< BLOG

Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Your Record Collection Just Got a Little Saltier

Posted October 19th, 2017

This Friday night, FringeArts’ monthly series of sexy, satirical, queer, and tantalizing cabaret returns to the La Peg stage to kick off it’s fall season. Hosted by Bearded Ladies Cabaret artistic director John Jarboe and co-presented by the William Way LGBT Community Center, this season of Get Pegged features some powerhouse performers from Philadelphia and New York.

October’s featured performers include a “stripped down” assemblage—if that means acoustic or naked is being left unanswered—of Philly’s favorite musical misfits ILL DOOTS, performing two tight sets of original tunes and covers around the notion of “Passion.” Where that will take them is anyone’s guess, all they’ll say is, “We’ll experience several forms of passion together that culminates into what we can only hope is a sweet release.”

Salty Brine in Second Hand News, a reinterpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours through the lens of sensationalist news and gossip.

This month’s other featured performer, the out-of-towner of the bunch, is New York cabaret artist Salty Brine. Astute Fringe attendees may recognize him as the boisterous but wise host from the 2016 Festival hit The Elementary Spacetime Show, but the talented actor and playwright has made his name as an inventive cabaret artist as well for his own ongoing series, Salty Brine’s Spectacular Living Record Collection, which he’ll be performing an excerpt from at Get Pegged. Journeying into the heart of popular music and consciousness, Salty takes classic albums from legendary artists and twists them in style and form, building spectacular and unexpected theatrical worlds for these well known works to inhabit. These are places where they can be appreciated in an entirely new light and he can weave his own personal, historical, and fantastical narratives into our shared musical history.

The first installment of the series, Abbey Straße, took the music of The Beatles’ Abbey Road and reimagined it as a scandalous German cabaret styled in the spirit of Brecht and Weill, Marlene Dietrich, Ute Lemper, and others like them.

Salty has used many albums as a jumping off point to explore queer narratives, including his take on Cyndi Lauper’s debut She’s So Unusual, retitled He’s So Unusual. Told from the perspective of a “1930s pansy,” the charming, well-coifed gentleman takes audience members on a leisurely stroll through Prohibition-era New York’s bustling underbelly.

More recently, Salty has pulled more contemporary albums* into his repertoire. Last summer he sculpted Neutral Milk Hotel’s melancholic epic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea into a fittingly whimsical and devastating voyage through time and space and embarrassing journal entries, all of it haunted by ghosts of WWII.

His most recent installment took Harry Nilsson’s sublime hit album Nilsson Schmilsson and dropped it into the wild world of Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which itself is repositioned within the bucolic forestry of New Hampshire. It remains a mystery which show in the series he’ll be pulling from this Friday, but whatever he chooses is sure to delight cabaret and music fans alike, regardless of whether they’ve heard these albums one too many times. It’s amazing what a sprinkle of salt can do.

—Hugh Wilikofsky

 

*Actually, not very contemporary at all, I’m just getting older.

Making Art in 2017: Ryan Rebel on WILD, A Clown Western

Posted September 15th, 2017

Name: Ryan Rebel

Company: Shoe Box Company

Show in the 2017 FestivalWILD: A Clown Western

FringeArtsTell us about your show.

Ryan RebelWILD is a devised clown show set in the dusty world of the Western. I can’t say exactly where that concept came from beyond the strong desire to work with clown. The juxtaposition of the earnestly goofy clown form with the steely seriousness of the Western planted itself in my mind and refused to leave. As we move forward with the project, one of our main concerns is injecting life, warmth, and thoughtfulness into a tired genre riddled with outdated social norms.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year? 

Ryan Rebel: I’ve spent my life being careful and planning ahead. I tend towards introversion and social anxiety; planning is a way of protecting myself against the unexpected. Delving into the world of WILD has been a deliberate way to force myself to be spontaneous. Clown work cannot be planned; it is utterly anchored to the present. To do clown is to be open and reactionary. This year has been an exercise in minimizing expectations so as to maximize sensitivity.

Read More

Making Art in 2017: Gerre Garrett on Labor of Love

Posted September 8th, 2017

(Left to right) Joanne Cunningham, Gerre Garrett, Sara Carano, Jim Boyle, Chris McGovern, Eric Singel. Photo by Ryan McMenamin.

Name: Gerre Garrett

Company: Waitstaff Sketch Comedy

Show in 2017 Festival: Labor of Love

Role: Performer, Co-Creator

Past Festival Shows: We have performed in 16 previous Philly Fringe Festivals. Our shows have included The Real Housewives of South Philly, The WaitStaff Jumps the Shark  and Making the Fringe Great Again.

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show.

Gerre Garrett: We had to title the show BEFORE writing it. We settled on Labor of Love because we love creating something that exists simply to make people laugh. While we do pride ourselves on offering material that is as smart as it funny, there is no important message or examination of the human condition here. As writers we are struggling with just how much of the show should lampoon current politics. Saturday Night Live has pretty much cornered the market on impressions (not necessarily our strong suit) and with shows like Last Week Tonight and The Daily Show, we are wondering if audiences aren’t over-saturated with political material.

Read More

2017 Festival Spotlight: FringeArts ~After Dark~

Posted September 7th, 2017

This ain’t your grandma’s Fringe. Join us for some of the raunchiest, rowdiest, wildest shows at this year’s Fringe Festival. Hire a babysitter and leave your kids at home because these shows are decidedly NOT family friendly. Viewer discretion advised. 

Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret @ FringeArts
Martha Graham Cracker

The hairy-chested, fake eyelash-laden alter-ego of thespian Dito Van Reigersberg performs a balls-to-the-wall drag cabaret. Backed by her stellar band and with her killer voice, Martha Graham Cracker takes you on a raucous, joyous, uninhibited ride around her world.
“The Drag Queen King of Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia Inquirer
More info and tickets here.

 

 

Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play @ Evil Genius Beer Company
Happy Hour Live, LLC

Two parts sketch comedy, One part drinking games: Mixed and served! Come party with us for a night you might remember with interactive drinking games between comedic romps about the drinking experience. Ticket includes your first beer from Evil Genius! More info and tickets here.

 

The Groom’s a Fag; The Bride’s a Cunt; The Best Man’s a Whore; and the Maiden of Honor (Just) Hung Herself in the Closet @ The Beard Cave at St. Mary’s Church
On The Rocks

Daniel is pretty gay, but he’s marrying Nora. Nora is a virgin that wants her wedding night to be a sexual awakening. Shit gets fucked up. A song, a dance, an image, a poem all wrapped in a sloppy burrito of a play about glamping, hookers, the Easter Bunny, cocaine, Emma Stone, hauntings, and the horrors of commitment. More info and tickets here.

 

KINK HAÜS @ The Latvian Society
Gunnar Montana

Gunnar Montana transports us once again, this time to a brutal underground nightclub where no fucks are given, and fierceness is always welcome. Fantasy, fetish, and carnal desire are all in fashion so leave your inhibitions at home because inside KINK HAÜS, anything goes. That is, if you can get past the doorman. More info and tickets here.

 

 

Read More

Making Art in 2017: Dawn Falato and Karen Getz on The Gorgeousity

Posted September 7th, 2017

(Left to right) Dawn Falato and Karen Getz

Name: Dawn Falato and Karen Getz

Company: The Gorgeousity (produced by Chalk, Chair and Broomstick)

Show in 2017 Festival: Gorgeousity – The Army of Love and Art

Karen Getz Past Festival shows: Suburban Love Songs, Disco Descending (Dawn was also in these shows); as ensemble member in Lunchlady Doris, Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical

Dawn Falato Past Festival shows: St. Anthony’s Body (a solo show); as ensemble member in It’s So Learning, The Ballad of Joe Hill.

FringeArts: Tell us about your show.

Dawn Falato and Karen Getz: Our show is a “play romp” for grown-ups—a musical wrapped inside an informal party.

We wanted to make a creative respite—a place to drop responsible, adult “skins” at the door for a couple of hours. We were interested in making a safe, inviting experience to sing, dance, play, and color for everyone who came to our event. We also wanted to make an instant community, with no “us” and “them.” It was important to us that the experience traveled easily, didn’t hold us back with production costs and could be experienced in almost any location.

Our main questions were: Could we could craft a truly immersive musical experience around our own strengths that would also naturally invite the audience in? How does the experience get crafted so that the participants’ input is genuinely significant to the outcome of the show?  Could we ask people to sing and dance and play act without any performative or creative pressure?

It took us about three years to craft both the musical that is the center of the experience and to craft the means by which audiences can step into that musical as themselves, without performative pressure or cynicism. And we added home cooked food. And crayons.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?
Dawn Falato and Karen Getz: Our mission had long been to create a two-plus-hour, joy-filled respite from the dividing ideologies and relentless pressures of being an “adult” in our society. It now seems more important than ever to get small groups of grown ups in a room together to remember how to create and play, release the tensions of the day and see each other as fellow human beings, just like ourselves. It’s far harder to demonize people you don’t know when you are looking them in the eye and pretending to be enchanted, human-geese together.
Read More

Making Art in 2017: Justin Jain on These Terrible Things

Posted September 3rd, 2017

(Left to right) Bradley Wrenn, David Johnson, Justin Jain. Photo by Kathryn Raines.

Name: Justin Jain

Company: The Berserker Residents / The University of the Arts

Show in 2017 Festival: These Terrible Things

Role: Co-Creator, Performer

Past Festival shows: With Berserkers: The Jersey Devil, 2007; The Giant Squid, 2008; The Annihilation Point, 2009; The Talkback, 2014; It’s So Learning, 2015; I Fucking Dare You, 2016; It’s So Learning, 2016 (part of FringeArts winter season)

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Justin JainThese Terrible Things is our subversive comedic response to contemporary American theater values. We’ve dredged up the work of the (fictional) god-like playwright, Lord Ham Hillerson. His work spans centuries and the variety of work he’s produced emulates those of classic playwrights we revere today—Shakespeare, Beckett, Williams, Mamet . . . to name a few.

These Terrible Things in rehearsal.

The conversations we’re having in the room center around why we produce some works that are consistently problematic—for their misogyny, racism, clunkiness, or for just being over-produced. Why it is so hard for new voices and plays to get attention or funding? Why do we revere the classics as “better”? We are also stoked about this collaboration with UArts because another thread we are chasing are the dangers of educational theater training. The guru and student relationship is one we are excited to explode.

Of course, it would not be a Berserker show without some kind of twist. Let’s just say there’s something much more sinister at play in this piece than meets the eye. That when we look in the shadows we see that all artists deal with the same demons. That sometimes bad ideas need to die. And that what we do as theater artists is all just make-believe.

Read More

2017 Festival Spotlight: Apocalyptic Visions

Posted September 2nd, 2017

In these turbulent times, artists in the Fringe Festival are using their mediums to present worst case scenarios for our unpredictable future. Check out the horrifying projections of reality coming to our city at this year’s Fringe!

 

AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE @ Berks Warehouse
Alexandra Tatarsky

A delirious anti-narrative of American emptiness, violence, and nonsense—part exorcism and part enema! With styrofoam wings, Xmas lights, and ketchup. “Phyllis Diller meets Artaud!” “Like Kellyanne Conway woke up from a coma after overdosing on sleeping pills and reading too much Gertrude Stein.” AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE exists somewhere between irrational healing ceremony, sad clown song, dance in the abyss, and desperate diatribe to take back ecstatic nonsense as an act of resistance. More info and tickets here.

 

Every Day APOCALYPSE! @ The Collective
Lone Brick Theatre Company

The death rays and nukes of outrageous fortune are aimed squarely at a struggling theater group when an irate son of God condemns the company to face a new apocalyptic scenario every day, for eternity. Can they learn to get along in order to save the world, not to mention the world’s worst production of Hamlet? More info and tickets here.

 

GATZ @ Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Harrison Stengle

Philadelphia, year 2025, the tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the kush was cheaper, the restlessness approached hysteria. From the makers of the off-off Broadway show Sword of the Unicorn comes GATZ a Great Gatsby modernist parody. More info and tickets here.

 

Read More

2017 Festival Spotlight: Comedy and Improv, Part 2

Posted August 31st, 2017

This year’s Fringe Festival features features an abundance of comedy and improv. Check out just some of the riotous performances hitting our city next month. Find Part 1 here.

 

Elysian Fields @ The Adrienne Theater Second Stage
Philly Improv Theater (PHIT Comedy)

Like no improv you have seen before! A new dramatic one-act play channeling the works of the great American playwright Tennessee Williams is created before your eyes each night. Enter a world of tortured, desperate characters—ripe with unfulfilled dreams, desires, and the struggle to find escape from a harsh reality. The cast creates a show ripe with unfulfilled dreams, desires, and the struggle to find escape from a harsh reality. More info and tickets here.

 

Roll Play: An Improvised Adventure @ The Adrienne Theater
Roll Play

Roll Play is an improvised fantasy epic, combining the excitement of role-playing games with the spontaneity of live improv comedy. Guided by a mysterious Dungeon Master, the audience helps craft the world and its characters while dice rolls decide their fate. Join our heroes as they face mythical monsters, strange spells, ridiculous riddles, and more. Every show is a brand new adventure! More tickets and info here.

 

Dream Sequence @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
Cambridge Footlights/PHIT

Join “the most renowned sketch troupe of them all” (London Independent) transferring from the Edinburgh Fringe for free-flowing hilarity, excellent original writing & side-splitting character comedy. Don’t miss your chance to see this inventive new offering from the group that launched Monty Python and John Oliver! More info and tickets here.

 

 

The Flat Earth @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
The Flat Earth/PHIT

Favorites of comedy festival audiences across North America (multiple Best & Producer Picks), The Flat Earth return to where it all began—the Philly Fringe—and present a best-of extravaganza, showcasing material from a half decade of remarkable success: sometimes dark, often silly, occasionally experimental, and always impeccably costumed. Featuring Matthew Schmid, Jacquie Baker, Molly Silverman, Rich Lee, and Paul Triggiani. More info and tickets here.

Read More

2017 Festival Spotlight: Comedy and Improv, Part 1

Posted August 29th, 2017

This year’s Fringe Festival features features an abundance of comedy and improv. Check out just some of the riotous performances hitting our city next month. Find Part 2 here.

 

2 INCREDIBLE 2 DREAMZ @ Space 1026
The Incredible Dreamz

Incredible Dreamz is a comedy collective featuring The Incredible Shrinking Matt & Jacquie and The New Dreamz. An exploration of loneliness and connection within the context of everyday relationships. Four performers create a ritual of life that slides between the mundane grind and surreal hallucination. Using a formula where 1 tittle twister = 2 wet willies and 1 homemade meal = 1 hand job, these drama bodies look for formula for love, understanding, comfort and control. This piece uses darker obsessions as material to peel back the pain and beauty inside the desire to be validated—the desire to be fulfilled and to land in a place that is full of froth. More info and tickets here.

 

TOWN The Adrienne Theater Second Stage
Jolie Darrow & Jack O’Keeffe/Philly Improv Theater (PHIT Comedy)

Welcome to TOWN. TOWN is in America, maybe. TOWN is an inviting place where nothing bad happens. The locals of TOWN are hiding plenty of secrets – silly secrets, sinister secrets, and they will all be revealed by the end of the metaphysical horror-comedy modeled after Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town. More info and tickets here.

 

I’m Ok, Are You Ok? @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
Molly Scullion/Philly Improv Theater (PHIT Comedy)

Molly Scullion has been to therapy, and she’ll tell you all about it. In I’m Ok, Are You Ok?, Molly explores living and healing after trauma. With both hilarious and emotional stories, this show takes you far into the depths of just how weird our brains can be; they keep secrets from us, they explode on us, and yet, they’re always trying to protect us. Exploring some of the darkest times in her life, Molly Scullion brings forth a story about overcoming the past and finding strength and humor in pain. More info and tickets here.

 

Read More

Making Art in 2017: Bobbi Block on Tongue and Groove

Posted August 26th, 2017

Name: Bobbi Block

Company: Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater

Show in 2017 Festival: Tongue & Groove (that’s what’s listed in the Guide, tho the name of our show this year is QUESTIONS)

Past Festival shows: We’ve produced shows in the Festival for 9 years! Last year: Before I Die…; the year before that, a collaboration with blues dancers called Groove, and many others!

FringeArtsTell us about your show.

Bobbi Block: Tongue & Groove is unscripted theater inspired by personal information anonymously submitted by the audience. Our mission is to create theater that combines the dramatic integrity of playwriting with the playful tension of improv. Through collaborative inspiration with the audience, we examine authentic relationships, and perform emotionally dynamic, physically intimate, serio-comic theater . . . that happens to be improvised!

The concept for creating T&G came from working with and teaching all different forms of improv: games, longform, Playback (communal storytelling). I was inspired by the work of world-class Chicago improvisers TJ & Dave who create beautiful one-act improvised plays that are both funny and dramatic. I wanted to create a hybrid of all those improv forms, and I wanted to explore regular realistic relationships. Ten years ago, when I founded T&G, I was tired of seeing improvisers avoid being vulnerable on stage—like they would be just about to kiss and then suddenly they make the whole thing surreal or into a wacky joke. There’s a place for that in the improv world—I love performing short-form games that are wacky—but I wanted to see if improvisers could explore human relationships more authentically.

After we honed our style (called Actors’ Improv), we realized that we wanted more interaction with the audience so we started asking them to anonymously reveal personal information (written on index cards and submitted pre-show). We found the collaboration and intimacy with the audience very fulfilling, and the audience loved seeing a piece of their real life turned into instant art. So now we combine our emotionally-grounded work with collaboration/intimacy with the audience.

Read More

Alex Tatarsky’s Americana Psychobabble: The First in a Tryptich on America’s Political Tragicomedy

Posted August 26th, 2017

Alex Tatarsky in Americana Psychobabble

Alexandra Tatarsky is an absurdist performer hailing from New York City who aims to present the current state of affairs in the United States through her mixture of performance art, theater, and clown. She studied with mask maker Stanley Sherman and attended the Pig Iron School in Philadelphia. She performs on stages, in galleries, museums, bars, and living rooms, sometimes as a mound of dirt, and once in an all-too-convincingly stunt as Andy Kaufman’s daughter. She also teaches at the School of Making and Thinking (Abrons Art Center) on Holy Fools, and at the School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico City on performance and community organizing. “I am obsessed with how a performance teaches an audience how to engage with it, and how a work can be fully alive to the particular room it’s in.” Americana Psychobabble is “an attempt to both exorcise and exercise our demons,” an examination of America’s underlying divisive hatred, feelings of abandonment, already-present absurdity, and penchant for ketchup. The show investigates the “empty trashy language careening between somewhat cogent critique and incomprehensible garble seemed to speak to the demonic complexity of the American spirit, and the ugliness that undergirds a razzle-dazzle surface.” The show is a part of the Fringe Festival as the first in what will hopefully become a triptych of performances, the second of which she began devising during the 2017 Camp Fringe. We had a chat with Alex to explore the drive behind this new work, and the path that led her to become an absurdist comic.

FringeArts: Where did you grow up, and how did you begin making art?

Alex Tatarsky: I was born and bred in New York City and was apparently singing songs in made-up languages in my stroller before I could walk, like most kids. But the first performance piece I remember was dressing up as a “butterfly-doggie” and walking around the East Village like that when I was three. So I think it’s fair to say I’ve always been interested in absurdist character work and the rich, uncomfortable spaces between categories. Venerable Philly poet CA Conrad points out that we all made art as kids and then some of us—due to resources, encouragement, delusion, devotion, or compulsion—kept making art and some of us stopped. But we all have that kid artist in us and can access it if we choose to.

As a kid I danced with the magical Lisa Pilato for many years in a church basement by the West Side highway, and played a lot of street ball—both of which contributed considerably to my later development as a performer. But my main performance education for a long time mostly consisted of hanging out in parks and watching street performers like Master Lee chop a cucumber on an audience member’s dick, or Tic & Tac the acrobatic twins gather a huge crowd with some dancing but mostly jokes making fun of each other and the audience. Along with street preachers, panhandlers, drag queens, and anybody else vigorously monologue-ing on the street, these were my performance idols. I went on to study Russian literature and spent a few years thinking about and translating Russian Jewish poetry—whose concerns around the poet/prophet/lunatic are perhaps not unrelated—and when I got back to New York I began studying commedia with master mask maker Stanley Sherman. Eventually I decided it was time to go to proper clown school and ended up in Philly to train with Pig Iron who had blown me away when another clown guru, the amazing Ed Malone, took me to see their Twelfth Night in New York and Dito’s Iazzi so delighted me that I cried. But most importantly, I love to go out dancing and I credit the club as my main influence and form of movement-based research.

FringeArts: Who are some artists that you look up to?

Alex Tatarsky: Miguel Gutierrez, Abner Jay, Trajal Harrell, the Kuchar Brothers, my uncle Miles, Richard Pryor, Dario Fo, Lenny Bruce, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Frank Wedekind, Cecilia VicuñaGershom Scholem, Aventura, Andy Kaufman, Edouard Glissant, Lucy Hopkins, Stuart Hall, Marguerite Hemmings, Grace Lee Boggs, Charlie Chaplin, Cam’ron… all extravagant thinkers pushing at the edges of their disciplines and challenging us to imagine new worlds and ways of being.

Read More

2017 Festival Spotlight: Family Friendly Fare, Part 1

Posted August 25th, 2017

Just because it’s at the Fringe doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home. Check out some of the Festival’s productions appropriate for all ages. Bring the whole family! Check out Part 2 here.

 

A Billion Nights on Earth @ FringeArts
Thaddeus Phillips + Steven Dufala

A  journey into an alternative universe for audiences of all ages. A treasured stuffed whale goes missing and a portal to another dimension though the kitchen fridge sets a father and son off on a spectacular quest through space and time. Objects on stage appear to come alive and the father and son must rely on their creativity, and each other, to survive wild landscapes that open like giant pop up books. Taking from classic children’s books, kabuki stagecraft, and spellbinding theatrics, A Billion Nights on Earth is an imaginative dive into the realms of parent–child relationships, exploring their varying perspectives on reality. More info and tickets here.

 

Edge of the Rock @ The Rock School for Dance Education

The Rock School for Dance Education

Exciting, energetic young talent from around the world perform classical and contemporary vignettes that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Alumni from The Rock School go on to join the most prestigious dance companies worldwide. See the dance stars of tomorrow, today! More info and tickets here.

 

Aunty Ben @ William Way LGBT Community Center
ReNew Theatre Company

Aunty Ben is a play for children 8+ (& Adults). The story revolves around 9 y/o Tracy and her relationship with her favorite Uncle Ben, who happens to be a drag queen. Aunty Ben is a playful exploration of gender issues, acceptance, and is a celebration of diversity, dignity, and marching to the beat of your own drum. More info and tickets here.

 

Photo by Charley Parden.

 

PRIDE PARADE! @ Rittenhouse Square
Wesley Flash

PRIDE PARADE! is an interactive walking tour featuring historic hot spots in Center City Philadelphia. During this immersive storytelling adventure, we’ll dance, sing, and chant as we honor and celebrate out & proud ancestors who marched before our time. Join the movement — Remembering is resistance! More info and tickets here.

Read More

Making Art in 2017: Irina Varina on Socially Conscious Friends

Posted August 22nd, 2017

Name: Irina Varina

Show in 2017 FestivalSocially Conscious Friends

Past Festival showsSpeculum Diaries

FringeArtsTell us about your show.

Irina Varina: In the past couple of years I’ve become increasingly aware of unfair things happening in the world (lucky me). I’ve also binge-watched Friends (a lot). I started to notice moments in the show reflecting current conversations in my head/the world. Each day of the 18 days of the festival, I’ll post one of these moments.

This project came out of that “Look, look, did you see that?” impulse that arises while watching an old, very popular TV show. It’s doing two things for me. It pokes fun and calls out inactivity (like binge-watching a TV show) at times of much needed real life action. And, at the same time, points out surprising and currently relevant conversations hiding in a universally loved TV show.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year? 

Irina Varina: I am becoming more open to different containers for my work, like doing Digital Fringe or possibly starting a podcast. But also, through that openness, gaining a deeper understanding of why I want to continue performing live and the intimacy and connection that I can only find there.

Read More

Making Art in 2017: Josh Holober-Ward on Roll Play

Posted August 21st, 2017

(Left to right) Kevin Regan, Josh Holober-Ward, Emily Davis. Photo by Kevin Regan and Shaun Kreider.

Name: Josh Holober-Ward

Company: ComedySportz Philadelphia

Show in 2017 Festival: Roll Play: An Improvised Adventure

Role: Performer (Dungeon Master)

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Josh Holober-Ward: I’ve always been enormously passionate about two things: Storytelling and games. So it only makes sense that I’m a huge fan of Dungeons & Dragons, the most iconic storytelling game out there. I play with a group of improvisers—the exact same group that makes up the cast, actually!—and although I’ve had this idea for a while, this group’s chemistry is what really compelled me to finally make the show a reality. We have such a consistently fun time that I wanted to get an audience in on the ridiculousness. Not just as a spectator, but as a primary collaborator and curveball-thrower.

FringeArts: How have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year? 

Josh Holober-Ward: I’ve noticed that the more improv I do and see, the more I appreciate unique twists on the form and audience interaction. Improv done with a compelling theme and stage tech seriously stands out and draws me in, and I’m surprised it’s not done more often! And I love the feeling that the audience is helping build the piece WITH the actors, that we’re not just watching, but sharing, contributing. Seeing you and your friends’ wild ideas and creations be brought to life on stage is an experience 100% unique to this form, and it deserves to be explored to the fullest.

Read More

Tall Tales: An Interview with Clayton Storyteller

Posted August 10th, 2017

Clayton Storyteller hails from Brunswick, Georgia, and has been telling stories for decades in the south, and now, in Philadelphia. He worked as a performer in Las Vegas, backpacked for two months around Europe, and is a two-time USDA Nutrition Study guinea pig. In his Fringe Festival Show Don’t be Cruel to Your Puppy…Lemme Give YOU A Twisted Tale, he has prepared three different programs of stories, each a mix of all kinds of tales. “Program A has westerns and ghost stories, B has science fiction, and C has darker, grittier, more violent tales, plus strange romances,” says Clayton. “Some tales are wilder, some milder, but they have no political or philosophical point, save entertainment.” Each program ends with his signature tale, “A Safe Sex Story,” which will also be available as an illustrated chapbook. He’ll be telling stories beginning before the official Fringe Festival kick-off on September 5th, and will continue to tell them every night afterwards until September 23rd, from 5:30 to 6:10 pm at the Philly Improv Theater. Audiences can come and hear his wild stories as an appetizer before the many events at the Philly Improv Theater and many locations in the nearby area. He hasn’t been to Philly since passing through on a 7th grade school trip, “a half-century ago.” I talked with Clayton about his life and work, and how he happily ended up as a newcomer to the 2017 Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Were there storytellers in your family? 

Clayton Storyteller: I was born in Tampa. We moved some miles south to Bradenton when I was a toddler, then at age eight up to metro Atlanta, where I spent most my life (so far). I’ve been in Brunswick, Georgia, for last twenty years and enjoy it immensely. My southerner father went to Detroit for work and married a Michigan bride. We didn’t have any Deep South or Appalachian tradition of storytelling in our family. What fostered my love of stories was my mother, who was an avid reader and passed that on to my brother and me. Erle Stanley Gardner was her favorite author. A golden memory of my childhood was looking at black-and-white photos on a wooden stereopticon in the loft of an old library.

FringeArts: How did you learn to tell stories, and when did you start telling them?

Clayton Storyteller: Literature was always my favorite class. In my five-grade high school I wrote dark, dreck poetry—copies of which fortunately no longer exist—and funny stories. I was flattered when I was an 8th-grade “sub-freshman” and a 9th-grade girl in my science class—name sadly disremembered—liked one of these stories enough to copy it front and back on a piece of paper during a study period. Our friends in the desks around us laughed at this, but she scribbled on, repeating, “But it’s so funny!” This was some nonsense about a blackboard named Charlie who was actually green and the silliness goes on from there and is also now lost. That was the girl’s only interest in me, alas! I was a shy kid. My interest in actually telling stories started when I joined Toastmasters in the mid-80s. I also joined the Southern Order of Storytellers about then, which had several “cluster group” meetings in metro Atlanta neighborhoods, where aspiring storytellers could practice stories and get feedback. I started writing my own stories for storytelling, eventually working into all verse tales.

Read More

Puppet slams, Faust, and Ghost Stories: Interview with Leila Ghaznavi

Posted July 31st, 2017

Leila Ghaznavi in the 2016 Puppet-delphia Fringe

Leila Ghaznavi is the founder of Leila and Pantea Productions, a theater company with an unconventional approach to contemporary drama. She puts her training in mask and puppetry to use in her productions, often using light and shadow as tools for storytelling. The daughter of an Iranian immigrant—and a Daughter of the American Revolution—her multicultural background often comes through in her original plays based on social issues. One of these plays is Silken Veils, which was nominated for the Best New Work award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her work is often interdisciplinary, combining puppetry and theater with her wide range of other skills, including aerial dance and clown. “When creating work, I pull from my toolbox whatever I need to tell the story the story I want to tell,” says Leila. “I’m always interested in how to tell a narrative story but in a different way.” This year, she is producing three different shows in the Fringe Festival. The Puppet-delphia Puppet Slam brings puppeteers from Philadelphia and beyond together for a night of whimsy, beauty, and raucous fun. The other two shows couldn’t be more different. In one, she partners with Broderick Jones, a New York based puppeteer, to create Ubu Faust, a literature-based but rambunctious one-man-show. In the other, she is reinventing The Turn of the Screw by creating a minimalist set that makes use of darkness as a shadow of mystery to tell the story. I had a chat with Leila about how she came to work as a puppeteer, and what it’s been like producing all of these shows for the 2017 Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: What has it been like producing so many shows for this year’s Fringe Festival?

Leila Ghaznavi: Leila and Pantea Productions is producing three separate events for the Fringe this year. A ghost story called, The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James and adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, a raucous puppet farce called Ubu Faust created and performed by Broderick Jones, and the second Puppet-delphia Puppet Slam, which is a cabaret composed of short puppet works, from the poignantly beautiful to the bawdy and comedic. The puppet slam will feature both local and out of town artists.

The Turn of the Screw

What makes all three shows Leila and Pantea Productions is the use of puppetry and the delving into how to use shadow and light as a story telling mechanism. The Turn of the Screw is a ghost story with a minimalist set. Light and shadow create a world that is unseen but literally haunts the stage. Ubu Faust is the complete opposite, a one-man puppet show from New York City-based performer Broderick Jones, it mishmashes puppetry and literature together to create its own unique, irreverent identity. Poetry has always been a prevalent theme in my own work, so I was excited by this chance to present a new artist to Philadelphia that takes these great works of literature and creates his own unique spin! I first premiered the Puppet-delphia Puppet Slam two years ago and it was a great hit! What I love about puppet slams is that you never know what you will see. They are a smorgasbord of puppetry and the short acts involved can range from little gems of beauty, to down-in-the-gutter dirty, to witty and charming. We are currently pulling together the acts for the slam. It will be a mix of local Philly artists and out-of-towners.

This is actually the first year where I will not have a lead role performing in the Philadelphia Fringe, because I will be touring to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. So instead, I decided to produce three shows and appear in Peculiar Works’ Floydada show instead! Although, I will definitely be in the Puppet-delphia Fringe Slam, so keep an eye out for me!

Read More

CATCH these performers tonight at BOK

Posted September 17th, 2016

Tonight CATCH—the Obie award-winning, itinerant, rough-and-ready performance series—takes a break from its native Brooklyn to treat Philadelphia to a one-night-only performance showcase, CATCH takes BOK, as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Featuring a roster of some of the most daring contemporary performers from Philadelphia and NYC, what they’ll be doing may be a mystery, but considering the breadth and depth of each’s body of work it’s a safe bet that you won’t want to miss it. Also, your ticket includes free beer, so, yeah.

Not convinced? You’re awfully difficult to please. In that case, why not get acquainted with the evening’s lineup?

Brooke O’Harra is a director and performer based in New York. As co-founder of The Theater of a Two-Headed Calf she has developed and directed all fourteen of the company’s productions, including the Obie award-winning Drum of the Waves of Horikawa. In an interview with the Huffington Post, O’Harra remarked, “I have been drawn to theater because of the live-ness, the weird formal codes of storytelling, the strange intimacy that happens inside of a group experience, the vulnerability foundational to the act – the real possibility that something could go wrong – these things make the experience charged.” Get a taste of O’Harra’s work with this excerpt from Room For Cream, Two-Headed Calf’s Dyke Division’s live lesbian soap opera which she conceived, directed, wrote for, and performed in: 

Cynthia Hopkins is a writer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and internationally acclaimed musical performance artist. Through her songs, albums, and groundbreaking multi-media performance works she intertwines truth and fiction, striving to obscure the distinction between edification and entertainment. “My creative process is a survival technique which alchemizes a combination of inner and outer (personal and socio-political) demons into works of intrigue and hope, for the audience and for myself,” she says in her artist statement. She recently relocated to Philadelphia after twenty years in Brooklyn and has been chronicling the experience with her podcast, Moving to PhiladelphiaSample her stunning musical chops in the video below from her 2013 performance at Celebrate Brooklyn: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4whnVrav9tE

Philadelphia native Kemar Jewel is an award-winning international director and choreographer. They are a founding member and creative director of Xcel Dance Crew, a dance group that incorporates dance and theater and specializes in dance styles such as jazz, hip-hop, African jazz, and, chiefly, vogue. A graduate of Temple University, Jewel gained to national recognition for a 2014 Youtube video, “Voguing Train,” filmed on Septa’s Broad Street Line. Since then Jewel has toured and performed across the US and Europe, including at the recent tribute to voguing icon and pioneer Willi Ninja at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Check out their latest short film, “Vogue Ball Tango,” a spin on Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango” that mixes Broadway with Ballroom: 

Read More

An Antihero Returns

Posted September 12th, 2016
1806-d9f65a451cc878fd653832e2d1833de3

Peter Smith and Kyle Yackoski (photo by Plate 3 Photography)

Pow! Blam! Zip! Bang! These are just a few of the terms found emblazoned on comic book panels, and sometimes, across our movie screens. They represent and highlight the violence that takes place in these fictional stories of heroes versus villains, but the Earth-shattering showdowns and the impending doom our heroes are trying to upend can be aggressively severe. Recent, mainstream silver screen adaptations have indulged fans with a chance to revel in the chaos of cities crumbling, bullets flying, and punches landing as our defenders in tights attempt to save the day. These films and colorful comics have arguably painted violence in an inconsequential light. Audiences have become all too unfazed and that’s a serious problem according to the Tribe of Fools, a Philly based physical theatre company, and the architects behind Antihero.

Antihero uses dynamic fight-movement comedy to explore the depths of society’s fascination with violence and vigilantes, and how it ties into violence as entertainment in superhero films and comic books. Tribe of Fools aims to shine a light on this polarizing topic once again by bringing Antihero back to Fringe, after 3 years. “This show looks at how easy violence can become and the permanence of its consequences,” explains Tyler Brennan, the show’s director.

Brennan’s interest in the subject arose from looking at his own personal life. “What really got me interested in the subject was how often I would find myself thinking of my daily struggles in life in similar terms as the entertainment I was consuming. I would always envision myself destroying whatever problem I encountered. When you’re dealing with an insurance company or some sort of technology problem, it’s really no big deal, in some ways it helps. When I was dealing with people though, it became a huge problem. Everything was an argument and I always needed to win. It never escalated to violence in my personal life, but I would find myself enraged all the time.”

Read More

Seeing Philly through Rockstar Eyes

Posted July 25th, 2016

catgif“Hi, I’m Ryan, and I am a human being,” Sonia Petruse says as she begins any performance of Sonia as Ryan, Ryan as Drag. Ryan is Ryan Adams, the prolific singer-songwriter and 90s heartthrob, or as Sonia affectionately refers to him, DRA (his full initials, David Ryan Adams). For the past year Sonia has been singing, blogging, taking photos and surrounding herself with domestic objects posing as Adams—inspired by a Halloween costume she created seven years ago. This fall she brings Adams to the Digital Fringe in a video created with Laura Storck. She fondly recalls specific teenage memories associated with every DRA record, “before listening to Ryan and his other bands like Whiskeytown and Sad Dracula, I could never turn to one artist for so many different emotions,” Sonia recalls.

“I look back to times I was sheltered by his albums: Love is Hell through college, Jacksonville City Nights through the loss of my childhood home, Cardinology when I was lost in LA, III/IV after a breakup and Cold Roses forever.”

Sonia confesses that she finds most forms of fandom horrifying. Why? “We are in a strange part of human history, where celebrities are treated like gods,” she muses. While Sonia is undoubtedly a fan of Ryan Adams and performs drag as admiration, she wants to honor him as a human and an artist rather than a deity, saying “I’m a big supporter of Ryan, just like I’m a big supporter of my friends and peers within art.”

Ryan in front of 7-11

Sonia as Ryan in front of 7-11, his favorite store

Sonia reconstructs elements of Adams’ life masterfully, with impeccable attention to detail. She performs with what she refers to as “Ryan props”: stuffed cats, a peace flag, a crocheted blanket and boxes of Cheez-Its. Sonia isn’t just emulating Ryan, she says “[it’s] one of my missions with this performance, to mesh dialogue of my own with Ryan’s, because I find similarities in our personal memoirs.” In conversation, Sonia affectionately uses the plural “we” to describe herself and Adams, almost as old friends. 

Read More

Fringe at 20: Eric Balchunas

Posted June 10th, 2016

Name: Eric Balchunas

credit: Shari Lewis

Credit: Shari Lewis

Type of Artist: Theater (comedy)

Company: IdRatherBeHere

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Wawapalooza (2008), Wawapalooza 2: Get Shorti (2009), Wawapalooza 3: The Dark Roast (2010), Wawapalooza 4: Damaged Goods (2011), Wawapalooza 5: Under Destruction (2012), Wawapalooza 6: The Great Almost (2013).

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: 2008. The highlight was having a sold out show during our first year. I honestly thought the audience would be my mom and a few of the cast members’ friends.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: The Red Room at Society Hill Playhouse right off South Street. We did our show there five out of the six years, and to me it is perfect Fringe space because it is sort of half comedy club, half theater space with tiny, shared dressing rooms. Plus, the audience gets a free beer or wine with every ticket, which helps make any Fringe show better.

Read More