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

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Dying To Tell IV:

Part Eight B.A.N.N.E.D. From The CAC


     It wasn’t that much different than today. I was in a strange place, what with the finish line in view just above a fuel gauge that read ‘Empty.’
     Consequently, during load-in, I didn’t move as swiftly as I had the previous nights. And setup was complicated by a number of things. For one, I was all but alone: Kate was at the liquor store, and considering that I’d done it four times already, I hadn’t foreseen any reason that would necessitate Steve’s help with setting up. The only folks around then were Gina and Aaron, and they were up in the booth plugging in the latter’s rather ambitious lighting cues, all 117 of them.
     My last show was set to end with a story spoken over an instrumental, but upon hooking up the player, it became apparent that no one in the house knew how to turn up the backing song’s volume, which was too low. As a result, I was still in the process of setting up when the gate opened and show time approached, and found myself thoroughly frazzled before going on.
     I’m standing backstage, listening to one of the fringe coordinators introduce me when suddenly I realize that I still have my keys and wallet in my pants. The funny thing is a few days back the theatre critic at The Enquirer dressed down one of the other performers because his keys were rattling throughout his monologue. “Note to amateurs,” the piece read, “empty your pockets.” Well, I knew as much but forgot because of my unexpected time crunch. It was dark back there, I couldn’t see a thing, and so I simply chucked them behind a curtain in some proximity to my other stuff, took the stage....
     The bulk of the show was “Out Of The Nest,” the last thing I had written before embarking on this particular marathon. It was a lengthy resignation from my job, which detailed how I had come to be there and what lead me to stay for so long, among other things. And since the piece jumped from the present to various years throughout the 90’s and back to the present, I decided to begin each section with a poem I had written in each respective era. The result being that I was reading my newest piece alongside some of my oldest, almost all of them for the first time.
     What’s more, I had realized one mistake in approach that I had made in the previous four shows. For each I had chosen exactly an hour’s worth of material, when really what I should have been doing all along was prepare less than the length of the program. That way one could read in a much more relaxed fashion; also, it allowed for adlibbing and the like....
     This night I would take my time. I had clocked the show at fifty minutes, but didn’t care anyway if I happened to run over. After all, there had been more than one occasion where I had to wait for the program before me to wrap things up.
     I began, in my estimation, somewhat stiffly. The days of speed and no sleep had caught up to me, the concomitant dehydration making it hard to enunciate with any ease or clarity. Still, in no time at all, the aforementioned story had me at the bar celebrating my resignation. At which point I brought out a bottle of Jameson, did a shot and offered it to anyone in the audience that was interested. To my surprise, people lined up as I continued to read, some more than once. Another guest brought out a bottle of his own, Crown Royal, and demanded that I partake of that, too. The result being I relaxed immediately, then gained my footing.

But on the fifth night, in the middle of my performance, something happened that I thought was somewhat inexcusable: A security guard entered the theatre with a flashlight and went into a closet or room behind the audience. He was rooting around in it, with the door open and the light on, for quite some time. At first, I said nothing. However, when it continued and I found myself completely distracted by it, I simply said to the gentleman something along the lines of, “Come on in, have a seat, there are plenty available.” When it continued and without any response on his part, I did become a bit more heated, lamenting the fact that I thought it was rude and disrespectful. Then, I said to the crowd, “My father always told me, ‘you’re only as tall as you are perceived to be.’”

Basically, I acknowledged the situation, and made it part of the show. Without saying anything, in my estimation, that was truly inflammatory or degrading. Well, not before long, the door was closed and the security guard left the theatre....

     
Despite the interruption, and subsequently, the sense that I had lost some of the crowd because of it—whether from the confusion or the way I handled the situation, or from merely having the seal broken makes no difference which—I nonetheless remained relaxed until the story’s end. When Aaron cut the lights on cue, sending the black box theatre into complete darkness just before I uttered the final, penultimate line: “This time you won’t know where to find me.” To which one of my drunken brethren quickly guffawed, “Oh, I will.”
    
  Well shit, I laughed to myself, so much for the sanctity of theatre. I cued up a pre-recorded poem (“Taking Stock”), and then searched blindly for the cap to the Jameson. Not finding it, I grabbed the bottle anyhow and felt my way stage left. The sample played out as very gradually Aaron eased one light up to reveal me lying in a makeshift coffin, bottle held aloft.
     I had some time to reflect, what with nothing to do but recline peacefully. And before long this thought occurred to me: Mark, not only did you do it—five different shows in two weeks—but you also closed a bar every night, and got carryout more often than not! No wonder I chose the following as my epitaph:
                                                            Full of life, lousy
                                                            At living.


     And once the sample was over, I then rose from my grave and all too quietly did my exit song.

I found my place and finished the show, saying at the end, “Now I have to go apologize to the security guard.”

I didn’t have a chance. As soon as the lights came up, and before most of the crowd had even vacated the theatre, Isaac confronted me, saying in a not exactly calm fashion that he didn’t appreciate being disrespected by me for doing his job. I told him that was probably nothing compared to how I felt when he interrupted me while I was attempting to do mine. At this point, he then tells me that I have to immediately leave the premises. I explained to him that I would leave after I was done packing up my equipment, some of which was expensive and some of which was borrowed from other artists. Isaac then said he was going to call the cops, which infuriated me beyond comprehension and resulted in me telling him to “Fuck off,” a fact I am not altogether proud of but the absurdity of the situation and his inflexibility somehow seemed to warrant it at the time.

     The scene was pure mayhem. Folks were saying ‘hello’ and ‘congratulations’ while unbeknownst to them I was being threatened with trespassing. To make matters worse, apparently I had somehow run over by more than fifteen minutes; members of the next show had barged in the second they heard applause, were frantically setting up their props before I even began breaking mine down. Gina was on the horn, almost in tears, attempting damage control. I threw cables and chords in bags pell-mell, while my friends packed up the other gear in record time, just as someone came barreling in to announce that the cops had indeed arrived. How novel, if only because I had been on what amounted to a month long speed binge, was somewhat drunk, and could barely separate my upper lip from my bottom, let alone speak convincingly. All this happening when I had been so damn close to getting away with it, too.
     I looked around quickly to see if I had left anything behind, but the next show had pretty much taken over the space. “Well, if you find anything, it’s probably mine,” I told one of the performers. Then, I asked Winterhalter to walk in front of me as we traversed the steps up. Once there, the first thing I noticed was a guy passed out on a bench by the front door. Which is when I figured, hell, whatever was in store for me, at least no one could argue that my exit wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll.

The police were called, but did not arrive until after I had finished with my packing. They greeted me on the street, where half of the people that had just witnessed my performance looked on as I was informed by both Isaac and the police that I was banned from stepping foot back inside the premises, until told differently. Some of the onlookers began to defend me to the police, the scene was getting heated, at which time I apologized to Isaac and attempted to shake his hand and move on....

     Jason Bruffy, the producing director for the festival, came running up Sixth Street with a walkie-talkie in hand. He asked me what was up and I told him my version of the events, saying in the end, “Look man, I stuck up for myself and the guy took it personally is all. But the fact is I’m tired of being marginalized, I’m tired of eating more turds than I shit, you know?” He nodded his head as if satisfied before walking off. Meanwhile, a few members of the audience—my previous landlady from Main Street, Julie Fay, among them—were still hanging around, awaiting fireworks that weren’t going to be lit by me, so I jokingly shooed them away while bidding them adieu.
     After that, there was nothing to do but bum a cigarette and load up the van as the cops watched from a distance. Go home and unpack. Which is when I was reminded of my wallet and keys.
     Checkmate.
     Fuck! Just then I should have been emitting sighs of relief, but was going ape-shit instead. So, I had a pull from what remained of the whiskey to calm myself. Made a couple of calls, but the show must have still been going on because no one answered. I couldn’t request that they interrupt the thing, that much was sure. Nor could I go look myself. My girl would have to do it while I waited in her van.
     She didn’t find them. As a result, she’d be buying when we went to the bar in order to “celebrate.” And this time, when told to go home, I would be aware of most if not all of the punch lines....

I have since found out, from Fringe volunteer Lindsay Caron, who was taking tickets and selling refreshments just outside the theatre, that at one point during my performance she asked Isaac if she could get some more light with which to better read her book, not knowing that the control for it was inside the theatre itself. This hardly seems to me to be a reasonable justification for distracting a performance, mine or anyone else’s, and thus a lapse of both judgment and sensitivity on Isaac’s behalf.

That said, I ask you to consider the above. Also, that I do not feel as if this is a matter in which one needs to choose sides. I feel no true ill will towards anyone associated with your fine institution at this time, regardless of where all this leads. I am not asking for anyone to be reprimanded, nor for an apology, as I only wish to know where I stand.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that I do take pride in my work, and tend to conduct myself professionally and be a good guest. What transpired was merely a direct result of one of your personnel undermining a performance that, in my estimation, was undeserving of such treatment. Also, I understand that you were kind enough to donate your facility to the Fringe Festival, a fact I salute and thus truly hope that whatever happens it does not reflect negatively on their organization. Still, I do believe that anything presented inside your doors should be protected with a modicum of sanctity, regardless of the circumstances of its being presented, and regardless of how many are there to witness it. Would the same thing have happened during the last act of “Macbeth?” I would like to think not; nor do I recall any similar distractions during the premiere of The Jackleg Testament, for instance. I say, let those that have experienced the work decide what is important and what is not, and let them experience it undefiled.

These are my thoughts on the matter, and the facts as I see them. Feel free to contact me if more information is needed or if you would like some corroboration concerning my presentation of said facts. Many that were there in the audience have offered, Jay Bolotin among them.

Sincerely,
Mark Flanigan


EPILOGUE

     
My finger was being bent with such an utter disregard for my comfort that I already knew what the guy thought of me. “Where you cut yourself, unfortunately, is the most difficult to repair,” he said. “When did you say the accident occurred?”
      “Seven months ago.”
     “You’re best hope would have been going to the emergency room, they would have had a chance then.” The doctor looked at me gravely, sighed, “Well, what we can do now is take a tendon out of your foot and replace the one in your hand. But you should know it will require as many as three operations, no less than two, and three to four months of physical therapy,” he explained. “You should also know that this procedure is definitely the most difficult of all hand surgeries, and the success rate is only at about 85%. Which means there’s a 15% chance your hand could get worse.” He bent his pinky finger at the knuckle at ninety degrees. “It could get stuck like this, for instance.”
     “I wouldn’t be able to even type like that,” I reminded him.
     “That’s why I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the procedure. I’ll do it, mind you, but it’s quite a commitment. Your other option of course is to learn to live with it.”
     “Of course,” I said, falling quiet.
     After some silence, the doctor asked, “So, what do you think?”
     I wasn’t sure. Part of me wanted to gamble on the operation in hopes of having a fully functioning hand again. While another part of me instinctively shies away from most commitment. “I’ll keep it,” I told him. “You know, what the hell? If only as another reminder of me, dying to tell....”

AFTERWORD

     Not much has changed. Try as I might, I seem to be incapable of being “good” or sane anymore. Why, just the other day, before a somewhat important meeting—one that demanded I be of sober if not sound mind—a friend shows up with a small package. I have a taste before heading out the door, the fact that it’s free my justification. Get in the car, drive downtown. Realize that I suddenly can’t locate a building I had been to at least twenty times already.
     I’m driving around in circles, being forced to take wrong turns by the ebb and flow of a traffic that’s taking advantage of my temporary docility. This until the clock moves past my scheduled appointment time, and suddenly my heart’s racing and in my haste, I cut off a car. I find the building, now I need a place to park. Drive around looking for something on the street and, not long after that, for a garage. The one I use to frequent has been torn down, I notice. Well yeah, it’s been awhile....
     I find a new one. And once above ground, I start walking briskly. Discover after awhile that I’m turned around, heading in the wrong direction again. I double back until I find first my bearings and then the building. My nose is running and I really need a cigarette, but there’s no time for that as I’m already late.
     The doors swoosh open, I step inside. There’s a party in the lobby, and all those beautiful people that must be bussed in from out of town are in attendance. I find the guy I’m looking for, introduce myself.
     “Where do we start?” I ask, awkwardly, full of emotion for some reason.
     “With the weather,” he answers. Then: “Listen, considering my job title, I have no choice but to back up my employee. Having said that, though, I think we all learned a valuable lesson here.”
     “Which one might that be?” I reply.
     He looks away. “You know, the one about how everybody deserves to be treated with respect.”
     I’m buzzed and therefore more demure than I normally would be. Can’t wait for the meeting to be adjourned, really.
     I cut to the chase. “So am I welcome here?”
     He offers his hand, asks, “When’s your next show?”
     “I’m taking a break,” I tell him. “Gonna concentrate on books.”
     “Probably pays better,” he says.
     “I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I just got my first royalty check; it was for two dollars and thirty cents. That’s one copy.”
     The guy rolls his eyes, shrugs his shoulders as if to say what can you do?
     “Anyway, I really only got one goal for this year,” I confide.
     “Yeah, what’s that?” he asks.
     My answer: “To breathe easier.”