Nobody’s ever accused Paul Mullin of being soft. Back when Mullin was a playwright, he wrote stories about genius brains being turned to slurry from aggressive radiation poisoning and monstrous men who recall their own horrific acts even through the blessed fog of amnesia. Mullin wrote long screeds about what was wrong with American theater (spoiler alert: basically, everything), and he wasn’t afraid to make enemies. Then, about four years ago, he retired from theater.
Then Mullin published a memoir titled The Starting Gate. It’s about stepfathers and sons and Mullin’s early teen years working in a bar full of colorful characters, and it’s full of fights and threats of violence, but in that chipper John Wayne kind of way, where every fistfight might end in friendship or, at the very least, a grudging respect. Mullin writes that he’s comfortable in the “beer-dank dark of this shit-kicker bar,” and you get a sense that in fact, he might chafe in an environment that doesn’t have a bit of an edge to it.
Lately, Mullin has been running a reading series called Loud Mouth Lit, and it’s got a couple interesting angles to it. First, as curator, Mullin is pulling from his theatrical past. He asks guests who he thinks will be good (by which I mean dramatic and compelling) readers. Second, he doesn’t cram the bill full of six or seven readers: every Loud Mouth Lit is just Mullin and one other reader.
Third, he’s branching out into a very different venue. Loud Mouth Lit happens at St. Andrews Bar & Grill on Aurora, which is not one of these refurbished amusement-park dive bar simulacrums that you see on Capitol Hill. St. Andrews is a bar from a different time and place. It’s a little less butt rock and a little more classic rock: on the menu you’ll find “Rod Stewart Onion Rings,” which are “served with ‘Rod Sauce,’” which may be the single most unappealing name for a condiment since “gentleman’s relish.”
Bringing a reading series to an Aurora sports bar is a baller move, the kind of thing that makes you wonder if maybe literary events have gotten a little too comfortable in their own enclave. If readings are so great — and I fundamentally believe that they are — why not take them out into places like St. Andrew’s, where they can compete with jukeboxes and soccer matches on the satellite TV and abundant booze for relatively cheap?
On Tuesday, May 30th, Loud Mouth Lit features readings from Mullin and local writer David Schmader. Mullin will be reading a piece about his job at the National Archives and a fistfight in an elevator. Schmader says he’ll be reading “About gay mentors with bad boundaries and my short history of having to punch my way out of dates,” and he credits the piece to “Ed Murray, whose current scandal inspired me to write this all out."
Schmader — who is, full disclosure, my former coworker and a friend — is a very funny writer who has a knack for baring the frilly underpants of our most angst-ridden issues in as entertaining a fashion as humanly possible. He can make you laugh about things that you’re afraid to say out loud. His exuberant ninja-assassin style of comedy should blend well with Mullin’s aggressive punch-throwing technique. One’s a tactical genius, the other kicks down doors. I’d watch the hell out of that buddy-cop show.