Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pittsburgh Day I: Lost & Found

The Found Magazine guys -- Davy and Peter Rothbart, plus their sidekick Andrew Cohen -- have learned a thing or two performing some 180 shows over the course the last three years.

They know how to find every Subway sandwhich shop within three miles of any given highway.

And they know how to put on one hell of a show. Equal parts literary reading, fund drive, lost and found, show and tell, stand-up and rock performance, it's and hour and a half of substance and form.

Moreover, they've applied the kind of top-notch, added-value salesmanship that Madonna and The Eagles honed years ago.

The VIP Ticket.

For four times the cost of a normal ticket, Found Magazine devotees can hang backstage sharing pizza and PBRs while the guys sign the contents of their shiny red gift bag: Peter's CD, the latest issue of Found (the "Crime" issue), a poster, some buttons, and -- I love these guys -- a bright yellow poster encouraging you to spread the good word about Found Magazine.

Marketing geniuses, these guys.

Which explains how the sold out New York's Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater last month, their hometown Michigan Theater last night, two shows here at Pittsburgh's Future Tenant, and -- assuming the trend holds -- 25 more venues before year's end.

And here's the best part: it's all for charity. Tonight's shows benefit Mister Rogers company, Family Communications. Which explains why I"m in Pittsburgh on a rainy Saturday night..

Davy, who's a regular contributor to "This American Life," has been compiling his hilarious and heartbreaking collection of found notes, receipts, and emails online and in Found Magazine for a few years. His tours consist primarily of him reading a fistful of found items, turning over the stage to his brother to sing a few songs based on found items, circulating an email list, pitching the merch table, then reading a few more. Thing is, it's completely cool, and completely compelling.

Did I mention hilarious?

One found item is a grocery list consisting of the following items:
    Rahman Noodles
    Rahman Noodles
    Rahman Noodles
    Rahman Noodles
    Lubricated Condems
    Rahman Noodles
On this pre-Thanksgiving leg of the tour, Post Secret founder/editor Frank Warren ("The Most Trusted Man In America") is sharing the bill. Frank's conceit is similar: he posts anonymously contributed secrets to his website every week, and as collected the best and most-poignant ones into a few books.

"We all have a choice," Frank says. "We can lock our secrets away in a box and bury it deep inside, or we can find it, bring it out and share it."

Afterwards, I tell Frank that his mission reminds me of my favorite Mister Rogers' quotes: "That which is mentionable is manageable."

Which is why I'm here: community, and communications.

Well after the second show, when the chairs are stacked, the volunteers are gone, and the last fan has left the building, Chris, Davy and I headed back to the hotel to squeeze in a quick interview before Davy, Peter and Andy point their rented mini-van towards Columbus. We order room service, clip on our lav mics, and settle in beneath the bright lights.

It's late, we're tired, and deep into our PBRs. The edges of Davy's eyes are red, though his iris shines bright green like his Eastern Michigan jersey. We do our best to piece together a conversation -- he tells me about meeting Mister Rogers as a four-year-old, then visiting him again as an adult, and tries to draw some parallels between Mister Rogers' work and his. But it's late, though, and we're tired. Moreover, his posse's getting wrestles. And so, some forty-five minutes later, we fold his room service cheeseburger into a napkin, send him on his way to Columbus, and then collapse into deep, dreamless sleep.

No comments: