A Missionary Position
(LOKI mimes knocking on an imaginary door.)
THOR: Who goes there?
(LOKI attempts to run past THOR, who clotheslines him.)
And so, with a knock-knock joke, a pratfall, and a really bad
pun, Maximum Verbosity made its debut.
The name itself wasn't much more than an obscure joke. The "company"
consisted of a few friends I'd taken out to dinner and asked to help me
develop a floundering script - but I knew that collaboration was something
important to me, so I wasn't comfortable putting down my name as the sole
producer. I asked the cast to come up with some names. They didn't. I
came up with several. They hated all of them. I asked them to pick the
one they hated the least, and thus Maximum Verbosity was born.
I never really got around to putting together a mission statement. Why
bother? It seemed pretentious, presumptuous, when we were never really
more than a garage band, only for theatre - when we never really had any
plans to make it past the next show. And yet, we did - the name became
a shoddy coat-hook upon which we'd hang one production after another.
I kept writing scripts, and the same crew kept coming together to work
on them, infusing the words with their ideas, their personalities, actively
shaping them into something I couldn't have achieved as a diminutive desktop
What's more, people started talking about us as a troupe, as a company,
as a unit, rather than as a collection of individuals. Reviews made reference
to my "motley crew." Somehow, the mere act of creating a name
had created a thing - a thing that was bigger than any one of us.
But how to describe what we do? Five years ago, I could have summarized
it in one word: mythology. We did anachronistic retellings of classical
myths and folktales. But then, we ended up branching out, taking on pop-culture,
politics, and genealogy. This may be stretching the original definition;
fortunately, I can make a word do some pretty neat tricks. As our name
should have suggested to me, we were expanding to encompass another concept:
language. A tangent, I thought at first. But no; upon reflection,
every show we've done has been about, specifically, the intersection of
the two: the use of language to create mythology.
Lokasenna tells of the god of mischief, a
being trapped in a world where everything is larger and more dangerous
than he is; his only weapon is his treasure-trove of words, using it to
bewilder and deceive those around him, pulling them into and out of trouble
too quickly for the others to keep up. In Son of the
Dragon, Mordred uses language in an attempt to reshape history, his
own and his father's. In Broceliande, words
are an explicitly magical force, able to quite literally reshape reality
around the speaker. And Libertarian Rage - every
song, every sketch, every rant, is about the myriad ways that language
is used to control people.
Perhaps it's in the latter show that I became aware of another layer
to what we could do. I still choose to characterize myself as a fantasy
writer. The problem is, I'm not as good at it as so many others - religious
and political figures constantly weaving new stories, our popular culture
building a new mythology around us all the time. Fish don't know what
water is, because they're immersed in it - and I'm convinced that we have
the same oblivious attitude to our own folklore. As artists, we have the
power to make new stories, better stories, to challenge those assumptions
ingrained so deeply we're no longer even aware of their existence.
Of course, maybe that's bullshit. Maybe that's something I just pulled
out of my ass in an attempt to rationalize everything we've done. Maybe
it's nothing more than empty words. But if Maximum Verbosity is about
anything, it's about the idea that words are important. The act of naming
a thing defines it, creates it in people's imaginations. Maybe I'm trying
to re-create this troupe in mine, and yours as well.
In any case, we're beginning our fifth year. We've produced five shows in a multiplicity of genres - musical comedy, verse tragedy, mime and political satire. Hopefully, we've proven that we're going to be around for a while. It's time to take a swing at a mission statement.
The mission of Maximum Verbosity will be to stimulate questions; more specifically, to interpret old mythology through the lens of the new and, perhaps more importantly, to interpret our new mythology through the lens of the old, with an especial focus on the use of language to create myth. This approach implies a willingness to embrace creative anachronism and to explore issues of religion, spirituality, and politics across a wide variety of genres and disciplines. The troupe will function as a decentralized collective of individuals without relying on state recognition or support.