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Archive for the ‘Philly arts and culture’ Category

Mood Music and Mind Control at SoLow Fest

Posted June 8th, 2016

musictolaugh1Music accompanies modern life, whether it’s a new band your friends like, the on-hold music of doctor’s office or half your office going to see Beyoncé last Sunday. But what happens when music takes control?

“In the digital age, we are inundated with the subliminal effects of music and media. Being affected by these stimuli is a part of our modern life that we take for granted,” says physical theater artist Lesley Berkowitz, co-creator of Music to Laugh To, a clown show set to premiere at The Whole Shebang June 16th as part of SoLow Fest.

Hank Curry was reading the dramaturgy notes for a Fringe show last year, and he read that Muzak was designed to stimulate productivity in the work place. The notion that music was “scientifically” designed to have manipulative effects fascinated him, inspiring him to approach Lesley with the idea of a clown show. Hank and Lesley researched early Muzak and watched silent film era clowns, exploring people’s desire to control others through music. The music for Music to Laugh To was composed with the intention of imitating the Muzak style. (The composer, Andy Thierauf, is also performing a solo concert called The Post-Modern Percussionist in SoLow Fest.) As for the show’s title, Berkowitz and Curry were searching for something that could evoke the essence of mood music albums of the 1950s. “This one made us laugh,” they explain.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Douglas Williams

Posted June 7th, 2016

Name: Douglas Williams

Type of Artist: Playwright, producerD. Williams Headshot (L)

Companies: Orbiter 3, Apocalypse Club.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Holly’s Dead Soldiers, 2013 – playwright
Safe Space, 2014 – playwright
@AstroJennie, 2015 – playwright

First Fringe I attended: In 2009 I was a senior at Temple University and had to see a Fringe show for a class. I decided to go to Pig Iron’s Welcome to Yuba City, which feels really lucky since I knew nothing about the show or the company. The whole thing blew my mind.

First Fringe I participated in: Holly’s Dead Soldiers was the first Fringe show I was involved in. Most memorable moment was probably Chris Davis scrambling to learn his four page monologue two days before we opened.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: Holly’s again. In creating it I guess I would say the most memorable moment was bouncing around Bruce Walsh’s house trying to figure out how to use every room, every space, and how much dialogue could be heard when delivered from the basement . . .

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: There was something really beautiful about seeing Go Long Big Softie in a building that was going to be torn down after the run had ended. Filling that place with art and people before it went away forever seemed like a good way to say goodbye.

apocalypseclub_safespace_1b

Apocalypse Club (Emma Goidel, Maura Krause, Douglas Williams, Emily Acker), Image by Lindsay Ladd

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Oh man so many . . .  Yuba City, Pay Up, the Adults, Underground Railroad Game. The Object Lesson is still one of the most incredible theater experiences I’ve ever had. The environment that show existed in was just so welcoming and communal.

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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: Corinna Burns

Posted June 2nd, 2016

Name: Corinna Burns

Type of Artist: Theater MakerCorinnaBurns

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Wow. A lot.
A series of short plays produced by the now-defunct Brick Playhouse performed at the now-defunct Old Original Bookbinders, 1996
Bartleby the Scrivener, the Madmen, 1998 – actor, creator
The Trial, 1999 – adaptor, director
Live at the Apollo Diner, Theatre Exile, 1999 – performer
Live Girls, 2000 – co-creator, performer
Brinksmanship!, Termite TV, Bad Penny Productions, 2001 – co-creator, performer
Little/Yma, Weak Chin Productions, 2004 – actor
Pay Up!, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2005 – performer, creator
Isabella, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2005 and 2013 – performer, creator
Oedipus, Emanuelle Delpeche at FDR, 2008 – actor
Purr Pull Reign, Johnny Showcase, 2009 – Lady Dancer
Raw Stitch, Jackie Goldfinger, 2012 – actor
The End of Hope, the End of Desire, [ad hoc theatre project], 2013 – actor
99 Breakups, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2014 – performer, creator

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: I’m not signed up for anything (so far) this year! But that just means I can go see more stuff!

First Fringe I attended: I’ve been Fringe-ing since the beginning. I remember doing these little plays at Bookbinders while people ate their three-course lunches and thinking how exciting it was that Philadelphia now had this special time of the year when people could think about performance in new ways. Even though in that year, that particular project wasn’t super boundary-pushing, we were still performing new plays for an audience of people that would otherwise never have been exposed to them. And in the early years, the Fringe office was on Vine Street and the Fringe Bar was at what I think was a Turkish restaurant across the street, and everything was performed in Old City, so there was a closeness to everything. You’d run from show to show to show because you really could. And everyone would gather at the bar to dance and talk at the end of every night.20160526_135838

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I produced entirely on my own was an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, performed by three actors at the Museum of Jewish American History in their old space. What is most memorable to me about that experience: the number of people who are willing to help you for free! I think the museum gave me the space for free, and the actors basically donated their time, although we split the profits at the end. And that people who don’t know you will come to see your show!!! I’ve never not had audiences for any of my Fringe shows, even the ones that I thought were a disaster and I didn’t want anyone to see (Live Girls)!!

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: I think I’ve been blessed to be in some of the Fringiest of the Fringe, but I’d have to say that the experience of performing Oedipus at FDR down at FDR Skate Park would top the list. Pure magic. Walking the edge of the bowl in a red satin dress with Pearce Bunting as the blind Oedipus holding on to my yards-long train, audience seated in the other end of the bowl, the chorus of skaters swooping through the space like bats, and the intimacy of all the sound happening through headphones because the atmospheric noise of being under I-95 made it otherwise impossible to hear anything—being so far from the audience but able to whisper in their ears. I feel so blessed to have been a part of that show.

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Fringe at 20: Linda Dubin Garfield

Posted June 1st, 2016

Name: Linda Dubin Garfield

Linda Dubin Garfield (left) with Susan DiPronio (right), 2011

Linda Dubin Garfield (left) with Susan DiPronio (right), 2011

Type of Artist: Printmaker, mixed media artist

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: This is my 11th Fringe show at the Book Trader, 7 North 2 Street. I do mixed media memoir workshops on various topics: Invisible/Invincible Women: Portraits and stories of women of a certain age (2006), We Are What We Carry (2007), The Right Foot: Shoe Portraits (2008), Crowing Glories: Hair Portraits and Stories (2009), Let’s Face It: Self Portraits and Life Stories (2010), Home: A Place to be (2011), A Place to Be with Susan DiPronio (2011), What Nurtures Us (2012), My Body- My Self- My Story (2013), Best Friends (2014), Family: Portraits and Stories (2015).

With each topic, I have hooked up with a non-profit to collect money at a pre-Fringe birthday party in May as well as donations at the Fringe and sales of my images, the non-profit is related to the topic. So, for instance, when we did hair portraits, I donated to Locks of Love, Home to homeless agencies, Family to Family Support Services, My Body- My Self- My Story to breastcancer.org.

House on a Hill

House on a Hill

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: I am following the same format for this Fringe, doing it, however, with Susan DiPronio. Clothing: Stories from the Closet with proceeds and donations going to the New Day Drop In Center in Kensington for victims of human trafficking who often need clothing: socks, underwear, hoodies, etc.

First Fringe I attended: A friend took me to the Fringe in 2005 and I was astounded. We saw street art and performance, several great performances, and it was all in Old City. I knew I wanted to be part of it and went down to Old City looking for a venue with the window I wanted. Luckily, Peter Hiler from The Book Trader said okay I could do it there!!

First Fringe I participated in: 2006. Invisible/Invincible Women: Portraits and stories of women of a certain age. I loved the power of art to help create a comfortable space where people from all walks of life, who would normally never cross paths, came to the table and, while cutting, pasting and creating, shared their stories at a very deep level.

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Fringe at 20: Gunnar Montana

Posted May 31st, 2016
Gunnar Montana, Credit: Neal Santos

Gunnar Montana, credit: Neal Santos

Name: Gunnar Montana

Type of Artist: Visual/Physical Artist

Company: Gunnar Montana Productions

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Sanctuary, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, 2010: dancer, performer
Dancing Dead, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, 2011: dancer, performer
The Gate: Reopened, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, 2012: dancer, performer
RUB, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2012: director, producer, choreographer
BASEMENT, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2013: director, producer, choreographer, performer
RESURRECTION ROOM, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2014: director, producer, choreographer, performer
PURGATORY, Gunnar Montana Productions, 2015: director, producer, choreographer, performer

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: WROUGHTLAND, Gunnar Montana Productions – director, producer, choreographer, performer

First Fringe I attended: My first experience of the Fringe Festival was Urban Scuba by Brian Sanders’ JUNK. Brian crafted a visually stunning performance in a deserted pool on the basement level of the Gershman Y. The entire performance was a huge inspiration and highlight.

First Fringe I participated in: The first show I ever performed in for the Fringe Festival was Sanctuary by Brian Sanders JUNK. Brian and I performed a duet together on stage that involved swinging about on spansets while artfully entangling our bodies together in the air. At one point I botched the sequence of the dance. Brian then took the liberty to completely break character and scream corrections at me in front of a sold out audience. I was traumatized, but in the nights that followed, I didn’t screw up.

Gunnar Montana, Credit: Garrett Mathews

Gunnar Montana, credit: Garrett Mathews

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I ever produced was RUB. I was working with a handful of strippers at the time. One night a performer of mine invited one of her clients to come see the show. It was a very intimate experience and as the night progressed this particular performer strutted up to her “friend,” straddled him, and slowly spit into his mouth. Everyone in the audience was somewhat disgusted as he swallowed and smiled. He seemed to really enjoy it.

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Rejected Thoughts Emerge at SoLow Fest

Posted May 31st, 2016

“It’s almost like kindergarten in a way because we give ourselves full permission to just be in awe or repulsed by what we’re sharing.”

"Rejected_Thoughts," Mira Treatman and Irina Varina

SoLow Fest begins soon and June 22–25, Mira Treatman and Irina Varina present Rejected Thoughts, a result of the performers’ exploration of what makes them vulnerable, joyous or angry. Through dance and dialogue they present the ideas they have labelled “rejected thoughts.” “It’s almost like kindergarten in a way because we give ourselves full permission to just be in awe or repulsed by what we’re sharing,” Mira told FringeArts. Mira and Irina, met at Headlong Performance Institute while studying hybrid performance making. They were paired to work on a provocation piece based on “found materials,” which they later performed at a FringeArts Scratch Night.

"Socks Brick," David Brick

“Sock Piece.” Photo: David Brick

Their shared interest in detail-oriented work, getting to the bottom of things, and the resulting laughter has led to their continued collaboration beyond Headlong. Irina has a background in film, and Mira in dance-theater. They began Rejected Thoughts with a Headlong tradition—a constellation—a collection of objects they were curious about. “We would then share, talk, embody, investigate things from our constellations, and give each other provocations. For example, after watching videos that Mira brought of different vloggers talking about very personal things on YouTube, I asked her if she wanted to make a vlog herself,” Irina explains. Although Mira’s vlog didn’t go beyond a rehearsal room, this research became important along with the idea of convenient intimacy, DNA tests, a speculum, and old family photos from Siberia.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Terry Brennan

Posted May 27th, 2016

Name: Terry BrennanTerry Brennan

Type of Artist: Devised Theater Actor/Director

Company: Tribe of Fools

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Echo (2007), Armageddon at the Mushroom Village (2009), Dracula (2010), Heavy Metal Dance Fag (2011), Antihero (2013), Two Street (2014), Zombies . . . with Guns (2015).

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Antihero (remount), director

First Fringe I attended: 2004. The highlight was Pig Iron’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway.

First Fringe I participated in: 2007. The Metro didn’t review our show (Echo) because we only ran one week, but they later called us one of the “best surprises of 2007.” That was a really big deal for us at the time.

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Berserker Residents—The Jersey Devil. Before I saw The Jersey Devil I was always trying to “make art” or “do what a good artist would do,” and these guys made a show that had all the kind of stuff that I loved—AND IT WAS ART. It made me realize that I was my own artist and I had the ability and permission to make the type of work that—at the time—wasn’t being made as much and that’s not only okay, that is art.IMG_1882

Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: The Berserker Residents. After seeing The Jersey Devil I was up in their face as often as possible about possibly helping them, working together, whatever. They needed someone to play a small role that originally was supposed to only be a mentioned character. As the process went on they realized this character was going to need to make a cameo appearance at the end of the play. Because of my intense love of The Jersey Devil and my less than subtle offers to work with them, they asked me to play the role.

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The Loop of Integrity and Light-Up Sneakers : an Interview with Chelsea & Magda

Posted May 25th, 2016

“What would it be like to research yourself like an academic or test yourself like a scientist?”

Chels and Magda-246

Chelsea & Magda have been collaborating in Philadelphia for the past three years making dance theater duets. The Shame Symposium explores the link between shame and pleasure. Their research involves female friendships, public perception of aggression, the loop of integrity, Lisa Frank and light-up sneakers.

We caught up with Chelsea & Magda to find out more about their research process and work on The Shame Symposium.

FringeArts: How did you come up with the title The Shame Symposium?

Magda San Millan: We were in rehearsal sitting on the floor and talking about if we should stretch and start dancing or try to get some administrative work out of the way and we slipped into a title decision conversation. We were almost going to call it Recent Developments, Discoveries and Theories because our work is going away from the “show” format, with a unified theme, and towards a presentation of research. As an artist, what if I could present all of my interests and practices in one evening without trying to make it have a narrative or a cohesive-ish-ness? But admittedly much of our research has focused on shame and we want to give people the heads up—not everyone is interested in watching shame transformation.

Chelsea Murphy: I like the word “symposium” because it puts our work in an academic arena. It lets people know that we will be presenting research, experiments, and demonstrations. It will be a collection of performances, photographs, thoughts, and experiences around being a person with shame, which is every person. I agree with Magda, not everyone is interested in watching people explore their shame. So in that way I think this title is scary for us. It feels like it is really putting the vulnerable thing out there for everyone to see.Chels and Magda-300

FA: Describe the shame/pleasure cake.

MSM: This term originated in an improvisational movement and text score that we developed at our Yard residency this past summer. The importance of the term now resides in the linking of shame and pleasure. We are not interested in shame that is action based or traumatic. Like: I was mean to this girl and I feel guilt about it and it made me think I was a bad person, etc. We are interested in shame that is linked to pleasure and reveals something about the personality that culture condemns. So, I often feel that I am an “aggressive woman.” I feel shame because people have shamed me about it. Telling me I’m too intense, etc. I feel shame because it implies that I want to hurt others, which I don’t want (to be clear). But I also feel pleasure in the experience of power, in the act of domination, in the explosiveness and playfulness. I don’t believe these qualities are inherently bad or harmful. And the question we pose to others is: Is there an aspect of your identity that causes you pleasure and shame? Let’s look at that. Let’s celebrate that. Because when we do we are going to see your full flawed and complex self onstage. And we are going to break the cycle of idealization to shame to idealization to shame . . .

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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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Exposure: work in progress showing about living with disability

Posted May 19th, 2016

“I always had an idea of it in the back of my head. I’ve been giving lectures and talks about my life since I was about three months old. My parents would take me around. And so it’s always been kind of a part of my life,” says Mathew Purinton of his new play Exposure, which he is presenting a 40-minute work-in-progress showing at the Performance Garage on Friday, May 20th and Saturday May 21st at 7:30pm.

Purinton was born with the rare genetic disorder of TAR syndrome, and Exposure explores his life story. This weekend’s live performance is a the culmination of ten weeks of rehearsal working with a number of Pig Iron School trained performers and collaborators. In rehearsal, artists of mixed physical abilities created scenes through a series of improvisational exercises and use dance, movement, and acrobatics as a jumping-off point for telling the physical and visceral stories of Purinton’s life.

During the rehearsal process the performers explored different ways to immerse the audience in the performance and give them an opportunity to experience what it’s like to live with a disability.

Instead of writing a traditional memoir-type play, Purinton was interested in developing the work using devised theater methods and developing a movement vocabulary from various disciplines that would also be integral to to work. Explains co-producer Nick Jonczak, “In 2015, Matt Purinton and Kermit Cole approached Pig Iron Theatre Company co-artistic director Quinn Bauriedel about creating a play based on the extraordinary experiences of Matt’s life. Quinn introduced Matt and Kermit to Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training 2015 alumna Michaela Moore who joined the project as director.” In turn, that led to the inclusion of a number of other Pig Iron School alumni in the productions including Caitlin Antram, Giovany Barrera, Ben Grinberg, Lauren Harries, Bronwyn Sims, and  Alice Yorke.

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Getting to the Nuts and Bolts of Trisha Brown

Posted May 11th, 2016

On April 29, Trisha Brown’s dance legacy was represented by three generations of her dancers in a rehearsal studio on the top floor of the Main Building at Drexel University for In the New Body: Nuts and Bolts. Facilitated by Lisa Kraus, the project director of Trisha Brown: In the New Body (a yearlong festival of Trisha Brown’s work) and a former Trisha Brown Dance Company (TBDC) dancer, Nuts and Bolts was an open rehearsal and discussion for audiences to observe a Pennsylvania Ballet company rehearsal for O zlozony / O composite, the Trisha Brown dance that will be part of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s “Balanchine and Beyond” program (June 9–12, tickets) at the Merriam Theater.

Photo by Johanna Austin

Photo by Johanna Austin

The Rehearsal

The floor was occupied by three Pennsylvania Ballet dancers—Ian Hussey (principal), Lillian de Piazza (soloist), and Aaron Anker (apprentice)—along with Neal Beasley, the youngest of the present TBDC legacy, who is setting Brown’s work on the dancers. The four of them were chatting, warming up, stretching, and reviewing the movement phrases they were about to share.

TB 4

Photo by Johanna Austin

Stephen Petronio, TBDC’s first male dancer, sat in the front row, and he was hard to miss. He’s very tall with a shiny bald head, black thick-rimmed glasses, and a stately gray tuft of hair hanging from his chin. He possessed the air of being very important—many people were trying to talk to him at all once before the rehearsal started.

Those familiar with Trisha Brown and her work know that her creative process as well as her work is far from conventional—and this was manifest as soon as Beasley counted the beat using the alphabet instead of numbers. After one or two cycles of the alphabet, Beasley revealed that using the alphabet instead of a dancer’s go-to counts of six or eight was a tradition that Brown’s dancers started.

Each movement was deliberate, and monotonous in its rhythm dynamic, evenly fitting the steady timing of the alphabet, with each position or transition filling up one count (or letter). The vocabulary he used while he practiced the phrases with the dancers was colorful and rhythmic—almost poetic.

Beasley’s directing style was less critical instruction and served more as a reminder for the dancers of the origin and intent of the movement for unification, as well as to capture Brown’s original intent.

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Live and in Technicolor

Posted April 14th, 2016

As a kid there was something truly sublime about a black light. With just the flick of a switch an entire space and everything it contained could be altered. Mundane dressings disappeared in the absence of visible light as new, previously imperceptible shapes and patterns emerged. What was in reality just a dingy warehouse could be transformed into a fantastical landscape full of colors that brimmed with vivacity, setting the imagination ablaze. It inspired the kind of wonder you look back on with envy as an adult. Yet such wistful recollections lead me to wonder, why can’t that same sense of awe still be tapped? My threshold for awe might (might) be a bit higher than it was when I was ten, but surely some spectacle of ultra-violet artistry is still capable of surpassing it.

archedream in technicolorThis weekend we will all have a chance to marvel at such a work of black light performance art, as ArcheDream for Humankind brings their latest show, ArcheDream in Technicolor, to the Shiloh Baptist Church April 15-17. An exploration of the color wheel under the glow of ultra-violet light, the performance strives to expose inner and outer landscapes and archetypal emotions one color at a time.

Since 2000, ArcheDream—a Philadelphia based non-profit performance troupe—has been combining elements of theater, dance, puppetry, and visual art to create remarkable shows for all ages. Born from the vision of South African artist Alan Bell, the company was founded out of his desire to unify divided audiences in an ecstasy of wonder. Inspired by traditions of mask theater and the form’s ability to convey stories and unifying truths in fantastical ways, ArcheDream mixes dazzling art direction, whimsical choreography, and archetypal tales inspired by universal thoughts, ideas, and emotions to reach audiences the world over.

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Back to School with the Fringe Festival

Posted April 11th, 2016

Kimberly Dickstein is a high school English teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School in Haddonfield, New Jersey. In her seven years of teaching English language and literature, she has developed a rigorous and engaging Shakespeare program of study. This year, she blew her Shakespeare class wide open thanks to one crazy show she saw at the Fringe Festival.

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John Bellomo and Brendon Gawel from the Ombelico Mask Ensemble

Kimberly, also a member of FringeAxis (aka The Young Friends of FringeArts), is dedicated to seeing as many shows as she can each Fringe Festival. She spends every weekend in September at the Festival and averages five to seven shows each year—an impressive feat for a teacher at the beginning of the school year. “When I get the Fringe program, I do my best to see any Shakespeare or classics that might inform my teaching,” she says. With this goal in mind, she came upon Like a Bat Out of Hades by the Ombelico Mask Ensemble. This 2015 Fringe Festival performance fused the improvisational style of commedia dell’arte with traditional Italian puppetry to create a comic interpretation of the Greek tragedy Alcestis by Euripides. After seeing “ridiculous reimagining” of a tragic story of love and sacrifice, Kimberly worked with Brendon Gawel, one of Ombelico’s artistic directors, to bring the show to her school last October as part of her Greek Drama curriculum. For many of her students, this was their first experience seeing a professional production of any kind, let alone a Fringe performance. With Ombelico’s love for reinterpreting classic works in commedia dell’arte, she saw potential to continue this collaboration as she transitioned into her Shakespeare class in the spring semester.

Kimmie D

Kimberly Dickstein directs her students on Commedia Day

While many high school English classes study Shakespeare by simply reading Romeo and Juliet and deciphering its lofty language, Kimberly designs her curriculum around which Shakespeare plays are being performed in the greater Philadelphia area, making the course truly “page-to-stage.” In a stroke of serendipity, she had arranged the course so that her students would begin the semester studying Hamlet—the exact play that the Ombelico Mask Ensemble was in the midst of adapting for the 2016 Fringe Festival. Together, they decided to host a program on February 25th, recognized internationally as Commedia dell’Arte Day, in which the Shakespeare students would pitch their comic adaptation of Hamlet to Ombelico.

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FringeArts Flash Debates

Posted April 5th, 2016

This Saturday, April 9, Team Sunshine Performance Corp and Jacob Winterstein are convening The Society of Civil Discourse at FringeArts. All are welcome to join the Society and get in on the fun of hating on, loving, philosophizing about, and debating things that don’t matter. This night is about bullshitting your way to the top. In order to warm up our argumentative sides we decided to have a brief series of lightning debates with members of our staff on a handful of highly contested trivialities: baby carrots, winking, and hoverboards. Below, you’ll find their cases for or against their topic. Though these may not be their true opinions on these hot button issues, it’s clear they’ll be ready to square off against anyone looking to argue come Saturday night. Will you be ready?

Debate #1:

Winking

Pro: Dan, Marketing Director

Winking is a primary form of human communication and we should no sooner oppose it than other more questionable forms, like G-chatting with the coworker beside you or YouTube comments. As humans we are from time to time reminded of the acute inadequacy of words to express true meaning. Under emotion’s influence—love, disgust, surprise, fear—our faces say more and say it better than whatever clumsy collection of syllables we could possibly muster. In addition, the adaptation of the wink into popular emoticons and emojis is evidence that, as technology replaces human interaction with a digital screen, the wink is needed now more than ever.

Against: Meg, Venue and Patron Services Director

Winking: Secretive, inconclusive, cheeky. What does a wink even mean? Are you flirting? Are you suggesting an inside joke? Are you inferring that there is an unspoken agreement between us? Maybe you’re just somebody that winks a lot and there is no actual message. Either way, winking is a vague and inconsistent form of nonverbal communication. 99.9% of winking results in unclear messaging. Furthermore, it cannot ever be universally embraced, as a wide and diverse segment of the human population (up to 12%!) does not have the facial muscular capabilities to wink. It’s blinking or nothing—no one eye isolation. For that reason, winking is an exclusive nonverbal communicator, and imperfect. If a wink requires a returned wink in order to complete the exchange, there is a nearly 1 in 10 possibility that the recipient of the initial wink simply cannot return said wink. For this reason, I strongly argue against winking.

Debate #2:

Baby Carrots

Pro: Constance, Marketing Intern

Here’s the problem. When you want a snack, you want to be healthy, but there’s always things like chips and cookies that get in the way. That’s why there’s baby carrots. They’re nature’s chips. You get that same satisfying crunch but without the trouble of washing all that cheese dust off your fingers. They’re simple, they’re cheap, and they’re easy to carry around, unlike their full-sized carrot parents with that annoying tuft of inedible greenery on top. And, if people see you choosing that healthy snack option, it’s so much easier to trick people into thinking you have your shit together. When everything else in your life looks like it’s falling apart, at least you’ll have a win if you choose baby carrots.

Against: Anna, Marketing Coordinator

A startling fact: There’s no such thing as a baby carrot. Baby carrots are created by the plastic surgery of ADULT carrots that were JUST FINE. Baby Carrots are the status quo and the fetishization of youth vegetableified. Baby carrots represent everything wrong with society. Instead of dipping normal, healthy, curvy carrots that are beautiful just the way they are we strip them down and cut them shorter so they all look the same. Not everything is easy to hold, chew, or fit in a snack sized Ziplock bag and that’s OK. We should be empowering our carrots and ourselves to be diverse not homogenous and slimy.

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World Premieres and World-Class Music: Spring at FringeArts Pt.2

Posted March 31st, 2016

Last week we previewed some of the exciting things that are happening here at FringeArts in the next two months—the first half of our spring season—but believe it or not there’s more to look forward to. Believe it!

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Rhys Chatham (Photo by Paula Court)

Late May sees two separate performances from near-mythical figures of modern music, both presented in partnership with Philadelphia’s Ars Nova Workshop. First up is the Rhys Chatham-Tim Dahl-Kevin Shea Trio. Chatham is a composer and performer from New York City who cut his teeth in the music world as a piano tuner for minimalist icon La Monte Young before performing in various groups. His work has always been indebted to his avant-garde forebears, but he was also heavily influenced by the emerging punk rock scene in the late ’70s. He in turn influenced musicians whose work would soon be pegged as No Wave through seminal works like Guitar Trio and his time as the first music director of the legendary lower Manhattan art space The Kitchen. Since the early 2000s he’s settled in Paris and has been composing works for three to 400 guitars, as well as a host of other instruments.

Tim Dahl is an accomplished electric and double bass player, vocalist, keyboardist, and composer best known as the bass player and co-composer of the noise-rock band Child Abuse and Lydia Lunch’s Retrovirus. He’s performed with a legion of legendary of musicians, including Yusef Lateef, Archie Shepp, Eugene Chadbourne, Tatsuya Yoshida, John Zorn, and Marc Ribot. Kevin Shea, who has been dubbed “the best drummer in New York” by The Village Voice, is a member of the acclaimed avant-garde jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing. He’s been in numerous other groups and collaborates frequently, compiling a resume that, much like Dahl, reads as a who’s who of forward-thinking music greats. Catch these three powerhouse musicians on May 24 as they delve into and distort the post-punk instrumental. (info/tickets)

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Brötzmann and Leigh

You would be wise to return the following night for a performance from two musicians with a masterful talent for improvisation, taking the stage with their seldom-paired instruments of choice. Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh are bringing their tenor saxophone and pedal steel guitar, respectively, May 25. The two have been touring together  to much acclaim, with one reviewer for London Jazz News commenting, “Their 90 minute set at Café Oto was remarkable for the flux of the structures that defined the emerging musical forms and for the intuitive daring with which both musicians imprinted their presence on the dialogue.”

Brötzmann, a painter by trade, is a giant of European free jazz, and avant-garde jazz and free improvisation in general. His legendary second album, Machine Gun, remains a ferocious and imposing work and stands as a document of the formation of the European free improvisation scene. He’s led numerous influential recordings and served as a member of such blistering groups as Last Exit and Die Like a Dog. Leigh is a Houston-bred coal miner’s daughter based in Glasgow who wields the pedal steel guitar like no one else. With echoes of American folk traditions, avant-garde jazz, and the furthest extremes of noise experimentation present, she renders her instrument’s voice into expressive wails and lilts that belie its oft-typecast laid back country image. Her latest album, 2015’s I Abused Animal, received universal acclaim and landed on many critics’ and artists’ year-end best lists. This rare live collaboration is not to be missed by any adventurous music listener. (info/tickets)

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Homegrown Art Is in Bloom: Spring at FringeArts, Pt.1

Posted March 24th, 2016

Ah, spring has sprung once again! Or is about to. Or already did. Oh, you didn’t get the memo? It’s winter again! Wait, never mind, it is spring. But maybe don’t get too comfortable in those jorts. Even though we can’t seem to rely on nature to be on schedule these days, you can rest assured that FringeArts will be. We’ve got an incredible spring season packed with some of Philadelphia’s most lauded, boundary-pushing artists, as well as notable guests from out of town. Here’s what’s going down at our waterfront headquarters from April to June.

Coming April 9 is a show for all the talkers, drunk debaters, sidewalk weather reporters, water cooler pundits, backseat philosophers, pseudo intellectuals, haters, hype-men, chatter boxes, gossips, and even the silent types. The Society of Civil Discourse, a co-production between Team Sunshine Performance Corp and The Philly Pigeon/Jacob Winterstein, is looking for new members and thinks you’d be a perfect candidate, whoever you are (info/tickets).

SCD-183The evening plays out in three phases. During phase one the proceedings and rules of participation are laid out and all attendees are inducted into the Society. Phase two asks Society members to voice their opinions at three designated stations: a “hater” station, an “appreciation” station, and a “mini-debate” station. Once everyone’s oratorical muscles are warmed up we enter phase three. Participants become audience for The Great Debate, where two teams—made up of professionals and a few recruited audience members—debate on an audience-selected topic. If you’re someone who enjoys passionately debating pointless topics you don’t understand or care about, you’re going to want to grab a ticket quick for this “celebration of truth-stretchers, fabricators and pseudo-intellectuals in all their misinformed glory,” as a writer for City Paper so aptly summed it up.

luisgaray.hotglue.meNext up is Maneries, our first international offering of the season from Colombian-born Argentina-based choreographer Luis Garay. A solo created specifically for and in collaboration with dancer Florencia Vecino, the show positions the body as a cipher of linguistic material. Working with iconic symbols, Vecino takes on the difficult task of embodying a universal catalogue of gestures, pictures, poses, and sculptures, utilizing her body to represent all bodies, a vessel for all manner of possible meanings, perceptions, and experiences. Garay equates her performance, the manner in which she mixes these images live, to that of a DJ, asserting, “The structure of the piece is very rigid, but at the same time it allows [the performance] to be changed every time. Maneries is also about imagination and the bodily production of imagination.”

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Get to Know Show No Show’s Gabrielle Revlock and Sasha Frolov

Posted March 22nd, 2016

This weekend marks the premiere of Show No Show, a duet created and performed by Philadelphia native Gabrielle Revlock and Russian-based Aleksandr (or Sasha) Frolov. The pair began developing the piece during a 2014 residency at the Omi International Arts Center where they first met, and fittingly it follows two characters as they get to know each other. Speaking to FringeArts, Revlock noted that the two did not strike an immediate connection in their initial exercise together. As she puts it, “It was super awkward and did not go well and so I thought okay, tried that, didn’t work, no chemistry, moving on.” Thankfully the two had another chance to work together before the residency ended and something clicked: “We found a really good chemistry and share a sense of humor. I guess that’s why it continued.”

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Photo by Hallie Martenson

These notions of chemistry and humor are central to Show No Show. This is not a mannerly, polite meeting of two strangers, maybe sharing a cup of coffee and talking about the latest Netflix show or that hip restaurant that sells $10 ramen. This is, as described on both artists’ websites, “a truth or dare using a peach, a megaphone, two chairs, and a white tablecloth.” The work charts the process of two people really getting to know each other; all the awkwardness, vulnerability, cruelty, and tenderness—and not many boundaries to boot. Unpredictable and entrancing, they use each other and the space to mine the complexities of opening oneself up to another, laying bare the hilarious, maddening, and heartbreaking feelings that come with it. Without the chemistry and comedic sensibilities Revlock and Frolov share, such powerful notions would likely be lost on most viewers, but in their capable hands it’s strikingly palpable.

Seeing as we’ll soon be witnessing Revlock and Frolov getting to know each other onstage, why don’t we all get better acquainted with the individuals? Below you’ll find a brief sampling of works these startlingly accomplished dance artists have produced. Undoubtedly there are many great things to come from both, and Show No Show is one of them. Be sure to catch it March 24-26.

Gabrielle Revlock

On her website Revlock describes her body of work as, “Projects [that] blur the line between living and performing… Imaginative and sincere, the works invite the viewer in and are intended to evoke emotional reaction and stimulate intellectual exploration. Speckled with humor and surprise, they also entertain.” While this is a pretty apt summation of her body of work—and is particularly tangible in Show No Show—it only hints at the breadth of her always surprising, genre-defying work. Here are a few recent highlights.

So You Think You Can’t Understand Contemporary Dance?

Revlock often addresses and plays with the belief that contemporary dance is inaccessible in her work and in this film commissioned by thINKingDANCE she attacks that fallacy head on. Born from her interest “in bridging experimentation and populism,” she provides a short, sweet contemporary dance primer with the help of her favorite 5 year old. The short has been translated into Italian, Swedish, Polish, Hungarian, and Russian (more on that last one later).

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The Walk Is the Work: An Interview with Ann de Forest, Adrienne Mackey, JJ Tiziou, and Sam Wend

Posted March 18th, 2016

A city is such a massive concept to wrap your head around. You can spend your whole life in one and still end up lost when you’re no more than a few miles from home. Time spent in one place does not directly translate into knowledge of it. As the demands of work, family, and home life all begin to accumulate it’s easy to lose sight of the possibilities that may be no more than a twenty minute stroll away. Walking is undoubtedly the best means we have to fully absorb our surroundings, but only if proper attention is paid. Thankfully there are people here in Philadelphia willing to go the distance and remain present.

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The crew piled into a rusted-out car down the hill beside the Cobbs Creek woods trail (Photo credit: Sam Wend)

Swim Pony Performing Art’s Cross Pollination project is an interdisciplinary residency program funded by the Knight Foundation that brings together artists practicing different disciplines, whose creative paths would likely never cross, to investigate new methods of collaboration and artistic process. Theater artist Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony’s founder, launched the program as a means of extending her company to reach new disciplines. Without the pressure of a pre-defined outcome, participants have the freedom to learn from each other and unlock new approaches to creating and thinking about art. Since it began in 2014, the program has paired artists from all manner of backgrounds and disciplines yielding remarkable results, the influences of which continue to reverberate in many of the participants’ subsequent work.

During the last weeks of February, writer Ann de Forest and photographer Jacques-Jean Tiziou—both drawn to Cross pollination as a means of breaking from their familiar artistic routines—along with Mackey and Swim Pony’s artistic associate Sam Wend, embarked on a project dubbed Walk Around Philadelphia. The name is literal. This group of intrepid artists followed the entire border of the city of Philadelphia completely on foot in what ended up being just over a 100-mile pilgrimage. On ApriI 27 they will be sharing stories and lessons learned from their journey at the Philadelphia History Museum. The event is free but space is limited, so RSVP here while you can. In the meantime, we reached out to the exhausted but inspired quartet to learn more about the project and experience.

FringeArts: What shared interests or ideas led to the inception of Walk Around Philadelphia?

Adrienne Mackey: We met several times before our official start of the week residency. Themes that came up were the identity as a Philadelphia artists, our sense of the city and the people within it, as well as how we personally moved through the city in our artistic processes. We had talked about the potential of something that blended the idea of process and product – creating an exploration that was as much about the journey as a particular end goal.

Ann de Forest: We all were interested in maps and mapping, as a means of defining space, of guiding people through a geographical territory, but also were intrigued by the questions maps raise. Are boundaries and borders arbitrary lines that divide people, that foster a sense of inclusion/exclusion? Another theme we discussed was “margins,” which led to us deciding to experience the city from a different perspective, not focusing on the center, but exploring what happens at the margins or edges.

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A brief walk along the Fox Chase rail line, which forms a small section of the border (Photo credit: Adachi Pimentel)

JJ Tiziou: Ann and I talked about trading roles, setting up creative prompts and games, and discussed interests ranging from interfaith dialogue to mass incarceration to community interviews. But we kept on coming back to ideas of maps, neighborhoods, borders, boundaries, journeys, pilgrimages, and processions.

Sam Wend: The idea of walking continued to resonate, as did the focus on margins and interviewing people along them. Then JJ found a rough cycling route around the circumference of the city (which clocked in at a lowly 64 miles due to its compensation for accessibility), and the idea of Walk Around Philadelphia was born: it felt like the perfect combination of walking and exploring margins, with the opportunity to use meals and various stopping points as places to reflect and re-engage with people, all in all a great way to explore all of the many topics we’d been thinking about.

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With Retroact, Tangle Remixes Its Repertoire

Posted March 14th, 2016

Nostalgia is big business. It sells ad space during blocks of reruns on late-night television. It pushes drinks on club theme nights where people only want to dance to The Cure, Joy Division or Bauhaus. It’s probably mentioned multiple times in half the job descriptions at Buzzfeed. These days it’s easy to get cynical about nostalgia’s all-pervasive influence. It’s a tool that’s easily exploited, turning it from something pleasurable and personal to a hollow cash in on our shared recollections. But then there are those much welcome instances that remind you looking back can be a means of celebration, of reaffirming identity, of sharing something that remains relevant with those who missed it the first time around. Tangle Movement Arts, Philadelphia’s all-female circus arts theater company, is just about due for some of this nostalgia and this weekend they will have it. Their latest show RetroAct, a circus-theater remix of the most exciting moments from their oeuvre of aerial dance theater, comes to Christ Church Neighborhood House from March 17–19 and should not be missed.

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Photo by Michael Ermilio

Since 2011 Tangle and its ten woman company of artists and collaborators has brought multidisciplinary, multidimensional storytelling with an emphasis on queer and female experience to spaces high above any other stage in the city. Mixing traditional circus arts like trapeze and acrobatics with elements of dance, theater, and live music, Tangle tells their stories in a manner few could ever dream of imitating. “We believe that circus arts can be a powerful tool for challenging assumptions about what bodies should look like and what they can do – from floating upside-down, to subverting gender roles,” poet and performer Lauren Rile Smith, Tangle’s founder, recently told FringeArts. “Circus arts is a context in which women build muscle, men move gracefully, partners lift each other into the air, and everybody can defy gravity.”

Taking its name from the possibilities that arise when things get complicated, Tangle has produced ten full length shows, five of which enjoyed successful runs as part of the last five Fringe Festivals, and numerous pop-up projects along the way. Each highlights women’s strength and queer stories while rendering complex, oft-unspoken ideas into remarkable physical feats. The Girl’s Guide to Neighborly Conduct, which premiered at the 2015 Fringe Festival, followed six longtime housemates whose lives are quietly upturned following the arrival of a new neighbor. You Don’t Say took a dinner party setting and subverted the expected smatterings of small talk and flirtation by translating them into acrobatic explorations. Timelines looked to the past, present, and future to examine notions of time and the female body through a series of pieces that included a daydreaming 1950s office secretary, vaudevillians, and the evolution of life on earth.

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