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Archive for the ‘FringeArts’ Category

The Making of Ghost Rings: Interview with Tina Satter

Posted August 8th, 2017

“There had to be a real patience and generosity on their part. But that kind respect and assuming the best intentions of all involved is always the key to a collaboration as full-on as this was.”

Tina Satter is the artistic director of the Obie-winning theater company Half Straddle. Her work has been described by The New York Times as a “vitalizing blend of coziness and estrangement, weirdness and familiarity.” Her new show, Ghost Rings, coming to the 2017 Fringe Festival, is no exception. Drawing from events of her own life, she uses the format and flow of a pop concert to create a work of theater. On stage the band is made up of two women singers, an additional musician, and Satter herself on drums. Also present are two puppet “Private Inner Beings,” Deer and Seal-y. As the two characters grow up, the show examines their intense relationship, and the oscillating dynamics within deep connections between two people. We had a conversation with Tina Satter about her inspiration for Ghost Rings and the process of putting it together.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Ghost Rings came into being? Do you remember where you were?

Tina Satter: Yes, in 2011, I was at a three-day silent writing retreat in upstate New York facilitated by the incredible playwright Erik Ehn. It was through the Pataphysics Playwriting Workshops. I generated some writing there that I’d had no pre-plan for, and it was taking shape in its earliest forms as a conversation between two young women, I didn’t know yet if they were sisters or friends or romantic partners —and in this early writing they were discussing basic things like borrowing a sweater, but then also asking each other dark existential questions—and in that first writing I remember having this thought that there was this kind of candy these girls would eat—I imagined it as pale purple circles and I called the candy Ghost Rings. And then I must have left the retreat titling all that early writing, draft, whatever it was, Ghost Rings, because when we showed the earliest versions of it at CATCH in June 2012, the whole thing was then called Ghost Rings.

FringeArts: Can you discuss the basic creative and narrative starting point for the show?

Tina Satter: Well, I had this very early writing of these two girls discussing these banal and existential questions, and in this very early draft they also each had these inner animals—one girl had a deer who was their corresponding inner animal, and the other had a seal. But I wanted to play with the idea that these weren’t actually cute, cuddly animals—but that they were kind of crass, and direct, and not necessarily mean, but maybe didn’t always offer great advice, that they sort of actually operate like “mean girls” and that the deer in particular wanted to talk about sex and stuff.

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Voice + Body: Interview with Michael Kiley

Posted August 1st, 2017

Sound designer, composer, and performer Michael Kiley makes music that is enticing and beautiful in its complexity, called “dramatic and beguiling” by The New York Times., Kiley is no stranger to using technology to synthesize new sounds and rhythms—in Close Music for Bodies, however, he aims to do just the opposite. Instead, the show (coming to the 2017 Fringe Festival) eschews any technology, or even any instruments apart from the human voice. Also experienced in sound installation work, Kiley has designed an immersive experience of sound, but this time, the speakers are the performers, and the audience becomes part of that community of sound. Kiley is also a music educator; he teaches using his own practice, called “Personal Resonance.” His approach is woven into this new work, focused on the effects our bodies have on our voices, and the effects our voices have on other bodies as well as our own. We got the chance to have a conversation with Michael about how this new piece came to be, and what we may, or may not, be able to expect!

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Close Music for Bodies came into being?

Michael Kiley: I was running. I wanted a title that represented what the piece is in a literal sense, yet also make people curious.

FringeArts: How would you categorize this performance?

Michael Kiley: I call it a voice piece. Sometimes I call it a voice piece with movement. It is immersive. It is educational. It is participatory (if you like). I always end up explaining the whole thing before people understand what I’m getting at. There is no real elevator pitch for it.

FringeArts: How do you talk to your collaborators about it?

Michael Kiley: I usually talk to my collaborators first about my voice practice, Personal Resonance. I explain that 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. Once someone understands how to control that physical sensation, their voice becomes as accessible as breathing. My goal with Close Music is the same. I hope to, through the mediums of performance and education, create a space where a community of performers and audience feel free to access their voices together, without judgment or fear, with the simple goal of doing something that feels good.

There is no real venue for secular, public acts of group voice in our culture. The corporatization of music, and the heavy influence of technology on singing performances has driven us to feel like our voice has to be perfect all of the time. The result is that most people don’t sing. And for those who do, it is usually during some kind elevated performance, where the goal is to be impressive.  I hope to dismantle that expectation in my own small way, and change people’s thinking into understanding that simply making sound is one of the healthiest things that we can do.

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

Posted July 31st, 2017

Leila Ghaznavi in the 2016 Puppet-delphia Fringe

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

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

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

The Turn of the Screw

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

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

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Big Dance Theater takes on Samuel Pepys: Interview with Annie-B Parson

Posted July 18th, 2017

“In the last few years, what has become important is the uncensored rendering of his bullying, his shame around his behavior and yet his complete lack of awareness of the violence of his actions.”

Annie-B Parson. Photo by Ike Edeani.

From Mark Twain to Euripides, Big Dance Theater is well known for their innovative and unexpected ways of using of literary sources for inspiration. Diligent but whimsical in how they combine the old and the new, they’ve been called “historically promiscuous” by producer David White. In their latest creation, 17c (coming to the 2017 Fringe Festival), co-artistic directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar took the diaries of Samuel Pepys as the source of inspiration and investigation in this ensemble work of dance, theater, and music. Throughout 17c, a distinctly feminist voice is interwoven with his words, gathered from the writings of his contemporary, and from a desire to give voice to those who are historically voiceless, most notably Pepys’s wife. We caught up with Annie-B Parson about the inspiration and process of creating 17c.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title 17c came into being?

Annie–B Parson: The titling of this piece has been an epic story. As the world has changed around us during the two-year span of creating it, the title has changed at least twenty times! Lists and lists of ideas for titles have been generated and circulated; they have ranged from a title which puts pressure on the piece to prove something, to a title that sounds great to see and say, to the simple naming of a fact. On the day the deadline came to title it for the premiere, we liked the simple efficiency of 17c, which supports the formal nature of the material as well. And, as one work is always a response to the work that precedes it, 17c was reactive to our last title, which was cumbersome and obscure.

FringeArts: What first drew you to Pepys as material that might work for the stage?

Annie–B Parson: As someone who is hyper-generative, I am always drawn to others who are also can’t stop making things. Pepys had to write, he was miserable when he missed a day, and this act of getting it down, of recording every little boil on his body, every encounter and feeling around the encounter, made me feel a kinship with him. And, it was amazing when first encountering these diaries, that 350 years ago, dance and theater were so valued. Eureka! I felt vindication in this figure who found dance a worthy daily practice, who valued the dance in theater, and who felt dance would better his standing. And, I loved that this person was so enamored of theater that he would need to quit it from time to time, much like he would quit drinking! I was also drawn to how contemporary he seemed, how trendy, so involved with his clothing, fretting about each outfit—when to wear a new coat, in what situation his new sleeves would have the best effect, etc. This was my first reading of the diaries about ten years ago.

Pepys.

But in the last few years, what has become important is the uncensored rendering of his bullying, his shame around his behavior and yet his complete lack of awareness of the violence of his actions. The absence of the voice of his wife Bess disturbed me more and more, and I began to suspect that he had burned her diaries, thereby silencing her to history. I searched for a female theatrical voice from that time to balance and testify to a feminism that was occurring then, but has been lost. This led me to the obscure radical feminist writer, Margaret Cavendish. To my delight, Pepys had encountered her a few times on the street, as she was a bit of a bad-girl celeb.

Margaret Cavendish.

FringeArts: What made the other source materials you brought into the show—namely Margaret Cavendish’s play—work for you?

Annie–B Parson: I have always dragged the past into the present, as one cannot exist without the other. David White called the work of Big Dance  “historically promiscuous”—and it’s true. I am not interested in linear reality as such, but in a relational reality, one that is elastic and poetic. I read quite a few women’s plays from that time, hoping to stage a play within a play. Margaret Cavendish’s work leapt out at me for its directness and its politics. Cavenidish’s writing was underground at the time, her plays were “closet plays” meaning there was no intention for them to be produced; as a woman, this was an impossibility. But she sustained a prolific writing life and her work speaks to her radical feminist stance. I feel she is owed many, many productions of her work to right the inequality of exposure, and our rendering is part of that re-balancing. It’s not that different today by the way. We are now seeing a few women playwrights on Broadway, and personally, though my work is produced, I am erased in subtle but systemic ways. I feel a kinship with Cavendish for sure.

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FringeArts Flash Debates Part 3

Posted April 4th, 2017

We’re back with our final installment of Flash Debates, in honor of The Society of Civil Discourse coming up on April 8th. This round, David and Sophia will be arguing the age-old Chipotle conundrum: burrito vs. burrito bowl

Burrito vs. Burrito Bowl

Burrito: David, Communications Intern

This isn’t even a question. How could anyone deny the importance and the deliciousness of the burrito? It’s a tiny gluten pillow filled with all of the warm (and probably unhealthy) goodies you could ask for.

You also don’t even need a fork; the tortilla is a perfect mode of transport for all of the delicious goodness inside. AND it keeps the contents at a nice temperature and melts the cheese some. Who doesn’t love melted cheese?

Look, I get it. You can make the argument that the burrito bowl is more food. But what is more objectively filling? A classic, no frills burrito.

Burrito BowlSophia, Development Coordinator

Here’s the thing about a burrito vs. burrito bowl at Chipotle. Any burrito bowl can be made into a burrito by getting a (FREE) tortilla on the side.

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FringeArts Flash Debates Part 2

Posted April 3rd, 2017

We’re back with another round of Flash Debates, in honor of The Society of Civil Discourse coming up on April 8th. This round, Alexa and Jaclyn will be arguing Golden Retrievers vs. Corgis.

Golden Retrievers vs. Corgis

Golden Retrievers: Alexa, Marketing Intern

Have you ever met a golden retriever that you didn’t love? If your answer is yes, I don’t believe you.

Golden retrievers were put on this earth to make the world a better place. They are the dog of all dogs: energetic, playful, loving, smart, reliable, FREAKING ADORABLE. For such a cute breed, golden retrievers are very anti-bougie. They have this rustic vibe to them that makes them all the more lovable.
OH can we also talk about golden retriever PUPPIES?!? I truly believe all puppies are cute but golden retriever pups are like next level precious. I have cried in the presence of a golden retriever puppy more times than I am proud of.
I get it, corgis are super trendy right now. They have funny butts and people love looking at butts. Corgis may have big butts but golden retrievers have big hearts and at the end of the day which is more important?

CorgisJaclyn, Development Intern

Who doesn’t want a stumpy little loaf walking around their home?

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FringeArts Flash Debates Part 1

Posted March 31st, 2017

On April 8th, Team Sunshine Performance Corp and The Philly Pigeon/Jacob Winterstein are returning to Fringe with the Society of Civil Discourse, a night of heated discussion and raucous debate about topics that don’t matter. In honor of this, we poached member of our staff for their hot takes on various hot-button issues. Our first debate topic is the highly contentious toaster oven vs. microwave.

Toaster Oven vs. Microwave

Microwave: Jason, Institutional Giving Coordinator

The microwave oven will be remembered as one of the great, period-defining inventions of its time, like the cell phone or the internet. It cooks food quickly, safely, and without fire, and it does it by bombarding it with (harmless) radiation. It vibrates your food until the friction of its own particles causes its temperature to rise; how COOL IS THAT? Are you going to cok the best meal of your life in a microwave oven? No. But it lets you relive those meals by giving your leftovers a second chance at deliciousness! Mom’s famous mac and cheese might have been made in late August, but pop that bad boy in the microwave and you might as well be back in her kitchen, basking in the cheesy warmth. Popcorn, hot chocolate, mug cakes, a host of quick, cheap, and scrumptious treats are in your grasp in mere minutes and with no more effort than plopping it on the tray and pushing a few buttons. Plus, you ever try to defrost a chicken in a toaster oven? *Disclaimer: you shouldn’t do this, it will create a dangerous, disgusting, inedible mess*In short, the microwave is a shining example of humanity’s ability to overcome the limitations of nature, and a testament to our inexorable advancement of reason for the sake of the greater good.

Toaster Oven: Hallie, Communications Director

So let’s talk about cancer.  It’s everywhere.  It’s in our cell phones, in our cigarettes, in our deodorant.  So why, dear ones, WHY would you add it to your perfectly good food?

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Emily Bate Takes a Ride on the Irish Cream

Posted February 13th, 2017

Emily Bate, Philadelphia artist and co-composer of the upcoming A Ride On The Irish Cream, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the music in the project. Check out her responses below, and come see A Ride On The Irish Cream February 16th–18th!

FA: How did you initially get involved with A Ride On The Irish Cream?

EB: Erin and I are friends from way back—I moved to New York briefly in 2014, and started working on the show with her and our co-composer, Kenny Mellman. By the time I came to my senses and moved back to Philly, I was deep in the project, so I’ve been riding that Bolt Bus ever since!

FA: What was the writing process like? Did you guys start with lyrics or melodies, or did the pieces of the songs all kind of develop at the same time?

EB: Erin usually began the process with lyrics and some melody, and it exploded or meandered out from there. She is a very in-the-room writer, so we would typically work out a draft of a song, and then perform it and assess what needed to change. There is a very deep & fluid relationship between spoken text and music. We often weave in and out of songs and scenes, and finding the right emotional pitch in each moment is extremely important. So as one element was changed or re-written, it affected all the other components. We rewrote almost all the music a few times, and we’re still always kinda tinkering with it.

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#allarewelcome

Posted January 25th, 2017

On January 19th, the day before the Presidential nomination, we invited audiences and artists to our space to form a beacon of light for the coming years.  Our president and producing director Nick Stuccio made a pledge for the future of FringeArts, to ensure that it can be a more inclusive space. Below are the list of pledges to which we expect to be held accountable.

  1. We pledge to offer a space for artists, activist groups, and community organizations to meet, organize, and plan the next steps in their process.
  2. We pledge to double down on our monthly artist meals, creating a more inclusive space for artists and audiences to build community.
  3. We also pledge to be honest with ourselves about our own blind spots.  Over the coming years we will work to better match the demographic make-up of the city we love to serve, not only with the shows on our stages, but in our staff and leadership.
  4. We believe in the power of performance to bridge divides and to invoke empathy.  We pledge to use our presenting platform to bring performances into communities outside Philadelphia, desperately in need of more cultural opportunities, in an effort to expand the positive influence of the artists we present.

Annie and the Bastard

Posted November 30th, 2016

Annie Wilson (and her Bastard persona) were kind enough to answer a few questions about the origins and inspiration for At Home with the Humorless Bastard.  Enjoy her (their) responses!

FA:  Do you remember where you were when you came up with the title, At home with the Humorless Bastard? 

ANNIE:  I don’t. I came up with the title three years ago, so I don’t know or care what the initial inspiration was, haha. For me the title is in relationship now to a certain aspect of myself that comes out in dire moments. But it is also in relationship to a sense of security, danger, seriousness. Actually, that’s probably not true. I set out to make a piece that wasn’t funny. My relationship to humor is fundamental, and I wanted to see what I would make if I put a simple but powerful restriction on my choreography. So far I’ve failed every time, but it’s still a generative question.

THE BASTARD:  Who cares where titles come from they’re almost always the worst part of a piece of art.

FA:  What do you see as your main source material for this show? And how has that bent its way into the performance?

ANNIE: Water, waterfalls, wombs, grief, gravity, glitter, Charles Manson, chaos, the olympics, natural disasters, encephalopathy, ambition, guilt, shame, violence, relational aesthetics, the politics of mental illness, heroin, brain swelling, cell death, menstruation, banshees, Scotland, keening, booze, magic, money, the eagles, tribalism, erica’s sports bar, gentrification, hopelessness, despair, “sexy nihilism”, spatial anything, reproduction, representation, poststructuralism, the cuisine in hospitals, and Death: The Musical. I am putting all of that together and mashing them through the spaghetti strainer of my body. Then I’m taking the mashed-out result and laying it out in time and space, with and through an audience.

THE BASTARD: In short, imagine all the stupid shit a white middle class woman would get insomnia over, and that’s what the piece is. Imagine an angsty 16 year old who really loves Rachmaninoff because his music is so maudlin. Now imagine that 16 year old is 30, she is terrified of her body wearing down, and people around her keep dying and she can’t control any of it and has feelings about it. That’s basically the piece.

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Horsin’ Around at the Navy Yard

Posted September 22nd, 2016

Tonight Julius Caesar. Spared Parts will have its Philadelphia premiere as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival, but yesterday there was some important, neigh vital, preparation to tend to for this play from revered Italian theater artist Romeo Castellucci. You see, this provocative and surreal meditation on power and our collective reliance on a societal scapegoat requires a little nonhuman assistance to fully realize.

No, a goat would be too on the nose, c’mon. We’re talking horses. I even did the “neigh” thing back there. You thought it was just a typo. Nope. Clumsily placed horse pun. I’ll do my best to restrain myself from here on out.

But yes, a horse. Turns out Gala wasn’t the only Festival show that required some local casting. Meet Pete, the horse (and Shane the person). img_4919

As our intrepid production crew was preparing the set inside Building 694 of the Navy Yard, Pete swung by to see if he had what it took to land the role of a lifetime. A vast, mostly empty warehouse previously used as a food sorting space for the navy way back when, Building 694 is just a short stroll away from the Navy Yard’s main entrance, past a fleet of decommissioned navy destroyers. It’s also the perfect space to amplify the sounds of the subtle, but essential movements at play within the show. That, and the click clack of hooves.

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Ah yes, the familiar sights of the theater.

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The exterior of Building 694…

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Tales of darkness shot through with light: Brett Bailey & Third World Bunfight

Posted September 21st, 2016

This weekend FringeArts and Opera Philadelphia will present Macbeth as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. A reimagining of Verdi’s nineteenth century opera from South African theater company Third World Bunfight, this production brings the classic tale of greed, tyranny, and corruption to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where a brutal warlord and his ambitious wife murder the king and unleash atrocities on the crumbling province that they seize. For more info and to purchase tickets click here.


brett-bailey-photo-nicky-newman-copy

Brett Bailey (photo by Nicky Newman)

Brett Bailey and his company Third World Bunfight have been making iconoclastic, politically-charged theatre in South Africa since 1996. Driven to tell “tales of darkness shot through with light” and inspired by what he calls the “addictive funkiness” of African aesthetics, his work concerns Africa’s post-colonial dynamics and the historical and contemporary relations between Africa and the West. His work is eclectic in style and syncretic in form, weaving together African spirituality, a fascination with pop culture, a strong visual design drive, the belief in theatre as a communal space of potential and transformation, and an acerbic political critique. Utterly intolerant of cruelty, oppression and injustice, he believes that theatre has to be rooted in social and political issues, serving a purpose other than pure entertainment, without being the slave of such agendas. And finding a balance between social critique and aesthetic beauty and atmosphere in a work is his constant goal as a theatremaker.

He plays in worlds of risk and liminality, where ritual meets theatre and ceremony and presentation collide. “Liminality, the sacred, places of paradox and confusion, border zones where anything can happen, contested territory and risk are the areas I like to work in,” he says. He aims to inject spirit into theatre and to “unpick the threads” of fear and racism that divide people.

Born in 1967 as a privileged child of apartheid, Bailey studied drama at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and graduated in 1991 into a transforming political climate. After a year of spiritual searching in India in 1994, South Africa’s transition year, he joined the New Africa Theatre Project, whose goal it was to create work that spoke to the burgeoning new democracy. In 1996, Bailey immersed himself in Xhosa ritual, folklore, and performance, training with and living at the rural home of sangoma (traditional healer) Zipathe Dlamini in Port St. Johns in the Transkei.

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Caught in the Throat: On Romeo Castellucci’s Julius Caesar. Spared Parts

Posted September 19th, 2016

This week acclaimed Italian theater artist Romeo Castellucci will return to Philadelphia (following The Four Seasons Restaurant and On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God) with Julius Caesar. Spared Parts, a re-envisioning of his groundbreaking 1997 production Giulio Cesare distilled to a series of “fragments.” This powerful, visceral work runs from Thursday to Saturday at the Navy Yard, Building 694 as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Daniel Sack was on hand for the original premiere in Bologna back in 2014 and wrote the following essay in response. 


How can we, as Yeats asked us, know the dancer from the dance? Or, for that matter, the actor from the act? Knowing the speaker from the speech presents no such problem. These are the days of speechwriters and teleprompters, but even in those Ancient Roman days of oratorical improvisation, the treatises of Cicero dictated set tropes of persuasion. We have been, and remain, apart from our speech. In the theatre, as always, this division is doubled over. One speaks the speech that precedes and exceeds its vessel – the actor – Shakespeare’s corpse still sound 450 years after the fact. So Artaud wrote with terror about how his voice escaped himself to play a part that did not belong to his whole. Not only because sound cannot stand still or it would cease to be, not only because it must always leave us, but also because the speaking subject does not possess the word “I” it temporarily claims from a common language.

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(photo by Luca Del Pia)

The prophet foretold such a possession of the voice from without. A kind of pre-attic tragic actor, he is reduced to a carrier for the message of those divine playwrights, the gods. He may retain the grain of his voice – those textures particular to a body, a tongue, a throat – but the content belongs to another. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar questions not only the performance of rhetoric but also the disjoined nature of prophecy, a prophecy that visits the dreams of Calpurnia, that stalks the city streets in unnatural omens, that speaks in the mouths of soothsayers – resolutely ignored or misapprehended like all good prophecies (Cicero, the central presence in Castellucci’s first imagining of the play also wrote an extended dialogue On Divination). It asks, then, how power, divine or earthly, speaks through the body of another, that spare but necessary part.

No such speech for the masses in this grand hall at the heart of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna; a host of sculptures surround me like some mute chorus, mythic and familiar characters, Neoclassical fragments of Michelangelo’s David and the Laocoön, reduced to but a head or a father clutching at limbs in place of boys. These parts alone are spared. And yet, they are inversions of the monument. Clearly plaster casts, molded imitations of their more weighty granite originals—theatrical sculptures, perhaps, of accumulation rather than chisel’s negation. Set on pedestals of painted wood, it as if they stood frozen for eternity on a small stage, or what we call “the boards.” They are objects for study and future reproduction. In other words, they are characters in a play waiting for something to happen.

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Athlete/Aesthete: A look at the costume design in Portrait of Myself As My Father

Posted September 17th, 2016
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credit: Elise Fitte-Duval

In portrait of myself as my father, choreographer Nora Chipaumire stakes out space in the male dominated arena of sport—and fashion. In an interview with FringeArts, Chipaumire speaks about sapology as an aesthetic influence on her work. Sapology is a Congolese fashion trend which gained popularity in the 1960s-1980s. Adherents of Sapology, called sapeurs, repurpose European dandyism to both imitate and differentiate themselves from colonizing cultural forces, while gaining prestige in their community.  Put simply, the sapeur is a Congolese version of the French flaneur. They walk the drab, dusty streets of the Congo-Brazzaville dressed in brightly colored patterns and fabulous textures. Take a look at these photo essays on sapology by Hector Mediavella and the Wall Street Journal

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(photo by Gennadi Novash)

The Society of Ambianceurs and Elegant People (La Sape, for short) is based in Congo-Brazzaville, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At La Sape meetings, rival sapeurs gather to show off their latest fashion acquisitions. La Sape is more than a monthly fashion show, however, it’s a gentleman’s society governed by a code of conduct. In the short documentary on sapology embedded below, one sapeur describes the movement as a “way of being, behaving, and dressing.” For most sapeurs, this lifestyle means putting style before more basic needs. They spend money that they don’t have on credit from the government that they can’t repay. But they have little to nothing to lose, and elegance to gain in their extravagant spending.

—Hannah Salzer

portrait of myself as my father
Friday, Sept. 23 + Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7pm
Philadelphia Museum of Art
$29 general / $20.30 member
$15 student + 25-and-under

 

Sifting through sounds from the bench: An interview with Jena Osman

Posted September 2nd, 2016

Jena Osman is a renowned poet and editor. She has published numerous books and chapbooks and was the co-founder/co-editor of the award-winning literary magazine Chain with Juliana Spahr. Osman currently teaches in the MFA Creative Writing program at Temple University. 

Her 2014 book Corporate Relations draws directly from landmark Supreme Court cases to examine and unpack “corporate personhood”—the notion that privately owned corporations should be extended the same rights as individual citizens—revealing its century long development in a manner that is at turns illuminating, humorous, disturbing, and beautifully lyrical. You can check out the book’s opening poem here and purchase a copy from the venerable small press Burning Deck here.

Corporate Relations served as inspiration and source material for Ted Hearne’s stunning composition Sound from the Bench, which will be performed by Philadelphia’s acclaimed new music chamber choir, The Crossing, here at FringeArts on September 11 as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. FringeArts recently spoke with Osman about the origins of Corporate Relations and her collaboration with Hearne.


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Jena Osman (photo by Amze Emmons)

FringeArts: What spurred you to write Corporate Relations?

Jena Osman: When Citizens United won its case in 2010 it dawned on people (including myself) that corporations had just won a constitutional right—freedom of speech. There was general political/media outrage about corporations being given rights reserved for people, that the ruling suggested that corporations actually were people. Because this seemed like such a crazy idea, I started to look into it and I discovered that corporations had been racking up a series of constitutional rights since the mid-19th century. I’ve always had an interest in objects that seem human (puppets, automatons, computers that play chess, etc.), and corporate personhood fell in line with that fascination.

FA: How did you arrive at the book’s hybridized form?

Corporate Relations is organized around twelve Supreme Court cases that grant corporations constitutional rights. After reading each case, I pulled out phrases that felt particularly “human” to me; the phrases are in the order in which they appear in the case, and the spacing of those found poems was determined by where the phrase fell on my printed out page of the case. The court case sections are broken up by a series of poems that try to further investigate the increasingly blurry boundary line between the human and the machine; they consider automata, the John Henry story, Fritz Kahn’s amazing illustrations of the human body as a factory, the mechanics of ventriloquism, Frederick Winslow Homer’s “scientific management” strategies, etc.

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Belonging and not wanting to: An interview with Reggie Wilson

Posted August 26th, 2016

Reggie Wilson creates choreography drawing from the spiritual and mundane traditions of Africa and its Diaspora. His company, Fist and Heel Performance Group—described on it’s website as “Not your mama’s post-modern dance company”—derives its name from practices of enslaved Africans in the Americas who reinvented their spiritual traditions into a deep, soulful art form dismissed by overseers as “fist and heel worshipping.” He has lectured, taught, conducted workshops, community projects, and has had his work presented nationally and internationally. He returns to the Fringe Festival this September, premiering his latest work, CITIZENas part of our opening night celebration. Reggie spoke with FringeArts earlier this summer about finding inspiration in the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston, his family history, and his travels as well as the evolution of the piece.

IMG_6801FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration for CITIZEN?

Reggie Wilson: Things were probably brewing before my visit to Paris in January 2014. But that’s when the questioning became more evident. I started thinking there was something to this recurring idea and that I wanted to pursue it. I continue to always be inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, her life and her works. The fact that Zora always came back to America, made her life and work here, even though friends and other artists went to other countries, many to Paris, because they couldn’t, didn’t want to deal with an America that was telling them that they were not wanted, that they were less than.

Around that same time Memphis Ballet asked me to create a work for their “I AM” Project.  I was invited to work with the theme I AM A MAN. Ideas began to percolate and as I began to do research for this commission.  More and more questions about what it means to be a citizen in America, over history to-date started to saturate my thoughts.  So as exotic as Paris was to say that it was the initial place of inspiration, I feel that it was Memphis and the Mississippi Delta that was really the confirmation point-of-inspiration for my new work CITIZEN. More research and inspirations were made as I worked on an 18 month long project called Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia with the Painted Bride in Philly.

CITIZEN by Reggie Wilson Fist & Heel Performance Group-1-Raja Kelly picturedFA: What have you been observing to draw from for the movement of your dancers?

RW: I have kept it no secret that one of my main focuses has been migrations of the folks of the African Diaspora. This may stem from searches to know my own family’s branches and migrations up north from the Mississippi Delta to Milwaukee, where I was born. My interest in various migrations has expanded and has influenced many aspects of my work. I travel quite a bit, so that I can culturally experience much of the Diaspora from the inside.  But as much as I’m let in, in so many places I remain and will be an outsider in various ways. Nevertheless, what I see, experience, smell, taste, enjoy, get traumatized by… causes much stirring inside me and is processed, filtered and comes out in the movement and performances. It’s good, tough, challenging work but I wouldn’t have it another way. So, traveling is my best source material. I think it has to do with destabilizing myself enough so that I can see/experience differently, question my own perceptions, eliminate ‘judginess’ so that I can see motional ideas within cultures and be stimulated by everydayness and humanity.

Recently, I was able to revisit South Africa and Zimbabwe on holiday and was also able to return to Senegal to do some work with young choreographers. Going to these places often changes/affects me so I expect that there will be some ‘additions’, tweaks that will bubble through as we continue to develop and prepare CITIZEN for its premiere.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Mel Krodman

Posted June 21st, 2016

Name: Mel Krodman

Type of Artist: Performer, creator

Companies: I make and perform work with various ensembles including the Philadelphia-based companies Pig Iron Theatre Company, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, and No Face Performance Group. And since 2010 I’ve worked in collaborative partnership with New Orleans-based choreographer Kelly Bond.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Elephant, 2010, with Kelly Bond – performer, creator
Colony, 2012, with Kelly Bond – performer, co-choreogrpaher
Swamp Is On, 2015, with Pig Iron Theatre Company and Dr. Dog – performer, creatorIMG_4776

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Sincerity Project with Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (performer, creator).
Also in November my show JEAN & TERRY: Your Guides Through Dark, Light, and Nebulous will premiere at FringeArts.

First Fringe I attended: The first time I came to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival was with Kelly Bond when we were producing Elephant in 2010.  We were both still living in DC and drove into town in pouring down rain, rushing to make it to the Kimmel on time to see Jérôme Bel’s piece Cédric Andrieux. I was absolutely blown away by this work—instantly impacted, forever changed. As soon as the show was over we jumped back into the car and were rushing (possibly even more than before) to make it to Brian Sanders’ JUNK. It was a truly jam packed evening of dance work at two ends of a spectrum: Bell’s stripped down and Brian’s spectacle. From then on I was in love with Philly and totally hooked on the festival.

First Fringe I participated in: I was a co-creator and performer, along with Lillian Cho, in Kelly’s piece Elephant. Kelly had found a venue that was an artists’ collective—FLUX space—in North Kensington up near Allegheny and Front streets. Our piece was performed entirely in the nude, which was kind of hilarious in this raw space with fine sawdust everywhere. And it was hot out and we were sweating. So you can imagine. But that kind of artists’ space was so inspiring to see. It was my introduction to the badass DIY Philly art scene that I love. It was during this run of Elephant that we met the magnificent Megan Bridge of <fidget> space. She invited us to come back and perform Elephant at <fidget> the following spring. In 2014-15 Kelly and I were yearlong artists in residence with <fidget>, so we have Fringe to thank for launching a significant creative relationship and friendship.

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Emmanuelle Delpeche Talks Immigrant Life and Spinning Records

Posted June 6th, 2016

“There is a poetry of the exiled that I want to share.” Emmanuelle Delpech

Emmanuelle Delpech is a native of France who has been a longtime performer, teacher, director and deviser of theater in the Philadelphia area. For her newest theatrical creation, Spinning Immigrant, Delpech brings audiences into the lives of immigrants in Philadelphia. Through audio interviews, and set up as DJ Babtoue, she reveals the secrets, regrets, and joys of those who are from somewhere else. We caught up with Delpech to find out more about Spinning Immigrant and her love of deejaying.DSC_1477-1

FringeArts: Why the title Spinning Immigrant?

Emmanuelle Delpeche: Well, I am an immigrant and when I thought about it, I was just starting to get interested in deejaying, aka spinning. Also spinning is a sensation, like my head is spinning, and I definitely have felt like a spinning immigrant in many situations. And I know others have too. So it’s a play on word. It’s kind of the essence of the show. I think as immigrants we always navigate different waters, worlds and it’s complicated. It’s like nausea, you actually might not throw up so will never get the relief. You just don’t feel good. You’re spinning on an endless dilemma.

FringeArts: Tell us about some of the steps from initial inspiration to production?

Emmanuelle Delpeche: I have always been an immigrant, and my identity is rooted in the fact that I am French but more specifically that I am a French woman in the United States and in Philadelphia. I meet easily with other immigrants, and I get along with them often quite quickly. We share an instant intimacy, even if we just met. That’s rarer with Americans. Somehow we are united by the fact that we are foreign, and we therefore feel similar things and have a similar eye on American society. We observe people and their habits. We notice differences because we are different. While I am interesting to Americans, I am French, an actor but other immigrants are invisible. They are unknown, and sometimes people don’t even know where one’s country is on the map. I am tired of that. I want people to have a voice, to be seen and to be understood. There is a poetry of the exiled that I want to share with the American audience. It might tap into their own feelings of exile.DSC_1502

FringeArts: How did you start deejaying?

Emmanuelle Delpeche: Deejaying is a thing I went to because I am an immigrant. I don’t think I would have gone there if I was in France. I am not sure why, but being here gives me the audacity to try new things and deejaying is part of one of these things. It’s also ok for a woman who is 42 to do that, nobody questions me, nobody is judging me, people are rather seduced and encouraging, which isn’t always the case in France.

I want to take a trip into people’s hearts and minds and joys and questions. I want to share that with the audience so they might become visible. I am a body for these voices. I want to be more and more intimate with my own struggle and by interviewing people and spending time with their story, I might understand mine better. I also want to make visible intimacy and how that is actually what matters. And when you are not “home,” it is quite hard to find. You seek it, you look for the familiar, the known. I have been here for a long time but it took me very very long to feel safe and at ease. To feel at home again.

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Fringe Festival Sneak Peak: nora chipaumire

Posted June 6th, 2016

nora chipaumire is bringing her dance-theater work, portrait of myself as my father, to the 2016 Fringe Festival, co-presented with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Here is a video in which chipaumire discusses her piece and process.

Fringe at 20 Profile: Hannah Van Sciver

Posted May 24th, 2016
Hannah Van Sciver in Safe Space, Photo: JJ Tizou Photography.

Hannah Van Sciver in Safe Space, Photo: JJ Tizou Photography.

Name: Hannah Van Sciver

Type of Artist: Theater: physical theater, devised theater, actor, lead artist, director, playwright, producer, musician, photographer . . . I wear a lot of hats.

Companies: The Greenfield Collective, iNtuitons Experimental Theatre, Apocalypse Club, The Porch Room, Revolution Shakespeare.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Alternative Theatre Festival, 2012 – actor
Raw Stitch, 2013 – actor
Alternative Theatre Festival, 2013 – playwright, director
Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives, 2013 – actor
Marbles, 2014 – actor, playwright, producer
Safe Space, 2014 – actor
Fifty Days at Iliam, 2015 – lead artist, actor, producer
Love’s Labours Lost, 2015 – actor/musician

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: King John (Revolution Shakespeare), actor/musician.

First Fringe I attended: Oh man. The First Fringe event I saw would have been the iNtuitons 2010 Alternative Theatre Festival. I was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and was invited to attend a night of new work by the resident student-run “experimental theater” company, iNtuitons. I fell madly in love with them, and spent the next three years serving on their board. I remember seventeen-year-old Hannah being bowled over by a piece called Going In which was about coming out as heterosexual. It was written and performed by Joshua James Herren.

First Fringe I participated in: After working with David O’Connor on Cymbeline over the summer at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, he invited me to audition for Raw Stitch–a play set in Quigs pub, featuring a bunch of lady superstars in Philly doing incredible, vulgar monologues by Jacqueline Goldfinger. I was totally out of my league. I remember auditioning on his back porch, and meeting Jackie for the first time. I was deeply intimidated. The monologue was about a Southern Jewish gal on trial for acts of public indecency. She claimed she had no control over her behavior, as she had been born with the “double-slut gene.” I remember thinking, “Oh god, WHAT am I doing? Do they care if the neighbors hear this stuff?”

Jackie and David are now both on the advisory board of my theater company, The Greenfield Collective. This July, David and I will produce our seventh show together. So, it worked out. Also, rather memorable: in that show, Jennifer MacMillan played a thirsty, deaf lesbian. She demonstrated to the audience how to give proper head, using a peach. It remains one of the most outrageous and hysterical things I’ve ever seen happen onstage in Philly.

Hannah Van Sciver and Sam Sherburne in Marbles, JJ Tizou Photography

Hannah Van Sciver and Sam Sherburne in Marbles, JJ Tizou Photography

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