I’ve seen hundreds of author readings in bookstores and libraries over the years, but the usual routine – writers who stand at a podium and hold forth – hardly makes for a compelling performance. I love the way the monthly Riot Act Reading Series has, since 2006, shaken up that formula: the line-up varies, featuring a rotation of storytellers, comedians, fiction writers, musicians and poets, hosted by Paul D. Dickinson and Laura Brandenburg, both formidable poets in their own right. In recent years, the series bounced from bar to bar around the Twin Cities, but lately the readings have settled back in at the Riot Act’s original home, the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge.
These are literary events with the theatrical flair and caustic edge of punk rock. The pace is brisk: each reader gets no more than 10 to 15 minutes to speak their piece. The fare is bawdy and irreverent, often funny, and fresh, too – more often than not, the readers perform new material. Look around, and you’re just as likely to see musicians and visual artists in the audience as you are bookish folks. The vibe is informal and convivial; the evening always includes some live music. Best of all, there’s as much emphasis on solid delivery as there is on strong writing. What you’ll hear is engaging, but not trifling – this series spotlights honest writing not afraid to get its hands dirty.
The roster for this weekend’s show includes writer and comedian Brian Beatty (author of the chapbook DUCK and, full disclosure, a writer I work with at mnartists.org), social satire by Mr. Zero and stories by Artists-in-Storefronts impresario and designer Joan Vorderbruggen, with hosts Laura Brandenburg and Paul Dickinson, along with David Mercer on piano.
The February edition of the Riot Act Reading Series is Sunday, February 24 at 7 p.m. in the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge, 1601 University Avenue W., St. Paul. Find more information on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/131253947048721.