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Archive for the ‘Philly arts and culture’ Category

2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 2

Posted September 12th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

We Shall Not Be Moved @ Wilma Theater
Opera Philadelphia

What’s at stake here is America and its future. Who’s invited to participate?

On the run after a series of tragic incidents, five North Philly teens find refuge in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia at the exact location that served as headquarters of the MOVE organization, where a 1985 standoff with police infamously ended with a neighborhood destroyed and eleven people dead, including five children. This self-defined family is inspired by the ghosts who inhabit this home and begin to see their squatting as a matter of destiny and resistance. The group, named the Family Stand, is headed by self-appointed leader Un/Sung, and crosses paths with Glenda, a Philadelphia police officer, whose encounters with the family leads to a standoff that could threaten to repeat history. A co-presentation with Opera Philadelphia. More info and tickets here.

 

Andean Mountains (Montañas Andinas)
Carl(os) Roa, José Avilés, Elyas Harris

Andean Mountains is a digital journey through the mountains. Above all, it is a piece about personal geography: the way we relate to our place of origin versus where we’ve relocated. Featuring a performance by a juicy Colombian bear, the piece is both a Google Street View tour as well as an exploration of culture loss. More info and tickets here.

 

Urgent Care: A Social Experience @ The Colored Girls Museum
The Colored Girls Museum

The Colored Girls Museum takes community matters into her own hands converting the three-story Victorian memoir museum into a Social Care Experience. Her new exhibits redefine the concept and practice of “urgent care” from triage to aftercare. Curators, artists, and ordinaries construct Colored Girlhood as an imaginative and powerful space. More info and tickets here.

 

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A House is Merely a Container

Posted September 11th, 2017

This is a guest post written by writer, editor, critic, and professor Stefanie Sobelle. She is also the dramaturg of HOME, the latest work from Geoff Sobelle. Her book The Architectural Novel is forthcoming from Oxford University Press, and her criticism has been published in Bookforum, the Financial Times, BOMB, Words Without Borders, Jacket2, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction.


What do we mean when we call a place “home”? Home might be the place where we live. It might also be, in game terms, the place we are trying to reach—the goal. We often associate with “home” concepts of comfort, safety, family. When we add an article, home can become more dire: they took her to “a home.” Home is not a house per se; a house is merely a container. It holds residents and furnishings, performances and privations. A house has identifiable limits—walls, doorways, staircases. A house can be discomfiting, sinister, cold, hostile, welcoming, familiar, secure. A house can be empty or full, dead or alive. A house can even be a dream.

We clean these houses to ward off chaos from the outside world; we remodel them and decorate them to bring them closer to our idea of who we want to be; we move into them and out of them; we buy them and we sell them; we take them and we lose them; we raise them and we raze them; we rent them and are rent from them. More often than not, these days at least, a house is often constructed by unknown contractors before we arrive, and destroyed by unpredictable forces after we leave, as if by magic. Its builders and demolishers are faceless and nameless. Its systems are complex and often mysterious.

We live in these houses alone and with others. Geoff and I each rent small Brooklyn apartments minutes from one another, small enclaves in larger houses populated by owners we call friends. But we grew up sharing spaces—bathrooms, backyards, garages, bunk bed hideaways, hillside forts, paper castles, bookstore attics, witchy ponds, and station wagon waybacks. We share so many memories of these childhood spaces—they tell us who we are and who we’ve been—and so we always feel a bit unsettled when we discover where those memories diverge.

I suppose we are all haunted by our memories of previous houses we have inhabited and of the traces left behind by those that came before us. In turn, we haunt those that come next, and this can be true whether the house takes the form of a single family dwelling, an apartment complex, a hotel, a bivouac, a congress, a prison, a theater. But home is less a material thing and more an idea, an experience, a feeling, an illusion. James Baldwin writes in his beautiful brief novel Giovanni’s Room that home can also be a person, or at least how we feel when we see or think of that person. “Perhaps home is not a place,” he writes, “but simply an irrevocable condition.”

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 1

Posted September 11th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

 

To My Unborn Child: A Love Letter from Fred Hampton @ Iron Age Theater
Philadelphia Ethical Society

Murdered by Chicago Police at 21 as he lay by his pregnant lover, visionary Black Panther Fred Hampton preached a humane, compassionate revolution against racist brutality, child hunger, poverty, and capitalism. Fred cries, “Power to the People,” in Rich Bradford’s world premiere play reviving a critical voice for justice. More info and tickets here.

 

Mujeres @ CHI Movements Art Center
Gavino + Carbonell

Mujeres is a compilation of dance works by female choreographers, Gavino and Carbonell. Gavino’s HERstoryexplores pre-colonial matrilineal bloodlines from the perspective of an indigenous Filipina. Carbonell’s Milk delves into motherhood, investigating sustenance passed from mother to child. More info and tickets here.

 

Cotton & Gold @ Circle of Hope
AMH Productions

Writer/director Alyse Hogan explores history to tell this story of struggle, healing and resilience. Through Afrofuturism, the town of Tulsa is re-imagined from the forgotten history of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street. Join Loron Sr. as he escapes to an economically advanced Tulsa, searching for answers to save his hometown of Rankin from the watchful eye of COINTELPRO. More info and tickets here.

 

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Making Art in 2017: Nate Barnett and Nick Schwasman on Wedgwood on the Green

Posted September 11th, 2017

Image by Jordan Schellinkhout.

Name: Nate Barnett and Nick Schwasman

Company: Drip Symphony

Show in 2017 Festival: Wedgwood on the Green

Role: Co-Directors, Performers

Past Festival Shows: Millennia, Damn Dirty Apes, Pay Up!

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Nick SchwasmanWedgwood started as poetic memoir that Nick wrote in 2014. We mounted it in the 2015 Solow Festival as a live radio play. Now we’re collaborating with a variety of artists to create a fully visual show. The story deals with a group of young men who are discovering dark truths about their supposed masculinity as they approach the threshold of adulthood. We tell the story in and out of the round: the audience is seated in a circle of swivel chairs. A narrator sits in the middle, but all around is the world of Wedgwood. They choose what they do and do not see.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art-making changed in the last year? 

Courtney Cooke and Devin Preston. Photo by Nate Barnett.

Nick Schwasman: I think the two of us are feeling like we are coming out of a part of our life where we were holding tight to our training and technique. We spent quite a few years admiring the complexities of artistic traditions, studying in discipline and reverence, the music of Leonard Bernstein, poems of WB Yeats, artists whose work have become sturdy pillars by now. I think lately, we’re less interested in the classic stuff, we’ve become obsessed with experimental techniques. For us, the clearest way forward to making new and better art is by bringing an almost scientific attitude towards its creation—testing new ideas rigorously, imagining future possibilities based on experience. It’s the artists that have done this whom we most admire, and how we intend to move forward.

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Making Art in 2017: Michael Kiley on Close Music for Bodies

Posted September 10th, 2017

Name: Michael Kiley

Show in 2017 Festival: Close Music for Bodies

Past Festival shows: Sound design and original music for Nichole Canuso Dance Company’s Wandering Alice (also performer, 2008), Takes (2010), and The Garden (2013), as well as Animina, A Race Street Pier Soundwalk (Digital Fringe, 2015)

Fun fact: My first job in Philadelphia was house managing Christ Church for the 1999 Fringe Festival.

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show. 

Michael KileyClose Music for Bodies is an immersive voice work. It evolved from collaborations on several choreographic processes (with luciana achugar, Faye Driscoll, Chelsea and Magda), where I was invited to collaborate as a composer/designer, and brought my skills as a voice teacher into the fold. I began to get excited about how the moving body affects vocal production, and vice versa. This led to breakthroughs with my voice practice, moving it into a more fully embodied experience, which I now call Personal Resonance. The deep connections I’ve made with people through teaching Personal Resonance made me wonder if I could create that level of intimacy and community in a performance setting. Vocal education will be a facet of this performance.

It is a social and cultural norm to judge people by the sound of their voice. We do it without realizing it. This judgement is magnified when it comes to the sound of someone’s singing voice. As a result, the act of singing has become an elitist form. Early on in life, people are told that they can either sing or they can’t, in relation to their natural ability to duplicate pitches in a pleasing tone. But singing is one of the most mentally and physically beneficial acts possible in the human form. That benefit has absolutely nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how it feels, physically in your body. I’m interested in discovering what happens when a community of voices is unbridled by the expectation of sounding perfect, and only seeks that which is physically pleasurable.

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Living a Billion Nights: An Interview with Michael and Winslow Fegley

Posted September 10th, 2017

This week sees the premiere of A Billion Nights on Earth, the latest work from acclaimed theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips in collaboration with artist Steven Dufala. The show—appropriate and ideal for audiences of all ages—follows a father and son as they venture into their fridge in search of a beloved stuffed whale and find themselves on a spectacular quest through space and time. With stunning scenic work by Dufala and Phillips, taking inspiration from the shapeshifting nature of Kabuki theater design, the piece is a dazzling, ever-evolving work of visual art and a touching, imaginative dive into the realms of parent–child relationships, exploring their varying perspectives on reality.

If you find the relationship between the father and son characters deeply palpable, it might be because stars Michael and Winslow Fegley are father and son. And also exceptionally talented performers. Michael Fegley has been working in theater and film for decades now, as has his wife Mercedes, and now all three of their children are following in their footsteps.

I caught up with Michael and Winslow to learn a little more about their experiences performing, how this collaboration with Phillips came about, and what it’s like living in the fantastical world of A Billion Nights on Earth.


FringeArtsTell us a little about your performance backgrounds.

Michael: I’m a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and have been working professionally for over twenty years. I’ve performed extensively in New York and Philadelphia in works ranging from classical to the avant-garde, including the Off-Broadway production of Small Potatoes.

Winslow: I’ve been doing plays and movies for a while now. Plus my whole family acts, and I watch them working all the time. I’ve learned a lot, and I like working with my dad.

FringeArtsIs there a strong theater or performance community in Allentown?

Michael: Allentown has the wonderful, talented people of the Civic Theatre of Allentown, where our family has been a part of productions for years. Winslow, like his sister August and brother Oakes, have all taken many turns on that stage. However, it is a non-equity house, so I have to find work in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Last year I was in the world premiere of The Ballad of Trayvon Martin at Freedom Theatre here in Philadelphia.

Winslow: I like working in Allentown, but it’s cool when we get to go to new places and work in different theaters.

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Making Art in 2017: Keila Cordova on KITH

Posted September 10th, 2017

(Left to Right) Matt Austin, Loren McFalls, Kathy Kerner. Photo by Kathryn Raines.

Name: Keila Cordova

Company: 3 Pony Show / keila cordova dances

Show in 2017 Festival: KITH

Past Festival shows: Linear DefaultAs Pretty Does, Volcano, My Love, Agnes Falling, Gold, Janet 2.0, Girl “Y”

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show.

Keila Cordova: KITH comes out of my on-going interest in looking at how people connect to each other.  We created a survey as a portal where people in the community can share their stories and connect to the performance experience. Dance can be the vocabulary for telling our story, or for releasing our story into the universe.

FringeArts: How have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?

Keila Cordova: I’m learning that there are infinite amounts of magic in not knowing.  So I find playing to be a great space for discovery. When you go through the trouble of bringing the right people onto your team, it’s important to value their uniqueness and make sure they’re a part of the development process.

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Making Art in 2017: Paige Lizbeth Morris on Something Blue

Posted September 9th, 2017

Photo by Stephanie Price.

Name: Paige Lizbeth Morris

Show in 2017 Festival: Something Blue

FringeArtsTell us about your show.

Paige Lizbeth MorrisSomething Blue is a body of work that I have been developing since 2013. The concept evolved from my own personal experiences in heteronormative relationships, as well as an assessment of my sisters’ relationships in comparison to my own. I am also inherently curious about the media’s portrayal of women in romantic settings where women are represented as though they are in a constant and endless search for love, and how their obsessive tendencies interfere with their perceived biological aspirations. Through research on the scientific and sociological aspects of human intimacy, I intend to create narratives of love, loss, hope, and regret. My installations utilize the power of objects to activate familiar feelings while raising questions about how we want to be perceived.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year? 

Photo by Stephanie Price.

Paige Lizbeth Morris: I think the biggest obstacle I have to tackle when making is myself and my own critiques of my work. As a method to practice making, I assign myself five-minute sculptures, setting up different parameters that I have to work within, such as a theme or types of materials. Doing this has made me quicker and more confident in making. It has also allowed me to be more welcoming to the idea of listening to my instincts and understanding that sometimes it may make more sense for me to create based off of my emotions instead of my own critical analysis.

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 2: Performing Sounds

Posted September 8th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 1 (sound tours), 3 (workshops), and 4 (installations and digital works).

This time around we’re taking a look at a wide variety of performances happening all weekend. Though some of them have interactive elements, for the most part all they ask of you is that you soak in the sublime sonics.

 

Playing the Victim
Phoenix Lio(n)
Sept 16, 10:30am @ United by Blue, Old City
Sept 17, 3pm @ United by Blue, Old City
Two live demo performances of an installation available to the public all weekend, Playing the Victim centers on a mask that plays audio narratives about rape culture and queerness. Using augmented reality and physical computing, the mask can be used to trigger audio and visuals on various speakers and monitors. As a live demo performance, Phoenix invites audience to watch as they manipulate their memories themselves. By engaging their experiences and identity as tools for art they rework the heaviest, hardest parts of themself like pigments dragged across canvas.

 

Radio Atlas
Radio Atlas
Sept 16, 5pm @ WHYY
Radio Atlas is the English-language home for subtitled audio from around the world. For this event for Megapolis, the podcast presents a screening of some of the best foreign language radio works in the world. Among other sonic surprises, this event will premiere a Belgian radio story about a residential home for the senile where music is an important form of occupational therapy; patients who can’t remember their children can remember songs of their youth in perfect detail, a frivolous way of conjuring a merciless deterioration.
Tickets for this performance are sold separate from Megapolis weekend and day passes.

 

Blevin Blectum / Radio Wonderland
Blevin Blectum & Radio Wonderland
Sept 16, 8pm @ WHYY
An evening of performances from two esteemed artists with unparalleled creative visions.
Blevin Blectum is a Providence-based interdisciplinary artist who combines sound, imagery, and costume to create eccentric and mesmerizing performances that explore everything from science fiction to ornithology. She has been performing and touring extensively since 1998, and when she’s not working on her own music she’s creating sounds for Hasbro Toys.
Joshua Fried, aka Radio Wonderland, turns live radio into recombinant funk, with a boombox, Buick steering wheel and four old shoes. Robert Barry, a writer for the esteemed music publication The Wire, described his works as, “Rather like Negativland remixed for a house party…undeniably fun.”
Tickets for this performance are sold separate from Megapolis weekend and day passes.

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Making Art in 2017: Sonya Aronowitz on #CocktailPlays

Posted September 8th, 2017

Sonya Aronowitz. Photo by Marv Kaplan.

Name: Sonya Aronowitz

Company: Juniper Productions

Show in 2017 Festival: #CocktailPlays

Role: Producer

Past Festival shows: This is our first production!​

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Sonya Aronowitz: I founded Juniper Productions this year to be a new independent “spirit” in the performing arts. I’ve written plays myself and know how difficult/impossible it is to have work produced. Our starting point is serving emerging talent, in particular playwrights, by providing more development and production opportunities. At the same time, I want to open up theater to more audiences by making work in places where people gather anyway. The short play format allows us to introduce a new audience to several emerging playwrights in one evening of performance. So, in short, the questions I seek to answer are: How do we introduce a broader public to the great talent we have in Philadelphia? How do we continue to cultivate and sustain our theater artists?

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Recollections of Home from Geoff and Stefanie Sobelle

Posted September 7th, 2017

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

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

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

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Making Art in 2017: Sally Kong on Kongputational Doodle

Posted September 7th, 2017

Name: Sally Kong

Company: Blue Sky Studios

Show in 2017 Festival: Kongputational Doodle

FringeArts: Tell us a bit about your show.

Sally Kong: I was fascinated by math equations and algorithms that can produce many distinctive variations in shape and personality when different numbers are plugged in, even when their underlying logic remains exactly the same. I wanted to create an interface to play around with these formulas and explore their unpredictable and often beautiful outcomes.

FringeArts: How have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?

Sally Kong: This was my first time creating something new on a daily basis. For 10 days, I spent around 3-5 hours everyday designing, coding, testing, and playing with a completely new Kongputational Doodle. I am used to making random things out of spontaneous bursts of maker energy, so working on something consistently was a challenge in both idea generation and discipline. But I love what came out of it and I want to continue to work on more projects routinely in the future!

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Making Art in 2017: Dawn Falato and Karen Getz on The Gorgeousity

Posted September 7th, 2017

(Left to right) Dawn Falato and Karen Getz

Name: Dawn Falato and Karen Getz

Company: The Gorgeousity (produced by Chalk, Chair and Broomstick)

Show in 2017 Festival: Gorgeousity – The Army of Love and Art

Karen Getz Past Festival shows: Suburban Love Songs, Disco Descending (Dawn was also in these shows); as ensemble member in Lunchlady Doris, Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical

Dawn Falato Past Festival shows: St. Anthony’s Body (a solo show); as ensemble member in It’s So Learning, The Ballad of Joe Hill.

FringeArts: Tell us about your show.

Dawn Falato and Karen Getz: Our show is a “play romp” for grown-ups—a musical wrapped inside an informal party.

We wanted to make a creative respite—a place to drop responsible, adult “skins” at the door for a couple of hours. We were interested in making a safe, inviting experience to sing, dance, play, and color for everyone who came to our event. We also wanted to make an instant community, with no “us” and “them.” It was important to us that the experience traveled easily, didn’t hold us back with production costs and could be experienced in almost any location.

Our main questions were: Could we could craft a truly immersive musical experience around our own strengths that would also naturally invite the audience in? How does the experience get crafted so that the participants’ input is genuinely significant to the outcome of the show?  Could we ask people to sing and dance and play act without any performative or creative pressure?

It took us about three years to craft both the musical that is the center of the experience and to craft the means by which audiences can step into that musical as themselves, without performative pressure or cynicism. And we added home cooked food. And crayons.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?
Dawn Falato and Karen Getz: Our mission had long been to create a two-plus-hour, joy-filled respite from the dividing ideologies and relentless pressures of being an “adult” in our society. It now seems more important than ever to get small groups of grown ups in a room together to remember how to create and play, release the tensions of the day and see each other as fellow human beings, just like ourselves. It’s far harder to demonize people you don’t know when you are looking them in the eye and pretending to be enchanted, human-geese together.
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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 1: Great World of Sound

Posted September 6th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 2 (performances), 3 (workshops), and 4 (installations and digital works).

First up we have a set of interactive and experiential pieces that take participants out of the studio and around the city. All of the events below are free with a Megapolis Festival pass and begin at PhillyCAM (699 Ranstead St) before spreading out from there.

 

An Urban Mushroom Forage
Katya Gorker & Elana Gordon
90 minutes / Sept 16, 10:30am
This sound walk presents a conceptual and sonic spin on a mushroom forage, integrating prompts and creative sound design to guide listeners through Philly’s urban forest. Gorker, a Moscow-born filmmaker based in Philadelphia who has spent years exploring the connection between mushroom foraging and identity and meaning among the Russian Diaspora, narrates the walk. She’ll introduce participants to fellow immigrants, foraging for mushrooms and their own sense of place in this new world. Participants will also here from John Cage and other cultural luminaries on the art, philosophy and science of foraging.

 

Stalking Wild Sounds
Lexie Stoia & Toby Kaufmann-Buhler
120 minutes / Sept 16, 12:00pm
90 minutes / Sept 17, 11:30am
Imagining a future where nature has reclaimed our environment, Columbus-based artists Lexie Stoia and Toby Kaufmann-Buhler send participants out into an entirely alien environ. Using a provided audio player and field guide, participants will start at PhillyCAM, travel through the formal landscaping of Washington Square Park, and make their way back to the station. A real-time science fiction journey with the sounds of “alien” flora and fauna, participants will find themselves immersed in this sound work that maps onto their surroundings.

 

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Ambivalent Cosmic Matter: An Interview with Bhob Rainey

Posted September 6th, 2017

Bhob Rainey is an artist that should need no introduction, and yet, here we are. Over the course of the last two decades he has tirelessly pushed against established musical idioms—with consistently revelatory, mind-melting results—like few contemporaries. In the process he has collaborated with some of the most innovative composers and musicians working today, and even helped define the lowercase movement in non-idiomatic music with Nmperign, his seminal duo with Greg Kelley.

Though he has sought interdisciplinary collaborations throughout his career, his commitment to such projects has deepened as of late, particularly in his ongoing partnership with New Paradise Laboratories. This week sees the world premiere of NPL’s latest show Hello Blackout! and—as he did with the show’s predecessor O MonstersRainey has been composing original music essential to the development and execution of the piece. However, unlike last time around when the sublimely unsettling score was prerecorded and blasted through the theater, Rainey has drafted an ensemble of distinguished and versatile musicians—as comfortable in the world of classical music as they are in the deepest ends of the avant-garde—to help shape and execute his idiosyncratic vision. “We had this idea that it’d be fun to find musicians who could stimulate Bhob to even greater heights of sonic experimentation, so he has assembled a unique ensemble, a quintet,” NPL artistic director Whit MacLaughlin recently told the FringeArts Blog. “They’re some of the finest instrumentalists of alternative timbres in the world. I’ve been to the sessions and am always having my mind blown as this music comes together.”

I spoke with Rainey last year ahead of the premiere of O Monsters, but seeing as his compositional approach has changed, I had to touch base to learn about the unprecedented sounds that engulf the Kissimmee family before, during, and after the Big Bang.


FringeArts: You crafted the music for O Monsters by harvesting data from various phenomena and translating those numbers into long, very compelling, very alien musical events. How has your compositional approach changed since then in order to fit the world of Hello Blackout?

Bhob Rainey: The data sonification from O Monsters was largely used to find “shapes” of events that, while they might have beneficial or catastrophic effects, exist in spite of us. A lot of that music was meant to be a confrontation with a world that is utterly ambivalent towards the people in it and that only happens to be hospitable by chance. Why not follow this thought a little further and say that this ambivalent cosmic matter is also us—our bodies, our consciousness? Part of the human experience, I think, is a struggle between what we strongly feel is our “self” and this ancestral, non-human dust that’s already operating by the time we get names and ideas and desires, etc.

The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas had a pretty succinct, everyday take on this nameless companion. Speaking of insomnia, he said, “I do not stay awake: It stays awake.” He’s not merely talking about “the unconscious.” He’s trying to capture an anonymous life that persists even in the basic matter that composes us. And while the “it” is not an ethical being, I think that any kind of large-scale, inter-being “goodness” involves an engagement with this non-personal part of our existence. The problem is, not only is it difficult to think clearly about what an engagement of this kind entails (without falling into some kind of dogmatism), it is also easy to get devastatingly lost in the process. So, if the music for O Monsters was largely oriented towards an ambivalent, sometimes sublime cosmos, my thoughts for Hello Blackout are directed towards how this cosmic matter plays out within us.

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Making Art in 2017: Rebecca Katherine Hirsch on Bad Activist

Posted September 6th, 2017

Photo by Kevin Watkins.

Name: Rebecca Katherine Hirsch

Company: Humble Mumbles

Show in 2017 FestivalBad Activist: Sex Politics, Palestine and You

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Rebecca Katherine Hirsch: On one hand, this show is an eros-drenched saga of scapegoating and shame. On another hand, it’s a specific plea to my fellow Jews of America to rethink about our diaspora relationship to Israel! It comes from life: my travels to Palestine/Israel which have contained many complicated situations such as romances, apocryphal conversations, and what someone who inspired this play once called “solidarity sex—sex born of the struggle.”

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year?

Rebecca Katherine Hirsch: My interests in trauma, representative sexuality, Zionism, and feminism have, over the years, crystallized, solidified, fragmented, evaporated, and reconvened, among other things! The two relationships featured in this play—one unequal Jewish–American friendship, one unequal American–Palestinian romance—have happened and re-happened and the experiences have altered the art (and vice versa).

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Making Art in 2017: Sarah Carr on Mistress of the Maze

Posted September 5th, 2017

Sarah Carr. Photo by Chris Hallock.

Name: Sarah Carr

Company: WeftWorks

Show in 2017 Festival: Mistress of the Maze

Past Festival shows: None: this is my first!

FringeArtsTell us about your show.

Sarah CarrMistress Of the Maze explores the ancient Minoan myths and rituals that inspired the classical Greek tale of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur. I am an anthropologist as well as a dancer and fiber artist, and I have always been fascinated by the Bronze Age civilizations.

The Greek version of the tale of the Labyrinth is well known, but it reflects the values and concerns of the ancient Greeks: there’s a strong brave man to save the day (Theseus), a monster to slay (the Minotaur), and a princess (Ariadne) to be carried away when the task is complete. However, this well-known tale was crafted roughly two millennia after the Minoan palaces on Crete were abandoned. It is an appropriation of Minoan icons and symbols that retains almost nothing of the original context.

Minoan culture was starkly different than Ancient Greece. Images of warfare, so common in Ancient Greek art, are nearly absent in Minoan art. Minoan culture was mercantile, trading with and adopting influences from the lands surrounding the ancient Aegean. Minoan religion does not feature any clear depictions of male deities. Images of goddesses, and women interpreted to be priestesses, abound. Ariadne, rather than a princess awaiting her prince, was likely Labrynthinos Potnia. She was a goddess whose sacred symbols included the Labrys, the double-headed axe for which the Labyrinth is named, as well as the horns of the bull, the snake, and the honey bee. In this work, I am attempting to reclaim the identity of Ariadne, to create dances that feel like rituals dedicated to the principle of feminine power that was so very important in Minoan culture. It is not meant to be a historical reenactment, as the production uses very stylized masks and costumes. I wanted instead to capture the essence of this culture and pay respect to their myths and symbols.

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Making Art in 2017: Michaela Shuchman on Airswimming

Posted September 5th, 2017

(Left to right) Michelle Johnson and Michaela Shuchman. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Name: Michaela Shuchman

Company: Half Key Theatre Company

2017 Festival Show: Airswimming

Role: Performer

Past Festival shows: Scarlet Letters with Ross & Diggs

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Michaela Shuchman: Set in 1920s Ireland, Airswimming by Charlotte Jones is based on the true story of two women imprisoned in a mental hospital for daring to challenge society’s definition of womanhood. Forgotten by the world, Dora and Persephone come together for one hour each day to clean and find connection. Through sheer force of will, friendship, and a penchant for Doris Day, they redefine their world and resist confinement for over fifty years. Airswimming explores female identity and friendship at a time in Irish history when mental health and women’s issues converged. Jones takes the imagined circumstances of two real imprisoned women and asks: How do we express and accept ourselves when our freedoms have been taken away? How can finding connection with another person help us better understand ourselves? What does Doris Day have to do with any of this? Airswimming speaks to the desire in all of us to be free from societal constraints, to dance and be weird and wacky with our best friends, and to find meaning in the most unexpected of places. 

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Making Art in 2017: William H. Gaffney IV on A Fable for the Living

Posted September 4th, 2017

Name: William H. Gaffney IV

Company: Group IV Productions

Show in 2017 Festival: A Fable for the Living by Kevin Brockmeier

Role: Director

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

William H. Gaffney: AFFTL is a short story, found in a collection of short stories called The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier. The story was first presented to me by someone whom has since passed away, which has taken a huge part in the conception of this piece. In “A Fable for the Living” a woman attends a concert with her fiancé after an afternoon of bickering and arguments. He begins to cough into his sleeve and excuses himself. A great amount of time passes and she becomes wary of his return and, going to the lobby in search for him, she finds him dead on the floor. Beside herself, she spends the next few weeks, months even, attempting to contact him in some way. Ultimately, she gains this contact and out of love for her he convinces her to join him. The concept of the piece isn’t one correlating to suicide. The concept strictly revolves around the idea that we live in a multi-realm existence, an endless fire escape of trial and tribulation. Is death the be-all and end-all of existence, or existence on earth? When we die, is it not possible to move from one realm to another or do we stop in time and never live again? A Fable for the Living offers a comforting approach to life and death.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art making changed in the last year? 

William H. Gaffney: Our mission states that we create plays that reflect the current social, economic, and political state of our audiences. I think this past year’s political environment has changed the majority of people’s view on art, whether creating or not. I believe I feel more passionately than ever before to provide hope and a speck of wisdom in a time that has been layered over in clouds of smoke. Art is not only meant to inspire an individual, but to stir a reaction, question, and begin a dialogue between a community of people, like-minded or not. I take the streets into my rehearsal space/development more often now. I think about what I’ve seen, what’s going on in the news, what’s happening in my neighborhood and I apply it to whatever work we’re doing that day. I hope this connection between the make-believe and realities of our world help develop an even more affective and considerate approach to the story of A Fable for the Living.

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Making Art in 2017: Justin Jain on These Terrible Things

Posted September 3rd, 2017

(Left to right) Bradley Wrenn, David Johnson, Justin Jain. Photo by Kathryn Raines.

Name: Justin Jain

Company: The Berserker Residents / The University of the Arts

Show in 2017 Festival: These Terrible Things

Role: Co-Creator, Performer

Past Festival shows: With Berserkers: The Jersey Devil, 2007; The Giant Squid, 2008; The Annihilation Point, 2009; The Talkback, 2014; It’s So Learning, 2015; I Fucking Dare You, 2016; It’s So Learning, 2016 (part of FringeArts winter season)

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Justin JainThese Terrible Things is our subversive comedic response to contemporary American theater values. We’ve dredged up the work of the (fictional) god-like playwright, Lord Ham Hillerson. His work spans centuries and the variety of work he’s produced emulates those of classic playwrights we revere today—Shakespeare, Beckett, Williams, Mamet . . . to name a few.

These Terrible Things in rehearsal.

The conversations we’re having in the room center around why we produce some works that are consistently problematic—for their misogyny, racism, clunkiness, or for just being over-produced. Why it is so hard for new voices and plays to get attention or funding? Why do we revere the classics as “better”? We are also stoked about this collaboration with UArts because another thread we are chasing are the dangers of educational theater training. The guru and student relationship is one we are excited to explode.

Of course, it would not be a Berserker show without some kind of twist. Let’s just say there’s something much more sinister at play in this piece than meets the eye. That when we look in the shadows we see that all artists deal with the same demons. That sometimes bad ideas need to die. And that what we do as theater artists is all just make-believe.

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