In today's episode, I welcome Phillip Andrew Bennett Low! Phil is a writer, storyteller, and playwright, who actively participates in Fringe Festivals across the United States. He shares stories from his artistic journey, including sage advice for those who don't feel ready to dive in, along with memories that really stand out to him as moments that matter. (Fun fact: the cover image of this episode is of Phil!) 


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Episode 66 - Phillip Andrew Bennett Low

[00:00:00] Lindsey Dinneen: Hello, and welcome to Artfully Told, where we share true stories about meaningful encounters with art.

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[00:02:11] Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Artfully Told. I'm your host Lindsey, and I am absolutely delighted to have as my guest today, a fellow Fringe Festival producer. I'm always so thrilled to meet and chat with fellow Fringe producers, because there's just such this cool community and comradery. And I just, I'm so thrilled that you're here. So today I have Phillip Andrew Bennett Low as my guest. He is a writer, storyteller and playwright. And thank you so much for joining me, Phil. I'm so excited to have you here.

[00:02:48] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Hey, thanks so much for having me.

[00:02:51] Lindsey Dinneen: Of course. And I would love it. If you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about your background, maybe what got you started in your artistic pursuits and go from there.

[00:03:01] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Yeah, sure, absolutely. I'm, I'm one of those guys in show business who's done a little bit of everything at some point or another, but I'm probably best known as a storyteller, as one of those guys who tours the Fringe circuit and does one- man shows. I've been doing this for a pretty long time. I'm, I was one of those kids, I was one of those kids who sort of knew he wanted to be a writer right away. I didn't have the, the soul seeking, hand ringing angst about that, that a lot of people in our generation did, but the form of that has changed a lot. And frequently over the years, but I always sort of knew I wanted to put words together in front of an audience.

[00:03:45] And then as a teenager, I fell into the world of community theater and I was one of the people who wasn't smart enough to quit. So I just, you know, kept going and going and and yeah, eventually I ended up on the Fringe circuit. I was writing plays for a while. I fell backwards into doing a storytelling show, which took off and then I did more. And then I toured and you know, I, I wish I had some sort of like, you know, conversion story, some like Damascian revelation where like I hated art, and then one day I, I, I learned that it was great. I've been a convert from early on.

[00:04:22] Lindsey Dinneen: Very good. I love it. Well, okay. So, so many questions popped into my mind immediately when you're just doing the intro. So I love it. The first thing is, can you explain the difference to our audience that might not know actually, including myself, kind of how you differentiate between sort of a one- man show versus a storytelling show? Is it-- because they're kind of separate, it sounded like the way that you were describing it and I may have misinterpreted, but.

[00:04:51] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: So I I can not answer that question without making a lot of people angry, but I'm game to give it a try anyway.

[00:04:58] Lindsey Dinneen: Great.

[00:05:00] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: That storytelling is one of those disciplines where people are very protective of the definitions that they form of it. I favor a very broad one. I sort of feel like if you walk onto a stage by yourself and use words to tell a story, I'm comfortable calling you a storyteller. And I get that that encompasses some standup comics and slam poets. And I'm totally okay with that. I'm, I'm happy with that door being wide open, but yeah, I mean, there's, there's, there's a lot of different ways to draw circles around that. I mean, people who do monologues as a specific character. There's people who jump out and act out a bunch of different characters. There's the people who tell a story in a more traditional way from sort of a third- person omniscient point of view. And I am, I am just wholly uninterested in building walls up between those things and creating a definition that's going to block people out of it. I think if you call yourself a storyteller, and if your audience would call you a storyteller, I am, I am perfectly comfortable with that being flung towards anyone who finds it useful.

[00:06:09] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. No, that's, that's, that's helpful. Cause it's, it's just, you know, one of those, one of those things-- not being a theater person, super appreciative, love it, but not being in that genre myself-- I've noticed that, you know, it there often is it sort of a distinction, like storytellers talk about being a storyteller and this is a storytelling show or whatever, versus like I'm doing a one man production and it's, and it almost seems like they're two separate things, right? Yeah. Okay. That's helpful. Thanks. I like, I like it. I like the idea of it being more inclusive of a more broad range of people.

[00:06:47] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Yeah. You've, you've, you've mentioned you have a dance background, right?

[00:06:50] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes.

[00:06:51] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: So you're, you're, you're perfectly familiar with people getting sort of weirdly dogmatic about where to, where to build those barriers and definitions over what they do.

[00:07:01] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh yes. Oh yes. Yes. I think the safest thing is probably to label yourself as a dancer, but, you know, so that you don't get into too many of the genre wars, but yeah. Yeah, and then, okay, so you mentioned doing Fringe quite a bit. How did you first learn about Fringe as a, as an organization, as a whole and what made you dive in?

[00:07:25] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh man. It's, it's a sad story. I was, you know, I was one of those, those guys where I was just writing plays and writing plays and just blind submitting them to theater after theater, you know, going through the drama, the source book with a red pen and, you know, building up a big stack of rejection letters. And I, it was back in the days when news groups were a thing. You know, for the young ins listening, that's like Reddit before there was Reddit, but it was me just throwing out this pleading, "I'm writing all this stuff and I just want to get it in front of an audience. How can I do it?" And someone responding, "Well, there's this thing called the Fringe." And you know, me doing lots of Google because Google was a thing. And yeah, and me just sort of diving into and falling down that rabbit hole. The 2004 Minnesota Fringe was my first Fringe Festival.

[00:08:16] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. Okay, perfect. And then are, is this something that you do on a more full-time basis as, you know, they do the Fringe circuit or is this like a seasonal kind of thing for you to do Fringe Festivals? And I know everything looks a little different these days, but let's say, back in the day when it was in person in the, in the before times.

[00:08:40] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Yes, I was one of those guys doing the circuit, although that's slowed down recently .I'm a stay at home dad. So traveling has new challenges reached in that for me, but I definitely still try to get out to a couple of festivals a year when those festivals happen. Although now I'm, I'm streaming to a bunch of different festivals. So in a way that door's weirdly half open again. Yeah. Yeah. I definitely, I am totally a circuit guy. If I could afford to live on the circuit full-time I 100%.

[00:09:11] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. I've met a few of those people who do it literally full-time, although I'd have to catch up with them now, but it's just so amazing to me. They'll just live out of this cool camper like thing and just travel around and Fringe, Fringe Festival it up. So that's fun. Well, very cool. Well, okay. So you've mentioned being a dad. What, how has that informed your work? Has that changed anything about the way that you create?

[00:09:39] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: I have a lot less time for it. It's definitely-- I dunno. I think I, I think it's made me a lot more efficient. I have a lot less time to work, but I also, I waste a lot less time than I used to. When I have time, I use it. And yeah, I've definitely had to get used to having a toddler running under foot while I'm rehearsing for things. He's grown used to it. There was one time I was doing a, you know, a comedy monologue that involved me shrieking a lot into a microphone and he burst into tears when I rehearsed it. So we've had to have some conversations about like what it means when Daddy's doing a shows.

[00:10:20] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh yes. Oh my word. Yeah. Wouldn't have thought about that, but that makes complete sense. So yeah, so now you are-- have you finished the production portion of your upcoming show that I know is at least, well, it is not only debuting at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, but other Fringe Festivals as well. But have you finished that production? Are you still in the works?

[00:10:45] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: I, I have a complete recording of it. I have lots of post-production to do in terms of editing and, you know, making it make sense and be relevant for the festival I'm doing it at, but you know, the fun creative stuff is done now. It's, you know, slugging towards the finish.

[00:11:03] Lindsey Dinneen: Do you do all your own editing yourself?

[00:11:06] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Again I, I would love to have the kind of expendable income to hire someone else to do all that at the less fun parts of the job. But it's still a one man band right now.

[00:11:19] Lindsey Dinneen: I understand. I understand. Well, we can only keep keep dreaming and shooting for those goals, yeah? One day I'll have my own editor. And until then, it's me doing it all. I, I get that. It's all good, though. Well, that's exciting. So yeah, so this year you're going to be premiering-- this is, this a brand, this is a brand new show for you. Is that correct?

[00:11:43] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: I've done it once before. I did it for ,I did it online for the Minnesota Fringe back in 2020 as a, as a live stream.

[00:11:53] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, wow. Okay. Nice. And so can you tell us a little bit, maybe more about what the show is about and maybe even your creative process in developing it?

[00:12:03] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, yeah, totally. It's, the title is "On the Concept of Irony with No Reference to Socrates." And it's a, it's sort of a comic horror anthology. It's a collection of different stories that are, you know, about dark and terrible things happening to people in a way that is hopefully funny is the best way I can think of describing. This is the perfect time for it, right? But yeah, it's, I mean, generally the way these anthology shows come together for me as I sit down with a binder full of, well, what's everything I've written in the past year and what's the connecting theme and there always is one. And it, it was a very dark show because it's been a very dark year. So I think that's how that emerged.

[00:12:49] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. I mean, I can understand that. And so this has a political bent as well, I would, if that's, is that correct? Based on what I know from you describing it earlier?

[00:13:03] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Yeah, I I'd say that's fair. Yeah. It's yeah. There's usually a little bit of a political bent to everything I do, although a little bit more to this one. Like there's some, you know, it's yeah. It's, it's really hard to describe --part of this is because these are all sort of short horror stories that revolve around a twist. So it's hard to talk about them without revealing, you know, and here's the punchline, but like it is stuff --like one of the stories is about a comedian waking up in this post-apocalyptic dystopian future and trying to pick up his career where he left off and, you know, one of them is about the sort of a Lovecraft parody about a scholar being driven mad by his new Bischon puppy, you know, it's, it's stuff like that.

[00:13:51] Lindsey Dinneen: That's fantastic. Okay. Yeah. I know you can't give us, you know, the full synopsis, which is fair. Yeah. Okay. So sort of, yeah, gathering what you've kind of created throughout the year and then, and then coming together and with this theme, I think that's really cool. So what are some other themes that you've tackled in the past that have sort of just, again, emerged based on what was happening in the world or what was happening in your life? I'm just curious about some of your former work as well.

[00:14:20] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh yeah. That's a really good question. There's a, I'm trying to think of my previous anthology shows. I, I hadn't. Probably my first was a horror collection called "Fear and Trembling" that-- another very bleak one. I don't have a lot of super uplifting shows. I, I wish I was one of those guys. I wish I can count the number of shows I've written with like a quote unquote happy ending, probably on one hand. It's, I did one called" Concept of Anxiety" that was largely SciFi and largely sort of an examination of time and memory and mortality will be the biggest thing of just you know, I think, I think I'm the first writer to really ever tackle the question of dealing with their own mortalities. I'm, I'm quipping. I'm pretty sure I'm not.

[00:15:08] Lindsey Dinneen: So you mentioned these as anthology shows specifically. So you would create that as, as say a separate category then. It's just like, what else would be, what else have you done, I suppose, that would be a different? Just because again, this is, this is new to me, I'm sure it's new to some of our listeners-- as far as like, sort of within theater, you have these different, you know what I mean, different kinds of genres or different styles or whatever. I just, I'm just very curious to learn.

[00:15:36] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Totally, totally. I mean-- I, and yeah, I've definitely done one man shows that revolve around a single story. The last show that I took to Kansas City in the before times was called " Get Thee Behind Me, Santa: An Inexcusably, Filthy Children's Time-travel Farce for Adults Only."

[00:15:53] Lindsey Dinneen: You believe in long titles

[00:15:54] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: And cumbersome language, funny. So if you don't, my shows will probably be a slog.

[00:16:01] Lindsey Dinneen: No, I love it. I just have to tease you because I'm like your title this year is long and that's even longer. I love it.

[00:16:08] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: But yeah, the premise of that one, it was, it was a time travel farce in which Jesus and Santa which places and create a new timeline. And it's the efforts of various characters to try to restore the original timeline. And yeah, so that's certainly one of the silliest things I've ever written. That's probably one of the five happy endings.

[00:16:31] Lindsey Dinneen: Very good. Okay. Awesome. That, that is, that sounds fantastic. I I feel like I need to see that. Oh man. Okay. So now, I'm also curious because I, I would imagine that the genre, so to speak, of horror is quite broad in that it could be everything from, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but everything from like scary stories, but that are like scary, you know, like, you know, campfire stories that aren't bad- bad versus like, you know, so like to the extreme, and I wouldn't even know that because I don't watch it. It's like, where do you kind of fall in the spectrum of what horror could be as far as your stories? Like would I be terrified is really what I'm asking?

[00:17:17] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, I, I, I definitely write a pretty wide range of stuff. This particular show is definitely going for the blackly comic vein. So I don't know that there's anything particularly terrifying in them so much as unsettling or sickening, in again, hopefully funny ways. Like I have definitely written some stuff, stories that reach for the-- hopefully this year I will be releasing a written my third book, a horror collection, that has a wider range of stuff in it. In this one, yeah, I'm definitely hoping-- it, it's always tough with something like horror to say, " I'm hoping people have a good time." But like, it's, this is not, this is not a show that's about giving you nightmares. This is a show about making an audience uncomfortable in hopefully different ways.

[00:18:13] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. And so, okay. Well that, that helps because I can deal with that. I just don't like to be terrified. So is it uncomfortable is, is doable, but I'm curious, is it so that you can inspire your audience to think differently about a subject or to act differently, or is it simply uncomfort, discomfort for discomfort's sake?

[00:18:36] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: So I'm, I'm definitely not a missionary writer. I'm the, I know I write a lot of political material, but I'm not a guy who really believes in audiences going to come see one of my shows and scream, "The scales have fallen from my eyes," and convert to my ideology. But I, I do think if what I write serves the function, I'd probably call it something like reverse gaslighting in terms of, I want people to come to see one of my shows and go, "Oh, okay. I'm not crazy. Someone else does think everything else is crazy too."

[00:19:12] Lindsey Dinneen: So also kind of hoping then to-- well, and I'm extrapolating, so correct me if I'm wrong-- but sort of bringing awareness to maybe the darker side of, of experiences that we've all sort of had, but we think are like solely unique to us of sort of, "Oh, nobody else thinks this way or something like that." Okay.

[00:19:35] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: I think that's totally fair.

[00:19:38] Lindsey Dinneen: All right. Deal. Very good. Well, you know, you, you mentioned not that having this like huge transformative story, but you've obviously been very brave in going after, you know, your passions and your dreams. I mean that, that's not easy and that shouldn't be like glossed over, right? I, I feel so I'm, I'm curious what kind of advice you might have for somebody who is interested in trying to get their work out there, but maybe feels super intimidated or isn't quite as like, "I'm just going to go for it and see what happens." You know what I mean? Like somebody who's a little more hesitant, what would your advice be.

[00:20:17] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, I, I wish I had something more encouraging to say then, you know, stop procrastinating. Like there, there really is a point at which you can, you can think about this all you want. You can deconstruct this all you want. You can rewrite this all you want, but sooner or later, you've, you've just got to get something in front of other people even if, even if it's at an open mic or a reading or, or a live streaming on Twitch or anything. You've, you've, you have to take that step to getting in front, getting it in front of another human being. I think that's-- because that's, that's really the first step. That's when you're going to learn very quickly, whether what you're doing is working or not, and what's not working about it.

[00:21:01] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and I think I love that advice. I think you're absolutely correct. You know, just if anyone's listening to this and interested in an opportunity to get their work out there, you know, Fringe Festivals are the perfect way to do that, I think. I don't know how you feel, Phil, but what's great about them is that they are unjuried and uncensored. And so, you know, for developing an audience and getting real honest feedback, it's a really good way to do it at an affordable rate, I think. What do you think?

[00:21:35] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, I'm obviously I'm a convert. I've, I've devoted a not insignificant portion of my adult life to Fringe Festivals. So I'm, I'm not going to take any sort of counterpoint to Fringe Festivals being a great, fantastic thing. But yeah, I, I just, I also feel like this advice is so much more discouraging in the middle of our current situation. Just go out, go to a show, get in front of an audience, or it's like, no, nobody can do that right now.

[00:22:02] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes. But like you said, there are virtual ways to do so. And you know, you can really start small and just get a few people's feedback. I mean, it doesn't have to be like, you know, a worldwide debut, it can be literally just a couple of people who are willing to give you that feedback. So, yeah, no, I think, I think you're spot on and I, I would like to imagine that we'll get back to live performances soon.

[00:22:26] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: I'm hopeful. I think I'm more, I'm more pessimistic then a lot of our colleagues. I think, I think we've still got a ways to go, but I'm, I do see light at the end of the tunnel. So I'm enthusiastic about that.

[00:22:40] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes. Yes. And that's, that's fair for sure. Oh my goodness. Okay. Well, I mean, obviously, you know, your life has looked different recently. You talked about, you know, having a toddler and obviously that changes the way that you work a little bit, well, a lot, I'm sure. And then also there's COVID, which messed everybody up. But do you think that, you know, over the last year obviously wrote a show that was darker in nature, but like, what were the things that stood out to you that, that were productive, that were interesting developments in the art world or the theater world?

[00:23:18] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, for me. This has been sort of a boon for me in the way, 'cause it threw me out of my comfort zone in terms of I'm one of those guys that really dove onto the grenade of live streaming. I've been trying to produce a couple of shows a month and I've really been challenging myself to find ways to use the medium, like to not just stand up and, and perform one of my one- man shows to a webcam, but trying to figure out ways, okay, this is, this is a legit new, medium. What are, what are things I can do? I'm working on commissioning new music for a couple of different shows. I have, the show I'm doing for Kansas City Fringe, it involves me performing against like animated backgrounds and things like that that changed behind me as the scenes change and as I'm talking about different events in the story. So I've, yeah, I've really been pushing myself to try to find new ways to use new media.

[00:24:16] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. And I totally relate to you going out of your comfort zone. But yeah, it's, it's been an interesting not to overuse the word, pivoting, but you know, it's been an interesting, pivoting year. I'll put it that way.

[00:24:31] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: So I did a show on election night that was just me. It was me reading favorite historical texts from about a 5,000 year period around different sort of political movements. And, but yeah, it was, it was me reading for five hours straight, and there is no way in a million years I would do this in a live theater and expect an audience to stick around for it. But like via a live stream system, like I'm basically a radio station, you know, people can tune in and out. They can play me in the background while they do something else. It's, you know, it's, it's not something I would ever do in an in-person performance, but it's something I was really excited about doing online. So I've been trying to change my thinking in that way.

[00:25:21] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. That's super cool. What a unique idea, I love it. Yeah. And that makes total sense. Yeah, you're right. No audience would probably stay for five hours. I don't even know if we can get them to stay for two sometimes, but you know, that's awesome. I love it. Well, I'm sure that there are many moments that probably stand out to you, you know, impactful when it comes to the arts, but I'm curious. Do you have any specific stories that come to mind either witnessing somebody witness your art or you witnessing somebody else's art that was like, "I've got to remember this moment. This is important."

[00:25:58] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh man. There's so many. And oh, I feel like so few of them are stories like, there was a, I was a huge fan of a theater in Minneapolis. They were this Leacock based company that chose to set the stakes in Minneapolis, for whatever reason. They just had lots of really brilliant movement, clowning, poetic stuff. Or I really like nothing I've seen before or since. But again, if I try to describe a single moment, it's, it's tricky to do, and I've certainly, I've had those moments in my own work, you know, where you, 'cause again, it's, it's very easy in our profession to sort of fall into our own heads and to find ourselves floundering with a sense of, "Well, am I just screaming into a void? Does anyone responding to this at all?" And then you, you do get those moments of you know, people who come out. And you know, I, I had a 10 minute preview I did as part of a showcase in a small town in Minnesota, where someone just came up to me afterwards with tears streaming down their face. And I mean, that's something you remember as a performer, because that is not a performance that I was even particularly invested in. You know, it was sort of annoying and something I had to do, but you know, it, the work did the work.

[00:27:20] And you know, I, I, I can think of a couple of things, like there was a time in Indianapolis. I do a fair amount of political comedy, which is often challenging, has grown more challenging in recent years. But I remember one show I did in Indianapolis, where there was a group of hecklers who came with the intention of sabotaging the show. But about 15 minutes into it, I won them over and then they invited me out for drinks afterwards. So like, that's definitely something I hold as a badge of honor.

[00:27:51] Lindsey Dinneen: Wow. Yeah. That's huge. Congrats. I love that story. I think that must be one of the rarest occurrences of something like that happening. Kudos to you. ,

[00:28:04] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: But I also think a lot of it with political comedy is people expect you, and, and certainly my stage persona is more sort of brash and confrontational than I am in real life. I'm a very conflict averse person in real life. But also that in most of these shows, I really, really make an effort to make myself vulnerable that I'm not presenting myself as a, you know, I don't lurch onto the stage as a guy who has all the answers. I'm, I'm awkward and clumsy and a screw up and I, I talk about my experiences in the world of politics and activism, and and I think that self-deprecation tends to disarm people. But it's, it's, it's totally opposed to our instinct because of this, you know, this is a world that's so venomous that our instinct is defensiveness and it's very hard to, to switch that off, you know?

[00:29:02] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, no, I do. And I, yes, I agree with you. But I, I really liked that approach and I think that that's so helpful. It's so interesting. I'm actually, I just finished reading a book called "Dare to Lead" by Brene Brown, which is fantastic if anyone needs a good read, but she talks so much about vulnerability and, and when you're vulnerable and willing to be, yeah use self deprecating humor or whatever, then it opens up conversations that wouldn't either take place or would be awkward or controversial or whatever, but like, if you can start from a place of vulnerability and be like, "This is me, this is where I'm coming from." Then all of a sudden you can open up these doors. So I love that. I love that that's what you do.

[00:29:49] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Yeah, I should also throw out the caution to anyone hoping to follow in these footsteps that it does not work a hundred percent of the time. There are definitely times I walk out and say, "I'm a terrible person." And the audience's fully prepared to agree with me.

[00:30:01] Lindsey Dinneen: And you're like, "Okay, here we go." Oh, no, that's funny. Well, to be an artist is to be brave, yeah? It's part of the deal. Oh my goodness. Well, this is awesome. So I'm sure that there are listeners who will want to connect with you and, you know, watch your shows and follow what you're doing. So is there a way for them to do that and how can we stay in touch?

[00:30:28] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, there, there totally is. Easiest way is my website, which is You mentioned that I had a thing for a unwieldy titles and there it is. That's my website. Yeah. We also have a Facebook page, which is updated significantly less. That website is your best hope if you want to know what's going on.

[00:30:51] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. I can relate. Social media is one of those things I'm like, okay, here we go. Got to remember to keep up with it.

[00:30:58] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh yeah. And if, if you're trying to avoid the venom social media is not a place you want to spend a lot of your time.

[00:31:04] Lindsey Dinneen: Fair, totally fair. Well, that's awesome. Thank you for that. Yes. You know, I, I just had to tease you about those titles, but I, I do love a good, long title. So anyway. Perfect. Well, this has been awesome. I really appreciate you sharing your stories and your insights. And I do have a couple of questions that I always like to ask my guests, if you're okay with that.

[00:31:26] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Yeah, of course. Has anyone ever said no? Have you ever?

[00:31:30] Lindsey Dinneen: No one has ever said no. I did have a guy one time who was like, "What happens if I do say no?" And I was like, "Well, I, I, you know, if you did I'd respect that, I would find it ironic, but yes, you can say no." Okay. Well, anyway, the first question is how do you personally define art or what is art to you?

[00:31:52] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Oh, man. Okay. Again, I'm I'm the broad definitions guy. So I mean the, the cop-out answer would be to just say, I'd accept whatever definition anyone wants to give, but trying to be a little more thoughtful about it. How do I define art? I would say, I would say it takes a, there has to be an element of artifice for me. In, and even saying this as a storyteller who stands on stage telling personal stories, I think there does have to be an element of someone presenting themselves to someone else and presenting something created, something that there is an acknowledgement between the person presenting it and the person receiving it, that there is an element of unreality to this. That's pretty vague, but that's the first thing that's sprang into my head. So I think I'll stick with it.

[00:32:49] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, I like it. Okay, perfect. And then my second question is what do you think is the most important role of an artist?

[00:32:58] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: So my instinctive response to that is leeriness, because I, first of all, I obviously do believe that there is an important role for artists. I'm a professional artist. It's, it's something I've devoted a huge portion of my life to. It's my passion. I am always a little fearful that there's a danger because we've all known that sort of the artist with the sort of messianic complex, you know, the idea that I'm creating something because I believe it's important. And this approach generally creates art that is not that enjoyable. And I'm, I'm resistant to that. That said, I do believe that art is important, but I, I tend to flinch from that as a starting place for making something. But if I had to say, what is the role of art? Again, the first thing that leaps into my mind is, it's to provide a kind of fun house mirror. It's to provide a reflection of reality that distorts it in some way or shifts our focus onto a specific aspect of it. Does that, does that work?

[00:34:13] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes, that definitely works. I love that description. Absolutely. Never heard it put quite like that. And I think it's fabulous. And then my final question, and I'll define my terms a little bit, but do you think that art should be inclusive or exclusive? And by inclusive, I'm referring to an artist who puts their work out there and provide some context behind it, whether it's a title, show notes, just the inspiration behind it. Versus exclusive referring to an artist who puts their work out there and doesn't provide the context so it's left entirely up to the viewer to determine what they will.

[00:34:53] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Cool. So the question is basically, how do I feel about sort of letting people backstage of the process? Is that, am I reading that correctly?

[00:35:03] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. Yeah. I, yes. I think so. Yeah. Context versus not having contexts. So either yeah knowing a little bit about what the artist was intending or experiencing during the creation versus like none of that.

[00:35:18] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Right, right. So it's sort of like a, does a magician explaining his trick, ruin the trick?

[00:35:23] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, sure.

[00:35:24] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Sort of thing. Or, or, or it's also like a death of the author thing, right? Where should we just, once something is created, should we ignore the intention behind it because it's sort of out there in the world? Or, yeah. Okay. That's actually a really heady question. I can, my instinct, so I have two totally conflicting instincts about this. My first is that as a writer, I have sort of a caution about exposing too much about the process if only because I think, first of all, it's, it's very easy to romanticize the process. And I think so much of it is, is really kind of tedious. It's, you know, I, I mean, it's, you know, there's a huge portion of it that's just work, that's just problem solving. That's just looking at a problem and rewriting any sort of worry that exposing people too much to that process causes it to lose some of the romance. That said I am also one of those guys who totally digs into, if I find a writer or an artist or a work of art I like, I will dig into as much information I can possibly find about who the artist was, how it was created, what might've been going on in their head.

[00:36:45] So there's, there is definitely an element of hypocrisy in me wanting to be very guarded about my own process, but being very deeply interested in others. My, my cop-out answer is that I think it's up to the individual art. No, no, no, no. I'm going to push myself a little harder, 'cause my thing, like, I've just been going down my whole Kafka obsession again, where like half of his words he explicitly asked to be destroyed upon his death and his executor refused to do this and published it anyway. And I feel a great sense of debt to his executor for not following his last wishes. The, if I have to give an answer, I think more information is not bad. Believing that you have all the information is bad. I think that's my, my statement on the matter.

[00:37:45] Lindsey Dinneen: Final answer.

[00:37:47] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: I think so.

[00:37:48] Lindsey Dinneen: You know what? I really liked that. I like that you, yeah, push yourself to explore a little bit further, but, and I think, I think that's a good way to put it too, because sure, you like to have that information available to you, but you still have the choice, whether or not you really want to explore it or not. I mean, you could totally just view the work on its own and not care, like not read the program, not whatever, but having it there is nice for those of us who might want to know, learn a little bit more. So I kind of like where you went with that. Yeah, very good. 10 out of 10. Okay. Well, you know, first of all, again, Phil, thank you so very much for joining me tonight. This has been so much fun. I really appreciate it. And I, I love your unique perspective on storytelling in the arts and well in your, in your approach to making it broader, I think that's really important and, you know, kudos to you for doing what you do. But I would highly encourage those of you who are listening to also check out Phil's website and this upcoming show, because obviously it's going to be exciting, maybe uncomfortable, but in a good way. So yes, highly encourage you to do that. And just thank you so much, Phil, again. This has been a really fantastic chat and I really appreciate it. So thanks.

[00:39:12] Phillip Andrew Bennett Low: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. It's been fun.

[00:39:15] Lindsey Dinneen: Good. Yes. All right. And thank you so much to everyone who has listened to this episode. And if you're feeling as inspired as I am, I would love if you would share this with a friend or two and we will catch you next time.

[00:39:30] If you have a story to share with us, we would love that so much. And I hope your day has been Artfully Told.

[00:39:38] Hi friends. I wanted to share with you another podcast that I think you're going to fall in love with just as I have. It's called Harlem with a View, and it is hosted by Harlem Lennox, who was a previous guest of mine on Artfully Told and a dear friend. Just because it looks easy doesn't mean it is. There is so much that goes into the work of your creative. She wants to know how the artists got into their line of work, what inspires them, but most importantly, what keeps them going? She'd asked them about how they make it through the blood, sweat, and tears. She wants to know what it's like to live this creative life: the good, the bad, the ugly, and even the magical. So she goes behind the scenes with creatives, from different genres and she explores their history, their take on life and talks about the business of art and the dedication of making art. She has a brilliant, brilliant platform. I think you will fall in love. I highly recommend that you search for Harlem with a View. Thanks!

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