Taking entertainment literally

Taking entertainment literally
Alexandra Petri, a writer and comedian with a humor column in the Washington Post, reads at April’s As Was Written literary show. (Photo: Dan Bonne)

The history buffs keen on the tri-corner hats and town criers of Old Town’s brick-laid sidewalks may be unaware, but Alexandria is home to a perennially irreverent literary show, As Was Written. 

What began as a gathering at the home of John-Mark Davidson and Tim Hopkins, two friends with day jobs and a penchant for the pen, has evolved into a contemporary, unapologetic showcase for local writers and musicians well known and unknown. When the pair realized they had something good going, they locked down a venue, The Lyceum on South Washington Street, and began selling tickets. 

Suddenly, the show became less about their friends showing up out of a sense of duty and more about a grassroots following interested in seeing and hearing the talented voices of the D.C. area. 

Writer, satirist and musician Remy Munasifi, also known as GoRemy, performs at April’s rendition of As Was Written. (Photo: Dan Bonne)

“When you’re starting out, people come out to the show because they’re your friend and they want to support you,” said Davidson. “Now we’re getting to the point that people are coming because they know they’re going to have a good time. And it’s less about us.”

The fall rendition of As Was Written is November 4 at 8 p.m. Davidson and Hopkins booked Maddox, the unapologetic humorist and writer behind The Best Page In The Universe, a website based on a simple concept: if you disagree with his opinions — the word “epic” is overused and no one cares if your pun was intended or not — you are wrong. At the show, he’ll promote his new book, “I Am Better Than Your Kids,” a collection of children’s drawings critiqued and graded by Maddox. Spoiler: everyone gets an F.

But while Maddox may be the best-known voice, Davidson and Hopkins insist As Was Written has no headliner. Rather, it’s an equal opportunity show where budding writers share the stage with acts like Remy Munasifi, the locally famous satirical rapper made legendary with “The Arlington Rap,” and Alexandra Petri, a writer and comedian who pens a daily humor column in the Washington Post. Alexandrian Shelly Bell, a slam poet, will offer her rhythmically backed words, too. 

“A lot of times you go to a show, and you feel a divide between you and the person on stage,” Davidson said. “At our show, the person on stage does their thing, and then they walk down and sit beside you. There aren’t a lot of walls with our show.”

Petri describes the show as having a “performancy feel, not a workshoppy feel.

“It is a really cool community, and to be able to have a chance to listen to other writers is really neat,” she said. “I think it’s really neat what [Davidson and Hopkins] are doing. In terms of creating a scene, yeah, I think that will really help.”

As Was Written is about entertainment — sharing the craft of writing, not teaching it. Think an open-mic variety show with high standards. 

“We’re not trying to help kids get through college; we’re trying to entertain for people,” Davidson said. 

Still, the writers and singers support each other’s art, as do the audience members.

“It’s great to see the ticket sales [doing well], because in the beginning we just had all familiar faces,” Hopkins said. “But actually seeing that word is reaching out further with each show, and that people hopefully appreciate what we do, is great. We just plan on bringing it once again.”

Of course, the creators of As Was Written are also writers and performers. Hopkins will share a short story on his personal evolution with politics: the innocence of running for president in sixth grade to the cynicism resulting from political traffic jams that’s jaded him to new hope.

“I think the theme is about becoming real skeptical of the political process through the years for very, very different reasons,” Hopkins said. “But there are a lot of positive movements that actually happen in politics. And even when it’s gridlocked and you really want to despise the political process, there are good things that happen like Occupy Wall Street. There is light at the end of the tunnel despite all the skeptics.”

Davidson will share a story on his cynical approach to love. It’s funny, if dark, and begins with his ex-girlfriend breaking up with him while watching “Schindler’s List.” The rest will unravel during the show, as often happens with such a diverse variety of talents and personalities.

“I think most people don’t understand the show until they see it,” Davidson said. “Including the people who are in it.”

As Was Written is November 4 at 8 p.m. at The Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St. Tickets are $15. Visit www.aswaswritten.com for more information.