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Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Living on the fringes: a survival guide for avant-garde theater

Posted August 19th, 2015

By Simon Joseph

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Eelco Smits in A Song Far Away

Europe’s capitals have always had a love affair with art, one that is as enduring as art itself. In times of upheaval, this courtship has come into question; survival demands reality, not romanticism. To be sure, for any amorous relationship to triumph, it needs the support of others. But then the art world’s benefactors are a fickle bunch.

Cultural policy and economic crisis do not normally make ideal bed partners. As you might expect, stimulating the arts sector comes low down on the list of government spending in much of the European Union. Nevertheless, there are subsidies available, and a handful of large Dutch theater companies are benefiting from them.

Tiny it may be, but the Netherlands still lays claim to no less than eight major-city theater companies, all vying for their share of the Ministry of Culture’s ever-diminishing pot of gold. One such company is Toneelgroep Amsterdam. This fixed ensemble has grown into the largest, and by far the most popular, theater company in the Netherlands. Despite a lack of funding, in the country’s capital, theater is thriving.

In the rest of the country, subsidized theater, which is presumably of most value to society, continues to fight for its life. This raises the very question that Toneelgroep Amsterdam seeks to examine with their production of After the Rehearsal/Persona: “What place does art have in society?”

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Got an Itch? Come to Scratch Night!

Posted August 17th, 2015

Tonight is Scratch Night at FringeArts!

Come see a roster of Philly’s most talented artists perform new material from shows they are working on in this fast-paced sampling of contemporary theater, dance, performance art, and everything in between. Scratch Night features short performances by four-to-six companies/artists, offering an inside look at the future of performance.

This week we are hosting 6 artists from this year’s Center City Fringe, South Philly Fringe, Fishtown-Kensington Fringe, and Fairmount Fringe lineups. The performances begin at 7 on our FringeArts stage at 140 N. Columbus Boulevard. Admission is free!

So, what’s on tap?

MONDAY, AUGUST 17 LINEUP:Loves-Labours-Lost_Revolution-Shakespeare-271x300

 

Revolution Shakespeare: Love’s Labour’s Lost

“To fast, to study, and to see no woman,” (IV, iii) agree the gentlemen of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy of love, clowns, and wit. RevShakes’ second free fall outdoor production will be directed by Samantha Bellomo, and feature live, original music. Shows will run Fringe and post-Fringe, through Sept. 27th.

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Photo Credit: Geoff Sheil

New Street Dance Group + The Radical Sound: Structurally Sound
NSDG and new music ensemble The Radical Sound bring you a performance experience that begs the question, “Just what are we made of -and how stable is it, anyway?” Featuring choreography by Krista Armbruster and Shannon Dooling, re-imaginings of historic music, and a world premiere commission by composer Tomek Regulski.

Haygen Brice Walker: Spookfish11707785_10153020872795980_2634809601896238907_n

A haunted house that’s not a haunted house… until it is. A play
about slasher flicks, the horrors of high school, firework accidents, cat colonies, and a Canada Goose. The meanest play in this year’s Neighborhood Fringe will have you guessing who’s the Spookfish until the end. *Audience members must sign a waiver.

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Photo Credit: Kaitlin Chow

Olive Prince Dance: Of Our Remnants

The stage is set with a collection of chairs, empty frames, and abandoned objects for a dance of expressive physicality to emerge. Of Our Remnants is an intimate site-specific work where visual art and dance collide. The viewer is immersed in the installation creating an absorbing impact from all vantage points.

 

Brian Shapiro Presents: A Few Thousand Upgrades Later

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Photo Credit: Kevin Monko

In 1995, nobody downloaded, payphones existed, and performer Brian Shapiro created a show on how people predicted computers would impact human interaction. 20 years later, we download daily, payphones died, and Shapiro revisits that show to raise questions in an era where waiting 15 seconds for answers is wasting time!

Ferdinand Presents: NOT FOR PROFIT

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MJ Kaufman
Doug Greene
Jennifer MacMillan
Christina May
and Jack Tamburri
The theater is dying. Only three actors can save it by playing dozens of roles and telling all of their stories, from the box office to the boardroom, from the page to the stage, everything you love and everything you hate about theaters and theater people will be NOT FOR PROFIT.
Catch a glimpse of these performances in their infancy before they get all grown-up in September!

60 minutes

FREE / $5 Suggested Donation

140 N. Columbus Boulevard (at Race St.)
Philadelphia, PA 19106

-Brendan Farrell

 

The Making of Slaughter/ette, or Binge Watching Season 19 of the Bachelor

Posted July 27th, 2015

Slaughter ette_Butter & Serve Theatre CompanyThe homemaker discards her personal aspirations for her husband’s. The exoticized woman of color is only loved for her otherness. The waitress and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl ooze desperation as they pine after the same man. We hate these stereotypes of women, yet they remain, permanently sewn into our collective understanding of the female species. Eight members of Butter & Serve Theatre Company bring these stereotypes to their upcoming 2015 Fringe Festival show Slaughter/ette at Mascher Space Cooperative. Influenced by the reality television series, The Bachelor, Slaughter/ette is a theater piece that stars these caricatures of women, but set within a slaughterhouse! “The spectacle will include everything we’ve come to know and love about guilty pleasure television: tears, glitter, wine, heartbreak, drama and often sloppy declarations of love. It will include the unmissable bending of reality that we love to hate and the bloodthirsty and cutthroat women that we love to condemn,” says co-founder of Butter & Serve Theatre Company, Sara Vanasse.

slaughter ette photo 3“After being sucked into this past season of The Bachelor, we were intrigued by the idea of using this material as a starting point for a larger conversation.” Slaughter/ette began as a guilty pleasure. Reality television with nonsensical stereotypes are surprisingly magnetic. Vanasse and the ensemble used their interest in The Bachelor as a springboard into the contradictions and confusion tethered to femininity. Rehearsal is marked by improvisation techniques to break down these tensions. “We use active long form improvisations around our theme, which will always yield a kernel of something we’d like to explore further, which in turn shapes our next exploration, and so on,” Vanasse explains.

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Jumping Out Of Airplanes: Trey Lyford on theater, life, and upcoming Doll’s House

Posted July 14th, 2015
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Photo shoot for A Doll’s House. Photo: Josh McIlvain.

“The movement was precise and beautiful,” Trey Lyford says as he recalls the first time he saw Jo Strømgren’s choreography. Lyford is an actor based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the co-artistic director of rainpan 43 performance group and has performed throughout Philadelphia and New York. This fall, Lyford takes a break from his typical role as a contemporary clown and returns to Fringe Festival in Jo Strømgren’s recreation of Henrik Ibsen’s famous play, A Doll’s House. I recently gave Lyford a ring and we talked about everything from Philadelphia’s theater scene to jumping out of airplanes.

Lyford’s history with Strømgren stretches back to 2005. It all began when Lyford saw Strømgren’s The Department and The Hospital in Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival. Struck by the playfulness and precision of the choreography, Lyford returned to the US with Strømgren’s ideas still in his head. After keeping in touch with the choreographer, Lyford and Strømgren formed a creative partnership. “We got stuck in a four hour traffic jam,” Lyford shares. Those four hours spent trapped in the car marked the beginning of their collaboration. Later on, Lyford was asked to be a part of Strømgren’s production of A Doll’s House.

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Trey’s photo of Jo and his set.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done something this classic,” Lyford says about his part in A Doll’s House. Lyford plays Krogstad, a worker at Torvald Helmer’s bank and the tortured villain of the play. While Strømgren preserves and respects the original play, he also hacks away at the script, eliminating pages of archaic language to reveal a show that is less about a windy narrative and more about a few prominent emotional threads. Beyond the script, Strømgren also tells the story of Krogstad from a different angle. Lyford shares his initial reaction to playing the role and says, “It’s fun to play a villain.” As rehearsals began, however, Lyford gained Stromgren’s more complex view of the villain. “He is the noble heart of the play,” Lyford explains. “Everyone keeps knocking him down.”

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Almanac Presents Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes

Posted June 8th, 2015

“We want audiences to be engaged in every moment, but we also want them to feel like anything can happen at any moment.” 

JennaSpitz-1What happens when we trust too much? Come see Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes to find out.

Philadelphia’s Almanac Dance Circus Theatre brings Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes to the ecclesiastical confines of the Sanctuary Space at Fleisher Art Memorial, June 24–28. This is the company’s second full-length undertaking, after last year’s Communitas. Almanac is the resident company at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and are artists-in-residence and Mascher Space Cooperative. Early stages of the show began with a residency in Montreal with Cirque du Soleil’s Jerome Le Baut and Cirque Eloize’s Robert Bourgeoisie.

Mixing acrobatics, theater, circus, dance, and music, Leaps and Faith and Other Mistakes tells the story of four hobbyists who form an isolationist seafarer cult. Through powerful levels of trust, exceptional acrobatics, and the help of their trusty sofa, the four individuals journey to a greater world. The show is created by performers Nicole Burgio, Nick Gillette, Ben Grinberg, and Adam Kerbel, along with writer Josh McIlvain of SmokeyScout Productions and music by Patrick Lamborn, who also performs live. We gathered a few of the Almanac gang—Ben Grinberg, Nick Gillette, Adam Kerbel—to talk to them about their upcoming show!

JennaSpitz-4FringeArts: What’s this show about?

Ben Grinberg: It’s about what happens when we trust ourselves, and those around us, too much. It uses partner acrobatics, which demands levels of physical trust that would be insane to normal people—even sometimes those in committed relationships—as a lens for this. What is the difference between that kind of conviction and the convictions of a religious zealot? A cult-leader?

Nick Gillette: It’s about four people taking the hard road towards something bigger than themselves. Each one of them has an individual reason to leave everything behind for a new world.

Ben Grinberg: Oh yeah, the play is about the four of us forming an isolationist seafarer cult, leaving the world behind, taking new names, and freeing ourselves.

FringeArts: With a little less than 4 weeks to go, what are you working on to get the show ready?

Nick Gillette: We’ve created a ton of material and now have the task of sorting it into a cohesive whole. Much of the next few weeks will be spent ordering scenes and acrobatic phrases and seeing how it feels as a whole piece. With so many facets and modes of performance, we want to really craft a satisfying ride through the different styles.

Ben Grinberg: For this piece, we want audiences to be engaged in every moment, but we also want them to feel like anything can happen at any moment. To do that requires a lot of sculpting.

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Behind the Carousel: Q and A with Josh McIlvain on “SLIDESHOW”

Posted September 11th, 2014

SLIDESHOWFollowing two successful nights at Chris the Brit’s house, because obviously that’s where you kick off your Fringe Festival productions, Josh McIlvain, late of editing our Festival Guide, takes his SLIDESHOW on the road, stopping at Headlong Studios, WetLand, and Moving Arts of Mount Airy before he’s done. We caught up with him to talk about the show.

Tell me about the show. Justify your existence.
I’ve winnowed down 1,500 slides to 80 per tray, for five carousels. The goal was to make the story through pictures, along with writing a narrative that I tried not to tie too directly to the pictures. I figured out a story with the pictures, and then married them into the script. Then I whittled each carousel down so they’re like chapters. Once I did that, I could see where each chapter could end.

Where did these slides come from?
These slides I bought off eBay.

When my grandmother passed away several years ago and she left an attic full of camera equipment. Old film, Polaroid cameras, slide carousels. All this stuff was really nice, sturdy, well-made. I thought I was only person in family who would be interested in this stuff, and it would be fun to incorporate it in a show in some way. I found a booklet of slides in one of her closets, random vacation house on a lake—maybe from the 1950s, maybe the 1970s. I had no idea where the lake was, or knew anybody in the pictures, and they were kind of boring so I didn’t take them.

What was interesting to me was the disconnection I had from them. So I thought that if I can track these slides down again, I could create a show that’s a fictional account of those slides. Then I thought maybe those slides weren’t good enough, so I started acquiring large caches of other family slides.

These were slides that were in lots of anywhere from 100 to 1000 slides of people’s vacations. I don’t know where the hell they came from, maybe estate sales or something. A couple of them I had to pay like $30! I thought I was going to have to pay $2 for them. I’m using material from each group, but there’s one main one that’s the subject of the piece. I trace this one family from the 1950s through the 1980s. I actually portray somebody in the slides, their child, to tell the story of their lives and my life at the same time.

I didn’t do this on purpose, but it ended up being about that same disconnect I felt with my grandmother’s slides.

Why perform solo this time, and why so many venues?
I’ve wanted to create a solo show for a while so I could tour it, so I could have something where if I’m vacationing or traveling somewhere, I could do a couple shows there. And I wanted to do something different, and this is very mobile. There’s me, a slide projector, and a standalone screen. So it could be done anywhere, and I thought it would be good to take advantage of the Neighborhood Fringe idea. I definitely wanted to do a show out here [in Mount Airy], doing a show at my friend’s house, Arts Parlor, WetLand.

I think I’ll learn a lot from doing it at the Fringe. I knew from the beginning it would be a slide show, and that the audience was there, but not in a theater—we’d be all in the same room together. I knew I was basically in the center of the audience talking over these slides. The one big decision I made was to become a person in the slide show itself. Originally I was thinking of a conceit reconstructing the lives of those in the slides through journals and “research.” But I liked the idea of putting myself into the slides. And it just so happens somebody in the slides kind of looks like me. I like the idea of immediately making the audience buy into the illusion of it, like collapsing time, for them to know that the person who’s giving the slide show is not just a lecturer—he’s got other motivations going on than just showing people something. He’s a little wayward.

The cool thing about the slides is that they look so good. They’re crisp, their color is really lush. And it’s really voyeuristic; it’s weird to look at somewhat intimate pictures of people that never had any intention for this kind of use. There’s something interesting about intimate or social pictures of people from fifty, forty years ago, because it brings an immediacy to them that’s cool.

There’s the sense that my character’s kind of living in the past, or that the past is very much in the present, they’re both very much there. A lot of the actual piece—it’s basically a drama. There’s funny stuff in it, but what it is not is my making fun of the people in the slides. My character makes fun of his parents, people in the slides. But it’s definitely not me riffing off these funny people from the past.

What’s unique about the slide show?

There’s a very interesting thing to me about the aspirational aspect to the slide show. You’re gathering your neighbors, friends, family to your house and basically putting on a show. That’s what struck me about doing a theater piece–everything is already there, it’s a type of show. There’s something interesting in this idea that you show your successes to people, almost like you’re in a movie: showing real slides of yourself in a presentation about your real life that you want to share with your friends and your family. Exploring your kingdom in your format that invites you into this screen, like a movie that puts you in the picture.

What’s really different about this from Facebook or Instagram is the live event in the home. It’s nothing like a concert in the home; I don’t really know of anything that’s really similar to that. I was talking to somebody last night, and I think this basically existed from the late 50s through the mid-80s. The computer image stuff wasn’t really a thing until the mid-1990s or late 1990s. What killed it was video–the video camera took over the slide show. Instead of taking images for slides, they filmed everything on video.

It was the thrill, you could make your own TV–video cameras were a way to see yourself on television, and that was crazy. The slide show was harder to do, and probably more expensive in some ways.

SLIDESHOW September 12 and 13, 7:00 pm
Headlong Studios (formerly Arts Parlor)
1170 S. Broad Street
$10

September 16, 8:00 pm
WetLand
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
Columbus Boulevard at Dock Street
Pay what you can

September 19 and 20, 8:00 pm
Moving Arts of Mount Airy
6819 Greene Street (at Carpenter Lane)

–Nicholas Gilewicz

We Are Told to Look at the Thing That Is Not There: Daniel Sack on “The Four Seasons Restaurant”

Posted September 11th, 2014

Daniel Sack is an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts – Amherst, where his research focuses on experimental performance and live art in the 20th and 21st centuries. For the 2014 Presented Fringe, FringeArts commissioned him to reflect on the U.S. premiere of The Four Seasons Restaurant. Here is his piece:

Mark Rothko’s extraordinary murals that he painted in 1959 for a commission with the Four Seasons restaurant depict a series of fields in dark red or maroon, nearly black, many inset with rectangles mimicking the canvas’s edge. Frames within frames, they recall, perhaps, the proscenium of a theater or the rich red of a curtain on a stage abstracted of all content. They are like afterimages on the eye, written in some dark blood-like coagulate of time. Occasional pillars that stand on the canvases act as figures briefly shadowing an empty stage. The theater appears to disappear.

The paintings never appeared at their intended site–Rothko refused to have them exhibited at a restaurant so dedicated to the excessive consumption of capital–and they never appear in Romeo Castellucci’s performance The Four Seasons Restaurant. Instead, we are told to look at the thing that is not there, to see the artistic act as an apocalyptic event where creation couples with decreation. It has been said that this interweaving of appearance and disappearance is a peculiar characteristic of living. We know our life through its passing. So, too, in the theater–that strangely antiquarian art still caught up in a fleeting live moment shared between spectator and event–here we are, in the words of the late Herbert Blau, watching someone die in front of our eyes, dying together as it were.

But what if the only thing to see is the masking of the object we so crave to see, to know, to love? What is gained in this loss? In The Minister’s Black Veil, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1836 story that serves as a common root for the cycle of works to which The Four Seasons Restaurant belongs, the eponymous minister one day inexplicably dons a black veil that he refuses to have removed even after his death. His decision to retain possession of his appearance produces all kinds of manic responses in the eyes of his beholders. They imagine all kinds of powers–divine and demonic–in his obscured visage, project onto that black curtain their own imagined vision of whatever expression might be hiding beneath. So here the act of disappearing becomes a profoundly creative gesture. We might call it “art,” an art that the spectator produces.

The performance The Four Seasons Restaurant begins with the story of a satellite at the far reaches of imagined distance, a recording that relays the sound of a black hole discovered in the Perseus galaxy some 250 million light years away. This is a record of the end of sight and matter, taking away the paintings and all else. Originally a document outside our range of hearing, the noise has been transposed into an audible register, its hazy rough cackles and deep throbs cast huge and terrifying. The sublime depths of the universe speak a glossolalia that contains whole worlds of diversity. Not the black of negation, but of creation.

The young women that come forward to the edge of the playing space and look out at the audience are another kind of satellite around the black hole’s open mouth. They are “actors” learning to translate this other abyss–the great open maw of the proscenium theater–into a form that might be communicated. Their action, a decision to cut short their voice in the most material of ways, is visceral and unbearable. The mad visionary theater-maker Antonin Artaud wrote with terror about the everyday act of speech not only because sound cannot stand still or it would cease to be, not only because it must always leave us, but also because the speaker does not possess the word “I” he or she temporarily claims from a common language. In order to appear in speech, one’s peculiar singularity must disappear behind the uniform word “I”. Artaud would be proud of these uniformly dressed disciples. They have willed their separation from speech, forestalling the incision between speaker and spoken word with a cut of their own devising. One might say that they have refused the fruit of knowledge, refused even to sit at the restaurant, and instead suspended themselves in a pre- (or post-) lingual state.

It seems a linguistic and social suicide, irrevocable, but however gut-wrenchingly realistic, it is a theatrical game played in a place of training the body, a gymnasium. And so when they do the seemingly impossible and speak again, we can only be so surprised. The young women perform a version of The Death of Empedocles, the unfinished trauerspiel (mourning play) that the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin wrote between 1798 and 1799. Exiled from his city in Sicily because his influence threatened its politicians, the ancient philosopher Empedocles turned his back on society even as his people begged him to lead them. Like Rothko, like Hawthorne’s minister, he decided to retain possession of himself for himself rather than for a public. Seeking to join with infinite Nature, the philosopher threw himself into the depths of Mount Etna, his suicide born of a desire to transcend his human form. Supposedly, his bronzed sandal was spit back out, either mocking his ambitions or proving his apotheosis to his disciples. Something always remains from our departures, an echo across the distance, a shadow on a canvas, a small bit of flesh.

In Hölderlin’s play the philosopher is a poet who repeatedly mourns his distance from a natural world that once felt immediate. In this way, it belongs in conversation with the contemporaneous poetry of Wordsworth and the English Romantics. Yet Castellucci’s performance is not simply longing for untrammeled sublimity. The young women all wear Amish dresses; like anchorites of old, or Empedocles shunning the city for the mountains, they mark their separation from the contemporary world. But theirs is not a hermitage of isolated individuals so much as a mass joined together against the idea of the single subject. They perform the play as if it were a collective ritual handed down for generations. They all take turns rehearsing the parts, mimicking the gestures like understudies preparing for when they will be called up. At times, they switch roles, never entirely inside their part. And, as the play progresses, the women’s voices, too, become divorced from their particular bodies, seeming to issue the costume itself, as if the part spoke on their behalf. Such communal gatherings and ritual actions before the sublime may occasionally take place in theaters, in churches, and in political rallies–all sites that can turn sinister, where armbands and flags might be distributed, guns slung across shoulders, pistols brandished in honor of whatever transcendent divinity or demon. In other words, the theater is a dangerous place, perhaps most of all in those moments when it leaves us speechless, when it retains its potential to say or do many things at once.

It ends as it begins, with a kind of seething instrument for disappearance: not the sound of a black hole swallowing worlds whole, but the theater itself alighting on its potential to hide many worlds within its own black hole. Recall that “Apocalypse”–that word we use to describe the time between ending and beginning–derives from the Greek word for “unveiling”. This means that every time a curtain opens in a theater, our mundane world ends and another begins. Rothko’s paintings suspend such a curtain in the process of unveiling, in the transition to blackout where we can only just see an image taking leave of us. And in the final moments of The Four Seasons Restaurant we encounter a similarly suspended oscillation between appearance and disappearance, the theater performing a veiling and unveiling at once, without settling on a scene or sense.

What do we see in these churning folds of the curtain, these flashes of light? Worlds flicker past so fast that you may think yourself dreaming, hallucinating alone in your particular corner of perception. Castellucci has said that the theater of the future is the theater of the spectator, meaning that it concerns itself with what it means to be a spectator. Just as the villagers in Hawthorne’s story project all manner of spirits onto the veil of their minister, so the spectator in Castellucci’s theater sees herself or himself reflected in these constantly changing scenes. You see your potential to see, to create, to destroy, for better and for worse.

–Daniel Sack

The Four Seasons Restaurant
September 11-13, 8:00 pm
23rd Street Armory
22 S. 23rd Street
$39, tickets here

Inside “Underground Episodes”: Q and A with Allen Clark

Posted September 10th, 2014

UndergroundEpisodesFlyer1The first performance of the 2014 Neighborhood Fringe show Underground Episodes is already sold out–we just caught up with Allen Clark, the executive producer of Run Boy Run Productions, to find out what the fuss is about.

What’s the basic idea behind the show?
The premise of Underground Episodes comes from everyday riding on the train and seeing the interaction of people within the subways. From the homeless men and women, the many going to work, the kids going to school, the hustlers, the police officers and the old, many are characters within themselves with stories that you can only imagine want to be told. Think about this. When you see a person loud-talking on their cell phone to someone and it’s about, oh, the baby for example. You get to see the beauty of the story come out in the form of someone screaming and telling you details that you didn’t even want to know, but it’s nonetheless a story that you are now part of. After that you go home and for some strange reason that story becomes part of your conversation of crazy stories of the day.

How is the show structured?
I structured the play as a spoken word theater piece. I have been a poet for years and a writer even longer, and this project was 10 years in the making. However the issue I had was people thinking it was just poetry when its not just poetry but pieces put together to make a story. Finding people that can bring to life the pieces through acting and performance was key.

Why did you decide to present in Neighborhood Fringe this year?
My reason for wanting to be in the Fringe is simple: I love the arts. I have been going to Fringe events for years and seeing some of the best local talent this city had to offer only made me believe that my work belonged within this forum as well.

Why did you pick the Philadelphia Art Alliance as your venue?
Picking the Philadelphia Art Alliance was a dream come true. Meeting Eva, the marketing and event curator of the facility, and her opening the space up to our event was perfect. I mean it’s Rittenhouse Square: a mecca of places to go and people to see all in one area so having an artistic event in a place that prides itself on art made since to me.

What is it about the everyday that you find compelling?
What’s not compelling about the everyday? Riding trains, buses, and cars, all you see is stories around you.

Does everybody really have a story worth telling?
I believe so. How many homeless people get on the train and ask for money and tell you they have no place just lost their job and are just trying to get a meal? Those lines alone contain a story that you or myself can relate to. After all, many of us are working just to pay the bills, right? So to see that type of picture possibly happening to you or someone you may know isn’t far from your mind. Now is that a story you may know or understand or even want to hear? I believe so.

Underground Episodes
September 12 at 8:00 pm
September 13 at 1:00 pm
Philadelphia Art Alliance
251 S. 18th Street

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Get to Know Romeo Castellucci

Posted September 10th, 2014

For the 2014 Presented Fringe, FringeArts is offering the U.S. premiere of one of Romeo Castellucci’s major theater works, The Four Seasons Restaurant. Last fall, he spoke with Carlos Basualdo of the PHiladelphia Museum of Art, at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, which is also supporting this year’s performance. Full interview below, for those interested in some Castellucci insights before catching The Four Seasons Restaurant this week.


The Four Seasons Restaurant
September 11-13, 8:00 pm
23rd Street Armory
22 S. 23rd Street
$39, tickets here

Museum of Broken Relationships

Posted September 4th, 2014

I learned about this through Adrienne Mackey‘s Facebook. Adrienne recently ran off to Edinburgh and Zagreb, and found the Museum of Broken Relationships. Wish I could see it, because somehow this has been a year of stresses upon and dissolutions of long-term relationships among my friends. Instead, I’ll probably go see the Pig Iron/Kirk Lynn/Dayna Hanson collab 99 Breakups, taking place over 75 minutes at PAFA, because I’m a glutton for punishment.

99 Breakups
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
118 N. Broad Street
$15 to $29
Dates and times vary. Click here for tickets.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Whit MacLaughlin on NPL, “The Adults,” and Eric Fischl

Posted August 20th, 2014

Fischl1FringeArts has been a big fan of New Paradise Laboratories‘ work for years. Katy Otto, who’s worked with NPL, writes in with a Q&A with NPL artistic director Whit MacLaughlin. Whit talks about a visit to the studio of artist Eric Fischl, whose paintings have influenced NPL and its upcoming FringeArts presentation, The Adults.

When did you first become acquainted with Eric Fischl’s work, and what was that like for you?

I’ve been looking at Eric’s paintings for around 20 years – so maybe 1994. I think I first found a book of his work at the Strand Book Store in NYC, and snatched it up. I was very interested, first and foremost, in any contemporary artist who kept the figure at the core of his/her practice – it was unusual at the time – and Eric painted bodies in an un-ironic way. He was sincerely concerned with the place of the figure as a locus of consciousness and narrative. I also liked how his canvasses forced me to acknowledge my own voyeuristic tendencies. The subjects of his paintings were the people on view, not some idea about the people, which made sense to me in a particularly theatrical way. He was also painting a world I knew something about. Middle class, vaguely suburban life with a fair amount of alcohol and ambiguity. And there was sex, pretty much right out in the open. Right up my alley.

Fischl2How has visual art impacted the work of NPL?
We have started with visual art as a departure point for most of our pieces. Let’s see: Goya, Miro, Piero della Francesco, Breugel, Cy Twombly, Marcel Duchamp and more. We almost consider our work as moving visual art. We paint with bodies in motion. And we like stillness that vibrates. Visual art gives you an almost immediate immersion into a visceral world, which is very useful when you are making work from scratch – which means that our work isn’t really from scratch, is it? I consider painters and sculptors to be playwrights, really, usually without words. And I like the way that visual art – the stuff that we remember, really – has always relied on the presence of an edge, an avant-garde, to advance. That separates it from theatre, as a whole, which is pretty content to keep its work in the realm of the traditional – its strength is in the ways that it recycles convention, making incremental evolutionary advances over time.

Fischl3What is the connection between The Adults and the work of Eric Fischl?
Beaches, moody interiors, family problems, sex, suspicion, self-absorption. Hidden cruelty. Probably a lot more.

How do you create work that remains open to the current moment?

I don’t know what the current moment is. Our brains are never located in the present. It’s the past that constitutes the present, and walking down the street for me is like walking through a space that is haunted with the presence of things now absent, sometimes for a long time. I suppose the main thing that’s current now is how similar it is to things past – except for maybe two things: the internet and climate change. So we are incorporating both of these phenomena into this piece. We have a “surround” around the piece that is working to clarify the sorts of things we all experience as we try to achieve this mythical, perhaps non-existent status of adult. It exists in the internet. And the piece has some, I think, interesting ideas about the relationship of childishness, the fluids in the body, and the rising sea level. Does that sound topical?

Tell us about the development of The Adults.

We’ve been working on it, off and on, for 16 months, which seems like a long time. Some of the material in the piece was first glimpsed at a residence we undertook in North Carolina in March of 2013. We started making proposals, improvising – yes, for the first time we undertook several four hour improvs that had no theme. A very challenging thing for actors. And we made proposal after proposal of stories that seemed to emanate from Fischl’s paintings. Things organize themselves over time into a series of scenarios. A narrative emerges. We spend a long time writing and staging. When that process is near to finished, then we rehearse and attempt to perfect. The Adults will be created, from stem to stern, in about 16 weeks of rehearsal.

Fischl4You recently took the ensemble to Sag Harbor to visit Fischl’s studio. What was that like?

A lot of fun and very interesting. I contacted Eric about a year and a half ago, when we were just getting started and told him what we were up to. He said to keep in contact. I laid low for a long time. Finally, a meeting seemed appropriate so we approached Eric through an intermediary–Harry Philbirck who is the Director of the PAFA exhibition program, who we are working with as a sort of visual art dramaturg–and Eric agreed to hang with us.

We showed up, a big gang of 8, at his beautiful house in Sag Harbor. He had lunch waiting. We sat and talked, then roamed his house and talked, then hung out in his studio, looked at his new canvasses and talked. A most edifying day. We all agreed that cross-disciplinary conversation should happen more.

What steps do you take as a theater artist to ensure that the work is able to remain vulnerable to interpretation?

A hard and interesting question. A most important question. I think that the best art has at least three valid interpretations. I don’t like things that seem to proscribe, to tell me how to live. All good work is clear at the core, but invites you to ponder with it.

How does one achieve this? There are as many strategies as there are artists. Most of them attempt to trick the mind of the artist away from easy interpretability into an ample field of inquiry. And for the viewer or audience, the trick is to give adequate toeholds into the work, but still leave room for the viewer’s developing mind.

What has it been like combining the older NPL ensemble with the newer in this piece?

A blast, really. Instant love. The older members provided a kind of anchor point for the younger, and the younger provide an invigorating dose of foolhardy bravery for the elder ones. Mostly it’s just fun and stimulating. Everybody learns from everyone else.

What role will sound play in The Adults?

Wow, Bhob Rainey is the real deal. His work is intuitive, well thought through, ravishing, crazy, and violent. Just what you want music to be. We’ve gone through an iteration of the score, now we’re starting over and doing it again. A good portion of the piece happens at the threshold of silence, generated by the actors. Other sections are good and loud.

The Adults runs September 3 through 7, and September 10 through 14. Times vary, $15 to $29. This show is supported by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Tonight! FREE Castellucci Screening and Discussion

Posted August 19th, 2014

castelluccifilmscreeningTonight, FringeArts wants you to come talk about Italian theater director Romeo Castellucci. We presented his On the concept of the face, regarding the Son of God as the centerpiece of last year’s festival. As part of the 2014 Presented Fringe, we’re offering The Four Seasons Restaurant.

If you saw one, or want to see the other, stop on by. We’re screening Castellucci excerpts, and Yale School of Drama professor Tom Sellar (who also edits the renowned performance journal Theater) will discuss things like: why does Castellucci use a NASA-recorded sound of a black hole? Are those police in that picture actually helping that guy? And why might women appear to cut of their tongues? I’m not sure if there will be free beer, but I’m guessing the evening should be mind-altering anyway.

RSVP here.

Romeo Castellucci Film Screening and Discussion with Tom Sellar
Free
Tonight!
7:30 pm
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Boulevard

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Tonight: Neighborhood Fringe Scratch Night Spotlight, Vol. 3

Posted August 18th, 2014

Every Monday night in August, we’re offering free previews of the 2014 Fringe Festival–Neighborhood Fringe artists are serving up short excerpts of their work, and we’re serving up free beer. Tonight, Volume 3:

BENT_Truth-Be-Told-Productions

Truth Be Told Productions offers a taste of Martin Sherman’s play Bent, about one gay man’s life in Germany, from the 1930s through World War II. The play had a major role in widening consciousness about the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, starting with its first production in London’s West End in 1979, starring Ian McKellen.

FleetwoodMacBrian Shapiro shares tales from the 1970s, as his family’s fortunes swelled and ebbed along with the band Fleetwood Mac–Brian’s father was their attorney through their rise to global fame. He’s offered the suggestive title: It Was All Downhill After Fleetwood Mac.

Oedipus The Musical will give you a taste of what to expect in their show. I’m not even going to try to top Van.Martin Productions’s own show description: “Oedipus The Musical takes place in Ancient Thebes. When a herpes plague spreads through the city, King Oedipus is forced to discover the incestuous roots of his dysfunctional family tree. Sophocles’s tragedy is retold in comedy through songs like ‘YOLO Apollo,’ ‘Hashtag Plague,’ and ‘Ballad of a Cougar.’

Tweaking a classic title, playwright Brandon Monokian serves up a “play about douchebags” called Peter Pan Is Dead. Preview below:

The-Disappearing-Quarterback_Plays-Players-copy-200x300And after a successful run at Plays & Players in January, former Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla (turned lawyer, turned investor, turned actor/writer) returns with his one-man-show, The Disappearing Quarterback.

Free! RSVP here.
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19106
August 18 at 7 pm

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Romeo, Romeo: Castellucci Film Screening and Discussion

Posted August 12th, 2014

castelluccifilmscreeningOn August 19, FringeArts wants you to come talk about Italian theater director Romeo Castellucci. We presented his On the concept of the face, regarding the Son of God as the centerpiece of last year’s festival. As part of the 2014 Presented Fringe, we’re offering The Four Seasons Restaurant.

If you saw one, or want to see the other, stop on by. We’re screening Castellucci excerpts, and Yale School of Drama professor Tom Sellar (who also edits the renowned performance journal Theater) will discuss things like: why does Castellucci use a NASA-recorded sound of a black hole? Are those police in that picture actually helping that guy? And why might women appear to cut of their tongues? I’m not sure if there will be free beer, but I’m guessing the evening should be mind-altering anyway.

RSVP here.

Romeo Castellucci Film Screening and Discussion with Tom Sellar
Free
Tuesday, August 19
7:30 pm
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Boulevard

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Experiment on Me!

Posted August 12th, 2014

For the 2014 Presented Fringe, FringeArts is bringing the Institute for Psychogeographic Adventure to Old City for Experiment #39. In case you’re wondering, the experiment is kind of on you. No details on this one quite yet, but for a sense of what you can expect, check out this video from their 2013 Brooklyn experiment, Experiment #17:



Experiment #39
Old City Location TBA to ticket holders
September 6 and 7, 11:30 am to 4:30 pm
Starts every 15 minutes
(Tix selling fast, FYI).

–Nicholas Gilewicz

AE$OP: Interview with Drexel Players

Posted August 12th, 2014

AE$OP_Drexel PlayersMeet the Drexel Players, who decided for this year’s Neighborhood Fringe Festival show to tell an old tale with a mature and modern twist. It opens on September 5 and runs through September 14.

FringeArts: What inspired the show?

Drexel Players: AE$OP is not like previous productions we’ve done in that it is an adapted piece. This challenge to adapt is exactly what made us want to do this show. Over the past academic year, we were exposed to adapted work in a couple different capacities: we preformed Yasuhiko Shashi’s Godzilla in the fall and worked with Book-It Repertory Theatre in the winter to premier a reading of A Tale of Two Cities. Aesop’s fables are classical Greek stories, but they are very different from the Greek tragedies like Medea and Oedipus. Still, we felt a desire to bring these tales about cute little animals screwing each other over to life. We knew we wanted to make them modern and mature. In exploring the fables themselves, we saw pretty early on that the stories lent themselves to the corporate setting. We were also inspired by writers who have explored the office environment in their work, such as Elizabeth Meriwether (The Mistakes Madeline Made), Carly Churchill (Top Girls), and Mike Judge (Office Space). We’ve used these works to guide us as we develop this piece.

FringeArts: What have you gained from performing?

Drexel Players: This will be our third performance in the Fringe Festival and from our participation in the past, we’ve learned that theater isn’t easy! That’s not a complaint or a discouragement, just an honest realization. And yet somehow, we figure it out and put on super-fun and challenging shows. It’s that earned satisfaction that I think keeps us coming back to FringeArts.

FringeArts: Who are your role models?

Drexel Players: As a group, we have a number of different role models. The Drexel theater faculty (Nick Anselmo, Bill Fennelly, Mark Andrews, and Paul Jerue) has certainly shaped the way we approach theater. They have all provided us with diverse exposure to all manifestations and aspects of theater. At times, we find ourselves emulating their styles, but yet at others we may be emulating the styles of other theater professionals that we have met as a result of our faculty. They have inspired us to push the boundaries and create new and exciting theater.

Thank you, Drexel Players!

All 2014 Fringe Festival tickets are on sale online. Tickets to AE$OP are available here.

AE$OP
URBN Annex Black Box Theater
3401 Filbert Street
Wheelchair accessible
September 5 + 6 at 7pm
September 6 at 11pm
September 7 at 6pm
September 8 + 11 at 7pm
September 12 + 13 at 8pm
September 14 at 2pm

—Devan Sims

Tonight: Neighborhood Fringe Scratch Night Spotlight Part 2

Posted August 11th, 2014

Every Monday night in August, we’re offering free previews of the 2014 Fringe Festival–Neighborhood Fringe artists are serving up short excerpts of their work, and we’re serving up free beer. Tonight is round two:

Get a taste of Susan Chase’s Susan’s Undoing:

RealLivePeople‘s humanism will be on display with Would I lie to you?

DC Theatre Scene called the acting of RHolt Productions’s Sisters of Ellery Hollow by DC playwright Stephen Spotswood “exceptional” when it was in DC Fringe a couple years ago; actor Rachel Hold will reprise her role in the Neighborhood Fringe edition.

Philadelphia Artists’ Collective offer’s a one-man-performance take on Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece.

And New Street Dance Group’s Another Word for Missing will be there too. Catch them in rehearsal:


Free! RSVP here.
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19106
August 11 at 7 pm

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Other Voices: Culturebot on The Four Seasons Restaurant

Posted August 5th, 2014
Scene from The Four Seasons Restaurarnt with Moana Ball, Myriam Sokoloff, Silvia Costa, Marie Dissais, Laura Dondoli, Chiara Causa, Irene Petris. Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Scene from The Four Seasons Restaurarnt with Moana Ball, Myriam Sokoloff, Silvia Costa, Marie Dissais, Laura Dondoli, Chiara Causa, Irene Petris. Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage

“The thing with Castellucci is that he doesn’t direct your responses as most plays do. He makes work without explanation, without irony and without apology, and there you are as an audience member, in the presence of it. His pieces are ruthless and demand that you approach them in a state of wonder. You get out in direct proportion to what you put in.”

The Four Seasons Restaurant
Societas Raffaello Sanzio
$15 to $39
23rd Street Armory
22 S. 23rd Street
September 11, 8 pm
September 12, 8 pm
September 13, 8 pm

Behind the Scenes: Shakespeare in Clark Park Army

Posted August 5th, 2014

From the Department of Things We Wish We Could’ve Done Last Weekend: join the 100-person army for this past weekend’s Henry IV from Shakespeare in Clark Park. It’s a “preview,” but worth watching to hear Benjamin Camp talk about working with a crazy-large crowd.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Tonight! Scratch Night: Neighborhood Fringe Spotlight

Posted August 4th, 2014

Every Monday night in August, we’re offering free previews of the 2014 Fringe Festival–Neighborhood Fringe artists are serving up short excerpts of their work, and we’re serving up free beer. First one is TONIGHT!

This week’s lineup:

Laurencio Ruiz, with whom we spoke last week, offers up Incongruous, puppetry exploring the variations of the human form. Preview below.

Emily Schuman offers a new translation of Fernando Arrabal’s absurdist play Fando y Lis. Hey, we talked to her last week too!

Gunnar Montana returns to the Fringe with RESURRECTION ROOM. He explains the show below, promising, in the friendliest of voices, “demon geishas and hysterical body snatchers.” The vid closes with excerpts from his last work, Hybernate.

Factory Productions featuring Ann Artist will take you Through the Glass Ceiling as they explore the limitations of gender and feminine identity.

And choreographer Joanne McBride’s Broken Road tackles childhood, loyalty, and love.

First Scratch Night is tonight!
Free
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19106
August 4 at 7 pm

–Nicholas Gilewicz