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Archive for the ‘Independent Fringe’ Category

Comedy to Kill For: Good Good Comedy Brings a Greatest Hits to the Fringe

Posted September 19th, 2018

Even before the company opened its Center City (Chinatown) theater in October 2016, Good Good Comedy was the leading presenter of new comedy in Philadelphia. Founded by powerhouse comedy team Kate Banford and Aaron Nevins, the company has only continued its rise to the pinnacle of local comedy, attracting local and visiting stand-up performers and hosting popular monthly game show, improv, and sketch shows. For the 2018 Fringe Festival, Good Good Comedy has taken all the best bits from the last year of its monthly show Darlings and combined them into an hilarious sketch revue. Darlings: Kill Us Please opens tonight.

Good Good Comedy Theatre.

FringeArts spoke to Banford and Nevins about the show, the theater, and appealing to audiences who don’t have rocks for brains.

FringeArts: How are things going with Good Good Comedy Theater? What’s excited you most about the space. What has been surprising?

Kate Banford & Aaron Nevins: Everything has been surprising and exciting at Good Good for us. We’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of the theater opening, and in that time, we’ve been named Best Comedy Club by Philadelphia Magazine, we’ve watched the local comedy scene AND local comedy audiences grow exponentially, and we’ve had performances from amazing people like Maria Bamford, Chris Gethard, Aparna Nancherla, Andy Kindler, Julio Torres, and so many others—people whose support of the theater has been incredible and unexpected.

FringeArts: That’s great! So what’s the story with Darlings: Kill Us Please?

Kate Banford & Aaron Nevins: Darlings: Kill Us Please is basically a hodgepodge of all the best bits from our monthly show Darlings at Good Good. It’s ostensibly a sketch show with all of our best and weirdest junk all smashed together.

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Gerald van Wilgen and Love Across Time and Place and Fringe

Posted September 18th, 2018

Gerald van Wilgen (“Gerhardus”) has an eye for a good story. He worked as a journalist in the Netherlands before he moved to the United States. He became an active member of the early 1990s South Street theater collaborative the Brick Playhouse, an institution which helped spawn the careers of dozens of local actors, directors, and playwrights. He moved to Nebraska to get an MA in theater from the University of Nebraska in Omaha; since his return he has produced and directed a variety of Fringe shows under hjs own name and as Ari Flamingo.

Gerald van Wilgen headshot by Christopher Kadish.

His 2018 Fringe Festival production, I 💘 Adriaen (listed in the Fringe Guide as “I <3 AvdD”) is a time-spanning monologue about a scholar who fall who falls for Adriaen van der Donck, an ambitious Dutch lawyer born 400 years ago who had big plans for America. Van Wilgen spoke to FringeArts about the play, which opens tonight at Old Swedes Church in South Philadelphia.

FringeArts: What inspired the show?

Gerald van Wilgen: Van der Donck has always been on my to do list, but I never knew how or what to do with him. This guy was a rebel, but one who fought with his pen. When I interviewed Julie van den Hout for a magazine I work for about her biography of Adriaen van der Donck, she told me she liked him a little bit “too much.” I loved the idea of a scholar falling in love with her own subject. I put the two together and started working on it. When I was in the Netherlands, I visited Adriaen van der Donck’s hometown, Breda, there the story started to crystallize.

FringeArts: How would you describe your style of writing?

Gerald van Wilgen: Someone once described my style as “economic.”

FringeArts: What themes or message are you trying to convey?

Gerald van Wilgen: I’m an unassimilated immigrant living in two worlds simultaneously.

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Cocktail Plays: Recipes for a Great Night of Theater

Posted September 17th, 2018

One morning, a few weeks ago, Sonya Aronowitz sat at a bar in Fishtown, double-fisting cocktails. The executive producer of indie theater company Juniper Productions had good reason: she was tasting cocktails for the company’s 2018 Fringe production, Cocktail Plays, which opens tonight.

Aronowitz sent the four short plays in the production over to Canyon Shayer, beverage manager at Philadelphia Distilling. The experienced bartender shook up four cocktails, one to represent the themes and characters of each play. Cocktail Plays runs September 17-26 in the spartan bar of distillery and each drink contains a spirit made in the copper stills which loom behind Shayer as he describes the cocktails.

For Date Night by Mark Costello, about a woman who’s uncomfortably dressed up for a meeting, Shayer created a sparkling pink drink made with lemon juice, raspberry simple syrup, Bluecoat gin, sparkling wine, and fresh raspberries. “I wanted a redness reminiscent of lipstick,” he says. “It’s about being too classy for a situation.”

For Out of Time by Bill D’Agostino, Shayer favored an “old man’s drink” to represent one of the characters onstage, so he used the distillery’s barrel aged gin, with birch bitters and maple syrup for a twist on the old fashioned.

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The PINK HAIR AFFAIR Returns, Heartbroken

Posted September 14th, 2018

A collaborative dance company started by UArts grads in 2007, the Pink Hair Affair a series of playful Fringe pieces in the late ‘00s showcasing their choreographic talents. Several of the Pink Hair founders —Annie Wilson, Christina Gesualdi—went on to become key figures of the Philadelphia dance world, but the company lay dormant for the last few years as its members spread across the world, from Oregon to Panama City.

Company director Laura Jenkins recently returned from Los Angeles and has revived the much-loved company for a 2018 Fringe Festival production, The HeARTbreak of a Serial Monogamist, with performances at The Whole Shebang September 17 + 18. The piece deals with the middle stages of grief, that time after the initial shock, when people simply offer the advice of “time will heal”. Jenkins compiled her  experiences with grief—break-ups, moves, career changes, deaths—and turned them into an interactive interdisciplinary work that shows there are tools we can use to help us through the rough times.

She spoke with FringeArts about the project.

FringeArts: What inspired the show?

Laura Jenkins: I moved back to Philly in October 2017 (after living in LA for just under three years). I knew once I got back that I needed and wanted to put on a show again, and I thought the Fringe Festival would be a good way to ease back into the dance scene here. I originally wanted to do a show idea I’ve had with PINK HAIR AFFAIR for almost 10 years now… but life happened. In April of this year, I had a strong desire to do a show based on experiences I was going through, experiences that I’ve been through and little did I know, experiences I was going to go through. It sort of evolved from the need to heal and process grief. Creativity is and was a huge part of my healing process and I felt driven to share it—to normalize this feeling of grief, and to let people know it happens to the best of us.

FringeArts: What themes/messages do you want to convey?

Laura Jenkins: I want to share the grief that we all go through (or will go through). I want to normalize the feelings of despair, depression, feeling lost and alone, feeling crazy and angry, feeling so sad and heartbroken you don’t know what to do. I also want to show that there are ways to deal, tools to use to get your through. To note that this shitty time is important for us to go through — because it’s where we learn, grow and tap back into our true selves or maybe even find ourselves. To stay present during the dark time and not just hide in our bed or fall into a replacement relationship.

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Where Have All the Black Actors Gone? To Flying Quilt’s Day of Absence

Posted September 12th, 2018

Opening tomorrow at Painted Bride Arts Center (after two free performances for community groups), the thoughtful comedy Day of Absence explores the dilemma of an unnamed Southern town awakening to find all black folk…gone. Who will tend the children? Who will do the menial work? Who really wears the mask? It’s as relevant today as when Douglas Turner Ward wrote it in 1965.

The list of actors performing in Flying Quilt Productions’ Fringe show reads like a who’s who of black actors in Philadelphia: Joilet F. Harris, Cathy Simpson, Brian Anthony Wilson, Anthony Cooper, Steve Wright, Nastassja Baset, Rich Bradford, Kim Brown, Carlo Campbell, Niya Colbert, Walter DeShields, Andre N. Jones, Tiffany Bacon, Renee Lucas Wayne, Olivia Wayne, Lenny Daniels, Eric Carter, Chyna Michele, Jack Drummond, and Lary Moten. FringeArts spoke to Moten, artistic director of Flying Quilt, about his impressive cast and contemporarily pertinent play.

FringeArts: What first moved you about Day of Absence?

Lary Moten: When I first read it, I was in college—called Hampton Institute when i attended, now Hampton University—studying theater. It was 1968 and we were studying the plays that exploded from black playwrights during that turbulent time. Day of Absence struck me so much because it’s a comedy. It showed how all of the anger and frustration, analysis and commentary, could be turned into genuine laughter without casually dismissing the underlying causes, facing those issues unflinchingly. It grabbed me then. Unfortunately, it still grabs us now.

FringeArts: Why did you want to bring it to this year’s Fringe? 

Lary Moten: There is so much turmoil in the U.S. at this moment—people questioning black lives matter, political, social, cultural and economic upheaval—and Day of Absence speaks directly to those issues. And with lots of laughs. Day of Absence is castor oil smothered in honey. As usual in times like this, the best art rises to the challenge of connecting folks with issues that affect their daily lives concretely. That is why i wanted to see this show mounted. Especially during the Fringe. And at the Painted Bride given their history of community work.

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Gimme Shelter: Drip Symphony Returns to the Fringe

Posted September 12th, 2018

Nick Schwasman and Nate Barnett are local Philadelphia artists who run Drip Symphony, an experimental performance company now entering its second season. This Fringe, Drip Symphony presents Shelter, the story of a group of artists living together in an abandoned theater, brought together by a shared sense of artistic integrity. Staged using an immersive design where the entire theater is transformed into performance space and the audience, seated on stage and scattered throughout the house, lives among the action, Shelter explores the value of art, the nature of creation, and the power of physical boundaries to shape our realities.

Shelter runs September 19-22 at Plays & Players Theatre (and Barnett also sings with the Grammy-winning ensemble The Crossing in its Fringe show Of Arms and the Man, September 16). Schwasman and Barnett spoke to FringeArts about their artistic process, upcoming production, and views of the Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: What was the inspiration behind Shelter?

Nick Schwasman: I just turned 19. I was sitting around a fire behind a barn, talking to my dad and friends. My dad had recently received a letter from his dad, who is homeless and schizophrenic, and whom I had never met. I was talking about how I wanted to meet him. The idea came to me somewhere in this moment, that any homeless person I saw could possibly be my grandfather, and that’s essentially where it started.

We began writing the script for it back in 2013, in a barn on winter break. We still have scraps from back then, and many of the characters still exist in evolved forms. But it’s changed a lot. We’ve allowed this process to take any twists and turns that appeared, so much had changed. The show is now most strongly inspired by our artist colleagues and ourselves, and the experience we all have trying to navigate a very fraught artistic landscape. It’s about the decisions we make to survive and stay true to ourselves, and the spaces we create in support of those decisions.

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Hello Darkness My Ol’ Chum: REV’s Graveyard Cabaret

Posted September 11th, 2018

Since 2012, REV Theatre Company has brought Fringe Festival audiences into the iconic Laurel Hill Cemetery for a macabre cabaret of music and theater. As Philly Voice put it, Death is a Cabaret Ol’ Chum has become “a consistent favorite and top ticket seller… head to the cemetery for free cocktails and cabaret that spooks and stirs the soul.” The 2018 Fringe show opens this Friday and has four performances through September 22.

REV’s artistic codirector Rudy Caporaso spoke to FringeArts about this years happening.

FringeArts: Describe Death is a Cabaret Ol’ Chum for the uninitiated?

Rudy Caporaso: First of all, the show is listed in the Fringe Guide as a happening because that’s exactly what it is. Audiences will enjoy free cocktails as three “departed souls” appear out of the darkness of historic, iconic, beautiful Laurel Hill Cemetery, to music ranging from Bessie Smith to the Scissor Sisters and Cole Porter to Sonny and Cher. The music is a “Whitmans Sampler” of death-centric songs, all sung by—according to a critic—”performers with killer pipes”. And another critic said they’ve never experienced a more life-affirming theatrical event. An adventurous audience seeking a truly unique and immersive theater experience will like this.

FringeArts: What makes Laurel Hill Cemetery so suitable for this piece?

Rudy Caporaso: The piece was specifically made with Laurel Hill in mind—and I hope this doesn’t seem too terribly self-aggrandizing, but Laurel Hill is tailor-made for this production. It has the prerequisite mysterious and splendid Gothic grandeur. I always think of the Cemetery as the fourth character in the piece.

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Take Two Plunges with Brian Sanders JUNK

Posted September 11th, 2018

Brian Sanders’ JUNK has sold out Philly Fringe shows every year for almost twenty years with innovative, ingenious, and boundary-defying choreography. This year, us “JUNKies” have double the chance to see the highly physical, energetic dance company: For the 2018 Fringe Festival, JUNK is presenting TWO shows: FIGMAGO (through September 23) and Plunge (through September 22).

Daytime

A multi-faceted artist, Sanders shows us his family-fun side with FIGMAGO, an ongoing collaboration with muralist Meg Saligman.

Meg Saligman’s Theatre of Life mural.

“Meg and I share a lot of the same aesthetics,” Sanders tells FringeArts. “Bold but not over-the-top, dynamic, intense and emotional.”

The artists connected at the dedication of Saligman’s Theatre of Life mural on Broad and Lombard streets. “I repelled down the face of this giant mural and danced among the painted figures,” he says. “We always knew we would work together but we just didn’t know when and how, but the right space and the right time brought about FIGMAGO.”

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Like Mother Like Daughter

Posted September 10th, 2018

Jennifer Blaine was in the first Philly Fringe. This year her daughter Lily Blaine is in her first.

Lily and Jennifer  last week.

Performer Jennifer Blaine got a feature in the latest Philadelphia Weekly, detailing her long history with the Fringe Festival and how she has used it as a jumping off point to launch numerous successful shows.

Blaine was part of the very first Philly Fringe in 1997, performing her solo show Safety By Numbers in an Old City alleyway. As she related to Philly Weekly, she’d use reviews from her Fringe shows to book tours across the country, eventually opening up for George Carlin, Chris Rock, Joe Piscopo. This year, Blaine returns to the Festival for the 16th time with narrative stand-up show Ridiculous at L’Etage in South Philadelphia.

“It’s such an opportunity to open yourself up to an audience that you wouldn’t have reached otherwise,” Blaine told writer Andrea Cantor about the Fringe Festival. “You have no idea where it could end up for you.”

At the FringeArts Blog, we were struck by tidbit in the article about where it has ended up for Jennifer: this year, her 11-year-old daughter Lily is performing in her very first Fringe Festival. The younger Blaine dances in Paprika Plains, another family affair by two artist-sisters combining dance and body painting

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The Plague Comes to Philadelphia: Pestilence: WOW!

Posted September 7th, 2018

Playwright and director Savannah Reich recently moved to Philadelphia after making work with her company Eternal Cult for ten years and touring it to bars, basements and warehouses across the country. Opening tomorrow night, Pestilence: WOW! marks the Fringe debut for her raw and immediate style of theater, produced punk-rock style: collaboratively, accessibly, and strange.

Reich spoke to FringeArts about this new play about the bubonic plague that lives somewhere between a game show and an acid trip.

FringeArts: What’s the worst illness you’ve ever suffered?

Savannah Reich: I was a sickly child and always had some kind of a cold. I have a real fascination with the the intimate nature of illness, and the way it takes away our illusions of control. I did a lot of reading about illness in preparation for this play: Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, and Eula Biss’s On Immunity; An Inoculation are particular favorites. None of this ended up in the play directly, of course.

FringeArts: What brought you to Philadelphia?

Savannah Reich: I graduated from Carnegie Mellon with my MFA three years ago, and I’ve been kind of an art tumbleweed ever since. I lived in Chicago for a few years, and I’ve been bopping around and doing plays in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis and traveling a lot. I think I’m looking for my artistic home.

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Getting In A Tangle: Meredith Rosenthal Goes In the Forest

Posted September 7th, 2018

A Fringe Festival favorite since 2011, Tangle Movement Arts is a contemporary circus arts company whose performances mix traditional circus like trapeze and acrobatics with dance, theater, and live music to tell multidimensional stories. Tangle’s work reflects individuals of diverse identities, with an emphasis on queer and female experiences, and is devised collaboratively by its all-female ensemble.

Meredith Rosenthal

FringeArts spoke to Meredith Rosenthal, a member of this ensemble, about Tangles new work In the Forest—an immersive world of circus-theater that surrounds the audience with a 360-degree display of aerial dance, live music, giant yarn sculptures, and circus magic. The show comes to the 2018 Fringe Festival September 12-15, at the Sanctuary at the Rotunda in West Philly..

FringeArts: How did you become involved with Tangle?

Meredith Rosenthal: About five years ago, Lauren Rile Smith discovered me at a student showcase at Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. My first ever performance! She asked me to be a guest artist for a TinyCircus show, one of Tangle’s pop-up circus events.

FringeArts: What do you like about the company?

Meredith Rosenthal: Tangle feels almost more like a community than a company. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging. We try to make accessible circus for the masses, whether it’s by outdoor performances or our energetic narrative shows.

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Revisiting Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. With a Bear.

Posted September 6th, 2018

This my excavation

In 2006, musician Justin Vernon left North Carolina after two breakups: with his band and longtime girlfriend. Broke, heartbroken, he drove back to his home state of Wisconsin and spent a cold autumn and winter in his father’s hunting cabin. There he cut wood, drank, and wrote and recorded one of the finest, most emotionally moving, rawly authentic albums of this young millenium.

That’s the story.

It’s one that playwright Doug Williams and director Maura Krause wanted to explore and flip over. “We’re both music obsessives, and the story behind Bon Iver’s first album is a modern music legend,” says Williams. “But there are larger questions about the ‘broken male genius’ that feel really primed to be pushed back upon right now.”

These questions get a outlandish treatment in the pair’s world premiere Fringe Festival show, Bon Iver Fights A Bear, which opens tomorrow. “We figured, if we’re really trying to tell this story in the most outrageous way possible, we gotta have this talking bear narrate it and sort of call bullshit on the mythology of the whole thing,” says Williams.

“We want to explore the ways in which we romanticize the story of the white-male-genius-type that retreats to the woods to get over his heartbreak,” adds performer Emily Schuman, who plays Bon Iver, hipster beard and all. (The moniker was taken from French for “happy winter,” a repeated greeting in cult TV show Northern Exposure.) “Really, he was just a 24-year-old kid who was trying to figure himself out but ended up doing something incredibly honest.”

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Building Trust with Darcy Lyons

Posted September 5th, 2018

“Security is both a reality and a feeling and they’re not the same thing… The foundation of security is trust, both personal trust and global trust.” —Security specialist Bruce Schneier, an inspiration for 2018 Fringe Festival piece Proceed with Caution

Fear. Insecurity. Trust. Security.

The topics broached in Lyons and Tigers’s Proceed with Caution (September 7-9 at The Iron Factory in Kensington) are relevant on a personal, political, and geopolitical level. This new full-length dance theater work explores security in a time of global violence, the Trump presidency, police brutality, mass shootings, and the #MeToo movement. Through dance, the show asks, “How do humans build trust?”

Creator Darcy Lyons spoke to FringeArts about her timely show.

FringeArts: What was the inspiration for Proceed with Caution?

Darcy Lyons: In 2012, I created a short version of this piece that was about rational and irrational fear. I have always wanted to return to the piece and this year felt like the right time. The initial inclination came from my own struggles with anxiety. The concepts around fear and trust are important to me to continue to explore, especially in the uproar of the Trump administration.

FringeArts: Can we ever really trust anyone about anything ever?

Darcy Lyons: Yes. Trust has a lot of layers of meaning. We are constantly working with trust in our everyday lives.

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Tanaquil Marquez’s Passport Across Language Borders:

Posted September 5th, 2018

Heads: English; tails: Spanish.

On select nights, La Fábrica will present Gustavo Ott’s play PASSPORT in a language decided by a coin toss. The concept fits Ott’s kafkaesque tale of miscommunication and unexplainable border discrimination well. For the less adventurous, most performances of the timely work take place in either English or Spanish (see the show webpage for details).

We asked Tanaquil Márquez of La Fábrica about the unusual staging and her attraction to Ott’s absurdist play.

FringeArts: What moved you about the Gustavo Ott’s play?

Tanaquil Márquez: Yajaira [Paredes] and I were sitting in her car outside of Headlong Dance Studio. We just finished rehearsal for Azul, a production we worked on last year, when she pulled up the script on her phone and told me, “Tana, necesitamos hacer esta obra.” (Tana, we have to do this play) My first thought was, “What? We are already in a play, I don’t have space in my brain to think about another one.” But it’s the name that really stuck, PASSPORT. The title already seemed like a demand.

We had a reading a few months later and the message resonated in the room. In a beautiful and violent way. PASSPORT exposes how miscommunication can lead to distrust and confusion. Ott’s poetry is full of imagery and really blossoms throughout the hour while the main character’s situation gradually gets more and more dire. He mixes the two so well that you don’t know if you should be moved by the language or horrified by the action on stage.

FringeArts: What makes it a fitting show for this year’s Fringe?

Tanaquil Márquez: PASSPORT is a very current and important show. It spotlights the current immigration crisis. The long struggle of our community with the immigration issue has currently reached a boiling point. We cannot be but shocked at the actions of ICE against our society and the immorality of the Berks Family Prison in Pennsylvania detaining children as young as two weeks old. By presenting PASSPORT we want to raise awareness and funds to promote immigration rights.

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International Fringe 2018: A Welcome to Artists from Around the World

Posted September 2nd, 2018

The United States government may be pursuing an isolationist policy but the Philadelphia Fringe is doing the opposite: opening its doors not only to the most creative American performers and performances but also to the best and most creative theater artists and their productions from around the world—overcoming the ancient fear of the symbolic Tower of Babel with people not understanding each other.

To show the worldwide scope of the 22nd Philadelphia Fringe Festival, we offer this spotlight on performers from abroad and productions by American artists that present a global perspective.

Theater writer Henrik Eger, editor of Drama Around the Globe and contributor to Phindie and Broad Street Review, among other publications, has lived in six countries on three continents and has visited Africa and Australia as well. He bids everyone a hearty WELCOME to the City of Brotherly Love—this year in 18 different languages: Arabic, Celtic, Chinese, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Latin, Polish, Romanian, and Spanish.

We start this year’s overview with a special welcome to two programs featuring a wide range of global creators:

INTERNATIONAL CREATIVES

  1. le super grandBienvenue & welcome to Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard and Le Super Grand ContinentalLe Grand Continental wowed audiences during its run at the 2012 Fringe Festival and has garnered enthusiastic response across the world. Fully realizing a blissful marriage between the pure delight of line dancing and the fluidity and expressiveness of contemporary dance, the celebratory event enlists hundreds of local people to perform its synchronized choreography in large-scale public performances. The world’s most infectious performance event returns to the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in an even larger spectacle of dance.

More info and tickets here

  1. Bonvenon, willkommen, bienvenido, witamy, bienvenue & welcome to Do You Want A Cookie? from The Bearded Ladies Cabaret—a world premiere with an international cast. Do You Want A Cookie? serves up a delicious romp through cabaret history, with an international cast of artists performing a live revue of cabaret from the Chat Noir to Weimar nightlife to 21st-century drag. The all-star cast comes draws from around the world, including Bridge Markland (Berlin), Malgorzata Kasprzycka (Paris/Warsaw), Dieter Rita Scholl (Berlin), and Tareke Ortiz (Mexico City).

More info and tickets here

REFUGEES and EXILES

  1. ear whispered

    As Far As My Fingertips Take Me. Photo by

    وسهلا اهلا (ahlaan wasahlan) & bienvenu. Welcome to Tania El Khoury who lives in Lebanon and the UK with her multifaceted program ear-whispered. Little is known about Palestinian refugee camps and their communities. El Khoury presents her Fringe work in five parts through interactive performances and installations at Bryn Mawr College:

    1. Gardens Speak, an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
    2. Camp Pause, a video installation that tells the stories of four residents of the Rashidieh Refugee Camp on the coast of Lebanon. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
    3. As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, an encounter through a gallery wall between a single audience member and a refugee. (Old City & Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.  
    4. Stories of Refuge, an immersive video installation that invites audiences to lay down on metal bunk beds and watch videos shot by Syrian asylum seekers in Munich, Germany. (Old City.) Read more.
    5. Tell Me What I Can Do, a newly commissioned work featuring letters that audiences have written in response to Gardens Speak. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.

More info and tickets here

  1. Bienvenido & welcome to the bilingual (Spanish & English) cast of La Fábrica performing Gustave Ott’s Passport. Lost in a foreign country, Eugenia is detained and thrown into a vicious maelstrom of miscommunication. This poetic and immersive Kafkaesque thriller delves into the question of immigration—exposing the mechanics of language and power. Some performances will be presented in English, some in Spanish, and some will be decided at the toss of a coin.

More info and tickets here

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What Shamus Hunter McCarty Loves About Fringe

Posted August 31st, 2018

Name: Shamus Hunter McCarty

Show in 2018 Festival: Close Your Legs, Honey: A New Musical

Previous Fringe shows: The Jane Goodall: Experience (2010),  Branded (2011), The Playdaters (2012), The Hunchback of Notre Dame…A Mute Play (2014), Animal Farm to Table (2016), Pericles  (2017)

What I Love About Fringe: It’s impossible for me to think about my career as an artist in Philadelphia without acknowledging Fringe.

Fringe was my first gig in Philadelphia and although we were self-producing filled my 22 year old heart with all the confidence in the world that I could do it, I could make it as an artist. I connected with my first cohort of Philadelphia collaborators and whole life and career have put too many miles between us, I stand here, eight years later, nostalgic, proud and ready to unleash a brand new musical on the Philadelphia Fringe audiences. Over the last eight years I have worked on a variety of Fringe projects, grown immensely as an artist and learned a thing or two about how to maximize output and intake without burning out during one of Philadelphia’s busiest performance times.

That’s what I love about Fringe.

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The Complex Yet Simple Messages of For Colored Girls…

Posted August 30th, 2018

A theater professional with over twenty years experience in New York and Philadelphia, Ardencie Hall-Karambe, Ph.D. is an associate professor of English and theater arts at the Community College of Philadelphia and an adjunct professor and the director of theater Arts at Cheyney University. She cofounded and leads Arden Blair Enterprises,  which houses several subsidiaries, including Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective.

The resident theater company of North Philly’s landmark cultural hub The Church of the Advocate, Kaleidoscope presents Ntozake Shange’s seminal work For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival. Ardencie talked to FringeArts about the work, its relevance, and the role of art.

FringeArts: What was your introduction to For Colored Girls…. ?

Ardencie Hall-Karambe: I was introduced to For Colored Girls when I was a senior in high school in LaPorte, Texas, a small town outside of Houston. I read some of the poetry in a speech/forensic tournament.

FringeArts: What moved you about it?

Ardencie Hall-Karambe: What moves me about the piece is my relationship to some of the situations the characters go through on their journeys to healing. It was one of the first pieces about black people that I read that didn’t weigh itself down with the history of black enslavement in this country. It’s there, but it is not the focus. It was the first piece that I read that spoke to the conditions of black women with an attitude that I understood. The characters experience every emotion and courageously invites the audience to join them in this communal catharsis, and I love that.

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From Beauty Queen to Circus Scenes

Posted August 29th, 2018

“The fitness competition in pageantry is no different than exotic dancing, or stripping. We are taking our clothes off and exposing ourselves for money. I can’t imagine why we treat the disciplines so differently.”

Thumbing through the Fringe Guide, you may have been struck by the striking advertisement on page 98 promoting Almanac Dance Circus Theatre’s Jeanne/Jean/John/Jawn. You’re not wrong in thinking the female performer casually supporting the weight of founding company member Adam Kerbel could be a beauty queen. She is.

Lauren Johns joined Almanac in 2016 and stars in its 2018 Fringe show. Before that, she competed in pageants, winning several regional awards and placing in the top ten of the Miss Pennsylvania competition. She talked to FringeArts about her varied performance history and the feminist critiques of pageantry.

FringeArts: What’s your background in performance art?

Lauren Johns: I’m the middle child. I grew up a dancer at a little gem of a dance studio, Out of His Mind, in Johnstown, PA. I tripped and conveniently fell into a scholarship at The University of the Arts BFA Dance program. As I began creating I found myself trying to convince dancers to let me throw them in the air or climb on their heads or have them try to balance with only their chests on the ground. When I presented my first work Katie Swords told me, “Lauren, this isn’t dance, you’re making physical theater.” This led me to take a job with a physical theater company, Aura CuriAtlas, then Almanac.

FringeArts: When did you join Almanac?

Lauren Johns: I was performing with  Aura Curiatlas when I met Ben [Grinberg] at a performance. He invited me to a workshop/audition for Fringe 2016’s Exile 2588. It has been true love ever since. Almanac doesn’t just accept my weird inclinations, but helps me develop the skills I need to create and collaborate.

FringeArts: You also have a background in a different type of performance?

Lauren Johns: There is a program in my hometown, Outstanding Young Women (OYW), that straddles a debutante ball and a pageant. This program strictly dignifies itself in being a scholarship organization. There are a series of application processes and interviews that review your educational merit to be accepted into the program. The areas of competition include presence and presentation, talent, interview, and fitness. The fitness competition in this case was a true test of fitness. We jumped around stage with an aerobic dance and then did a series of pushups and single leg squats in logo T-shirts and smiles plastered on our faces. You better believe I won that fitness competition. I then did a number of programs where I wore a dress and received accolades. I caught the eye of a local dress boutique owner, she encouraged me to compete in the Miss America system.

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Solo Dance for People Who Don’t Like Solo Dance: Metal & Kind’s Indestructible Flowers

Posted August 29th, 2018

This Fringe, two instructors at Philly’s dance studio Urban Movement Arts (UMA) combine their talents in a collage of new solo work designed for folks secretly underwhelmed by new solo work. Coming from diverse dance backgrounds, Lily Kind and Mark “Metal” Wong showcase multidisciplinary work grounded in social and folk dance and “a kind of analytic optimism”.

Lily Kind. Photo by Katrina D’Autrement

Metal & Kind talked to FringeArts about Indestructible Flowers, the pitfalls of solo dance, and the role of UMA in Philadelphia’s dance and hip-hop scenes.

FringeArts: What common pitfalls do you see in solo dance work?

Mark “Metal” Wong: It’s really easy to get pretentious when you’re the only one up there. I’m trying my best not to be. But by nature, I think that all solo work is a little self-indulgent, so I try to embrace that and have fun with it to an extent as well.

Lily Kind: I agree with Mark. And I prefer a more vaudevillian theater tradition, where the audience is in more of a dialogue with the performer. By contrast, the traditional concert theater agreement is very safe for both performer and audience, and I think that can make for pretty boring solo work, where the artist has already surrendered any experimental elements by being inside a historically aristocratic construct.

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2018 Festival Spotlight: Shows from the Theater Canon

Posted August 28th, 2018

This year’s Fringe artists have looked to the past and taken inspiration from great playwrights and authors of the past. Check out these shows that create new work based on the theater canon. (There’s a noticeable absence: we covered Shakespeare in last week’s Festival Spotlight.) 

Samuel Beckett

accountant

The Accountant // Trey Lyford
In the forgotten office of an aging clerk, the tedium of everyday life transforms into a comical and haunting world of futility, remembrance and regret. The Accountant is a visual theater piece inspired by Samuel Beckett’s raw rumination on impermanence, Krapp’s Last Tape, and the disorientation that death can bring into our lives.
More info and tickets here

Company // EgoPo Classic Theater
Bring your blanket and pillow for a Beckett slumber party. EgoPo remounts their 2009 Fringe hit, which sold out in five cities. An immersive sensory experience, you are blindfolded on your back in the dark, the haunting text of modernist master Samuel Beckett’s short story “Company” whispered in your ear.
More info and tickets here

Sarah Kane

Phaedra’s Love // Svaha Theatre Collective
Phaedra is sexually obsessed with Hippolytus, her son. Hippolytus hates everyone and everything. The crown is burning and everybody is waiting for any excuse to rip the royal family to shreds. Literally. A riot erupts in gruesome hilarity because that’s just human nature, am I right? After producing Crave in 2016, Svaha returns with Phaedra’s Love by Sarah Kane, poete maudit of contemporary theater.
More info and tickets here

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