Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Justin Jain is here to school you.

Posted March 7th, 2017


Way back in November, Berserker Residents co-founder Justin Jain (who can also be seen on just about any stage in Philadelphia) took the time to answer a few questions about their upcoming work at FringeArts It’s So Learning.  Needless to say, we got schooled.


FringeArts: What was the moment that you realized, we can make this into a show? How did that come about?

Justin Jain: This show was a bit of a departure for us in terms of the content-container conversation. All of our past shows began with a spark of an idea for content: “Let’s make a show about a Giant Squid!” or “What if the show itself was a post-show talkback?!” This one, however, was approached form-first. Back in 2014, we began daydreaming about performing a script written entirely by school children. That was kind of our entry point into this whole adventure. But the deeper we chased that rabbit – the more we realized other groups and organizations were already doing this (most of the time, better than we could) – groups like Philly Young Playwrights and The Mantua Project. So that led us to a left turn of instead of writing with kids, how about writing about kids – about childhood, about school. We started to bounce around ideas of other elements we’d like to bring to the table – the current state of American education, breaking theatrical form and conventions, playing with Bouffon. These all started to seep into the mix.

Coming fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, our artistic sensibilities were changing. We saw so many comedy pieces that were daring their audiences to participate in ways that we tend to shy away from as American Theatre makers. So that was in the mix too—how far will an audience go in playing with us? How can the dare be a part of the narrative?


FringeArts: Can you describe the stage/setting, and what it has allowed you do play with creatively? What makes the classroom, for you personally, so ripe for comedic and creative potential? And how do you use the audience?

Justin Jain: The piece takes place in a laboratory called The SimEdu Center, and is loosely inspired by some of our team’s experience as standardized patients for different medical schools. As an SP, you become a fake patient for med students to practice different cases. We daydreamed about how this idea could be twisted for the classroom—is there a way to build a simulation machine to train students for maneuvering the labyrinth of the American k-12 school system?

Because we thrust our audience into this simulator, we want them to feel as off-balance as possible. The playing space and audience space are one in the same. When the audience first enters, there’s no chairs but merely a grid of scattered numbers on the floor. As audience members come in, they are greeted by SimEdu Center technicians (the cast), who then give each member a series of coupons that will be used in the show. I’ll keep the rest as a mystery, but suffice it to say, starting with this level of audience engagement sets the tone for what is to come.

The audience capacity for this show caps at 55 – this is to create the intimacy of the classroom experience. And so we can control the more improvisational aspects that bubble out of the show. Every individual audience member is asked to engage in different ways. We’ve had audiences of over 60 and when that happens, they can sometimes turn on us and take control of the narrative. With a smaller audience, we have the ability to crowd control a bit more and tailor the show to really feel like each person can see and is seen.

As a teacher myself, I’ve worked with high school students since 2003. I’ve taught in programs that have brought me into every kind of school you can imagine in the Philadelphia region. The teachers, the students, the administration—no matter where I go—have some degree of anxiety coursing through their hallways. And every student, teacher, parent, administrator, or principal all seem to pass the buck with who’s dropping the ball. In the end, it seems to always boil down to the decisions made by an elite and mysterious few—some say it’s the school district, others cite the SRC, while others point to the government.

Regardless, this kind of bureaucracy paired with the struggle of “keeping up” in the classroom is absolutely comedic (albeit sad). We want to ping both the absurdity of the system as well as interrogate the audience’s own memories of being students in that education machine. When you open up that can of worms, the material to pull from and play with is boundless.


FringeArts: Can you describe a few of the characters, and how you went about creating them?

Justin Jain: Each performer / creator plays two roles: Their primary role is that of a technician in The SimEdu Center. These technicians are the keepers of the simulations and always have an eye on the audience’s experience and a connection to a larger ominous entity transmitting notes and adjustments throughout the event. On top of this, the technicians role-play with the audience as fictional teachers.

My technician’s avatar is a teacher named Mr. Ricks. He’s sorta your stock hip young teacher. I have a long pony tail wig and rolled-up sleeves. He’s your English/Lit teacher that would take everyone out to the tree to read poems. He’s the kind of teacher some of your classmates have a crush on and his confidence permeates both in his teaching style and his hallway banter. He’s loosely based off my own high school English-Lit teacher, Mr. B (yeah, he was one of those)—everyone had a crush on him and he would teach through a smirk while sitting on the edge of his desk.

We chose these characters to balance one another in different ways—we wanted to represent different ages and teaching styles, as well as different teacher personality-types. Of course, you can only do so much with 5 performers, but hopefully each one of us trigger a different memory for the audience.

It’s important for us to capture the trajectory of moving from Kindergarten through 12th grade in just 75 minutes. So we tried to choose teacher stock characters that can also matriculate through that narrative arc.


FringeArts: What did you (or anticipate) concentrating on when fine-tuning the show? Also, how do you see the FA production expanding from the Fringe Fest one?

Justin Jain: We are coming to FringeArts fresh off of a run at ASU Gammage, who is partnering us with many education-based groups in their Phoenix, AZ community. There is going to be an intensive research and development workshop period with teachers, education students, and administrators.

Our first production relied heavily on the K-12 student experience and background to that was the feeling of a larger system at play. I think we’re entering our re-writes with an eye on how to punch that up, while holding on to the play and fun of our initial run.


Thanks Justin!

It’s So Learning runs at FringeArts March 10-18.  Click here for tickets/to learn more.

It’s So Learning is BERSERK!

Posted March 6th, 2017

Bradley Wrenn, co-founder of The Berserker Residents, was kind enough to sit down with the FringeArts team and talk about how they’re revamping It’s So Learning to reflect our new, terrifying political climate.  The theater-maker, clown, and deep thinker gave us a lot to chew on!  Read on, and join us at the end of the week for the newest iteration of It’s So Learning!


FringeArts: What was the moment that you realized, we can make this into a show?

Bradley Wrenn: The original impulse came from working with children as writers. We were delighted by their complete lack of regard for narrative rules and structures. But after a fair amount of exploration we found it to be a bit of a one trick pony and struggled to find a way in which it could be sustained over a full-length production. But we continued to follow the thread and found ourselves making material about school. About the emotions conjured at school. The anxiety, dread, joy and terror.

It’s So Learning is a show about the audience’s journey. A wild ride that dredges up all those strange icky feelings that institutionalized education has wrought.


FringeArts: Can you describe the stage/setting, and what it has allowed you do play with creatively?

Bradley Wrenn: It’s So Learning is 55 child sized classroom chairs surrounded by 4 black boards. It allows for a frenetic theatrical experience. The audience is made to twist and turn to keep up. Action happens constantly around them at all corners of the performance space.

The audience is the main character in the piece. When making the piece we were always tracking their emotional journey. The performance is an entire emotional educational journey packed into 70 min.


FringeArts: Can you describe a few of the characters, and how you went about creating them?

Bradley Wrenn: We aren’t really characters. We are more facilitators. Technicians who sometimes plays teachers and sometimes play salesmen. We call the performance space the Sim Edu Center and we (the performers) serve its whim. We do our best to keep up and try to keep the Sim Edu Center happy but we fail and fall behind and we are punished.

Thanks Brad!

It’s So Learning runs at FringeArts March 10-18.  Learn more/get tickets by clicking here.

A Ride on the Irish Valentine

Posted February 14th, 2017

So we’re not exactly mushy-gushy here at FringeArts.  Don’t get us wrong, we love love, and all the wonderful beautiful forms in which it comes, but we’re not ones to, say, spend Valentine’s Day watching 27 Dresses and weeping into our prom outfits.  That’s for another Tuesday.

Maybe that’s exactly why A Ride on the Irish Cream is the perfect Valentine’s Day show for us.  It’s beautiful, musical, strange, rejects hetero-normativity, and most importantly, involves horses.  So in the spirit of all-encompassing love, we made some Cream-themed Valentines that you can share with all the sweeties in your life to your heart’s content.  Plus, they’re free!  Because who needs another reason to spend money on Valentine’s Day?



Valentines by Patricia Wakelee.  Click here for tickets/more info to A Ride on the Irish Cream.

Emily Bate Takes a Ride on the Irish Cream

Posted February 13th, 2017

Emily Bate, Philadelphia artist and co-composer of the upcoming A Ride On The Irish Cream, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the music in the project. Check out her responses below, and come see A Ride On The Irish Cream February 16th-18th!


FA: How did you initially get involved with A Ride On The Irish Cream?

EB: Erin and I are friends from way back – I moved to New York briefly in 2014, and started working on the show with her and our co-composer, Kenny Mellman. By the time I came to my senses and moved back to Philly, I was deep in the project, so I’ve been riding that Bolt Bus ever since!


FA: What was the writing process like? Did you guys start with lyrics or melodies, or did the pieces of the songs all kind of develop at the same time?

EB: Erin usually began the process with lyrics and some melody, and it exploded or meandered out from there. She is a very in-the-room writer, so we would typically work out a draft of a song, and then perform it and assess what needed to change. There is a very deep & fluid relationship between spoken text and music. We often weave in and out of songs and scenes, and finding the right emotional pitch in each moment is extremely important. So as one element was changed or re-written, it affected all the other components. We rewrote almost all the music a few times, and we’re still always kinda tinkering with it.

FA: The musical’s central focus is on the quirky relationship between Reagan and the Irish Cream. Were there any other overarching themes that the music tries to tap into besides love?

EB: Well, from my perspective the show is an emotional relay race between music and text – you carry a scene to the end of what can be spoken, and then in exhaustion or confusion or joy, a song steps in. There are all these intricate layers of meaning between two people who’ve loved each other for a long time, who’ve developed an elaborate language they speak together, and who are frustrated by the limits of that language. The show embraces the tension in there, and sometimes the band acts as a release valve for that tension.


FA: Were there any musicians/musicals that you pulled from for inspiration?

EB: So many! The show is rooted in Erin’s childhood memories, so there are a lot of pretty specific touchstones we pulled from, whether it was Christmas music, VH1 Divas Live, Disney villains, stuff that was swirling around her ears or pulled directly out of her home movies. A big part of the overall sound is the vocal trio of Erin, Chenda and myself. We were interested in creating a lot of different vocal textures – more beautiful, pure-toned choral singing that turns into a Mariah Carey riff that turns into a really angular, aggressive Dirty Projectors sound, all in the same song. We also spent some time during the development thinking about The Phantom of the Opera, which we were both obsessed with as little kids. I’m pretty sure that’s the first musical I had any relationship to. It was great to embrace how ridiculous and poppy and epic that music is, because Irish Cream hits all those points.


FA: What’s your favorite musical moment in the show?

EB: My favorite part of Irish Cream to sing is a song called “Transsiberian,” which is the hinge between the first and second half of the show. It’s got this enormous churning thunderstorm energy, at the height of emotional chaos. I come from a choral background, but making this show, I got a lot more comfortable with huge, let-it-rip singing than I’ve ever been. Becca, who plays Irish Cream, used to sing in a punk band, and they get to be a total badass in this song. It’s about everyone opening up the fire hose full blast.
A Ride on the Irish Cream runs February 16-18 at FringeArts.  Click here for tickets/more info.

Why Alexa and Siri are not your Friends

Posted February 2nd, 2017

by David Pagliarulo

Sans Everything – the new show by Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor, premiering at FringeArts February 9-11 – explores a future world beyond the singularity.  “Singularity” is the prediction that one day technology will become so smart that it surpasses all human intelligence, and we will become obsolete.

This idea was first synthesized by physicist John Von Neumann, who wrote,“The accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, give the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, can not continue.” He was issuing this warning BACK IN THE 1950s, when the TV was a weird box that played moving pictures and the toaster was the latest, greatest kitchen gadget. The word “Snapchat” didn’t even exist yet. Little did he know the leaps and bounds that were about to occur in technology over the next few decades.

These days, artificial intelligence, or AI, is a major part of our everyday lives. We carry them around with us (yo homegirl Siri), listen to them in the car (any GPS ever), and talk to them when we get home (“Alexa, read me the news”). We’ve become so saturated by everything that I don’t think a lot of people really consider the downfalls of having highly advanced technology at their fingertips.

In fact, there’s a conference held every year where AI scientists get together and project when robot-agetton is supposed to happen. The latest estimate stands at 2040. Since that isn’t tooooooo far off, humans should probably be preparing for it and coming up with scenarios as to what could potentially happen if/when our technology becomes better than us.

Luckily we have HOLLYWOOD ACTION MOVIES that have taken this concept and shown us the plethora of possibilities that could result from a technologically ruled society. Strangely, a lot of these movies star actual cannibal Shia Labeouf.

For example:

Eagle Eye (2008)

Here, Shia and friend Michelle Monaghan are seen pushing through a crowd of people, presumably at the behest of the artificial intelligence system ARIIA (seen on the right). ARIIA has been given access to all of the security cameras, traffic grids, and cell phones throughout the entire United States (*cough* Patriot Act *cough*), and uses them to control humans to ultimately free her from the programming that restricts her from total control. ARIIA is ruthless and lethal, but has a soothing podcast voice, courtesy of Julianne Moore. In the end, Shia saves the DC metro area from a nuke and everyone lives happily ever after.

And for some reason, Shia and Michelle get together in the end.

They fought and hated each other throughout the whole movie so idk.


I, Robot (2004)

I watched this movie the other night and I definitely feel like this role was the last of the “innocent-Shia” roles before he became a weird adult. Here he plays a punk kid who literally doesn’t listen to anything Will Smith says ever. Not the greatest movie or performance ever (Shia took a nap during it when it came on during #ALLMYMOVIES, his performance art piece where he watched his entire filmography in one sitting), but it did give interesting foreshadowing to Shia’s later career as a political activist. So shout out robots.


Ex Machina (2015)

Ok Shia isn’t in Ex Machina but this movie is fire and everyone should watch it.



Singularity is an incredibly scary/totally real possibility, and we might not have Shia Labeouf to save us if it happens in real life. Maybe we need to stop relying on our technology to do things that we as humans should be doing ourselves.

Then again, you can order pizza with Siri, and that’s pretty freaking awesome.


Sans Everything runs at FringeArts February 9-11.  Click here for info/more tickets.


All or Sans Everything?

Posted February 1st, 2017

Lightning Rod Special is no stranger to innovation – their most recent work Underground Railroad Game just wrapped a wildly successful stint in New York after two sold-out runs here in Philadelphia.  Founding company members Alice Yorke and Scott Sheppard were kind enough to sit down to chat about the genesis of their new world premiere,  Sans Everything – a collaboration with Strange Attractor – running at FringeArts February 9-11.

FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration and where did that take place for Sans Everything? And what was the moment that you realized this could be made into a full-length show?

ALICE: A few years ago Aram Aghazarian (of Strange Attractor Theatre Co.) visited Pig Iron’s Dan Rothenberg while Dan was in New York City working on a production of As You Like It in New York. The studio was in a crazy high-rise building and the rehearsal room was tense–everyone was angry at each other but still working, still doing As You Like It. Aram talks about looking out the window at the vast sky and while listening to AYLI. The absurd thought struck him, “As You Like It in space.” Not setting AYLI in space, but doing it in space–more to the point, a big, outside force compelling a group of people to do it. That maybe there was some voice forcing you to do something frivolous as if it was serious.

Though it would be easy to make this prompt a high-camp romp, the show has taken on real themes of life and death, due in no small part to the fact that we took a year-long hiatus from the piece when Rebecca Noon (of SATC) was diagnosed with cancer. When we returned to the piece last year, we wanted to make a show that didn’t acknowledge that directly but that explored questions Rebecca had been asking herself– why do we artists DO this? Why do we make new work and, even more so, why do we return to centuries old work when we have boundless creativity available to us? For us in Lightning Rod Special, those questions were just the kind of juicy, investigative line of thinking we love sinking our teeth into.

SCOTT: On a legendary day in Alaska, when Strange Attractor Theatre Co. was dreaming up ideas for future shows, Aram Aghazarian, resident provocateur, proffered a mystifying dare: “What about, As You Like It…in space?” As absurd as this idea sounded, over the past few years Strange Attractor Theatre Co. and Lightning Rod Special stirred this mad dramaturgical cocktail until an alluring logic began to form. As the groups obsessed over 1970’s sci-fi films, the singularity, and the themes of As You Like It, we began to dream up a world. As it does for so many readers, Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage” soliloquy compelled us, and we began to imagine it as a sometimes brilliant, sometimes faulty guidebook for non-human life to understand humanity. This made us wonder, what if in the future, disembodied artificial intelligence decided to return to the relative simplicity of the human form. What would surprise “them” about experiencing life at such a slow place from a fixed and carnal point of view? What if they unabashedly fell in love with the nostalgia of humanity? What if they fell in love with theatre? With Shakespeare? When we peer into the future, we are always, inevitably, examining something from our past.

FringeArts: Can you briefly describe the world/setting of Sans Everything? What do you personally find compelling about this world?

SCOTT: The world of Sans Everything is alien, stark, and working desperately to be human. The timbre is that of a thriller, but it wavers with tense fragility between the comedic and the uncanny. We witness all the things that make us human: rage, fear, passion, love, and art, but they are enacted by beings who do not fully understand human life. The characters’ struggle is both deeply empathic and terrifyingly unfamiliar.

ALICE: I love the deeply polar natures of the characters. Because they’ve never been human before they don’t have any of our socialized neuroses like decorum or detachment or self-consciousness. They believe things and they feel things 100%. We get to watch them experience those feelings and those beliefs for the first time; so much of the joy of these character for us as actors is that each moment is TOTALLY, utterly new for them. They are grown human bodies with full physical faculties, but they’ve never tasted food before or felt desire; they’ve never had to consider the awesome gulf that is death.

FringeArts: Can you tell us about a few of the characters and how they were developed?

SCOTT: In Sans Everything the characters are always in service to the ensemble, and although quirks and idiosyncrasies emerge, the group often thinks and moves as a flock or network. One character, Breathing, experiences a deeper de-evolution than some of the other beings, and so he has a delightful simplicity to him. He becomes an endearing clown, satisfied with the most basic human discoveries.

ALICE: After several days’ rehearsal of dark, serious, space-Shakespeare, we did an exercise where we were clowns. We acted like petulant babies or eager buffoons and gave ourselves absurd names like Foon, Saw, Henry, and Breathing. Suddenly, the room was filled with life and excitement. Scenes we liked but couldn’t get to work finally clicked with the introduction of these characters. The characters stuck. Like Scott said, Breathing is a character who devolves over the course of the show. Or it might be more like a case of arrested development. The “Seven Ages of Man” speech posits that all aging people go through these various stages, but Breathing–who is played by a grown, bearded man–bucks that by remaining a mewling infant even in the face of societal collapse

FringeArts: Can you go over how As You Like It plays into the show, and to what extent?

SCOTT: Sans Everything is a play you can enjoy and understand without knowing a single thing about Shakespeare or As You Like It. As the characters learn about becoming human, some of them observe a ubiquitous, time-honored tradition: they fall in love with Shakespeare. Others follow a different popular tradition: they hate Shakespeare. The reason As You Like It features prominently is partly arbitrary, but the characters are drawn to the powerful “All the World’s a Stage” speech, which seems to hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the human lifespan. As the rival camps feed their divisive obsessions, they are both swept up by the thrill of performance.

ALICE: We talk about Shakespeare, in the show, as being an avatar for theatre. We’ve tried to plant some Shakespearean “Easter eggs” in the show for the lit-nerds out there but really you could sub in that the space crew finds “True West” or “The Seagull” or “Aphra Behn”. If future beings traffic purely in information, facts, and cold data, any work of theatre (or art or dance)–anything that uses story and emotion–would have a similarly disruptive effect.

FringeArts: What has the group worked on or been working on most in fine-tuning Sans Everything?

SCOTT: Up until this point we have been working on structure and flow, and now that we settled on the larger framework, a great deal of the work this winter will be filling in details, deepening the physical performances, and of course fine-tuning the ending.

ALICE: Always with the fine-tuning of the ending…

Thanks Alice and Scott!  

Sans Everything runs at FringeArts February 9-11.  Click here for tickets/more information.


Posted January 25th, 2017

On January 19th, the day before the Presidential nomination, we invited audiences and artists to our space to form a beacon of light for the coming years.  Our President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio made a pledge for the future of FringeArts, to ensure that it can be a more inclusive space.  Below are the list of pledges to which we expect to be held accountable.


  1. We pledge to offer a space for artists, activist groups, and community organizations to meet, organize, and plan the next steps in their process.


  1. We pledge to double down on our monthly artist meals, creating a more inclusive space for artists and audiences to build community.


  1. We also pledge to be honest with ourselves about our own blind spots.  Over the coming years we will work to better match the demographic make-up of the city we love to serve, not only with the shows on our stages, but in our staff and leadership.


  1. We believe in the power of performance to bridge divides and to invoke empathy.  We pledge to use our presenting platform to bring performances into communities outside Philadelphia, desperately in need of more cultural opportunities, in an effort to expand the positive influence of the artists we present.

Glossary of Heroes

Posted January 20th, 2017

by Hallie Martenson

In Hello! Sadness! (running January 26-28 at FringeArts), Mary Tuomanen mines the history of social justice activism to bolster herself in the ongoing fight against injustice and tyranny.  I did a little research to prepare you for this piece of theatrical activism.  Doing this research on inauguration day was both difficult and heartening, a reminder that humanity has unlimited power to resist.  I hope you find comfort in the memory of these incredible people and movements from our shared history.

Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton was an American activist and revolutionary active in in the 1960’s.  By the tender age of 21, he was the Illinois chapter chairman of the Black Panther Party, and deputy chairman of the national BPP.  But I’m 30 and can’t figure out how to pay my Verizon Fios bill … so there’s that.

Hampton was murdered in his home in 1969 while he was sleeping by the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Despite the FBI’s claims that Hampton was killed in a shoot-out instigated by the Black Panther Party members present, all physical evidence pointed toward a targeted assassination.  In 1970, a civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of Hampton’s family and survivors present at the shooting.  After a series of trials and appeals, the federal government agreed to a settlement of $1.85 million.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc is considered a “heroine of France” for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War. She supported Charles VII and was a key player in paving the way for a French victory against English domination. She claimed to have received visions of the Archangel Michael and Saint Catherine of Alexandria to protect Charles VII and to liberate France.  She presented as gender-ambiguous, and dressed exclusively in military garb.  Though the extent of her participation in military campaigns is under debate, the French military was extraordinary successful during her tenure with them.

In 1430, she was captured by the Burgundian faction (an ally to the Brits) and later put on trial for heresy by the English. She continued to dress in traditionally masculine clothing in prison, to protect herself against rape, an offense that was later added to her heresy charges.  She was eventually found guilty and burned at the stake in 1431. She remains a cultural icon for many, and was canonized in 1920 as Saint Joan.  She is one of the nine secondary patron saints of France.

Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg was an American film actress.  Her first role was the titular character in Saint Joan ­– she was chosen from 18,000 young women by director Otto Preminger.  She was also a known supporter of the Black Panther Party and an advocate for racial justice. She financially supported many civil rights groups (Black Panthers, NAACP, Native American school groups) during her life, which resulted in the FBI using the COINTELPRO program to harass, intimidate, and discredit her. The COINTELPRO program was a series of projects used by the FBI to infiltrate and disrupt domestic political organizations. One of the tactics the FBI used to hurt Seberg was spreading a story that her child was fathered by a member of the Black Panther Party instead of her husband.

In 1979, Seberg disappeared and was found nine days later decomposing in her car. Her death was ruled a probable suicide, but charges were filed against an anonymous party for “non-assistance of a person in danger.”  Her second husband later publicly blamed the FBI’s campaign against her for her deteriorating mental health.

François Sagan

François Sagan was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter known for writing strong romances involving wealthy and disillusioned characters. Her best-known work is Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness), which she wrote as a teenager in 1954. Her work was seen as an icon for disillusioned teenagers and her narrative often displayed existential undertones. She was an avid drug user and was arrested for cocaine possession in the 1990s. She died of a pulmonary embolism in 2004.

French New Wave Cinema

New Wave is a blanket term for a group of French filmmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  New Wave filmmakers weren’t an organized movement, but they are bound together by their rejection of the popularity of literary period pieces.  They were eager to document social issues that were more current, and their style was characterized by using portable equipment, giving rise to documentary-style filmmaking.  Some prominent French New Wave figures are François Truffaut, Èric Rohmer, and Chris Marker.

Tahrir Square

Tahrir Square, also known as ‘Martyr Square’, is a public square in Cairo, Egypt.  In 2011, it was a focal point of the Egyptian revolution.  On January 25th, 50,000 protesters occupied the square demanding that the then-President Hosni Mubarak step down from his office.  By the 31st of January, Al Jazeera estimated that the numbers had swelled to over 300,000 people.  When Mubarak was finally removed from power in February, the protests erupted into a night-long celebration.  The next day, hundreds of Cairen residents came to clean up the square, removing eighteen days’ worth of trash and graffiti.  In the summer of 2013, millions of Egyptians again converged in Tahrir Square to demonstrate against President Mohamed Morsi.  Over the following days, the numbers swelled, and there were reported demonstrations in 18 locations across Cairo.  Many researchers claim that it is the largest revolution in modern-day history.  In July, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi announced the removal of President Mohamed Morsi.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement that campaigns against the systematic racism and violence toward black people.  The movement began on social media as a hashtag following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.  In the years since, BLM has become a highly organized movement, demonstrating regularly against police killings of black people, racial profiling, police brutality, and the racial inequity in the United States criminal justice system.

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street is a protest movement that begain in September of 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York’s Wall Street financial district.  The main issue raised by the movement is the social and economic inequality woven deep into the fabric of the United States.  The Occupy Wall Street slogan “We are the 99%” refers to the income inequality between the wealthiest 1% of the country and the rest of the population.  Occupy protests popped up in nearly every major city in the country.  In 2012, Naomi Wolf of The Guardian released documents which revealed that the FBI had monitored OWS through its Joint Terrorism Task Force, despite the fact that it was a peaceful movement.

Standing Rock Sioux Water Protectors

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is located in North Dakota and South Dakota and is occupied by ethnic Hunkpapa Lakota, Sihasapa Lakota, and Yanktonai Dakota.  It is the fifth-largest Native American reservation in the country.  In early 2016, construction was approved for the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline that was projected to run from the Bakken oil fields to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers as well as part of Lake Oahe.  The Standing Rock tribe consider the pipeline a direct threat to the region’s clean water and ancient burial grounds.  In April of 2016, Standing Rock Sioux elder established a camp as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline.  Over the summer, thousands of people traveled to the camp to lend their support in the protest.  Security workers, soldiers, and police have attempted to end protests using violent means, such as attack dogs, water cannons (often in subzero temperatures), and tear gas.  On December 4th, 2016, President Obama denied an easement for the construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River.  Many protesters continue to camp on the site, fearful that a Drumpf administration will immediately overturn that easement denial.

Gezi Park Protests

In 2013, a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Turkey began, initially to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Gezi Park.  This initial sit-in sparked protests and strikes across Turkey, protesting a wide range or concerns at the core of which were issues of freedom of the press, of expression, assembly, and the government’s encroachment on Turkey’s secularism.  3.5 million people are estimated to have taken an active part in almost 5,000 demonstrations across Turkey connected to the original Gezi Park protest.  Excessive use of force on the part of police resulted in eleven people killed and more than 8,000 injuries.

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist protest punk rock band based in Moscow.  They gained notoriety in 2011 through their unauthorized guerilla performances, which were later turned into music videos.  Their music and videos advocate for feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, and opposition to Vladimir Putin.  In February of 2012, two alleged members of the band (they wear balaclavas as masks during their public performances), were arrested for entering an Orthodox church and performing on the altar.  They were escorted out of the building after less than a minute, but it was long enough to anger the Kremlin. In March, another woman was arrested and charged.  In August, all three were convicted by the judge and sentenced to two years in a penal colony.  The judge stated that they had “crudely undermined the social order” with their protest.  At appeal, the conviction for one woman was overturned.  The two others were imprisoned, and engaged in numerous hunger strikes in protest.  Protests were held across the world after the sentence was announced.  They were released in December of 2013, and continue to be active both artistically and politically.

Hello! Sadness! runs at FringeArts January 26-28.  Click here for tickets/more information.

Annie and the Bastard

Posted November 30th, 2016

Annie Wilson (and her Bastard persona) were kind enough to answer a few questions about the origins and inspiration for At Home with the Humorless Bastard.  Enjoy her (their) responses below!


FA:  Do you remember where you were when you came up with the title, At home with the Humorless Bastard? Was there a particular inspiration?

ANNIE:  I don’t.

I came up with the title three years ago, so I don’t know or care what the initial inspiration was, haha. For me the title is in relationship now to a certain aspect of myself that comes out in dire moments. But it is also in relationship to a sense of security, danger, seriousness.

Actually, that’s probably not true. I set out to make a piece that wasn’t funny. My relationship to humor is fundamental, and I wanted to see what I would make if I put a simple but powerful restriction on my choreography. So far I’ve failed every time, but it’s still a generative question.

THE BASTARD:  Who cares where titles come from they’re almost always the worst part of a piece of art


FA:  What do you see as your main source material for this show? And how has that bent its way into the performance?

ANNIE: Water, waterfalls, wombs, grief, gravity, glitter, charles manson, chaos, the olympics, natural disasters, encephalopathy, ambition, guilt, shame, violence, relational aesthetics, the politics of mental illness, heroin, brain swelling, cell death, menstruation, banshees, scotland, keening, booze, magic, money, the eagles, tribalism, erica’s sports bar, gentrification, hopelessness, despair, “sexy nihilism”, spatial anything, reproduction, representation, poststructuralism, the cuisine in hospitals, and Death: The Musical.

I am putting all of that together and mashing them through the spaghetti strainer of my body. Then I’m taking the mashed-out result and laying it out in time and space, with and through an audience.

THE BASTARD: In short, imagine all the stupid shit a white middle class woman would get insomnia over, and that’s what the piece is. Imagine an angsty 16 year old who really loves Rachmaninoff because his music is so maudlin. Now imagine that 16 year old is 30, she is terrified of her body wearing down, and people around her keep dying and she can’t control any of it and has feelings about it. That’s basically the piece.


FA: What will the performance consist of?  

ANNIE: There is a dynamic set that gets constructed and torn apart throughout the course of the piece. There is a short video element, but no projections. There is glitter every goddamn where.

I am the only performer, but audience members will certainly become set pieces and stand ins for extra performers.

THE BASTARD: Imagine how you would furnish a darker corner of your heart. Imagine how you would furnish a room for someone that has brain damage and will never even be able to comprehend décor ever again; but you have to visit them on a regular basis so put a painting of a flower up, goddammit, we can’t have things be so glum in here, what are we just going to wallow in our feelings? I’m the only performer but I’ll be joined, as always, by the army of dead people that I love.


FA:  As a performer, what does the audience become for you when you are onstage? Do they take on a role for the show?

ANNIE: I generally hate pieces that involve audience participation, and yet I always literally include the audience when I’m making a solo. Partially that’s because I can’t be interesting for an entire evening. Part of it is that I get to turn a mirror on the audience. I think solos are the place where I get to rewrite social rules, just a little. To hopefully encounter each other and ourselves in a slightly different way.

That said, I tend to use folks as set design. So the most that I ask an audience to do is walk somewhere on stage, stand somewhere on stage, and look at something onstage. And maybe participate in a guided meditation through your darker self. So it’s not like, “hey we’re all gonna get up and do something embarrassing.” It’s more like, I’m doing the embarrassing stuff, you’re watching me from the upstage left corner of the stage. That said, we might all sing together.

THE BASTARD: I wrote a song one time and the only lyrics are: “I’m just a middle class white person, talking about middle class white problems, making art for middle class white people, so they can come and go ‘huh.’” I would say that’s about how I can describe my relationship to the audience. It’ll be a big circle jerk where we get to feel “deep” for 60 minutes, either in the appreciation of the piece or in our ability to rip it apart critically, which won’t be difficult to do. So the piece will really boost everyone’s egos by making them feel smart for being able to rip it apart. It’s my little gift to Fringe audiences who like to think they are in any way edgy or experimental or thoughtful.


FA: What do you anticipate that you will be fine-tuning for this show—or what are the things that you feel are most important to work out between now and the performances?

THE BASTARD: I hope to destroy the piece moments before the premiere.


Thanks Annie!  You too, Bastard.


At Home with the Humorless Bastard runs at FringeArts December 1-3.  Tickets and more information here.

Nowhere Fast: Woman Crush Wednes(every)day

Posted November 16th, 2016

What more is there to love about a production that is scored by a live set of gritty, guitar-fueled rock n’ roll? Perhaps that it features an all-female, all-Philly cast of dance-theater badasses.

To properly welcome the ladies that will take over the La Peg stage for one more show in November, here are a couple things you need to know about them (or watch out for) as told by their supporting characters.

Kit Loupez

“Kit kit kitty kit kit. Georgia’s ruthless right hand. I encountered her once and I hope never to see her shade of red ever again. Don’t tempt her with a good time, because that night will be your last.”

– Michelle Flynn

Winona Cross

Winona Cross, aye? I never met a more slim-slicking canary with such a lust for a thrill. She’s willing to slide herself into any tight spot, so long as there’s some green cush waiting to catch her fall.

— Georgia St. Regis

Maxine Malloy

Oh, my dear dear Max. Maxine. She’s my number one gal, the most loyal woman I’ve ever met. Sometimes that means she’s an absolute doormat, a real kitten in a lion’s den. But boy oh boy, can that broad hold a crowd when she’s got a hot mic.

— Winona Cross

Georgia St. Regis

Georgia will either pull you out of the gutter, or toss you in it. She’s the mother I never had and the sister I never wanted. She’s mean. She’s my queen. 

— Kit Loupež

Michelle Flynn

That’s one hard boiled broad at the bar. What’s she doing here? She ain’t no pigeon cabaret audience member, that’s certain. I’ve seen that look before–that’s a woman on a mission. Or a Case. Or both. 

— Max Malloy


Photos by Chris Koontz

Blurbs provided by the lovely ladies of BRAT Productions and Sam Tower + Ensemble.

BRAT Productions and Sam Tower + Ensemble present Nowhere Fast; November 11+17, 10:30pm.  Click here for more information and to buy tickets!