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Archive for the ‘FringeArts’ Category

When an Ensemble Becomes a Family: The Cast of Pa’lante Stops by Happy Hour on the Fringe

Posted November 9th, 2018

“Pa’lante is one thing we have in common. From childhood, we know, the LatinX people know that pa’lante means struggle, that you’ve got to move forward every day, that you have to work hard in order to have a tomorrow…”

_____

Throughout the year, First Person Arts provides a platform for Philadelphians to share their personal stories, but every November, the year of programming culminates with the First Person Arts Festival, two weeks of first-person accounts of love, loss, pleasure, pain, and everything in between. Gabriela Sanchez, Philadelphia native, actress, and founder of Power Street Theatre, will be bringing the stories of a diverse group of LatinX art makers to the First Person Arts Festival stage with her show Pa’lante.

Ivan Vila, Virginia Sanchez, Alexandra Espinoza, Rachel O’hanlan-Rodriguez, Diana Rodriguez, Tony Mendez, and Erlina Ortiz join Gabriela in sharing their personal experiences in this piece of devised theatre. Pa’lante is about how members of the LatinX community find themselves “navigating Latinidad, navigating legacy, navigating tradition, navigating the five senses” and “how people navigate moving forward with their bodies and their spirit.”

Over wine, Ivan, Gabriela, and Virginia tell Happy Hour on the Fringe hosts, Raina and Tenara, more about what the audience can expect from Pa’lante. They give us a BTS look at the process of creating the show—how the cast came together, what it is like to be a part of a diverse ensemble telling “multidimensional and intergenerational” stories, their new extended family, the common threads that connect the individual stories, and what ‘pa’lante’ means to them.

Listen to Episode 16 of Happy Hour on the Fringe above or on our Spreaker page.

Come see Pa’lante Nov 11 & 12 at FringeArts. Tickets available at FringeArts.com.

Celebrate Halloweekend at FringeArts!

Posted October 24th, 2018

Halloweekend at FringeArts is jam-packed with ghoulish good times! Take a look at what’s in store.

Outdoor Movie: Ghostbusters (1984) Rated PG-13

Thu, Oct 25 8 PM (Quizzo at 7 PM)

Ghostbusters Feature Image

Calling all mega fans! We’ll start off the night flexing our film knowledge with a pre-show quizzo and La Peg’s Halloween drink specials ($8 mulled wine, $6 hot chocolate, $8 spiked hot chocolate, $8 New Harvest) at 7 PM. Then witness your fave ghostbusting professors exterminate ghosts and save New York City in the process. Costumes are recommended but a cozy sweater or blanket is highly suggested.

The night doesn’t end there. That same evening we will be moving inside for….

Burn It All Down: A BTF Spectacular

Thu, Oct 25 at 10:30 PM

Bechdel Test Fest was born in 2014 to create a comedy festival to celebrate the talented and hilarious women, trans and non-binary comedians who make up a significant part of the local comedy scene. Now entering its 4th year, Bechdel Test Fest is resurrecting their favorite acts for a Spooky Late Night Comedy Spectacular.

The line up will include:

Kat Mosely – Storytelling

A Song In Her Ear – The Musical Improv Group of Philly Phame

Tan Hoang – Stand up

Alyssa Al-Dookhi – Stand up

CJ Higgins – Musical comedy

Cups and a Half – Sketch comedy

…and more.

Halloqweens

Sat, Oct 27 at 9 PM

Halloqweens Feature Image

Philly’s biggest annual queer and LGBT Halloween rager is back! FringeArts is being taken over by the dopest queer DJs, drag and burlesque performers, photo booths, tarot readings, and more. This is not a party to miss. Please note you must be 21+ to enter.

A few of the highlights-

LIVE:

PRECIOUS (Viceland’s My House)

DJs:

DAME LUZ | BB BASURA | DELISH | JAMZ | LOVE

Drag:

ANN ARTIST | ICON EBONY | PRETTY GIRL | ASIA MONROE | KUSTARD KREAM

Burlesque:

LUZIFER PRIEST | THE DEVA ARAZEL

Photos:

KALTOUM | DAVID FORD

Readings:

TECHNO TAROT

Outdoor Movie: Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971) Rated G

Sun, Oct 28 at 6 PM

Bedknobs and Broomsticks feature image

Round out the spooky weekend festivities with your family! We’ll start off the evening with a children’s costume contest and pumpkin decorating at 5pm. Starting at 6, watch Angela Lansbury as Miss Eglantine Price, a witch-in-training, as she sets out to defeat the Nazi menace with the help of her powers, three inventive children, the head of her witchcraft school Emelius Brown, and an enchanted bed! While you cozy up in your favorite blanket (or costume!), enjoy some of the Haas Biergarten’s alcoholic and non-alcoholic selections, including apple cider and hot chocolate.

Prismatica at FringeArts and Cherry Street Pier

Posted October 11th, 2018

FringeArts, Race Street Pier, and our new neighbor, the Cherry Street Pier, are the sites of Prismatica, an interactive installation created by Raw Design and brought to Philly with Montreal-based group Creos. Deemed “a modern ice palace”, each prism is more than 6 feet tall and coated with film that reflects various colors of the rainbow, depending on vantage point and time of day. The prisms are mounted on projectors, adding a new layers to the light show come nightfall. Moving the prisms triggers ambient bell sounds, which means they are indeed designed for interaction and completely family friendly.

The installation is part of the Festival for the People, presented by Philadelphia Contemporary in partnership with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, which officially opens Saturday, Oct 13, though the prisms are already on display at the Haas Biergarten. The next three weekends will encompass several kinds of events showcasing analog, digital, and embodied art forms of various subcultures. (Think: live tattooing!)

Over the course of the festival, in addition to many live events, Cherry Street Pier will also be hosting Impulse; a group of interactive, illuminated see-saws that promote urban play and tranquility.

Prismatica remains on display at FringeArts through Oct 28.

Closing Time: Celebrate Fringe’s End at the Closing Night Party

Posted September 21st, 2018

It’s the closing weekend of the 2018 Fringe Festival and there’s plenty of shows left to see and plenty of reasons to celebrate. This Saturday, after your Fringe show head over to the FringeArts headquarters at Columbus and Race to celebrate like you just made it through three weeks of incredible contemporary art.

Harness your final dregs of energy and dance them out like there’s no tomorrow to Emcee Elroy at the 2018 Festival Closing Night Party!

You may have heard Emcee Elroy dropping the beat at the nighttime after party for Le Super Grand Continental or at FringeA-Thon in June. We’re excited to bring him back for a night of festivities and jamming out back at FringeArts! Join us late night or get your night started with us in Haas Biergarten. Make sure to ask for the ~secret menu~ at La Peg to get their $12 Festival food & drink special!

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Happy Hour on the Fringe with Donald Nally of The Crossing

Posted September 13th, 2018

FringeArts continues its signature podcast series Happy Hour Hour on the Fringe.

The Crossing. Photo by Becky Oehlers Photography.

In this episode, Donald Nally, co-founder and conductor of The Crossing, joins hosts Zach and Raina to discuss the choral group’s unexpected origins, his brand spanking new Grammy hat, and The Crossing’s Fringe Festival show Of Arms and the Man.

Of Arms and the Man presents an enticing program of choral pieces performed by the 24-voice ensemble under the direction of Nally. In keeping with The Crossing’s mission of presenting new works for choir, the program features a world premiere from 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist Ted Hearne—the nation’s preeminent composer of works of social advocacy—and a rare live performance of David Lang’s “depart.” Catch the Festival performance September 16 at 8pm at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard.

Listen now to the the wide-ranging conversation about the show and Meg’s signature performance technique.

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“I’ve lost everything but I managed to save my life”: New Video of Stories of Refuge

Posted September 12th, 2018

Tania El Khoury and Petra Serhal from Beirut-based Dictaphone Group collaborated with a group of Syrian refugees who had recently arrived in Munich, Germany, fleeing the Assad regime and the violence engulfing the country. They provided each person with a discreet camera for a day, the only instructions being to film their lives in Munich and their favourite spots in the city. The resulting interactive installation, Stories of Refuge is on display this month at Twelve Gates Arts as part of the Fringe Festival show ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury.

On opening weekend, videographer Dave Tavani visited the installation to record interviews with some audience members and footage as they experienced the intimate, affecting work.

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What Fringe Artists Think You Should See

Posted September 7th, 2018

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been asking select Fringe artists for their picks of shows to see in the 2018 Fringe Festival (they weren’t allowed to pick their own show!). Here’s the work they recommend:

Lary Moten (Day of Absence)
“James Ijames’s Kill Move Paradise is a must-see for me.  And Kaleidoscope’s For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf i am very curious about what their take will be on this classic.  Simpatico’s 4Solo looks interesting.  And of course Iron Age Theatre’s August in the City.”

Bastion Carboni (A Vacation)
“I’m super-about Kill Move Paradise and Simpatico’s 4Solo. Songs For Monsters is gonna be a kick in the dick also.”

Ants on a Log (Music for Children and Other Curious People)
“We  can’t wait to see our friend and creative-consultant Emily Schuman in Bon Iver Fights a Bear!”

Randi Alexis Hickey (The Buried Life)
“On the Rocks’ WOLFCRUSH of course. Close Your Legs, Honey. White Feminist by Lee Minora. Phaedra’s Love by Svaha Theatre Collective! There are so many more I could list! It’s why I love Fringe—I’m so excited by so much of the work going up during in just the span of a month.”

Ben Grinberg (Jeanne/Jean/John/Jawn)
“In terms of Curated Fringe, I’m most interested to see
The undergird, which is bound to be one of the most deeply researched and moving things in the Festival. But the independent shows are where it’s at this year —to name just a few, I’m really hoping to see feral girl wild child, Metal & Kind’s Indestructible Flowers, Skills and Scars (that one’s happening in my house!) and Bon Iver Fights A Bear (because Emily Schuman is a goddess).”

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The Things We Don’t Know How to Explain: An Interview with Heiner Goebbels

Posted September 5th, 2018

The 2018 Fringe Festival kicks off this weekend with a performance piece unlike any other. Created by acclaimed German composer and director Heiner Goebbels, Stifters Dinge does away with actors in favor of light, pictures, murmurs, sounds (five self-playing pianos), and voices (recordings of William S. Burroughs, Malcolm X, and Claude Levi-Strauss), creating a meditative dreamscape that allows the audience to form their own opinions about what they witness.

This newfound contemplative space recalls the writing of 19th-century author Adalbert Stifter, after whom the piece in named. Goebbels explained to FringeArts his interest in Adalbert Stifter and the other inspirations for this large-scale performative installation.

FringeArts: What inspired this piece?

Heiner Goebbels: I was talking with set and light designer Klaus Gruenberg — with whom I’ve worked nearly exclusively for the last 20 years — and we asked ourselves if it was possible to create a theater piece without any people. That was the experimental question for our artistic research. That was the beginning. Everything else happened in the process.

FringeArts: Where did the title Stifters Dinge come from?

Heiner Goebbels: It came pretty late in the process; even the involvement of the text by Stifter came late, because I usually don’t know much earlier what I am working towards…

FringeArts: Could you tell me a little about Adalbert Stifter?

Heiner Goebbels: He was a landscape painter and author in the first half of the 19th century in Bohemia. The disturbing and surprising moments in his writings come in his attentiveness and sensibility toward non-human forces, natural phenomena, and things we don’t really know how to name and explain. That is what he calls dinge, “things.” You find that word on nearly every page of his writings.

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Stories of Refuge: Oral Histories of Syrian Asylum Seekers in Germany

Posted September 1st, 2018

In Munich recently, I found myself sitting in an Iraqi-owned café with three Syrian men. The first was a young businessman who spends much of his time, money, and energy helping Syrian refugees in Munich and sending aid to Syria. Second, there was a young poet who called himself “the poet of the revolution” and had several YouTube videos of him reciting his poems. The third person was a young man who just arrived in town, and was living in a “refugee camp” known as the “Yellow Camp.” The camp is actually a messy building with many small rooms where German authorities randomly group/house Syrian and non-Syrian refugees together. It literally serves as a systemic shock to people who for months dreamt of reaching Germany—the supposed land of the free, caring, and civilized. I was most interested in the story of the young man who had arrived to Munich. I wanted to give him a camera so he could film a day in his life living in the “refugee camp” in Munich. He seemed shy, did not want to jeopardize his residency application, and preferred to remain quiet. I assured him that his identity would remain confidential. He said that he worries about his parents who are still in Syria, and so chose to not participate.

An audience member sitting on a bunk bed and watching one of the videos in the installation.

The next day, I met a Kurdish Syrian man who was tortured by each of the Lebanese, Syrian, and Greek police because he happened to look like Hussam Hussam—a “false witness” in the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. It felt surreal to me that he manages to keep smiling and remain positive. He spends his time outside his normal working hours volunteering as a translator for Syrian refugees while putting human rights organizations in contact with various asylum seekers. Through him, I was introduced to three different individuals who would participate in what would become the Stories of Refuge project:

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A Super Grand Interview with Sylvain Émard

Posted August 22nd, 2018

Renowned dancer and choreographer Sylvain Émard’s infectious fusion of traditional line dancing and contemporary dance, Le Grand Continental ®, has been presented at locations around the world, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, South Korea, New Zealand, and Chile. After presenting his show in the 2012 Fringe Festival, Émard is back in Philadelphia with Le Super Grand Continental, an even bigger public dance spectacle.

Presented as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival, Le Super Grand Continental will see a cast of 200 non-professional dancers take over the famous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, performing all new choreography and eventually inviting the audience to join them as the performance space becomes an open-air dance party. FringeArts talked to Émard about the inspiration for the show, his memories of the 2012 Fringe Festival, and what we should expect this year.

FringeArts: What inspired the first Le Grand Continental®?

Sylvain Émard: As a kid, the first time I danced outside my home was at our church basement where there were line-dancing classes. Maybe that is why I was and still am fascinated by line dancing. To a point where I was often incorporating it (a bit more sophisticated I must say) in my stage work. Then I came up with this idea of choreographing a dance piece that would mix contemporary dance and line dancing. At first I thought that this would just appeal to Montréalers because of the great popularity of line dancing here. To my surprise, I realized that although line dancing is not that popular everywhere, there is a desire for the people to get involved in an artistic project and dance is perfect for that. It has no language limitation. It is somehow universal despite the specificity of the style.

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Something to Chew On: Boris Charmatz on manger

Posted August 20th, 2018

Boris Charmatz subjects dance to formal constraints which redefine the field of its possibilities: a potentially infinite canon of gestures in his 2016 Fringe Festival piece Levée des conflits, inert bodies of children, animated by adult dancers in enfant. The stage is a notepad where he jots down ideas and organic concepts in order to observe the chemical reactions, the intensities, and the tensions engendered in their encounter. In manger, the center of gravity was subject to displacement: how to set bodies in motion not with the eyes, or with the limbs, but with the mouth? Gilles Amalvi talked to Boris Charmatz in 2013 about the ideas behind this delectable contemporary work.

Featured in the 2018 Fringe Festival, manger is presented in partnership with Westphal College of Media Arts & Design as part of Philadelphia Museum of Dance.

Gilles Amalvi: An important starting idea for you was the “not very spectacular” dimension of the action of eating, swallowing. Is this line of thought still relevant?

Boris Charmatz: Absolutely. The creation, as I now see it, increasingly tends towards a form of disappearance: treating food in terms of swallowing it, blotting it out. But then, this calls for careful, precise planning, very unlike the rather raw principle that I had initially envisaged. To tackle the dimension of disappearance, the dimension of blockage, of impediment—in speaking, dancing—I find some subtle, precise mechanisms, bordering on invisibility in order not to just dangle in front of the audience a vision of bodies in the process of ingesting.

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Edinburgh Bound: Chris Davis on Returning to the Mother Fringe

Posted July 30th, 2018

Chris Davis knows his Fringe Festivals.

The writer-performer is a stalwart of the annual Fringe Festival in Philadelphia, with his imaginative one-man shows (One Man Apocalypse Now, 2016) and modern adaptations of classic literature (Anna K, 2014) proving among the Festivals’ most popular and talked-about productions. But the locally based artist has also travelled his comedic solo shows to festivals across the United States and beyond, from Texas to Maine, from Pittsburgh to Edinburgh. 

Davis returns to this year’s Philadelphia Festival with The Presented, a world premiere play about what it means to be a “chosen” artist in the theater world. First, though, he’s off to the Mother Fringe, the Edinburgh Fringe (August 3-27), with his bilingual semi-autobiographical travelog Drunk Lion. Chris gave FringeArts the low-down on performing at the world-famous festival.

FringeArts: When did you go to your first Edinburgh Fringe?

Chris Davis: I first attended Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. When I went there I knew almost nothing about the festival or its importance, only that it was very big. The idea came when Brad Wrenn of the Berserker Residents said something like “hey you do solo shows you should take your show and do the Free Fringe festival there this year.” Neither Brad nor I had attended the fringe before, but I decided to take his advice and go. I still miss that first year because I had no expectations about anything and there was a certain freedom in that.

FringeArts: What surprised you most about the festival?

Chris Davis: The quality of the artists that participate. It still surprises me. In every show I see here I find something to love about it, and that’s a rare quality. Also the number of people who attend these shows is phenomenal. It never seems that theater is cool except to small niche audiences in the States; in Edinburgh it feels like everyone, from all walks of life, is excited to engage in live art happening around them. I love it.

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Steamy Nights On the Plains: An Interview with Trajal Harrell on Caen Amour

Posted July 11th, 2018

Trajal Harrell is a dancer and choreographer who uses history to inform the contemporary dance he creates. Known for the series Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church, parts of which were performed in the 2014 Fringe Festival, Harrell recently completed a two-year residency at MoMA, where he turned his attention to butoh, a form of Japanese dance theater. That study informs his entry into the 2018 Fringe Festival, Caen Amour, a new work that draws inspiration from dance styles of the near and distant past. Harrell gives viewers a look into the hoochie-coochie shows of the early 20th-century, positing that perhaps this early form of erotic dance served as an origin of dance as a modern artform. His piece, which premiered at the Festival Avignon in 2016, is an invitation into a historical imagination, Harrell’s vision of the exoticized, orientalist peep shows that drew in crowds a century ago. FringeArts talked to Harrell about his historical influences and the different styles that all exist in this innovative dance work.

FringeArts: Do you remember how you decided upon the title Caen Amour? Do you remember where you were when you decided upon it?

Trajal Harrell: I don’t remember where I was but the title was an attempt at a cheesy title for a hoochie-coochie show. Another, for example, could have been “Steamy Nights on the Plains.” In the case of Caen Amour, the title is a mix of the city Caen, France, and the word for love in French. Because of my touring schedule, Caen is the place I’ve spent the longest consecutive time since 2009. It’s still reigning. Also, Caen Amour when you say it could almost sound like “quand amour” which means “when love?”

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An Uncanny Approach to Presence: An Interview With Megan Bridge and Peter Price

Posted January 22nd, 2018

Sp3 is shorthand for “space, pulse, pattern, and presence,” four abstract concepts from which storied Philadelphia multimedia dance theater company <fidget>‘s latest show grew from. Developed over the last two years, this interdisciplinary work, utilizing music and movement, obliquely grapples with the increasingly post-human nature of modern living, where technology is wedged between us all, disrupting our interpersonal relationships as well as our relationships to time and our environment. The show seeks to disrupt this interference, positioning the notion of presence as something radical.

Recently we spoke with <fidget> co-founders and co-artistic directors Megan Bridge and Peter Price to learn more about the concepts behind Sp3 and the development of its music and movement.

FringeArts: What was the first idea behind Sp3?

Peter Price: Sp3 is shorthand for space, pulse, pattern, presence. So the initial kernel of the work came out of discussions around those somewhat abstract concepts. We knew we wanted to make a work in a way we have not in some time—mostly set choreography to composed music.

Our last large piece was to preexisting music by the late great composer Robert Ashley, and much of our collaborative practice involves improvisation of both music and dance. So it had been some time since I wrote a piece of scored music of significant scope and Megan choreographed to it.  We began by thinking about the different ways these concepts map to sound and to the body. What does pulse mean and how is it articulated musically or by a dancer? What does playing with pattern do compositionally or choreographically?

Megan Bridge: Peter and I were having brunch (sans kids . . . rare!) on the day after Dust closed at FringeArts, and we were discussing our next projects. We knew that Peter was going to be the lead artist on our next collaboration, and after making Dust I was really excited again about music coming first and letting the body be moved by sound, treating sonic material as a physical phenomenon in the space, and figuring out what it does to the other material that occupies that same space.

In terms of the evolution of the work, I’d say we started very abstract, just playing with material, but as stuff started to stick we realized it had this dark, uncanny vibe. The mood of the piece started to feel very related to our perception of the world around us right now—tension-filled, edgy. So for me the biggest evolution is witnessing that mood and subtle narrativity weave its way into the work.

FringeArts: How is Sp3 structured? What does that structure enable you to do?

Peter Price: Part of the original conception of the piece for me was that the music was going to be continuously pulsed over for about an hour. So the historical models would be the classics of “pulse-pattern minimalism” like Terry Riley’s In C or Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. As we developed the piece that conception evolved and much of the first half of the piece is now concerned musically with non-pulsed dark atmospheres. The second half of the score remains continuously pulsed and unfolds in six main sections. Each of these sections, though sharing tempo and meter, has their own characteristic sound world and compositional approach to rhythmic pattern. A major concern compositionally is exploring the balance between novelty and redundancy so that the perception of the passing of time changes from section to section even if the clock time of the pulse does not.

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A New Foundation for Growth: An Interview with Niki Cousineau and Scott McPheeters

Posted November 2nd, 2017

Niki Cousineau and Scott McPheeters are co-directors of the Philadelphia-based performance company Subcircle. Founded in 1998 by Niki and Jorge Cousineau, for nearly two decades Subcircle’s work has transformed theatrical and site-specific spaces, merging dance, sound, set design, lighting and film, conveying to audience and performer alike an inseparability of performance from environment.

This month they bring their latest piece to FringeArts. HOLD STILL WHILE I FIGURE THIS OUT is a daring experiment in spontaneous creation featuring Niki, Scott, and Christy Lee, with live sound design from Jorge. Each night a previously unseen performance will unfold before audience’s eyes, with most of the movement, sound design, and set construction being created in the moment. Described by thINKingDANCE as “a dance of mild idiosyncrasy, enhanced by the dancers’ subtle balance between logicality and lunacy,” witnessing these artists’ ingenuity from moment to moment is enthralling, entrancing, and giddying all at once. Earlier this year Niki and Scott shared some insight into what it’s taken to create a show that constantly recreates itself.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title HOLD STILL WHILE I FIGURE THIS OUT came into being? 

Niki Cousineau: The title came about during the rehearsal process at the Maas Building. There is a section of the piece where we narrate/interpret what is happening on stage. As I was going through my notebook after a few rehearsals I was looking at some of the texts we generated during these improvisations. One of the things I’d written down was “hold still while i figure this out.” It felt both fitting for the piece, art making, and life.

FringeArts: How has the show evolved from where it started?

Scott McPheeters: The vast majority of material in this work is developed live and in direct relationship to one another. For the year and a half that this piece was being created, we often found ourselves entering the studio in dismay of the state of the world. What had originally been a weekly exploration of various improvisational scores eventually turned into a question: “What if we could start all over from scratch?”

We spent a year and a half essentially studying how to begin again, and how to build upon different proposals of a new foundation for growth. We were fascinated by how quickly entire environments could be constructed from a single source of inspiration and that depending on the day and the source of inspiration, the environments would be completely different.

FringeArts: Can you discuss how the various components, from movement to sound to visuals to text, relate to each other?

Scott McPheeters: Each time we perform the work, it is from scratch. We choose a starting point—usually an image from a book or online along with a piece of text chosen from a book. This informs a movement solo which inspires original text generation. A new audio landscape is developed nightly from sound bites sourced only from the performance space itself. Set design is constructed live to complement or provide contrast to the dance taking place. The most exciting aspect of the work is that everything unfolds for the very first time right in front of you. Through example, we hope to inspire deep listening, reflection, and action.

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There’s Nothing Called African Music: A Conversation with Olivier Tarpaga

Posted October 12th, 2017

“Dance and music are one in our tradition, and they come in one body.” This is what Burkina Faso-born dancer, choreographer, musician, and composer Olivier Tarpaga offers when asked about the relationship between the two mediums in his latest show Declassified Memory Fragment. Positioned as an “open letter” to life in a few African nations that have experienced cultural and political tumult over the last several decades, the piece opens tonight and runs from Oct 12-14 here at FringeArts. As the dancers move throughout the performance space, a group of virtuosic musicians play from the sidelines, informing the dancers’ movements and energies. “Live music affects everything and the dancers feel different and create different when the music is live,” Tarpaga asserted in a previous interview. Live music has always been a hallmark of Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project, likely because music has always been a hallmark of Tarpaga’s life.

Growing up in Burkina Faso, Tarpaga didn’t have to look far to find great music. His father was a saxophonist and the leader of Supra Volta, a popular band that played West African musics with modern instrumentation, even a rhumba influence. They were active throughout the ‘60s, soon after the country gained its independence from France, and often played for heads of state and dignitaries. They were based out of an empty bedroom inside the Tarpaga household, and young Olivier couldn’t help but be drawn to their infectious tunes.

“I’d just walk there and listen to them, and they’d all walk out—somebody was smoking a cigarette, everyone was talking—and then I’d go in with my brothers and we’d start banging on everything. I was always on the drums.” In the ensuing chaos things would get broken, and as a result he was often in trouble with his father. Even so, he simply couldn’t get enough. “Music was an addiction,” he said, and though he’d repeatedly beg his father to teach him to play, he’d always be told to study his math and science, that music would have to wait. Even when his father was teaching Tarpaga’s brothers to play saxophone—despite their total lack of interest—he was still pushed to focus on math and science. Nowadays, he’s the only musician in the family.

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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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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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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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Recollections of Home from Geoff and Stefanie Sobelle

Posted September 7th, 2017

Next week sees the premiere of HOME, the latest work from acclaimed theater artist Geoff Sobelle. As a house comes together on stage and its residents—present, past, and future—begin to crowd in, audience members are confronted with the transient nature of dwelling, the constraints of time and money, the impossible structural demands of a house, and the absurdity—and at times the impossibility—of turning a house into a home. It’s a startlingly down to earth and moving meditation contained within a dazzling theatrical spectacle that asks us “What makes a house a home? What’s the difference? How do we confuse the two?”

The piece’s dramaturge—writer, editor, professor, and sister of Geoff, Stefanie Sobelle—has a pretty concise way of summing up this house vs home dichotomy. As Geoff told the FringeArts Blog in a recent interview, “[My sister] likes to poke fun at the old adage from The Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home,’ because she says, and rightly so, that home is not a place. It’s something else… so indeed, there IS no PLACE like home!” What that something else may be is the question HOME seeks to awaken in its audiences.

Back in April of 2016 the Sobelle siblings took part in an ongoing reading series for New York arts non-profit apexart. Entitled Double Take, the series is organized by writer and Bookforum co-editor Albert Mobilio and asks award winning and emerging poets, novelists, editors, and artists to trade takes on shared experiences. For their Double Take—video shared below—Geoff and Stefanie turned to their childhood home, sharing personal recollections of spaces within and around it, in which real and imagined details commingled.

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