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A glitch in the festival: BIG CRUNCH Comes to Fringe

Posted August 8th, 2016
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Congdon as TOLVA (photo by Monique Baron)

Sam Congdon’s new solo piece, BIG CRUNCH, envisions a future world where a ruthless government strictly enforces gender roles. In this dystopian fantasy, one cyborg with a queer glitch rebels against the state enforced gender binary. “I’m inspired by the radical power of science fiction,” says Congdon. “I think especially right now we need stories of queers fighting back against the system. Science fiction allows us to both examine what things might look like in the worst case scenario future, but also how we might be able to change the world for the better.”

Congdon is a Philly based curator and multimedia artist. His work combines live performance, experimental electronic music, video, and new media. Two years ago, Congdon created the alter-ego TOLVA, “a space princess who travels the universe in an orb of vibrating color in search of the weird, the queer, and the magical.” Since TOLVA’s inception, she has evolved from an alias for Congdon’s musical work to “her own character with a developing back story and very separate personality,” says Congdon. He explains that this development has happened through performance: “It’s a process of trying things out, understanding what works and doesn’t, and building on that. I don’t think her evolution will ever really be complete.”

In BIG CRUNCH,  TOLVA performs as cyborg BC108. The robotic protagonist packages products at a make-up factory, where it obeys strict rules of gender expression. That is until one day when a “queer glitch” occurs in its programming. For Congdon, the piece explores the power of queer possibility in the face of government control. “Instead of thinking of glitches as problems that occur in a computer,” says Congdon, “I like to think of them in the same way mutations contribute to evolution in living organisms: they change and develop an entity in new and exciting ways. The ‘big crunch’ refers to the moment this glitch occurs in our cyborg protagonist.”

Audience members can look forward to spacey electronic music and a glitter-filled post apocalyptic landscape. For a peek at Congdon’s earlier work, check out this music video “faavric” by TOLVA.

Besides his independent work, Congdon is a founding member of the curatorial collective SuperObject. The collective celebrates queer experimental theatre and performance art by emerging Philadelphia artists. Two SuperObject co-founders, dramaturg JD Stokely and costume designer Najee Haynes-Follins, are collaborators for BIG CRUNCH. Congdon is also joined by musician Stephen Piccarella, and cinematographer Max Gideon Basch.

BIG CRUNCH premieres in the 2016 Fringe Festival this September at the 319 Performance Space at Vox Populi. A limited number of zines featuring local artwork can be purchased to accompany the performance.

BIG CRUNCH
Vox Populi’s 319 Performance Space
N 11th and Wood Streets
Sept. 15 and 22 at 8pm
Sept. 16 and 23 at 9pm

—Hannah Salzer

Humane Digitization: Bolstering the Acoustic with the Electronic in Daniel Wohl’s HOLOGRAPHIC

Posted February 3rd, 2016

Much of the talk about Daniel Wohl’s latest album Holographic points to the artist’s proficiency in seamlessly melding the digital with the analog, employing his background in composition, and interest in electronic music to create something unconventional and adventurous. This, however, just feels like scratching the surface. Wohl has a remarkable talent for blending those elements, but such a concept is not exactly new to music. So why, despite this, does Holographic feel so contemporary? What I often find most striking on the album is those instances when he lets the veil slip: a momentary interjection of a vibraphone, a sudden crash of breaking glass, a mournful bowing of a violin. These moments of unmanipulated instrumentation help mark the listener’s path through Wohl’s labyrinthine compositions, and imbue the work as a whole with a sense of unpredictability. These moments can jar, they can bring relief, but regardless of the outcome they ground us in the work’s human reality while its immersive digitally altered atmospheres swell all around.

Final Cover

Daniel Wohl’s Holographic, out now via New Amsterdam Records. Cover: “The AK-47 vs The M16.” Design by DM Stith. Photo by Nathan Lee Bush.

While the initial recordings may be organic—such as the gentle drone that opens “Replicate, Pt. 1,” recorded by a microphone placed on a resonating snare drum—Wohl alters and layers these samples until their sources become indecipherable. “I’ll process it in different ways, and stack up the recorded versions against the live, acoustic performance to create a sort of augmented reality,” the composer revealed, speaking to The Boston Globe, adding, “When you listen to the album it’s kind of a mystery as to what’s being played live and what’s electronic.” This process yields innovative, slyly disorienting results, with each track possessing its own enchanting ambience, echoing the works of influential compositional and experimental music innovators, both forebears and contemporaries. “Formless” is marked by the ebbs and flows of a muffled beat, recalling the loop-based works of William Basinski and ambient techno explorations of Wolfgang Voigt. “Pixel” flies by in a gleeful rush, like a toy piano ensemble covering one (or maybe all) of Conlon Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano. The chopped and screwed, otherworldly vocals of “Source” nod to the sonic experimentation and voice manipulations of Katie Gately and Holly Herndon, but utilizes them to much different ends.

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Tonight! FREE Castellucci Screening and Discussion

Posted August 19th, 2014

castelluccifilmscreeningTonight, FringeArts wants you to come talk about Italian theater director Romeo Castellucci. We presented his On the concept of the face, regarding the Son of God as the centerpiece of last year’s festival. As part of the 2014 Presented Fringe, we’re offering The Four Seasons Restaurant.

If you saw one, or want to see the other, stop on by. We’re screening Castellucci excerpts, and Yale School of Drama professor Tom Sellar (who also edits the renowned performance journal Theater) will discuss things like: why does Castellucci use a NASA-recorded sound of a black hole? Are those police in that picture actually helping that guy? And why might women appear to cut of their tongues? I’m not sure if there will be free beer, but I’m guessing the evening should be mind-altering anyway.

RSVP here.

Romeo Castellucci Film Screening and Discussion with Tom Sellar
Free
Tonight!
7:30 pm
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Boulevard

–Nicholas Gilewicz

The Weekender: QFest, family friendly community disco, the mass appeal of sugar substitutes, and storming the Bastille with high-kicking ferocity

Posted July 12th, 2013
Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?

Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?

See such born-to-be classics as Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?, The Secret Disco Revolution,and Meth Head at the biggest queer film festival on the east coast, Philly’s QFest! The festival, kicking off Thursday, July 11th and exciting our filmic senses until July 22nd, is stocked with goodies from the cow hide-laden James Franco/Travis Matthews film Interior. Leather Bar. to the scintillating Pratibha Parmar documentary Alice Walker:Beauty in Truth. View the event shedule and venue map and make good choices!

Caili Quan, Billy Cannon and Richard Villaverde in Beautiful Decay, Photo by  Alexander Iziliae

Beautiful Decay, Photo by Alexander Iziliae

“Is it like, all classical?” a friend asks as we enter The Wilma Theater, 265 South Broad Street.  “No, it’s BalletX! Like the “Z“ in Zorro, the “X” clearly indicates that we are about to see edgy, cerebrally demanding contemporary ballet!” And that’s just what choreographer Nicolo Fonte and the BalletX company deliver in their Summer Series piece, Beautiful Decay. Running July 10th through the 14th with tickets ranging from $22 to $40, it is an enthrallingly impressive work The Philadelphia Inquirer pronounces as “too important to be unknown to Philadelphia ballet lovers.” (TIX)

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ParkJam at Malcolm X

Strap up your workman’s boots and prepare to A-town stomp the chlorophyll out of West Philly’s outdoor discotheque, otherwise known as the spacious green at Malcolm X Park, running between 51st and 52nd Street and between Pine Street and Larchwood Avenue. On Saturday, July 13th from 2pm to 7pm, the green lends itself to ParkJam, a  Garden Community Association sponsored community dance party featuring co-presenter and Philly DJ Danophonic Dan, folk rock/golf enthusiast band HighKick, a moon bounce (!!), local artisans, food trucks, and community members and groups galore.

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Tastier by Leslie Friedman

Ongoing until July 26th, Philadelphia printmaker and installation artist Leslie Friedman, explores the bodily and psychological effects of our culture’s strange sexual attraction to Coke ZeroTastier, showing at Space 1026, 1026 Arch Street, 2nd Floor specifically aims to stage interventions between Crystal Light lemonade packet suckers and art goers all over Philadelphia by drawing parallels to the allure of simulated pleasures and stripping sleek, sexy soft drink labels from bottles and replacing them with bright sugar-rushes of technicolored sex. Bring your own juice box.

Bearded Ladies, Bastille Day 2011

The Bearded Ladies, Bastille Day 2011

As we mourn the loss of Twinkies, we look to Marie Antoinette, patroness of good will and hope, as she cries “Let them eat Tastykake!” from atop Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Avenue. All day Saturday, July 13th the Penitentiary will celebrate Bastille Day with discounted tour rates, the beheading of Antoinette, emcee Edith Piaf, French-themed menus at surrounding restaurants, and a slew of sobering, historically faithful theatrical performances including a visit from experimental cabaret group, The Bearded Ladies. Before you go, check out this instructional video on how to dance like a revolutionary. 

Spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon entranced by ornately costumed body rolls and globally infused instrumentals. For $12 on July 14th at 7:30pm, World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street provides the scene for ANIMUS- Philadelphia’s Belly Dance Spectacular. Musical ensemble ANIMUS brings its culturally diverse musical concepts and traditions–Greek, Blues, Middle Eastern, Jazz, Spanish, Funk, Latin, Rock, Indian, Jewish Klezmer, and African and tosses the norm amongst the reverberations of emotional rhythmic energy. (TIX)

–Maya Beale

Dostoyevsky with an iPhone Camera

Posted September 12th, 2012

Festival Blog contributor Richard Bon lives in Northern Liberties with his wife and daughter. He posts original flash fiction of his own or by a guest writer every other Monday on his blog, liminalfiction.com.

He’s written plays, films, and television shows, and taught others about all of the above. But his newly produced seventy-seven minute movie, co-directed by and starring Seth Reichgott, is the product of a more than twenty years of thinking, and is the first full length film he’s produced himself from soup to nuts. The man is Larry Loebell, and the film he’ll debut as part of Philly Fringe is Dostoyevsky Man.

In his Mount Airy home, Larry discusses the evolution of this one-actor movie where Seth delivers all of its lines in the form of a monologue spoken into his smart phone. True to his art, Larry shot the entire film on his own iPhone. As he puts it, “The reality and the fiction of the piece is that he’s talking into his phone, the actor and the character he plays.” Interior footage was taken in Larry’s basement and at Arcadia University, with exteriors shot around Mount Airy and again at Arcadia, where Larry teaches playwriting and dramaturgy (he also teaches film history at University of the Arts).

After the jump: The history of man. Dostoyevsky Man.

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Philly Fringe Vital Stats: Martine Pelletier of the Film Fringe Tour

Posted August 15th, 2012

Film Fringe Tour is in Scotland right now, strutting its reels at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Even fitted with international features that include Runaway, filmed in Bangladesh, and Viette, which explores the divide between a first-generation American and her Vietnamese parents, one real draw is local. The Prep School Negro is a feature-length film by André Robert Lee, and explores the consequences of elite education: as a 14-year-old growing up in a low-income Philly neighborhood, Lee receives a scholarship to attend Germantown Friends School. Soon he finds himself sharing classrooms with children of the city’s wealthiest (and whitest) families, while feeling increasingly ousted by his neighborhood allies. Watch a preview below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c14sWbuTw8&w=560&h=315]

After the jump: One of the tour’s producers Martine Pelletier Vital Stats’d us.

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Why Philadelphia Rules: David Lynch Edition

Posted July 23rd, 2012

“I always say my greatest inspiration came from the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So many reasons, the mood of the place, the architecture, what I saw and heard and felt. It was very magical, but laced with a deep tormenting fear and sickness. And I ate many steak sandwiches there.”

I Like America and America Likes Me: A Meditation on Performance and Violence

Posted July 22nd, 2012

“When you’ve begun to think like a gun / the days of the year are already gone.”
—John Cale, “Gun”

“John Kennedy shot John Wilkes Booth in the heart. Booth went to a farm bleeding. He ate a live cow. Kennedy found him and shot him with Kotex. He shot him in the Goddamn fucking empty American heart. He shot him with McGeorge Bundy. He shot him with Arthur Schlesinger. He shot him with miracles and master plans. He shot him with everything. Everything has 13 or 26 or 89 letters. Kennedy, Booth, Oswald, Ruby and Lincoln are all dead.”
—Bill Hutton, A History of America

In 1974, Joesph Beuys came to New York and spent three days living with a coyote in the Rene Block gallery. Beuys titled his performance Coyote: I Like America and America Likes Me. Of the show, Beuys, ambivalent about the United States and its role in global warfare and perpetuation of violence, said, “I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote.”

Beuys fashioned himself a mystic, a shaman, and he hoped in some way to commune with what, perhaps, he saw as the spirit of America, the coyote, the spirit with which Americans themselves were (and are) at war. According to David Levi Strauss, Beuys “engaged the coyote in a dialogue to get to ‘the psychological trauma point of the United States’ energy constellation; namely, the schism between native intelligence and European mechanistic, materialistic, and positivistic values.” The investigation has been framed as one of artistic authority. But in its connection to the United states, the question regards authority more broadly.

Aspects of this schism pervade United States culture. The coyote is reviled by ranchers, for example, as an agent of chaos; but we also laud the coyote for its freedom to roam the United States heartland, and in some way, respect its ability to resist and adapt to our attempts to exterminate it. This tension—between what we understand (and desire) as pure freedom and what we accept (or inflict) as order—undergirds how we think about what it means to be American. And that includes how we think about our gunmen.

After the jump: the duplicity of terror, and getting free.

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Biting the Hand That Feeds You? IdRatherBeHere’s “One Man Audience”

Posted July 25th, 2011

IdRatherBeHere is known for poking (mostly) gentle fun at Philadelphia’s foibles with its wildly popular Wawapalooza shows. This year, they’re back with Wawapalooza 5: Under Destruction at the 2011 Philly Fringe. They spare no one: including us! Check out the rough cut for one of this year’s comedic short films, One Man Audience:



It’s all in good fun, so won’t you come to their Fringe show? IdRatherBeHere’s Wawapalooza 5: Under Destruction runs every weekend of the 2011 Philly Fringe at Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S. 8th Street, Philadelphia. Dates and times vary, $15.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Philly Fringe TV: Gender Reel

Posted July 11th, 2011

At the 2011 Philly Fringe, the folks behind the Gender Reel Festival are offering up two days of film, art, and photography, as they say, “dedicated to enhancing the visibility of gender non-conforming, gender variant/queer and transgender identities.” Festival chair Joe Ippolito tells us that two dozen films and 16 artists are already confirmed, and that the full schedule of events should be up by the end of July.

In the meantime, click here to learn about some of the programming, and watch below to learn about the genesis and need for Gender Reel:

The Gender Reel Festival runs during the 2011 Philly Fringe on September 9 and 10, CBS Auditorium, 320 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Tickets on sale soon!

–Nicholas Gilewicz