worthy cause, the Fringe Festival. Well, I knew I wasn’t going to win the audience award, having one was probably a pre-requisite for that. And the critics, hell they weren’t about to give the Best Director nod to Rob Zombie were they? Nor, probably, me. Thinking maybe that I should have offered Bruffy some speed after all, I had to hang my hopes on the Producers.
     But, alas, not having an eating disorder, or being recognized as a gifted retard must have handicapped me out of the running. Oh well, I figured, what do they know? Least I still had my little ditty; I’d show ‘em what’s what....
     What few of them there were, at least. For, once on stage, I couldn’t help but notice that the trend of larger crowds had screeched to a halt. Seating was such that there were two sections split evenly down the middle. On the left, I guessed maybe fifteen folks. As for the right, I didn’t have to guess; there was one. A woman, aged sixty or seventy, sitting alone and waiting patiently for me to entertain her with my story of coerced sodomy.
     I stumbled through the opening song, horribly. Lamented as much mid-song. The crowd, despite its size, was animated and friendly. Some small part of me pitied them, for what I would first set them up for and then subject them to. Probably the most lively and attentive group I’d ever been blessed with, and this was their reward? But the rest of me, well, I had to trust what he was doing, really, at this point.
     “Everybody Get Up (I Need A Seat)” had required a special microphone, which was placed in front of the more populated section, so once that was done I very meekly crossed the stage and effectively read to one person.
     This until the moment in the story where everything turns south, the moment I had written in large part for this very festival but now was dreading somewhat. There was a rapport between this crowd and I; one that I feared losing with one violent stroke. Thus, when the agent whipped out his penis on our poor protagonist, I braced myself for just that but heard titters and chuckles instead. And when he chose to suck it, magically more of the same....
      Just then, I looked to the older woman and saw that she was leaning forward, her hand on her chin and a bemused smile above that. What luck! What a crowd!
     I was off, moving around the stage/the office, recreating the scene, stripping down only so far as my heart-shaped boxers out of respect for the older lady, for Joe Winterhalter and Deb Schwaner and Laura Bosse, who had been to most if not all of the shows. And segueing from the narrative to the final poem, my backing song was cued and, lying prostate on the ground in front of that wonderful crowd, I noticed most everyone leaning towards me, that one slim guy in the center aisle was vacillating between looking at me and scribbling frantically in a pocket notebook. Hell yeah, I thought, maybe the guy’s going to review me, what an interesting chore that would be! And as I started chiming in overtop my sample while standing on a chair, this thought then occurred to me:
     This was all the seat anyone might ever need.

     As far as I know, everything went smoothly for the first four shows. I found the CAC and its staff      quite accommodating, as usual. But on the fifth night, in the middle of my performance, something      happened....