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Archive for the ‘Festival’ Category

Fragments of Unrest: An Interview with Olivier Tarpaga

Posted October 4th, 2017

Co-founder of the Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project, Olivier Tarpaga is both a choreographer and a musician who brings together disparate nations and identities to create powerful and meaningful performances. Working with his partner, Esther Baker-Tarpaga, the duo have generated a project-centered, transcontinental company that is based in both Philadelphia and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Their work has been noted for its intensity that “proved unforgettable” (Los Angeles Times) and for their projects that “metaphorically and abstractly decenter whiteness” (The Dance Journal). In their newest work, Declassified Memory Fragment, Olivier “declassifies,” or uncovers, experiences that many in Burkina Faso have lived through that are hidden from the world. Through the melding of dance and music, Olivier Tarpaga has created an exhibition of the memories of men in political military unrest from the many uprisings within Burkina Faso. We got the chance to talk with him about his process in creating the work and the contexts that informed it.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Declassified Memory Fragment came into being?

Olivier Tarpaga: It came to me during a research trip in Kenya in 2010. I grew up in Burkina Faso and have witnessed military coups in 1980, 1982, 1983, a very bloody one in 1987, and the revolution in 2014. This piece is addressing the issues of military coups. The irony is that in 2015 a coup in Burkina Faso happened the day of the avant-premier of this very piece at Denison University in Ohio. It felt like history revisited. Our country has been independent from France since 1960 and there are many fragments of my childhood memories during this time of political instability. I wanted to bring this issue into the open air and expose it with an artistic approach.

FringeArts: How did the choreography come about?

Olivier Tarpaga: I began the piece in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. With my cast we first began with speaking about the politics of ethnic conflict during the Kenya election and Ivory Coast war. We spoke about our memories and knowledge of the war zones. Several cast members grew up in conflict zones and their families were directly affected. I gave specific tasks, images, gestures and directions to research movement based on memories and experiences of different conflicts in the region. I then selected, transformed and composed phrases based on themes and emotions. We worked with live musicians creating the work and making solos, duets, and group work.

FringeArts: What made it important for you that it was an all-male dance troupe?

Olivier Tarpaga: This is purposeful because all these conflicts and wars we are focusing on were all created and directed by men. Men fighting for power. I am pro-feminist and thus I am specifically making a critique of men creating violence to grab more power. This is our first project with only men. Our company is not all-male, in fact it is founded by Esther Baker-Tarpaga and I. We frequently have mixed gender casts.

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Alone Together at Close Music for Bodies

Posted September 20th, 2017

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about sonic resonance lately, due in no small part to some recent visits to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s installation Dream House. Various incarnations of this sound and light environment have been mounted by Young—a revered minimalist composer, some say the first—and Zazeela—a light and visual artist and musician— around the world since 1969. The MELA (Music Eternal Light Art) Foundation Dream House at 275 Church Street in New York City has remained in that space for the last 25 years, the couple’s longest installation to date. It is a room of infinitely repeating cycles of sound and light frequencies, one that transcends its overwhelming, lower Manhattan surroundings.

During my first visit, initially the sounds contained therein were not as pleasant as I expected, grating even. It took a few minutes to acclimate, but once my eyes adjusted to the dreamy, pink and purple hued lights and my body to the drone reverberating through it, the experience was unlike much else. Speakers are directed such that where you position yourself in the room determines what you hear. You can even opt to just sit down on the lush carpeted floors and loll your head to witness the difference, exhibiting just how spatially specific the installation is.

I couldn’t help but recall this experience when observing a rehearsal of Close Music for Bodies on a rainy afternoon some weeks back. The piece from sound artist Michael Kiley premieres September 20th and runs until the 24th, part of the 21st annual Fringe Festival, and much like Dream House it calls attention to the infinite amount of unique experiences that structured sound can offer in a live setting. That’s about where the similarities end. Whereas the experience of Dream House is a solitary one, Close Music for Bodies is a communal, deeply humane work that wrings beauty out of the limitations of perspective.

Central to Close Music is Kiley’s voice practice, Personal Resonance. “My primary goal with teaching is to have the student understand that the real beauty and benefit of voice has nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how your voice can make you feel physically—and therefore mentally,” he recently told the FringeArts Blog. “Once someone understands how to control that physical sensation, their voice becomes as accessible as breathing.” This democratization of singing is integral to the performance and bolstered by the democratization of the space itself.

Once the piece kicks into motion, the shuffling about of cast and audience rarely ceases. At various intervals throughout the duration the performers guide audience members into various formations and in turn have to constantly navigate around them. These are all very conscious, choreographed movements, shaped with the help of choreographer Sean Donovan, director Rebecca Wright, and the performers themselves. Explaining the team’s close attention to movement, Kiley told us in that same interview, “I’ve been thinking of the movement as sound design—like speaker placement, only my speakers happen to be performers.”

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John Szwed: Notes on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme

Posted September 19th, 2017

This is a guest post written by anthropologist, writer, and jazz scholar John Szwed. He has taught Anthropology, African American Studies, and Film Studies at Yale University as well as Music and Jazz Studies at Columbia University where he served as Director of the Center for Jazz Studies. He has published many books on jazz and American music, including studies of Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Jelly Roll Morton, Alan Lomax and Billie Holiday. On Sept 23, he will interview Salva Sanchis, co-choreographer of A Love Supreme, at the FringeArts Bookstore.


On December 9, 1964, the members of the John Coltrane Quartet crossed the river from New York to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. It was night, because producer Bob Thiele preferred to work after the ABC-Paramount executives had left for the day; he could then avoid having to explain what he was doing. The quartet arrived at 7 o’clock and left before midnight, completing the entire recording of A Love Supreme with few retakes or edits, something quite extraordinary for a piece that long and complex, and without rehearsal.

Manuscript of A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane, 1964. Photo by The National Museum of American History.

More remarkably, there was no written music prepared for the session, only a chart that Coltrane had made to remind him of the structure. The musicians followed his directions, most of which were not spoken, but came from what they heard him playing. They were collectively composing by improvising together, creating a 33-minute art work, risking everything as the tape continued to roll. Musicians have improvised collectively since the beginning of jazz, but never for such a sustained period with no given harmonic structure and no agreed-upon melodies or rhythm. Bob Thiele was there, but unlike other producers he sat back and listened. His trust in Coltrane was such that he gave John control over what he recorded and when, an arrangement that no one in the music business short of a Frank Sinatra might have had. Thiele did not always understand John’s music, because it changed so rapidly and radically. Still, his belief was so strong that he defended anything Coltrane recorded to the company, both financially and musically. But A Love Supreme would not need defending.

While he was still living in Philadelphia and becoming a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, John Coltrane was controversial. To some his playing was meandering, boring, and harsh, even described as anti-jazz. Once, when French CBS received the master tapes for a Miles Davis Quintet recording, they complained to Columbia Records in the US that there was electronic distortion during Coltrane’s solos. But to others, he was a revolutionary—an intense, yet disciplined master, whose music carried the message of struggle and resistance, and was theme music to the Civil Rights Movement. But Coltrane saw a spiritual dimension to what he was doing, a means to peace. When Impulse Records placed ads in Rolling Stone calling it “fire music,” grouping him with the protests of some other black free jazz musicians, he distanced himself from such claims.

In 1957 Coltrane experienced a spiritual awakening of such force that he ended his addictions, reset his life, and with this recording he sought to signal his conversion musically, to testify to his encounters with God. When A Love Supreme appeared in February of 1965 his harshest critics were silenced, and for the first time he received virtually universal praise (though a few were put off by the confessional spirituality of his poem included in the album’s notes; it was too much for high modernists and hipsters). The album cover was black and white, a stark departure from all other Impulse records that were trimmed in orange and black.

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Making Art in 2017: Nick Jonczak on Doppelbanger

Posted September 16th, 2017

Photo by Robin Stamey.

Name: Nick Jonczak

Show in 2017 Festival: Doppelbanger

Role: Creator, Performer

Past Festival Show: Exile 2588 with Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show.

Nick Jonczak: This show is probably the most personal and definitely the gayest piece I’ve ever created. About three years ago, a man broke up with me by saying, “I think I could love a version of you, but I don’t think it’s a version you want to be…” which is kind of a terrible thing to say to someone. At that point I was really consumed by what the best “version” of me is and how I could manifest-build-shape-sculpt-summon that facet of me into being. I became really aware of how this man and many others had shaped the way I hold and use and think about my body, and I also became really aware of how I, like so many other gay men I know, pursue men who look similar to themselves. Doppelbanger tries to tackle these ideas through a collection of stories from my life where I was left wondering: do I want to be him, or do I want to be with him?

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year? Have you found yourself taking anything new into consideration?

Nick Jonczak: I’m absolutely terrified of solo work—this is the first public solo show I’ve ever performed—so I’ve really come to rely on my director, Vanita Kalra, for her amazing sensitivity and sensibility to help me understand the core of the piece, which has definitely evolved over the past year. Originally I was much more concerned with the piece as a reflection of the LGBT community, but, with Vanita’s invaluable guidance, the piece has shifted to a much more personal reflection on formative experiences. I tend to be pretty skeptical of performances that rely heavily on personal narrative, so in making this piece I’ve had constantly, gently give my self permission to make the content about me—and trust that it will resonate with audiences. Trust is hard!

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A Period of Animate Existence Reading List

Posted September 15th, 2017

Next weekend the beloved Philadelphia institution Pig Iron Theatre Company returns to the Fringe Festival with their first major work in two years, and it’s clear they put that time to good use. A Period of Animate Existence may be their most ambitious work to date, an awe inspiring large-scale piece of symphonic theater that examines the most universal, urgent issue of our time: climate change.

In an era called the “Sixth Extinction,” when up to 50 percent of all living species might die off, rather than grappling with the issue in a lecturing, damning manner, the creative team hopes to achieve something more nuanced and universally relatable. “We’ve tried hard to avoid an activist voice with this piece—we want to avoid haranguing or scolding as we investigate the landscape of emotions around climate change,” director Dan Rothenberg told the FringeArts Blog. “As we contemplate extinctions, I keep talking about emotions that I don’t have a name for. I know what grief is, having experienced the deaths of people close to me. And I know what terror is. I think finding ourselves in the middle of extinction creates feelings like grief and terror, but it’s some other emotion that doesn’t have a name.” In taking this lofty approach to the issue, the artists have most certainly done their homework, and then some.

The company has been gracious enough to share with us a list of texts that helped inform the piece. These works may help deepen audiences’ understanding of the show, but, perhaps more importantly, they will help deepen their understanding of the serious crisis we are currently living with. If confronting this harrowing information sounds daunting or terrifying or a surefire way to send yourself into fear-induced catatonia, believe me, I understand. Yet, in reading from these works, I’ve found being informed in my dread has been far more comforting than being ignorant in it. And thankfully, despite the dire nature of the situation, many of these writers chart concrete courses of action for how we might curb the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Taking in this full picture, perhaps you’ll find yourself not quite feeling grief, not quite feeling terror, but feeling that liminal emotion A Period of Animate Existence strives to articulate.

Vibrant Matter
Jane Bennett

Renowned political theorist Jane Bennet—known for her focus on nature, ethics, and affect— examines the active participation of nonhuman forces in natural events. Exploring just how political analyses of public events might change were we to acknowledge that agency is not strictly human, she suggests that such a change in perspective might provide impetus for more responsible, ecologically sound politics.

 

Key Writings
Henri Bergson

French philosopher Henri Bergson was an influential thinker of the early 20th century, one who recognized his time as a distinctly new and modern age, and in turn helped shape its intellectual discourse. At the core of his philosophy is his concept of Duration, a theory of time and consciousness, but most pertinent to the show is his concept of élan vital, his explanation for evolution (a relatively new concept at the time) and the development of organisms which essentializes life into “mobility itself.” This collection assembles Bergson’s most essential writings, including excerpts from Creative Evolution.

 

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Amitav Ghosh

Acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh takes to task our inability to grasp the scale and violence of climate change, particularly in terms of what he sees as an imaginative failure of literary writers. Arguing that the extreme nature of climate events make them resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining, he sees this as connected to the fact that politics and literature have become matters of personal moral reckoning rather than a platform for collective action. They are therefore, at the moment, unequipped to deal with what is truly the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ghosh sees the climate crisis as an opportunity for us to imagine other forms of human existence. He sees no better realm to address this task than in the world of fiction.

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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.

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 4: Installations and Digital Works

Posted September 14th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 1 (sound tours), 2 (performances), and 3 (workshops).

For our final installment, we’re looking at installations and digital works from artists who approach sound through a multitude of different avenues. Many of these artists use sound as a medium explore everything from the overlooked sounds of our daily lives, to Misophonia, to the Jewish Viennese exile during the Holocaust. Some, on the other hand, have created glorious, thought-provoking, and purely multi-sensory works.

 

Installations

The Philadelphia Embassy of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV)
Mike Bullock & Linda Gale Aubry
Sept 16-17 @ A surprise location
The Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV) were founded in 1992 by Swedish artists Carl Michael von Hausswolff (King Michael I) and Leif Elggren (King Leif I) and occupies all border territories as well as liminal states and virtual territories. Excited for Megapolis to begin, the Philadelphia Embassy of this great nation would like to celebrate the festival’s arrival. Ambassador Mike Bullock (who is also a composer, writer and intermedia artist) and Minister of Ornamentation Linda Gale Aubry (also a musician and a multimedia artist) will appear at some point during the festival, with appropriate pageantry, to give renditions of the multifarious KREV National Anthem.

 

Filtered Ears
Scott Allison
Sept 16 & 17, 10am-5pm @ PhillyCAM
A mic’d window becomes a filter for everyday, oft-ignored sounds. Channeled through tiny speakers powered by handmade, 1-watt amplifiers encourage guests to listen closely for these delicate, overlooked sounds. An installation created by graphic designer and sound explorer Scott Allison, who also makes music solo with electronics and in free rock outfits Sunburned Hand of the Man and Kohoutek.

 

Fascists, Lovers, and Other Lonely Ghosts
Brian House
Sept 16 & 17 @ PhillyCAM
Brian House is a Providence-based artist whose performances, installations, and interventions address our relationship to technology through rhythm. This particular installation deals with notions of synchronicity, conflict, and transmission. On a screen small entities beep and flash like fireflies “listening” to each other. Based on proximity, they will fall in and out of unison. Viewers can disrupt their relationships by moving them around to create a cascade of rhythms.

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Making Art in 2017: Talia Mason on Onion Dances

Posted September 14th, 2017

Talia Mason. Photo by Irina Varina.

Name: Talia Mason

Show in 2017 Festival: Onion Dances

FringeArts: Tell us a bit about your show.

Talia MasonOnion Dances is an autobiographical solo examining the role that memories play in shaping one’s past, present, and future. It is is equally interested in how we remember and how we forget our inherited stories. There is dancing, storytelling, singing, reminiscing, and lots of questioning. Onion Dances is a work of dance theater that digs into what it means to be Jewish, and what it means to be a Jewish American during a Trump presidency. The world of the piece is gauzy, dusty, wrinkly, weathered, stinky (loaded down with the smells of time), and honest.

The concept for the piece came out of my time at the Headlong Performance Institute. One assignment was to create a constellation—an array of unrelated things that connections could eventually be drawn between. I had a sliced onion and a photo of my grandfather in my constellation. The rawness of the onion and the peculiarity of my grandfather’s expression made me want to learn more about my roots and my family’s journey to the United States in the 1870s. The piece developed from there.

Photo by Talia Mason.

Throughout the process, I have asked myself lots of questions: What does it mean to be a Jewish American? Does being a Jewish American mean the same thing for different generations? Why do we remember certain details and forget others? Why did Jews migrate across the United States when the large Jewish hubs were Manhattan, Baltimore, and Philadelphia? What did my ancestors like to eat? What traditions did they have that they then passed down? How do I know if what I remember is right or wrong? What happens to the people and events that we forget? How can a personal story become universal to audiences? How can this piece be accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike? I find myself trying to tackle some of these questions by using my family’s direct experiences as evidence as well as imagining what things may have been like for my ancestors in the 1870s.

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Embracing the Chaos with Jeffrey Cousar

Posted September 13th, 2017

This year storied and beloved Philadelphia theater company New Paradise Laboratories have returned to the Fringe Festival with one of the most enigmatic and exhilarating shows you’re likely to see this month.

Hello Blackout! picks up well before the events of NPL’s previous Fringe-presented work O Monsters. That show followed the seemingly human, but exceedingly alien Kissimmee triplets and their mother in the present day. This time around we are with them at the beginning of, well, everything. Taking place before, during, and after the Big Bang, Hello Blackout! unfolds like a compellingly surreal take on the creation myth, where all conventions are thrown aside in favor of inviting unlimited possibility with open arms. It is at times deeply unsettling, at others riotously funny.

In dipping into the past, NPL has resurrected the family’s previously absent patriarch to reveal just what became of him. Taking on this demanding role of the father/king and joining the cast on their ride through the beginning of all things is performer Jeffrey Cousar. 

A Philly native, Cousar began his performance training very young, first attending Philadanco as a child and later, at 13, moving on to Freedom Theatre. After graduating from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, he started working professionally as an actor.

He first became involved with NPL earlier this year, performing in their immersive detective adventure Gumshoe. The interactive mystery took audiences throughout the Free Library as they were trained to be agents of the “Bureau of Mysteries” by various agents. Cousar played the role of Saiph, an agent who specialized in secrets and conspiracies. “I had to take into account the fact that there was no buffer between me and the audience,” Cousar explained, describing the considerations required for executing the site-specific piece. “I could improv working as a colonial merchant in Old City, but Saiph also had specific text to relate to the audience. Doing that in a space where someone could interrupt you mid-dialogue keeps you alert.” While that piece required quick thinking and a strong awareness of his surroundings, Hello Blackout! presents a wildly different set of challenges.

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 3: Molding Sounds

Posted September 13th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 1 (sound tours), 2 (performances), and 4 (installations and digital works).

For Part 3 we’ll be taking a look at workshops where pass holders can get hands on experience with some complex hardware, learn more about the art of radio storytelling, and more.

 

Voltage is Sound, Voltage is Drawing
Tim Nohe
Sept 16, 11am @ PhillyCAM
This hands on, all ages workshop encourages participants to experiment with live technological art to create mathematically derived music and drawings. Led by artist, composer, and educator Tim Nohe, the workshop is rooted in expressive drawing, fascinating mathematical discoveries of the 19th century, and the “switched-on” synth music of the 1960s. Participants will experiment with a range of electronic tools from various eras. Compose electronic drawings on an ‘80s era Vectrex game box by controlling a modular synthesizer. Utilize wireless infrared controllers, iPad apps, and touch sensors to shape sounds and draft kinetic drawings.

 

Blinks, Bleeps, and Bits in the Wild: Breaking the boundaries of littleBits
Ed Bear and Monty Kim
Sept 16, 1pm @ Community College of Philadelphia
littleBits makes technology kits composed of electronic building blocks that empower everyone to create inventions, large and small. To go really large, however, requires some experience, which this workshop will provide. Led by littleBits designers Ed Bear and Monty Kim, participants will be introduced to basic programming, soldering, and design skills. They will learn how to unlock the powerful control, audio synthesis, programming, and connectivity of littleBits to build large multi-channel sound systems, interactive LED sculptures, Bluetooth controlled motors or generators, and whatever else they can invent. No experience necessary.

 

Makin’ Radio Ravioli
Olivia Bradley-Skill
Sept 16, 1pm @ PhillyCAM
New York based radio producer and sound artist Olivia Bradley-Skill breaks down the nuts and bolts of cut-ups and sound collage and discusses how different sounds marinate together to tickle the ears and echo the extremes of our subconscious. Utilizing sound effects, cut-up speech, and music, nonsense will turn from goofy to maniacal, organic to robotic, and the other way around. At the end participants will build their own collages that create new meanings and flavors.

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Making Art in 2017: Barry Rowell on Floydada

Posted September 13th, 2017

(Left to right) Nomi Tichman and Catherine Porter. Photo by Peculiar Works Project.

Name: Barry Rowell

Company: Peculiar Works Project

Show in 2017 Festival: Floydada

Role: Co-Founder, Co-Artistic Director

Past Festival shows: This is our first time bringing a show here—but we’ve been coming to see the festival since 2000. One year, we managed to see 10 shows in 3 days . . . but we were younger then.

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Barry Rowell: I was driving in West Texas about 25 years ago and saw the road sign for Floydada—yes, it’s a real town—and I told my wife, Catherine Porter, that I should write a Dada play set there. The idea changed a lot over the years but eventually it became a play about two estranged sisters opening a Dada cabaret in 1927 rural Texas. We also explore the creative impulse: I think everyone has it and most of us find some way to channel it. Finally, it’s about two middle aged women—one with a lifetime of stifled desires, another who can no longer follow hers—and the joy they find in creating art that frees them both.

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

Catherine Porter. Photo by Peculiar Works Project.

Barry Rowell: Peculiar Works is constantly exploring new ways to create our work. We’ve recently begun to focus on creating more physical performance—our partner, Ralph Lewis, is using his circus training for his next project; Catherine is developing a solo piece inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to take on traditional gender roles. We’re also looking at the audience/actor relationship. I’ve been working on a site-specific play for bars that would incorporate the audience, allow actors to interact with them one-on-one, and incorporate them into multiple narratives woven through the evening. We’ve done a lot of promenade performance, where audience follow actors through a show venue, and we’re always honing that: what worked last time and what didn’t, when we can make the audience’s experience more theatrical or heightened and when it should be more intimate and naturalistic, how we can craft surprises and excitement into their journey to give them a unique adventure.

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A Good Balance of Comfort and Discomfort: An Interview with Steven Dufala

Posted September 12th, 2017

This week, two Philly Fringe favorites are returning to the Festival with two very different shows. Absurdist theater artist Geoff Sobelle will mount HOME on September 13, an ambitious new piece that ruminates on the transitory nature of dwelling, the impossible structural demands of a house, and the absurdity of making a home. Meanwhile, on September 14, theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips will premiere his latest work, A Billion Nights on Earth, a fantastical show for all ages that dives into the realms of parent–child relationships, as pair stumble through alternate realities in search of a beloved stuff whale. Though both of these shows are starkly different, they do have one thing in common. That would be artist Steven Dufala.

Dufala has been creating work in a variety of media for decades now. He has regularly collaborated with his brother Billy, under the name The Dufala Brothers, and together their work—often humorous, hyperbolic reimaginings of everyday or iconic items—has been exhibited widely. They’ve also organized absurdist artistic happenings, including a toilet-trike race through Old City during the 2005 Fringe Festival.

Recently, Steven Dufala has lent his exceptional talents to some ambitious works of theater, designing sets and making some larger than life visions a reality. Perhaps most notable among these collaborations was his work on Geoff Sobelle’s widely lauded show The Object Lesson, which had its premiere during the 2013 Fringe Festival and has since been taken all over the world. Turning theaters into storage spaces with boxes stacked high to the ceiling and filled with the usual household wares, the kind of miscellanea that does little but collect dust but somehow stays with you for years, as well as some more surreal keepsakes—”moss to mystic” designated actual moss with a strong whiff of incense, “acorn collection” ought to be self explanatory—his design and installation work on the show was critical to achieving its uncanny yet strikingly down to earth vibe.

We recently caught up with Dufala to learn more about his artistic practice and what it’s been like splitting his time between these two aesthetically divergent shows.


FringeArtsTell us a bit about your background. 

Winslow Fegley in A Billion Nights on Earth

Steven Dufala: I grew up in south Jersey, the middle of five boys in a creative household. Our parents were pianists and teachers, and all the brothers make things. So I’ve always been making things.

FringeArtsWhat was the Philadelphia arts community (or communities) like when you first arrived at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts? 

Steven Dufala: I used to like to say the scene was mostly living rooms and basements, and I guess that’s still kind of true, but everything was really DIY. Pig Iron was making shows in basements, the best music was at peoples houses, the best parties, the best art shows didn’t really look like shows, but were kind of one or two night show/parties. Old City was kind of too fancy, and no one really went north of Spring Garden. 

When I got to Philly, I didn’t go straight to the academy, I was at UArts for two years in film and animation. That basically cracked open a whole world of creativity I’d never really explored and that’s why I went to PAFA—to try and get a better foundation for making things in general.

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Making Art in 2017: Annielille Gavino & Evalina Carbonell on Mujeres

Posted September 12th, 2017

Name: Annielille “Ani” Gavino & Evalina “Wally” Carbonell

2017 Festival ShowMujeres

Past Festival shows: Fore-ign/Fore-out

Roles: Choreographers, Performers

(Top to bottom) Evalina Carbonell & Annielille Gavino. Photo by Edgar Anido.

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show. 

Ani Gavino: The show is a split bill between Evalina Carbonell and myself. Both choreographers will present their woman centered dance works, hence the title, Mujeres. I will be presenting HERstory which is supported by the Small But Mighty Art Grant. HERstory is a story of ancestral memories and lost histories. This 40 minute work is an interdisciplinary performance, celebrating goddesses, priestesses, female chieftains, and matriarchal archetypes present in indigenous society. HERstory questions the authenticity of history, and challenges our formalized, biased education. HERstory celebrates ancient spirituality, its presence in ancient mythologies, and its absence after the rise of European colonialism.

As a Filipino artist, I investigate pre-colonial Philippines and the role of colonialism in the fall of my indigenous matriarchal culture. HERstory, began as a thought after the birth of my daughter in 2008. Over eight years, this simmered in my subconscious, waiting to boil. Until motherhood, I never thought deeply about my relevance as a woman. Questions arose as I analyzed western archetypes such as the damsel in distress, the virgin, the evil mother, the seductress and the hag. The thought of my daughter’s acceptance of these portrayals as part of cross-cultural convention triggered this resistance.

Evalina Carbonell: My new work, Milk, deals with give and take, as it relates to the female body and motherhood. Using rhythm, breath, effort, and flow, the cast of dancers pour themselves into dance, relating this movement to motherhood. This work was awarded the Ellen Forman Dance Award, which will allow me to further my exploration of the project with Drexel University’s dance ensemble.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 2

Posted September 12th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

We Shall Not Be Moved @ Wilma Theater
Opera Philadelphia

What’s at stake here is America and its future. Who’s invited to participate?

On the run after a series of tragic incidents, five North Philly teens find refuge in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia at the exact location that served as headquarters of the MOVE organization, where a 1985 standoff with police infamously ended with a neighborhood destroyed and eleven people dead, including five children. This self-defined family is inspired by the ghosts who inhabit this home and begin to see their squatting as a matter of destiny and resistance. The group, named the Family Stand, is headed by self-appointed leader Un/Sung, and crosses paths with Glenda, a Philadelphia police officer, whose encounters with the family leads to a standoff that could threaten to repeat history. A co-presentation with Opera Philadelphia. More info and tickets here.

 

Andean Mountains (Montañas Andinas)
Carl(os) Roa, José Avilés, Elyas Harris

Andean Mountains is a digital journey through the mountains. Above all, it is a piece about personal geography: the way we relate to our place of origin versus where we’ve relocated. Featuring a performance by a juicy Colombian bear, the piece is both a Google Street View tour as well as an exploration of culture loss. More info and tickets here.

 

Urgent Care: A Social Experience @ The Colored Girls Museum
The Colored Girls Museum

The Colored Girls Museum takes community matters into her own hands converting the three-story Victorian memoir museum into a Social Care Experience. Her new exhibits redefine the concept and practice of “urgent care” from triage to aftercare. Curators, artists, and ordinaries construct Colored Girlhood as an imaginative and powerful space. More info and tickets here.

 

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A House is Merely a Container

Posted September 11th, 2017

This is a guest post written by writer, editor, critic, and professor Stefanie Sobelle. She is also the dramaturg of HOME, the latest work from Geoff Sobelle. Her book The Architectural Novel is forthcoming from Oxford University Press, and her criticism has been published in Bookforum, the Financial Times, BOMB, Words Without Borders, Jacket2, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction.


What do we mean when we call a place “home”? Home might be the place where we live. It might also be, in game terms, the place we are trying to reach—the goal. We often associate with “home” concepts of comfort, safety, family. When we add an article, home can become more dire: they took her to “a home.” Home is not a house per se; a house is merely a container. It holds residents and furnishings, performances and privations. A house has identifiable limits—walls, doorways, staircases. A house can be discomfiting, sinister, cold, hostile, welcoming, familiar, secure. A house can be empty or full, dead or alive. A house can even be a dream.

We clean these houses to ward off chaos from the outside world; we remodel them and decorate them to bring them closer to our idea of who we want to be; we move into them and out of them; we buy them and we sell them; we take them and we lose them; we raise them and we raze them; we rent them and are rent from them. More often than not, these days at least, a house is often constructed by unknown contractors before we arrive, and destroyed by unpredictable forces after we leave, as if by magic. Its builders and demolishers are faceless and nameless. Its systems are complex and often mysterious.

We live in these houses alone and with others. Geoff and I each rent small Brooklyn apartments minutes from one another, small enclaves in larger houses populated by owners we call friends. But we grew up sharing spaces—bathrooms, backyards, garages, bunk bed hideaways, hillside forts, paper castles, bookstore attics, witchy ponds, and station wagon waybacks. We share so many memories of these childhood spaces—they tell us who we are and who we’ve been—and so we always feel a bit unsettled when we discover where those memories diverge.

I suppose we are all haunted by our memories of previous houses we have inhabited and of the traces left behind by those that came before us. In turn, we haunt those that come next, and this can be true whether the house takes the form of a single family dwelling, an apartment complex, a hotel, a bivouac, a congress, a prison, a theater. But home is less a material thing and more an idea, an experience, a feeling, an illusion. James Baldwin writes in his beautiful brief novel Giovanni’s Room that home can also be a person, or at least how we feel when we see or think of that person. “Perhaps home is not a place,” he writes, “but simply an irrevocable condition.”

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 1

Posted September 11th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

 

To My Unborn Child: A Love Letter from Fred Hampton @ Iron Age Theater
Philadelphia Ethical Society

Murdered by Chicago Police at 21 as he lay by his pregnant lover, visionary Black Panther Fred Hampton preached a humane, compassionate revolution against racist brutality, child hunger, poverty, and capitalism. Fred cries, “Power to the People,” in Rich Bradford’s world premiere play reviving a critical voice for justice. More info and tickets here.

 

Mujeres @ CHI Movements Art Center
Gavino + Carbonell

Mujeres is a compilation of dance works by female choreographers, Gavino and Carbonell. Gavino’s HERstoryexplores pre-colonial matrilineal bloodlines from the perspective of an indigenous Filipina. Carbonell’s Milk delves into motherhood, investigating sustenance passed from mother to child. More info and tickets here.

 

Cotton & Gold @ Circle of Hope
AMH Productions

Writer/director Alyse Hogan explores history to tell this story of struggle, healing and resilience. Through Afrofuturism, the town of Tulsa is re-imagined from the forgotten history of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street. Join Loron Sr. as he escapes to an economically advanced Tulsa, searching for answers to save his hometown of Rankin from the watchful eye of COINTELPRO. More info and tickets here.

 

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Making Art in 2017: Nate Barnett and Nick Schwasman on Wedgwood on the Green

Posted September 11th, 2017

Image by Jordan Schellinkhout.

Name: Nate Barnett and Nick Schwasman

Company: Drip Symphony

Show in 2017 Festival: Wedgwood on the Green

Role: Co-Directors, Performers

Past Festival Shows: Millennia, Damn Dirty Apes, Pay Up!

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Nick SchwasmanWedgwood started as poetic memoir that Nick wrote in 2014. We mounted it in the 2015 Solow Festival as a live radio play. Now we’re collaborating with a variety of artists to create a fully visual show. The story deals with a group of young men who are discovering dark truths about their supposed masculinity as they approach the threshold of adulthood. We tell the story in and out of the round: the audience is seated in a circle of swivel chairs. A narrator sits in the middle, but all around is the world of Wedgwood. They choose what they do and do not see.

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

Courtney Cooke and Devin Preston. Photo by Nate Barnett.

Nick Schwasman: I think the two of us are feeling like we are coming out of a part of our life where we were holding tight to our training and technique. We spent quite a few years admiring the complexities of artistic traditions, studying in discipline and reverence, the music of Leonard Bernstein, poems of WB Yeats, artists whose work have become sturdy pillars by now. I think lately, we’re less interested in the classic stuff, we’ve become obsessed with experimental techniques. For us, the clearest way forward to making new and better art is by bringing an almost scientific attitude towards its creation—testing new ideas rigorously, imagining future possibilities based on experience. It’s the artists that have done this whom we most admire, and how we intend to move forward.

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Making Art in 2017: Michael Kiley on Close Music for Bodies

Posted September 10th, 2017

Name: Michael Kiley

Show in 2017 Festival: Close Music for Bodies

Past Festival shows: Sound design and original music for Nichole Canuso Dance Company’s Wandering Alice (also performer, 2008), Takes (2010), and The Garden (2013), as well as Animina, A Race Street Pier Soundwalk (Digital Fringe, 2015)

Fun fact: My first job in Philadelphia was house managing Christ Church for the 1999 Fringe Festival.

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show. 

Michael KileyClose Music for Bodies is an immersive voice work. It evolved from collaborations on several choreographic processes (with luciana achugar, Faye Driscoll, Chelsea and Magda), where I was invited to collaborate as a composer/designer, and brought my skills as a voice teacher into the fold. I began to get excited about how the moving body affects vocal production, and vice versa. This led to breakthroughs with my voice practice, moving it into a more fully embodied experience, which I now call Personal Resonance. The deep connections I’ve made with people through teaching Personal Resonance made me wonder if I could create that level of intimacy and community in a performance setting. Vocal education will be a facet of this performance.

It is a social and cultural norm to judge people by the sound of their voice. We do it without realizing it. This judgement is magnified when it comes to the sound of someone’s singing voice. As a result, the act of singing has become an elitist form. Early on in life, people are told that they can either sing or they can’t, in relation to their natural ability to duplicate pitches in a pleasing tone. But singing is one of the most mentally and physically beneficial acts possible in the human form. That benefit has absolutely nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how it feels, physically in your body. I’m interested in discovering what happens when a community of voices is unbridled by the expectation of sounding perfect, and only seeks that which is physically pleasurable.

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Living a Billion Nights: An Interview with Michael and Winslow Fegley

Posted September 10th, 2017

This week sees the premiere of A Billion Nights on Earth, the latest work from acclaimed theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips in collaboration with artist Steven Dufala. The show—appropriate and ideal for audiences of all ages—follows a father and son as they venture into their fridge in search of a beloved stuffed whale and find themselves on a spectacular quest through space and time. With stunning scenic work by Dufala and Phillips, taking inspiration from the shapeshifting nature of Kabuki theater design, the piece is a dazzling, ever-evolving work of visual art and a touching, imaginative dive into the realms of parent–child relationships, exploring their varying perspectives on reality.

If you find the relationship between the father and son characters deeply palpable, it might be because stars Michael and Winslow Fegley are father and son. And also exceptionally talented performers. Michael Fegley has been working in theater and film for decades now, as has his wife Mercedes, and now all three of their children are following in their footsteps.

I caught up with Michael and Winslow to learn a little more about their experiences performing, how this collaboration with Phillips came about, and what it’s like living in the fantastical world of A Billion Nights on Earth.


FringeArtsTell us a little about your performance backgrounds.

Michael: I’m a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and have been working professionally for over twenty years. I’ve performed extensively in New York and Philadelphia in works ranging from classical to the avant-garde, including the Off-Broadway production of Small Potatoes.

Winslow: I’ve been doing plays and movies for a while now. Plus my whole family acts, and I watch them working all the time. I’ve learned a lot, and I like working with my dad.

FringeArtsIs there a strong theater or performance community in Allentown?

Michael: Allentown has the wonderful, talented people of the Civic Theatre of Allentown, where our family has been a part of productions for years. Winslow, like his sister August and brother Oakes, have all taken many turns on that stage. However, it is a non-equity house, so I have to find work in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Last year I was in the world premiere of The Ballad of Trayvon Martin at Freedom Theatre here in Philadelphia.

Winslow: I like working in Allentown, but it’s cool when we get to go to new places and work in different theaters.

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Making Art in 2017: Keila Cordova on KITH

Posted September 10th, 2017

(Left to Right) Matt Austin, Loren McFalls, Kathy Kerner. Photo by Kathryn Raines.

Name: Keila Cordova

Company: 3 Pony Show / keila cordova dances

Show in 2017 Festival: KITH

Past Festival shows: Linear DefaultAs Pretty Does, Volcano, My Love, Agnes Falling, Gold, Janet 2.0, Girl “Y”

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show.

Keila Cordova: KITH comes out of my on-going interest in looking at how people connect to each other.  We created a survey as a portal where people in the community can share their stories and connect to the performance experience. Dance can be the vocabulary for telling our story, or for releasing our story into the universe.

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

Keila Cordova: I’m learning that there are infinite amounts of magic in not knowing.  So I find playing to be a great space for discovery. When you go through the trouble of bringing the right people onto your team, it’s important to value their uniqueness and make sure they’re a part of the development process.

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