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Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw

My Mother Told Me

Location + schedule

Southern Theater
1420 Washington Ave. S

DateTimeMy FringeAccess
Friday 8/68:30 p.m.  
Saturday 8/72:30 p.m.  
Wednesday 8/1110:00 p.m.  
Thursday 8/125:30 p.m.  
Saturday 8/147:00 p.m.  
About the show

For ages 7+
Dance, Spoken word, Family, Relationships

Created by phillip low and DRP Dance

Overall rating



Armed only with the dubious advice of his mother, the boy sets out to conquer a world full of peril, romance and perilous romance. Words twirl and limbs speak in this unique duet of storytelling and dance.

Dance, storytelling, and bluegrass
Fringe veterans Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw, phillip andrew bennett low, and DRP Dance combine forces to create this genre-blending show of words and movement, set in the eastern hills of North America to a bluegrass score.

This show is part of the Rockstar Storytellers Fringe Passport 2 series. For more information, visit rockstarstorytellers.com.

Previous praise:
"An example of how dance plus text can be more than the sum of their parts rather than mere illustrations of each other" (John Munger, TC Daily Planet blog, 2008)

"What DRP's Artistic Director/Choreographer Danielle Robinson-Prater does best, create visually beautiful stage pictures full of movement...it has its own subconscious logic to it that's extremely satisfying...like good music, it sort of washes over you, submerging you in its world." (Fringe blogger Matthew Everett, 2008)

"With a control over the rhythm and pacing of his words that rivals Saul Williams, Low paints a beautiful and sometimes not so beautiful picture..." (Indianapolis Fun City Finder, 2009)

phillip andrew bennett low
Role: The Boy


phillip andrew bennett low is a playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theatre critic and libertarian activist. He has won acclaim at such varied venues as the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Spirit in the House, FoolFest, and the DC, Indianapolis, Iowa, and Kansas City Fringe Festivals - even as far as Melbourne, Australia. At the 2007 Minnesota Fringe, his one-man show Descendent of Dragons was the bestselling show in its venue, while in 2009 The Rise of General Arthur was nominated for Best Spoken Word Performance by FringeFamous. He is a co-founder of Rockstar Storytellers and founder and producer of Maximum Verbosity, a garage-band-like theatre troupe that he and some friends created a few years back while nobody was looking.

phillip is also performing in Ben San Del's A Nice Guy's Guide to Awkward Sex.

Photo by Craig VanDerSchaegen

Jill Murphy
Role: Dancer


Jill Murphy is thrilled to have another chance to perform with Danielle and Sara. Jill earned her BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota in 2004. She has been a member of DRP Dance since 2004, performing in the Twin Cities and Wisconsin. She has also taught dance at Deuxmensions Dance Theatre and School, and currently works for the Bloomington Center for the Arts.

Photo by Scott Pakudaitis.

Danielle Robinson-Prater
Role: Dancer


Danielle Robinson-Prater is the founder/artistic director of DRP Dance, a professional modern dance company based in Minneapolis, MN. DRP Dance has been exploring movement together since 2004, performing at numerous Twin Cities theaters and in greater Minnesota. The 2010 Fringe Festival is DRP Dance's fourth Fringe season. Danielle is a graduate student at Hamline University, completing a dual master's in Nonprofit Management and an MBA, and has a BFA from Ohio State University. She has had the pleasure of performing and studying with numerous local choreographers and companies including Zenon Dance Company, John Munger and Megan Flood. This is her ninth year working as a dance educator at various institutions and as a guest artist at multiple Minnesota dance schools. DRP Dance is thankful for the invitation and opportunity to collaborate and perform with the other artists, Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw and phillip andrew bennett low. Personal thanks to DRP Dancers, Joel Prater and kisses to her children, Isabella and Eli.

Photo by Scott Pakudaitis.

Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw
Role: Dancer


Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw ("lanky livewire", mnartists.org) has performed in multiple Fringe shows over the past nine years, frequently with dance companies DRP Dance and John Munger's Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble. She has created two previous Fringe shows in collaboration with her husband, including Dance of the Whisky Faerie, the top-selling show at the Southern in the 2008 Fringe. Sara has performed with the Minnesota Opera, the American-Russian Dance Company, the New Scotland Country Dancers (Edinburgh, Scotland), the Scrimshaw Brothers, and more. When not dancing, she manages the tour program at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul and manages the business side of Joking Envelope, the comedy production company formed with her husband Joseph last year. In her spare time, she knits. "A lean, lovely powerhouse whose limbs finely etch lines in space" (Star Tribune).

Photo by Scott Pakudaitis.

User reviews

Excellent
by Liz Floyd Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Some things could have been tweaked to make it really incredible. Phillip’s costume: if the shirt had been grey and both pieces been tailored more I think that would have made a big difference for me. When the sash was added that helped. A wider sash added at different times and had he not always stood so oddly in places would have also made a difference for me. Some other better timed transitions between things would have all added spectacular finesse to it all.
I like what John Munger has to say in his review. It got me to the show out of so many other choices.

A good start...
by Mirah Ammal Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
I’ll begin by saying that I really like the concept the artists are exploring in this work: combining storytelling with dance to accent and augment the story. Clearly the dancers involved are highly skilled, and the story teller achieved a strong, percussive, poetic delivery. There is a lot here to build on.

That said, the performance was a little uneven—some very nice moments, others that just didn’t work. Much of the issue seemed to lie in the story itself—after 45 minutes of set up, it just sort of fizzled. To be honest, an hour later when talking about the show, I couldn’t even remember how it ended. The juxtaposition of the dance and story also felt a little uneven. In some places they wove almost seamlessly together and seemed to enhance one another. In other places, the transition jarred and the two elements didn’t seem to contribute to one another. Finally (and this is a minor quibble), I would have loved to see perhaps a little more color or cohesiveness to the costuming. The story has a folktale/fairy tale kind of feeling to it, yet seems to mix old folk/fairy tale ideas with anachronistic passages. Similarly, the costuming seemed at times an awkward blend. The storyteller’s haphazzard dress (which appeared to be maybe modern black pants and a loose shirt borrowed from a RenFest friend?) didn’t mesh particularly well with the clean lines and uniformity of the contemporary lyrical dresses the dancers wore, fashioned in grey, black and white with snippets of red. Perhaps if the dancers’ costumes had been in a more fanciful color palate or the storyteller’s more elegant and cohesive, it would have helped visually convey a message or to draw the elements together.

All in all, a decent show—would like to see where they take this concept next.

just not my thing?
by amihan huesmann Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
I'll weigh in on the storytelling-and-dance debate first: I'm for it.

The storytelling here, though, was just too hard to follow, and the dance wasn't strong enough to stand alone.

I was also disappointed with the music---it should have been either more or less samey, and I *hated* the live tracks (so distracting!). It was as if they had three CDs and just took tracks off of them for the show.

i liked it well enough...
by mark browning milner Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
i think this blend of story telling and dance worked pretty well, i just think the story might have been...funnier, quirkier, less obscure. i liked ben's delivery plenty, and the dance stuff was cool, and the interaction between the two made perfect sense to me. but i think there is just a better story out there waiting to be told and illustrated through dance.

Less than the sum of its parts
by Justin Alexander Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
My Mother Told Me features good dance. It also features good storytelling. But somehow the combination of the two ends up feeling like less than the sum of its parts.

Partly this is because there's only about forty-five seconds of stage time in which it feels like the oddly dispassionate dance is actually related to the story surrounding it.

But I also feel this disjointed, alternating style is ill-suited to Low's talents. Low's delivery as a storyteller is powerfully rhythmic, creating an ever-rising torrent of words which seem to rush on like living poetry. Like a modern Beowulf, Low's stories sweep you up like a rushing river and carry you along.

But when you interrupt that delivery every few minutes for a dance routine, the power and pace of the rhythm is disrupted instead of being enhanced. You're just beginning to feel the rush of the river rising around you when the water suddenly falls away.

And then Low has to start climbing the mountain again.

With all that being said, there was much here that I found enrapturing. And I'm eager to see where Low is planning to take his Arthurian cycle next.

Melted Myth Room
by Brian Watson-Jones Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
I'm enjoying the experiment of melding dance with other forms that Sara Scrimshaw has been performing for the past couple of years... this piece succeeded much more than "Mansions of Dust" last year, but it feels like there's still one more step towards a unified whole. Great dance, great storytelling, one more solid nudge and we are gonna see something really amazing.

A cross of art forms
by Derek "Duck" Washington Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
I applaud the idea of combining dance and theatre/storytelling together. Crossing the genres of artists from various forms is just not something that happens often enough in my personal opinion. I actually just wished they overlapped a little more. I enjoyed everything I experienced but wanted to see the dancers tell the story Phil was saying through movement while he was saying it and not just interludes in between sections. The few moments where dancers interacted with him I thought were the most impressive of the show. All in all a really good merging of two art forms.

Uneven
by Nadine Sehnert Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
I thought the combination of dance and storytelling worked well. What didn't work well for me was the story and the delivery of the story. It did have elements of a traditional folktale which I liked but it took me several story sections into the story in order to start following along with the tale and the end didn't seem as strong as it could have been.

I enjoyed the dance of Danielle and Sara but did agree with one of the other reviewers that Jill wasn't as strong on stage. I liked the weaving of the story and dance together and the choreography did compliment and move the story along for me.

Exactly.
by Jen Scott Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
To quote other reviewers, this is what the Fringe is for. And the Grey Album of Live Theater is perfect.

Leaving this piece, I'm left with a perfect sense of showmanship. Confident performers, working together in under the parasol of an beautifully dark and evocative story. Truly lovely.

Two Parts, One Whole
by Larry Ripp Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
First the bad news. While wonderful, I felt the dance portions of this piece had very little to do with the "storytelling." That having been said it certainly is VERY GOOD dance! Then we have the storytelling. "Text written and performed by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low" doesn't really tell it like it is. This is VERY stylish and sophisticated writing and storytelling. The combination of Eastern and Western sensiblities within the text and Low's confident stagecraft of movement and speech is very impressive and holds the attention without being pushy or overbearing. Nice work all around makes for something really quite beautiful here. Seems to me that all the artists involved with this piece are heading for interesting and even rather groundbreaking places with their future efforts.

The Grey Album of Live Theater
by Rob Callahan Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Before we go too in-depth about this show, let's take a moment to revisit the cinematic masterpiecery that is Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters is a story that doesn't waste an inch of film. Every scene, no matter its intent, is forwarding the plot and painting the heroes in ever-finer detail. Unlike other sci-fi/fantasy films, it never once shows off its awesome special effects just for the sake of awesome special effects. Compare it to 2001 or Star Trek: The Motion Picture (or, more modernly, Avatar) and note Ghostbusters' complete lack of gratuitous imagery. Oh, the imagery is there. Soupy, evil clouds loom over Manhattan while the heroes fire massive ray guns and make things explode, but at no time does the story pause for these things to happen. Unlike other comedies (take any Adam Sandler film, for instance) it also avoids pausing just to tell a joke. True, there's a laugh in just about every scene, but that which propels the plot doubles as the joke. Other action films will put the story on hold to showcase an over-the-top fight, car chase or explosiongasm, but Ghostbusters uses action only as icing on the proverbial cake that is the advancement of the plot. The same can be said of the film's romance and suspense aspects. If Ghostbusters were a fringe show, we'd all be remiss in giving it less than five kitties.

That said, “My Mother Told Me” is the Ghostbusters of this year's Fringe. Each time the medium changes between storytelling and dance, the story itself continues without missing a beat.

There's a further benefit to this sort of hybrid storytelling where narrator phillip andrew bennett low is concerned. Most of us familiar with his epic, high fantasy storytelling style will probably admit that his densely-packed prose and oft-existential verbiage can be overwhelming from time to time. In any given one hour story of his, you are likely to hear three hours' worth of both words and concepts. It can be enough to exhaust the audience's brains before the show comes to an end, but in “My Mother Told Me” our minds are treated to periods of rest and recovery by the timely insertion of dance. Just when our intellects start to wheeze and fall behind, our eyes step in and take over. The visual side of this tale reigns the cerebral in and gives it a rest until it's ready to run again. The whole experience is something akin to thought and vision running a relay race together.

If there's any one part of the show I can't say much about, it is the dancing. It's not that the dancing isn't good. It's that I don't know enough about dance to critique things like technique and delivery. I don't even know what to call this show's dances. They look like ballet to me, but they're performed to music with a heavy bluegrass leaning. (And no, there's not a hint of hipster irony in them. Somehow, in a way that those more schooled in dance theory could probably actually explain, this just works. Well.) As with low's prose, the moves of Jill Murphy, Danielle Robinson-Prater and Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw build the story up and move it forward. If not for these interludes, tremendous gaps would be apparent in the tale told by low.

If you see “My Mother Told Me” then you will be going to see three shows in one. The first is a straight storytelling show about an epic quest. Another is a straight dance show. About an epic quest. The third show you'll see will be The Grey Album of live theater: a mashup that probably shouldn't have made sense, but as soon as someone thought to try it, its appeal was instantly ubiquitous among fans of both its individual parts. Not to mention a whole new crowd who had never given the Beatles or Jay-Z much thought before.

A deep story made real with dance
by lulu louise Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
The unusual blend of a powerful story and storyteller with great music and dance makes for a natural Fringe show. Once I got into the various characters as spoken incredibly forcefully by the storyteller and how dance portrayed the feelings, this was a terrific show. It is a very dark story, speaking about war and death and loss, and loving simply and freely, but I walked out feeling uplifted by the high quality of artistic talent that I saw. Clearly it is worth the effort to get to this show.

A very worthwhile experiment
by Tim Wick Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
For some, I get the feeling this show might provoke a "hey - you got your dance in my storytelling/Hey - you got your storytelling in my dance" kind of response. Fair, I suppose. Unfortunate, but fair.

I felt the dance nicely complemented phillip's storytelling and vice versa. I would love to see more experiments like this one.

Less interruption please
by Aaron Greer Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
I wish I could just chalk this up to not being in the mood for spoken word storytelling, or dance, but either done well does hold my attention; here, neither did. The storytelling began in a manner I found confusing, but after the first round of storytelling interrupted seemingly at random by dance, I got into Phillip Low’s presentation and found him and the story he was weaving actively engaging. This made the constant breaking of his storytelling rhythm all the more frustrating. The dancers themselves seemed deft enough at plying their trade, but the choreography didn’t seem to actively add anything to the piece, and didn’t evoke theme or emotion in me. By halfway through, I wanted it to be over . . . not because it was bad, but because I felt I was being teased by what was good and wasn’t getting it in a concentrated or focused enough way; leading to feeling a bit teased and cheated by the lack of depth in story exploration. All that said, I really do want to applaud the attempt at a mixed-media storytelling effort, and would totally be willing to give another shot to seeing something like this if these folks were to refine things and do collaborate again next year.

Timing Is Everything
by John Munger Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Three superb dancers and a superb story teller create an original parable about a young man leaving home and paying the price of growing up, at least a little bit. The story-teller, phillip andrew bennet low, has long experience and considerable skill at his craft. Danielle Robinson-Prater (choreographer of DRP Dance) pairs with Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw for some breathtaking dance by two tall and willowy women who have worked together for years. On some pieces they are joined by company member Jill Murphy.
I’ve seen and heard some discussion about whether moving back and forth between dance and narrative works in this show. With a spectrum of opinion out there, I think one of the strengths of this piece is that the dance never literally illustrates the narrative, and yet somehow succeeds in illuminating and expanding the topics the narrative has raised. It’s a subtle thing, and very satisfying. In particular, the transitions INTO the dance sections are artful and elegant. I never felt that awkward sense I’ve experienced at bad musicals where I can just tell that they’re about to sing. In “My Mother Told Me” the transitions are seamless, plausible, and an important contribution to the overall content.
All that said, the production needs some tightening. Some of the dances are too long or not completely fulfilled. Some of the narrative gets onto a riff, won’t let go of it, and outlives the riff’s welcome. It’s all about how long for each segment and how long between segments. It’s all about timing.
For further discussion see my Fringe Blog (“Going Through The Movements”) on TCDailyPlanet.com (probably to be published late Monday or some time Tuesday).

Parts not equal to the whole
by Sharon Kahn Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
I admit, I was expecting something different - interaction between the dancer(s) and the story teller (as in Sara's performances in past Fringes). This was more like two unrelated performances time-slicing the space. If there was a relationship between the dances and the story, I didn't see it.

I also had some problems with the story. Phillip is a superb story teller with an encyclopedic knowledge of myth and archetype, but he may be expecting a little too much of his audience. The story he spins of a simple boy raised in seclusion and then setting off to become a warrior is intriguing, but cryptic and fragmentary. Halfway through the performance the boy identifies himself as Percival, which should have been an aha moment for the better educated, but sadly went over my head.

Okay, now I've looked it up and it does sound familiar. Percival was one of King Arthur's knights, one of the most persistent seekers of the Holy Grail. So where were King Arthur and Galahad and the Grail in this story? Well, not there. Why? Because Phillip was using Chretien de Troyes "Perceval" as his source material, and that particular account IS UNFINISHED, breaking off abruptly after the encounter with the Fisher King.

Phillip, I love you, but that's just a little too obscure for most of us.

Something about Dolly Parton and dance..
by Gregory Abbott Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
The storyteller and dancers were wonderful in this show. It's just that the story itself and dancing to music like Dolly Parton made an odd mix. It was like trying to merge Beverly Hillbillies with ballet. Took courage to try, but the mix didn't hit home for me.

Can't get Little Sparrow out of my head
by Rachel Teagle Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Many talented performers spin a tale about family, ignorance, violence, and restlessness. The lyrical movement and stories leave room for the haunting beautiful music. I haven't seen a lot of dance set to bluegrass, but I hope to see more. There are strong echoes of phil's previous Arthurian show, so keep your ears open.

Tell me about the time...
by Bill Stiteler Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
It's an old, old story: a simple boy leaves his mother. The advice she gives him, both bad--so that he will run home quickly from the evil world that took her husband--and good--to protect his manners and his soul--comes to his aid in unexpected tale. It's not a magical tale, not in the way you might think, but it is mythic, reaching into something deeper than gingerbread houses and poisoned apples (though there are meetings in the wilderness and first kisses with unrealized consequences).

phillip low, Sarah Scrimshaw and dancers spin a yarn in words and motion. If there was one thing I'd change about this production, it's the venue: I'd like to leave the Southern and hear it, and see it, on a cold autumn night around a fire in the woods.

See and Listen to "My Mother"
by Richard Stryker Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
The Southern Theater is a gem. Everything looks and sounds great in there. I loved the music in this show. The contemporary dancers were excellent at making the emotional connections to the narrative and music. I also liked the dancers' costumes.

Yes, Words Twirl and Limbs Speak...
by Heather Baldwin Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Phillip Low is one of the most creative and unique writers I have ever met, and his performing/storytelling talent is nothing short of amazing. His knack for visual descriptions and his ability to convey the emotional essence of a scene draws the audience in; I was transfixed. I was also mesmerized by the three dancers who performed during the interludes between portions of Phillip’s story. The choreography was beautiful. Although I loved both the storytelling aspect and the dancing aspect of the show, I am giving the show overall 4 kitties because I am a little unsure of how well the two aspects mesh together. Also, I was a bit put off by the “audience applause” track in between some of the pieces; it was out-of-place and unnecessary. Other than that, I enjoyed this show very much and I definitely recommend it.

Not integrated
by Bill McTeer Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
The storytelling and story were good. The dance was good. The combination seemed a little forced.

This is what Fringe is for
by Judith Martin Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
Is it a story or is it a dance -- it's neither and both...The story builds slowly and the connection to the dance seemed tenuous for the most part. It felt a bit weird to have a non-dancer so prominently featured on a dance stage -- but that could just be my conventional bias. Didn't hate it, didn't love it. But Fringe is about trying new things, and this show surely fits that bill.

An engaging hybrid
by Curt Lund Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
An engaging hybrid of storytelling and dance -- the journey this show takes you on deepens, twists, turns, and is both farther and wider than you realize. I hope to see more experimentation along these lines from these two acclaimed producers.

Didn't Quite Work for Me
by Gloria Fredkove Follow this reviewer
Rating 2 kitties
The only thing I found remarkable about this performance was the storyteller's amazing ability to tell a story. The story was strange in an off-putting way, though, and the dances didn't help get my head around the entire piece.

Highly Recommended
by Carla Mantel Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
With very little background as a dance viewer, I expected this show to be a little hard to follow, the dance elements to be a bit dense. It was neither. I love the blend of spoken work with dance. The two blended very well in transition, with awareness of each other so it wasn't disconnected or episodic. And phillip low's storytelling style is so musical that I could listen to him all day.

not my thing
by Michelle Walter Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
dramatic spoken word and interpretive dance aren't really my thing. i've seen Sara's shows in past years and hear phillip once or twice as part of the Rockstar storytellers. If you prefer comedy or musicals, this probably should not be on the topic of your list. that being said, it didn't suck. three dancers is a bit awkward at times (if two of the ladies are dancing together, the third should be doing more "solo" moves instead of mirroring the duo with an invisible partner) and it took me a little while to get into phillip's story.

Yes.
by m. freiert Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A delightful story told with interludes of handsomely choreographed dance pieces.

Phillip presents a well turned and robust story in the vein of an epic poem with apt breaks for some lovely dance pieces that reflect well the text recited. Handsome musical selections tied the story to the movement seamlessly.

The principal dancers far out shown the third, who was a weak link to the point of being distracting, but not to the point where I'd say you don't want to see this.

I went in with high expectations from the talent involved and was not disappointed. Go see this.

An Odd Rating...
by Patrick Pfundstein Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
…to give a show that I'm not sure I loved. To be sure I love DRP Dance, and they are great here. The emotional centers of the dance pieces were definitely the solo mourning dances; one confined to a smallish circle of light, and the other more boundless in nature. However I enjoyed pretty much every moment the dancers were on the stage, and the choreography had a way of working me like a finesse-y Chopin piece; working me to an emotional balance where just a slight torso waggle and smile could hit big. I also love phillip low's writing especially when it looks at faith and family (with strong Arthurian echos this time out), and that too is great here. His projection and connection with the audience was outstanding. It was the fusion of the two parts that was sometimes powerful, and sometimes moved me less. It still gets 5, though, because I've spent a lot of time just thinking it over (and over), and any perceived flaws come from reaching beyond safe territory, which for me is the best the Fringe can offer! This show is now on the top of my "See Again if Possible" list, and while I'm not sure I love it, I'm also not sure that I don't!

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