(Slow piano music, accompanied by a lone trumpet)

I haven’t been performing much recently, outside of the monthly Themeprov shows at Mezrab, which I love, but are very comfortable. Great crowd, fun friends to play with, and working on the craft that I’ve been doing more or less straight for 20 years. It’s always nice to stretch out a little bit. Even if it is only a little bit.

Which brings me to Anson Dashwell’s Toughest Case. As part of this month’s “Ready, Set, Play”, a new night of interactive storytelling, I’ll be dusting off my fedora and taking to the stage as hard-hearted gumshoe Anson Dashwell.

This performance is actually quite a risky and exciting theater piece, combining storycraft, improv, character work, and the great unknowns of audience interaction.

Who is Anson Dashwell

The germs of this piece actually arrived with the name Anson Dashwell. Nothing else. I started thinking more about it, and really latched onto it. Then I started thinking about the ways that I could use the character, and what it might look like how it might be staged, what might happen and so on.

It also got me thinking about the mechanics of mystery and detective stuff – hardboiled characters, cynicism, mood, doublecrossing, getting slugged in the face, a heartless dame, two-bit crooks, etc etc.

Once I sort of figured out the world and Dashwell’s place in it, I decided to try it out.

Anson Dashwell’s first run

I performed a version of this piece as part of an Amsterdam Fringe show a few years ago, and I had a lot of fun. It was at De Nieuwe Anita, and it mostly involved me wearing a fedora, drinking some bourbon and messing with the audience. No structure and no idea. I also combined with a couple of other characters.

Since then it’s largely been shelved, and other than reading a couple of Raymond Chander and Dashiell Hammett novels in the interim, I haven’t put too much thought into how it might work, but I’ve always harbored the idea that it’s something thatc ouold work relaly well and be a lot of fun to work on for me, and to be part of (for the audience). So when my friend Shea Elmore mentioned that he was working on a new interactive storytelling night, I got excited about the idea again.

And this Sunday I’ll be taking Anson Dashwell to Mezrab to see how he begins a show, and steps into a case (slowly, like a cat after a noonday nap, except with a helluva headache, I reckon).

Fortunately, I only have ten minutes to perform, so there’s no need to solve the crime, which I think if I make this into a long and complete piece, will be the big nut to crack.

But this time around I only need to establish the mood, introduce the character, and have some audience interaction, so I’m excited about that. But also nervous.

What can I say? Life ain’t easy, but nobody ever promised it would be, kid.

(Mournful music fades)

NOTE: I’ll also be talking about show creation ideas and more background as part of the Interactive Storytelling Meetup before the show.