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Arts & Entertainment

An SMU Poet Brings a New Form of Storytelling to Your Phone

With Greg Brownderville’s “go-show," you’re in for short films, still images, songs, podcasts, texts, and more, all buzzing in your pocket as daily notifications.
By Elizabeth Hamilton |
go show app illustration
Daniel Hertzberg

For Greg Brownderville, poetry teacher at SMU and editor of the lauded literary journal Southwest Review, making art means elevating the everyday, recontextualizing the routine. How might someone do that with the digital experience people have on their phones? Brownderville’s response: the “go-show,” a new way of storytelling on the small screen. With grants from SMU, he and a team of roughly 35 mainly Texas-based artists, including Bart Weiss, creator of Dallas VideoFest, will launch their first go-show in the days ahead.

The go-show is an app that delivers episodes via notifications over the course of several weeks. But unlike, say, podcasts, which use only audio to tell a story, the go-show uses short films, still images, songs, podcasts, text, and more. One day you might receive a notification for a video poem, the next, a short film.

“Different art forms are especially good at different things,” Brownderville says. “There’s a certain kind of storytelling you might prefer to do with a film. There’s another storytelling, let’s say something that really delves into interiority of a character, that might best be handled by text.”

Brownderville’s first go-show is called Fire Bones, a fictionalized autobiography in which he and Weiss play themselves and embark on a made-up adventure to the Arkansas Delta, where Brownderville grew up. The two explore the mysterious disappearance of a Lebanese-American crop duster who moonlights as a Pentecostal preacher. It’s a humorous tale about friendship and art making.

Along with the go-show, Brownderville has written a Fire Bones score that will be available on vinyl and a collection of poems, each written in the voice of a Fire Bones character.

“Up until this point in my career, apart from music making, I’ve mainly been the person sitting alone in a room dreaming up poems,” Brownderville says. But Fire Bones has changed the way he thinks. “I don’t know that I’m going to be going back anytime soon to just thinking of my projects as a solitary undertaking. I can make things with a team that I just can’t make on my own.”

No Spoilers

Episode 1: “This Calls for Ice Cream” (podcast)
Following his 65th birthday, the seasoned filmmaker Bart reflects on his life and longs for his creative spark to return. His friend Greg proposes a road trip to the Arkansas Delta to get some ice cream.

Episode 2: “The Beekeeper Spaceman” (film)
Upon reaching the Delta, Greg stops at a grain silo and declares it the regional welcome center. A strange man known as The Beekeeper Spaceman takes them into outer space in his “silo spaceship.”

Episode 3: “Welcome to Planet Swan!” (film)
The Beekeeper Spaceman takes Greg and Bart to a secret planet named Swan, where they seek a mysterious ice cream man known as Ju Mon Poy.

Episode 4: “Razorback in Time” (podcast)
When they find Ju Mon, he’s watching an Arkansas Razorbacks football game. Their attempts to communicate with him—and score some delicious ice cream—may be thwarted by Ju Mon’s obsession with his past.

Episode 5: “Halloween Honey” (film)
Ju Mon introduces them to his girlfriend, Amra Boustani. Back on Earth, Greg and Bart learn Amra has been missing for over a year and is presumed dead. Suddenly, their ice cream adventure in the Delta has a mystery added as a side treat.

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