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Fringe at 20 Profile: Rebecca Wright

Posted August 2nd, 2016
Rebecca Wright pic

Rebecca Wright (photo by Kate Raines)

Name: Rebecca Wright

Type of Artist: Director, Creator

Company: Applied Mechanics

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Rrose Selavy Takes a Lover in Philadelphia, New Paradise Laboratories, 2004 – crew
Batch, New Paradise Laboratories, 2007 – crew
Inside Julia Child, with John Jarboe, 2009 – director/creator
It’s Hard Times at the Camera Blanca, Applied Mechanics, 2009 – director/creator
Portmanteau, Applied Mechanics,  2010 – director/creator
Overseers, Applied Mechanics, 2011 – director/creator
Some Other Mettle, Applied Mechanics, 2012 – director/creator
Black Market, Applied Mechanics, 2015 – director/creator

2016 Fringe show I’m participating inFEED with Applied Mechanics, as director and creator

First Fringe I attended: 2004 was my first Fringe in Philadelphia. Everything was a thrill! I remember seeing Thaddeus Phillips do his Tempest in an alleyway, and watching Brian Sanders’ JUNK over a chain link fence by the Festival bar.

17 overseers treehouse

Mary Tuomanen in Overseers (photo by Tasha Doremus)

First Fringe I participated in: I ran camera for New Paradise Laboratories’ Rrose Selavy Takes a Lover in Philadelphia in 2004. I taped the show for live feed every night, and also had a few prep tasks that included hot-gluing a string to a glass bottle and emptying out a shop vac so that it could be set to reverse and blow rose petals out all over the space. I felt so cool. I got to watch that show maybe a dozen times and I loved it more with each viewing.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: I produced two shows at once in 2009—Inside Julia Child with John Jarboe and It’s Hard Times at the Camera Blanca with Applied Mechanics. They were super different and both super memorable. John and I were living together at the time, and we had to make two tarte tatin for every show. I remember peeling and coring hundreds of apples together with this hand crank apple peeler/corer he got Williams Sonoma to lend us for the labor. John also performed in Camera Blanca, which Applied Mechanics produced at Murph’s Bar in Fishtown. They donated the space to us, but we didn’t realize until right before opening that they weren’t planning on closing down the bar during the show—rookie mistake on our part to not be clear on the agreement!—so every night was this wild mix of regulars and Fringe audiences, plus our actors who were playing down and out circus performers all over the bar.

som rad

(clockwise from front) Thomas Choinacky, Mary Tuomanen, Kristen Bailey, John Jarboe, and Jessica Hurley in Some Other Mettle (photo by Maria Shaplin)

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: For Overseers in 2010, we rented the upstairs storeroom of a marble and tile business on Washington Ave. It hadn’t been used in years and was full of weird old stuff, and we had to (try to) sweep and mop all this 50-year-old tile dust out of there so that we could use the space. I remember just being covered in muck. And it was so hot in there that we had to eat our company meals outside—so many dinners sitting on a tarp in the parking lot! Inspired by the space, we built a play about a city suffering from drought. We ended up serving the audience cold beer and popsicles during the show, and giving them little spray bottles to keep themselves cool with.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Jennifer Kidwell

Posted July 29th, 2016

Name: Jennifer Kidwell

Pictured: Jenn Kidwell in The Underground Railroad Games Credit: Johanna Austin

Pictured: Jenn Kidwell in Underground Railroad Games Credit: Johanna Austin

Type of Artist: theater-maker, performer

Company: Lightning Rod Special

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Gayze: the Miniseries, 2013 – performer
The Object Lesson, 2013 – “assistant director”
99 Break-ups, 2014 – creator, performer
Underground Railroad Game, 2015 – creator, performer

First Fringe I attended: 2012’s Untitled Feminist Show (I’m a big Young Jean Lee fan)

First Fringe I participated in: 2013. The highlight was getting to watch people watch The Object Lesson.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: Underground Railroad Game – it was amazing walking into Christ Church the first day our set was actually in there.

Credit: Kate Raines

Credit: Kate Raines

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: sight-free Macbeth? Or, maybe Go Long, Big Softie in a soon to be demolished boxing gym?

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Bang! – Made me want to go as far as possible

An artist I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: I met Steven Dufala while working on The Object Lesson in 2013 and we’re still collaborating and now working together on two projects.

The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish I had done or to one day do: Drag version of Drunk History stumbling tour/bar crawl/pageant of/through Olde Philadelphia.

Animal Farm to Table: a new kind of dinner theater

Posted July 19th, 2016

“Food is an engine for conversation as well as understanding a culture that is unlike our own.”

What is a food utopia? Writer and Artistic Director of the Renegade Company, Mike Durkin, admits that he doesn’t know what this ideal would look like. However, through Renegade’s new production, Animal Farm to Table, he hopes performers and audience members can put their heads together to understand what a food utopia might be and how it may be reached. Durkin believes that “food is an engine for conversation as well as understanding a culture that is unlike our own.”

An 3Animal Farm to Table is not a traditional theater experience. There isn’t a fourth wall to be broken because there are no walls. Described as one part performance, one part town-hall style discussion, and one part meal, Animal Farm to Table follows in the footsteps of previous Renegade shows. The Renegade Company partners with local artisans and community organizations to present familiar stories in new ways, reimagining and applying them to life in Philadelphia. They have presented shows in the Fringe Festival for the past four years, including productions such as Bathtub Moby-Dick and The Hunchback of Notre Dame . . . A Mute Play, with titles telling of their experimental nature.

In Animal Farm to Table George Orwell’s allegorical, dystopian novella, Animal Farm, emerges at the Urban Creators’ Farm in North Philly where the audience will forage for food in preparation for the meal communally prepared at the end of the show. In Orwell’s novella the shortage of food, and the animals’ inability to access food without the farmer motivate their revolt. Although food is Orwell’s use, his tale demonstrates the power of sustenance to affect human interactions. For Renegade’s audience the food will be literal. “A key to this production is to come in with an open mind and open stomach,” Durkin advises.

Mike Durkin worked at a branch of the Free Library adjacent to the Urban Creators’ Farm in Nicetown when he became interested in food culture in Philadelphia. He observed the food culture of the farm, noted what his students ate, as a result the idea for Animal Farm to Table arose. Together with community partner, Farm to City, Renegade began working on Animal Farm to Table by distributing surveys related to food purchases at the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market. Renegade wanted to find out how Philadelphians feel about access to sustainable foods, food hierarchy, and ethical consumption. Many of the answers Renegade received dealt with the question of quality rather than access, but Durkin doesn’t despair. In the coming weeks he’s conducting further surveys at the Port Richmond Farmer’s Market.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Adrienne Mackey

Posted July 11th, 2016

Name: Adrienne Mackey

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Type of Artist: Theater and lately interdisciplinary

Company: Swim Pony Performing Arts

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
A Portrait of Dora as a Young Man, Stolen Chair Theatre Co, 2003 – actor
Hell Meets Henry Halfway, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2004 – assistant director, sound operator
Like Ink and Paper, 2004 – director
Bardo, Leah Stein Dance Company, 2005 – production manager and vocalist
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2006 – director
recitatif, 2007 – director
Echo, Tribe of Fools, 2007 – director
The Giant Squid, The Berserker Residents, 2008 – director
Purr, Pull, Reign, Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret, 2009 – director
Lady M, 2011 – director
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013 – director
It’s So Learning, The Berserker Residents, 2015 – outside eye – fringe

Also a past LAB fellow.

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Possibly working with Mary McCool on her in-progress piece. Still not definite . . .

First Fringe I attended: My initial experience with Fringe was in 2000 as a first semester freshman in college. I was only weeks into school, living away from home for the first time and so excited to see what Philly’s arts scene had to offer. I remember taking the train into Philly with some guy on my hall named Dima who I barely knew. We picked a show at random—all I remember about it was that it was a middle-aged woman in a tutu who took off all her clothes halfway through the show. I had no idea what was happening and I remember feeling both overwhelmed and extremely cool to be doing something so weird. Later that same festival I saw a play in a karate dojo in which actors were trapped in a scene with their own feelings portrayed by other actors wearing black and white mime makeup. Sort of Marcel Marceau meets No Exit by way of Pirandello. I remember thinking, “I could do that.” Two years later I was in my first fringe show.

First Fringe I participated in: While I was still a junior in college I acted in a show called Portrait of Dora as a Young Man that explored Freud’s famous case of Dora, one of the few women who ever rebelled against his analytic theories. We rehearsed an entire summer together at Swarthmore College—a mix of folks who had just graduated and a bunch of us still in school. We lived together and worked together in this commune-style experiment in creative collaboration. I played Herr K, a neighbor to the young troubled girl, I think, it’s all a blur now and designated this mostly using an old fedora and trying to talk in a low voice.

 The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

What a gorgeous mess! I broke up with my boyfriend, the director, near the end of the process and half of us ended up furious with each other because we would rehearse all day and then have to go home and sleep 10 people in a tiny house with no room to get away from each other. I remember taking the train into Philly from Swarthmore and setting up a dress form mannequin in the courtyard of the old National Museum of American Jewish History (behind the bank on 5th and Market). I did an entire scene puppetting that inanimate mannequin while playing a German man named Herr K. Dear god, we had no idea what we were doing—all the actors wore khaki pants and either a forest green or maroon long sleeved shirt and did vocal warm ups outside the museum’s entrance as homeless people passed by looking at us in mild horror.

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Fringe at 20: John Schultz

Posted July 6th, 2016

Name: John SchultzJohn Schultz Headshot-003

Type of Artist: Actor/Director

Company: Bright Invention

Fringe shows I’ve participated:
Missed Connections, 2009 – actor
The Heart of the Revolution, 2013 – actor
Till Birnam Wood . . . , 2014 – director, producer, actor

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016: This year I’ll be directing and producing my second immersive rendering of Shakespeare, Let’s Fuck Around With Hamlet.  The piece will be running in the Power Plant basement, and will be a show for anyone who hates Shakespeare and anyone who loves Shakespeare just little too much.

First Fringe I attended: I don’t remember the first Fringe show that I saw, but the first Fringe show to really leave its mark was Gunnar Montana’s Resurrection Room. I had never experienced that kind of work in Philly before. It was incredible.

First Fringe I participated in: My first Fringe show was in 2009, Missed Connections. It was a piece based entirely on found Craigslist postings. I believe it was among the first shows in West Philly, we ran at Curio Theatre, and at one point I delivered a monologue dressed as a giant cock. A penis, not a rooster. There is a picture out there somewhere.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Bruce Walsh

Posted June 29th, 2016

Name: Bruce Walsh

Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969 (2012) (l - r) Rob Weatherington (Chomsky) and Bruce Walsh

Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969 (2012)
(l – r) Rob Weatherington (Chomsky) and Bruce Walsh

Type of Artist: Playwright

Companies: Kaibutsu. And I did a show with Chris Davis, Douglas Williams, and Sarah Mantel.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
The Wounded Body, 2002 – playwright
Dasein, 2002 – playwright
The Guided Tour, 2004 – playwright, director
Northern Liberty, 2005 – playwright
The Guided Tour, reprise, 2006 – playwright
Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969, 2012 – playwright, director
Holly’s Dead Soldiers, 2013 – co-playwright, co-director

First Fringe I attended: 1998. I was a sophomore at Temple University. I saw the opening performance of Brat Productions’ A 24-Hour The Bald Soprano, directed by Madi Distefano. It remains one of the highlights of my theater-going life. I was pretty much right out of high school. I think the edgiest thing I had seen to that point was Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July. I had no idea theater could be so bizarre, ridiculous, hilarious, lugubrious, et cetera, et cetera. At about 2 a.m. that night, I hailed a cab and watched three more performances. In one of them, the Maid stepped off the stage, sat in my lap, and gave her monologue while tussling my hair.

First Fringe I participated in: 2000. My friend Chanel Benz—now a novelist in Mississippi (long story)—produced and directed two of my very greenest, decidedly experimental short plays. It was on the third floor of Christ Church, and it was something like 104 degrees up there. Just before the show started, the ushers turned off the fans so the audience could hear every single word clearly! There was this very loud collective moan, and . . . lights up! I wanted to run screaming. Chanel and the actors did a wonderful job, though.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Meghann Williams

Posted June 27th, 2016

Name: Meghann Williams

credit: Lauren Schwarz

credit: Lauren Schwarz

Type of Artist: director, burlesquer, writer, props maker, teller of dirty jokes

Companies: I am one-half of Chlamydia dell’Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque (with Gigi Naglak) and was a co-founder of Flashpoint Theatre Company (RIP)

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Fatboy, Brat Productions, 2007 – assistant director, stage manager
Chlamydia dell’Arte: ASex-Ed Burlesque, 2009 – creator, performer
Chlamydia dell’Arte: MORE Sex-Ed, 2013 – creator, performer
Zombies…With Guns, Tribe of Fools, 2015 – guest zombie

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: None this year, looking forward to seeing some of my favorite companies and performers and hopefully discovering some new weirdos to love.

First Fringe I attended: Corinna Burns mentioned my first Fringe show in her interview – Tiny Macbeth. It was 2002 or 2003, back when everything happened in Old City and everyone wanted to hang out at the Fringe bar every night to see what was up. I was so excited to see something so small and so smart and as bizarre as Macbeth performed by one man, a desk lamp, and a legion of toys. I wish I could remember the performer or company name.

First Fringe I participated in: I worked at the Fringe before I participated as a performer. I was the Volunteer Coordinator in 2004, the year the name changed to Live Arts and people were just losing their minds about it for some reason. On my first day of work the entire staff went out to see a workshop showing of Pig Iron’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway. I fell pretty deeply in love with every person in that cast and had the distinct feeling that perhaps I wasn’t actually cool enough to work for this organization. Beyond that memorable first day, working with the Fringe in 2004 was how I met some of my absolute favorite people and I’ll forever feel like it was a charmed time.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: Gigi Naglak and I premiered the original Chlamydia dell’Arte show at the 2009 Fringe. CDA is a vaudeville-style burlesque (skits and scenes and fan dancing and strip tease and songs) where every section deals with different elements of sexual education in a fun, engaging way. There is a recurring CDA sketch called Cooking with Wine, which is basically a couple of boozy morning show hosts demonstrating different techniques (oral sex techniques in the 2009 iteration of the show). My incredibly supportive parents came to the show and I was a little nervous about how they’d like Cooking With Wine. When I asked my dad what he thought of it he paused for a moment and then said, “You know, Meg . . . you put a dildo in a room with that many people and someone’s gonna suck it.” Words to live by.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Megan Bridge

Posted June 24th, 2016

Name: Megan Bridge

Megan Bridge and Meredith Magoon. Photo: JJ Tiziou

Megan and Meredith Magoon. Photo: JJ Tiziou

Type of Artist: Dance, performance

Company: <fidget>

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: In the early 2000’s I co-produced, choreographed, and performed in several shows in the curated Fringe which at that point was application based. I was matched up by the festival with other choreographers and we shared double and triple bills. My wedding was a Fringe show in 2003. When the structure changed in 2004 I was curated into the festival one last time, and then my work wasn’t produced again by the Fringe until 2015, with Dust (and this was not part of the festival). More recently I’ve been involved with Fringe Festival shows as a venue manager of <fidget> space.

First Fringe I attended: 1997 was my first Fringe, I remember nothing except that the cabaret was at a place called Helena’s. The Late Nite Cabaret was always a highlight but I also remember some amazing outdoor theater in the Quarry Street alley, right next to what was then The Quarry Street Café.

First Fringe I participated in: I first participated in the Fringe in 2000, right out of college. I performed two solos, one choreographed by Rennie Harris and one by me. I think the show was just called Triple Bill . . . I was placed on a shared bill with Fleur Frascella, a bellydancer, and Rodney Mason, who was doing a solo show (he was then a Rennie Harris Puremovement dancer, and has gone on to do a lot of great acting stuff including playing Tony Sinclair, the Tanqueray gin guy). The most memorable part of that show was that Rodney, Fleur and I, total strangers to each other till that week, took all our completely different works and wove them together in a seamless program where we cross-faded all our pieces, sharing entrances and exits. That was my first “professional” gig and we got a great review by Merilyn Jackson in the Philly Inky, which called our show the Fringe’s sleeper hit!

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Todd Cardin

Posted June 17th, 2016

Name: Todd Cardintodd cardin headshot

Type of Artist: Writer, actor.

Company: ETC Theater

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: 1WG (2005), Dramamine High (2007), Like, So Totally 80’s (2008), Destination Summer (2009), The Angel, The Devil and Greg Brady (2010), Getting The Knack (2011), The Has Beens (2013), By The Slice (2013), # (2014), Man on The Moon (2015).

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: I haven’t written it yet. I better get cracking.

First Fringe I attended: Jerry Perna did a one man show at the Shubin in 2005.  The title escapes me, but it was brilliant.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: For our first show, we did 1WG, a one woman musical based on the life of Melissa Gilbert.  We were served papers from her legal team, forcing us to alter the show.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: Dirty Diamond at the Triangle Theatre . . . Genius.etc theater

Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: Denise Shubin, Bill McKinlay and Katherine Filer.

The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish I had done or to one day do: I’d like to do a show about a very untalented theater company from the suburbs who gets regularly skewered by The City Paper every year at The Fringe.  But, 10 years later, they’re still doing the Fringe and the City Paper is no more.

 

Fringe at 20: Eric Balchunas

Posted June 10th, 2016

Name: Eric Balchunas

credit: Shari Lewis

Credit: Shari Lewis

Type of Artist: Theater (comedy)

Company: IdRatherBeHere

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Wawapalooza (2008), Wawapalooza 2: Get Shorti (2009), Wawapalooza 3: The Dark Roast (2010), Wawapalooza 4: Damaged Goods (2011), Wawapalooza 5: Under Destruction (2012), Wawapalooza 6: The Great Almost (2013).

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: 2008. The highlight was having a sold out show during our first year. I honestly thought the audience would be my mom and a few of the cast members’ friends.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: The Red Room at Society Hill Playhouse right off South Street. We did our show there five out of the six years, and to me it is perfect Fringe space because it is sort of half comedy club, half theater space with tiny, shared dressing rooms. Plus, the audience gets a free beer or wine with every ticket, which helps make any Fringe show better.

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Fringe at 20: Aaron Cromie

Posted June 8th, 2016

Name: Aaron Cromie

Type of Artist: Multidisciplinary theater artist

Lautrec in Window

The Body Lautrec. Photo by JJ Tiziou.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
First Festival Volunteer Coordinator, 1997
Son of Fantoccini, Mum Puppettheatre, 1998
I Was A Teenage Fantoccini, Mum Puppettheatre, 1999
Across, Big House Plays & Spectacles, 2000
The Story of Your Life, Threadbare Theatricals (self-produced), 2000
Hotel Obligado, Hotel Obligado, 2001
Contagion, Hotel Obligado, 2002
Contagion 2.0, Hotel Obligado, 2003
Two Hats, Two Heads, with Dave Jadico, 2003
The Foocy, workshop reading with Ugly Stepsister, 2004
Punchadelphia, Self-Produced Punch & Judy Show, 2005
Eye-95, Re-tarred, with Brat Productions, 2006
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2007
The European Lesson, Jo Strømgren Company, 2008
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2009
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2010
A Paper Garden, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2011
Saint Joan, Betrayed, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2013
The Body Lautrec, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2014
The Swamp is On, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2015
The Light Princess, workshop presentation with Ugly Stepsister, 2015
There might have been a couple more collaborations in there—I feel like we are all helping each other find/make/give feedback on each others’ developmental work each year—so I might have left out some things.

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Exile 2588 with Almanac Dance Circus Theatre. I am writing and performing the original score to Almanac’s new piece with my acoustic music duo Chickabiddy (with Emily Schuman).

Chickabiddy

Chickabiddy. Photo by Hannan Van Sciver.

First Fringe I attended: The very first one. Probably the highlight was seeing Dan Froot play sax naked. A good start to the first 20 years. Lines were out the door at Christ Church Meeting House. And I ran around a lot finding volunteers to cover shifts—we learned a lot that first year.

First Fringe I participated in: I was volunteer coordinator for the first festival, but the next year I got to perform with Mum Puppettheatre. The memorable moment was making people laugh by standing still in a stupid hat.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I did myself was a teeny puppet show in the box office of the National Building—remember that place?—called The Story of Your Life in a shared space with a woman who knitted herself naked from a single length of yarn which made up the dress she was wearing/making.

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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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Emmanuelle Delpeche Talks Immigrant Life and Spinning Records

Posted June 6th, 2016

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

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

FringeArts: Why the title Spinning Immigrant?

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

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

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

FringeArts: How did you start deejaying?

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

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

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Fringe 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 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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We Don’t Study History, We Just Keep Reenacting It: A Conversation with Jenn Kidwell

Posted May 9th, 2016

It’s not easy to get a hold of Jenn Kidwell. The wildly accomplished performing artist, co-founder of JACK in Brooklyn, and co-founder/co-artistic director of Lightning Rod Special keeps a busy schedule these days. Prepping her and co-creator Scott Sheppard’s show Underground Railroad Game (tickets/info) for a remount here at FringeArts is just one thing crowding her plate, but with tech week fast approaching Kidwell still managed to find time to generously chat with me one rainy afternoon about her process, the show’s evolution, and the aspects of our country’s troubling relationship with its past, which the show seeks to interrogate. “Making everyone participate in the same way when what we’re participating in does not treat people the same way is problematic,” Kidwell said, adding, “There’s no way for us to actually learn and change what we’re doing, it just reifies systems of the past.”

“We don’t study history, we just keep reenacting it.”

It’s that culture of reenactment that frames Underground Railroad Game, and Kidwell and Sheppard take it to task as questions of race, sexuality, dominance, privilege, and pedagogy all become inextricably tangled in their characters’ misguided attempts to educate. Based on experiences from Sheppard’s schooling, the show follows two teachers—a black woman and a white man—as they lead their middle school class (i.e. the audience) through an immersive, interactive unit on the Civil War by day and engage in a taboo-defying, sex-forward relationship by night. The 2015 Fringe Festival breakout hit—which critic Howard Shapiro called, “Hands-down the best piece I’ve seen in the Fringe Festival this year and in many years”—returns this week after months of tireless re-tuning.

When I asked Kidwell if anything had surprised her throughout the show’s development she chuckled and claimed the fact that she and Sheppard have been able to make it together at all has been one of the biggest surprises. She attributed this to their very different processes and viewpoints, but as she further explained their working dynamic it seemed as though this creative friction was crucial in developing the show and tackling such contentious subject matter. “There’s a way you can shut off your listening if you’re dealing with somebody who you know thinks the same way you do, but that’s not in this room,” she explained. “Here, it’s this constant state of being open in order to try and understand what the other person is saying or where they’re coming from.”

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Rapid Oscillations Between the Sacred and the Profane: an interview with Bhob Rainey

Posted April 25th, 2016
Rainey at a rehearsal of O Monsters First Draft (courtesy of New Paradise Laboratories).

Rainey at a rehearsal of O Monsters First Draft (photo by Kate Raines, plate3.com).

This week sees the premiere of New Paradise Laboratories’ O Monsters First Draft (tickets/info), marking the company’s second collaboration with award-winning composer, saxophonist, sound designer Bhob Rainey.

Rainey’s career is marked by a tireless push against preconceived notions of what music is and how it can affect listeners, and he has over 30 record releases to show for it. After earning a master’s degree in music composition from New England Conservatory (where he studied with musical luminaries Joe Maneri, Paul Bley, Ran Blake, and Pozzi Escot) he founded Nmperign with trumpeter Greg Kelley in 1998. The highly influential non-idiomatic improvisation duo have been integral to the development of the lowercase and electroacoustic improvisation genres and have to date collaborated with a veritable who’s-who of twenty-first century music innovators. In 2000 he founded The BSC, an octet of acoustic and electronic improvisers, as a means of exploring the dynamics of large group improvisation. Throughout his career he has sought interdisciplinary collaborations.

Though it is often the case that a composer’s work is done merely in service of a production, Rainey’s work on O Monsters First Draft has played an integral role in crafting this new work. “We’re treating Bhob’s music like spontaneous expressions of something in-the-world that can be used to craft out-of-this-world stage action,” Whit MacLaughlin, NPL’s artistic director, told FringeArts back in February. “Ultimately, we are exploring something we haven’t quite found a name for yet. Symphonic theater might be a good name for it.”

We caught up with Rainey to learn more about his background and his work on O Monsters First Draft.

FringeArts: Were you raised in a musical household?

Bhob Rainey: Not really. My dad is something of an aficionado of certain music, mostly blues and jazz, but I don’t recall him sharing a lot of that when I was young. My mom would often play one side of a Barbara Streisand record followed by a side of Barry Manilow. No one in the family really knew what it was like to be a musician. It is very much to their credit that they didn’t disown me when I decided to go the music route. I got to know a lot of music through endangered species like radio, record stores, and libraries. I was usually attracted to things that seemed to push boundaries, though it took a while for my idea of boundaries to grow large enough to be interesting. In truth, so much of the richness of my musical experience as a kid came from going to a public school with a good music program. It’s unforgivable how much of that has been taken away.

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Rainey at work.

FringeArts: Growing up in Philadelphia, were you involved with any of the city’s music scenes?

Bhob Rainey: I didn’t get involved with any significant music scene in Philadelphia until the mid-90s. This was the jazz scene in ’94–’95. The scene was generationally and racially diverse, so there was a lot of sacred knowledge being passed around. I grew a lot from the experience and am deeply appreciative of the musicians I played with. You had a few downtown clubs like Zanzibar Blue and the Blue Moon, plus the old Ortlieb’s and some more neighborhood-y clubs like Natalie’s in West Philly. I played with Orrin Evans, Edgar Bateman, Mike Boone, Byron Landham, Duane Eubanks, Mickey Roker, and some other scene heavyweights like Bootsy Barnes and Larry McKenna. Byard Lancaster was helpful to me early on, introducing me to other players like Lucky Thompson and being generally—and somewhat aggressively—supportive. I don’t think I ever thanked him to the degree I would have liked, and I regret that now. I was playing out most nights of the week, and I loved it. But it ultimately wasn’t my voice. It was a voice I had learned and enjoyed using. It was a tradition for which I had and still have a deep respect. But I had something else that I needed to do, and that’s when I left for Boston.

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The Unprecedented Universe of O Monsters First Draft

Posted April 20th, 2016

Whit MacLaughlin is on his way to a tech rehearsal for his company’s latest production, O Monsters First Draft (tickets/info), yet has graciously taken the time to talk with me despite only being able to hear me through one headphone. “The world makes itself up as it goes along, it’s self-generated,” the artistic director of New Paradise Laboratories asserts.

Over the course of his commute MacLaughlin broke down some of the headier ideas that have fueled the production. Though they may be lofty ideas that are difficult to pin down, O Monsters First Draft is not a lecture or a philosophical treatise. “I’m not a philosopher, but I enjoy the stuff and enjoy thinking about all this crazy wonderfully cosmic stuff,” MacLaughlin tells me. “That’s why we make this, to blow our own minds.”

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NPL’s Whit MacLaughlin 

O Monsters First Draft invites audiences to imagine the world separate from our human understanding of it—and proposes how humans might exist in such a world. The Kissimmee family at the center of the show may seem recognizable, but they are fundamentally—perhaps biologically—different from us.

In searching for this idea of non-human perspectives, NPL drew inspiration from speculative fiction and the contemporary philosophical movement speculative realism, which in turn led them to explore examples of contingency and the unprecedented. They welcomed elements of chance to intrude into their creative processes, and the humanly indefinable result is a fitting show for the experimental theater company’s twentieth year of existence.

Below are some introductions to the concepts we discussed. Let these metaphysical musings set your creative gears turning.

Speculative Realism

“The universe in speculative realism is not a box of laws according to which everything behaved in lockstep. It’s a thing that makes itself up as it goes along, and though the laws of the universe seem stable to us now we have to admit that they probably evolve,” MacLaughlin explains. Speculative realism seeks to overturn previously held philosophical notions that favor human perspective. It posits that we as humans cannot logically deduce with one hundred percent certainty that something is going to happen simply based on our sense of precedent. Our sense of probability inevitably falls short of possibility.

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Photo by Plate3

Ancestrality

A term from philosopher Quentin Meillassoux, ancestrality describes everything that occurred before the emergence of the human species. What MacLaughlin finds interesting about this concept comes from thinking about and anticipating mutation: “If you had been standing around watching human beings develop back in the day—hominids moving towards Cro-Magnon—you probably wouldn’t have been able to predict the advent of consciousness,” he asserts, paraphrasing Meillasoux. “It was happening, but it appeared as an unprecedented thing and something deep in the problem of consciousness makes it impossible to predict the unprecedented.”

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