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Posts Tagged ‘New Paradise Laboratories’

Embracing the Chaos with Jeffrey Cousar

Posted September 13th, 2017

This year storied and beloved Philadelphia theater company New Paradise Laboratories have returned to the Fringe Festival with one of the most enigmatic and exhilarating shows you’re likely to see this month.

Hello Blackout! picks up well before the events of NPL’s previous Fringe-presented work O Monsters. That show followed the seemingly human, but exceedingly alien Kissimmee triplets and their mother in the present day. This time around we are with them at the beginning of, well, everything. Taking place before, during, and after the Big Bang, Hello Blackout! unfolds like a compellingly surreal take on the creation myth, where all conventions are thrown aside in favor of inviting unlimited possibility with open arms. It is at times deeply unsettling, at others riotously funny.

In dipping into the past, NPL has resurrected the family’s previously absent patriarch to reveal just what became of him. Taking on this demanding role of the father/king and joining the cast on their ride through the beginning of all things is performer Jeffrey Cousar. 

A Philly native, Cousar began his performance training very young, first attending Philadanco as a child and later, at 13, moving on to Freedom Theatre. After graduating from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, he started working professionally as an actor.

He first became involved with NPL earlier this year, performing in their immersive detective adventure Gumshoe. The interactive mystery took audiences throughout the Free Library as they were trained to be agents of the “Bureau of Mysteries” by various agents. Cousar played the role of Saiph, an agent who specialized in secrets and conspiracies. “I had to take into account the fact that there was no buffer between me and the audience,” Cousar explained, describing the considerations required for executing the site-specific piece. “I could improv working as a colonial merchant in Old City, but Saiph also had specific text to relate to the audience. Doing that in a space where someone could interrupt you mid-dialogue keeps you alert.” While that piece required quick thinking and a strong awareness of his surroundings, Hello Blackout! presents a wildly different set of challenges.

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Ambivalent Cosmic Matter: An Interview with Bhob Rainey

Posted September 6th, 2017

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

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

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


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

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

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

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Apocalyptic Visions

Posted September 2nd, 2017

In these turbulent times, artists in the Fringe Festival are using their mediums to present worst case scenarios for our unpredictable future. Check out the horrifying projections of reality coming to our city at this year’s Fringe!

 

AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE @ Berks Warehouse
Alexandra Tatarsky

A delirious anti-narrative of American emptiness, violence, and nonsense—part exorcism and part enema! With styrofoam wings, Xmas lights, and ketchup. “Phyllis Diller meets Artaud!” “Like Kellyanne Conway woke up from a coma after overdosing on sleeping pills and reading too much Gertrude Stein.” AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE exists somewhere between irrational healing ceremony, sad clown song, dance in the abyss, and desperate diatribe to take back ecstatic nonsense as an act of resistance. More info and tickets here.

 

Every Day APOCALYPSE! @ The Collective
Lone Brick Theatre Company

The death rays and nukes of outrageous fortune are aimed squarely at a struggling theater group when an irate son of God condemns the company to face a new apocalyptic scenario every day, for eternity. Can they learn to get along in order to save the world, not to mention the world’s worst production of Hamlet? More info and tickets here.

 

GATZ @ Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Harrison Stengle

Philadelphia, year 2025, the tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the kush was cheaper, the restlessness approached hysteria. From the makers of the off-off Broadway show Sword of the Unicorn comes GATZ a Great Gatsby modernist parody. More info and tickets here.

 

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Making Art in 2017: Whit MacLaughlin on Hello Blackout

Posted August 30th, 2017

Whit MacLaughlin

Name: Whit MacLaughlin

Company: New Paradise Laboratories

Show in 2017 Festival: Hello Blackout! also screenings of O Monsters.

Past Festival shows: Curated shows: O Monsters, The Adults, 27, Freedom Club, Extremely Public Displays of Privacy, Fatebook, Batch: An American Bachelor/ette Party, Planetary Enzyme Blues, Rrose Selavy Takes a Lover in Philadelphia, The Fab 4 Reach the Pearly Gates, This Mansion is a Hole. Self-produced: Gold Russian Finger Love.

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Whit MacLaughlin: As a company, we have been drawn to big questions from the beginning: Why is there something instead of nothing? What is the big system we’re all a part of? What does Philadelphia, as a city, as a concept, really mean? Why do we die? Questions that don’t have answers. NPL takes delight in asking unanswerable questions. It’s an obsession. Now we ask: why do we have something called a “future” that is so hard to predict? Seems like a fundamental question, but one that’s almost pure nonsense. One might be tempted to say: “What a stupid question!” Of course we have a future, but we can’t tell what it’s going to be because it’s not here yet. There’s no answer. Yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Nevertheless, almost everything we do in daily life involves searching for a way to predict what’s going to happen. What’s going to come in the mail today? Should I take that job? Am I going to be diagnosed with something bad? Who am I going to marry? We say: the fun is in the finding out! But still, it’s perplexing and frustrating, this issue of the future. Almost all Greek drama is about trying to see the future. Tiresias, the blind oracle, is in many of the plays. A BLIND ORACLE. Drama, from the beginning, has always been about the problem of a future that’s unforeseeable. Like Hamlet trying to figure out what to do to remedy his father’s murder. We’re paying close attention to a newly developing school of thought, a philosophy, called Speculative Realism. It suggests that the only absolute in the world, the only thing that must exist, is “contingency.” The world weaves itself out of a chaotic state and the things that happen don’t necessarily have a reason. May seem obvious, but we think it’s worth considering a bit more deeply, especially now that technology seems to move faster than we can, that our political life seems off the rails, that we live in a “quantum universe.” What does any of that actually mean for us on a daily basis? NPL takes big questions and blends them into a big question cocktail, then gets everybody drunk on it.

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Life Before The Big Bang: Interview with Whit MacLaughlin

Posted August 23rd, 2017

Whit MacLaughin is the artistic director of New Paradise Laboratories (NPL), which has been astonishing audiences for years with their remarkably strange and riveting performances. The company is known for their artistic excellence in physical theater, and innovative uses of visuals, sound design, and choreography. The recipient of both Obie and Barrymore awards, MacLaughin helms Hello Blackout! NPL’s newest work, a horror-farce about a family of monsters who live before, throughout, and after the Big Bang. We were so glad to get the chance to ask MacLaughlin about how this production came to be, and how it might illuminate the world around us.

FringeArts: How did the title Hello Blackout! come into being?

Whit MacLaughin: “Blackout” has many meanings, political and otherwise: It’s what a government imposes when it doesn’t want the press to reveal a piece of news. It’s what you do to a window when you want to remain undetected by bombers flying overhead. It’s something that happens when you drink too much or when you faint. It happens in theater to punctuate the end of a scene or play. We have concocted another meaning. It’s what happens when a gust of wind blows out the candle you’re carrying, or when the batteries run out in your flashlight; suddenly, you can’t find your way. A blackout can be funny, infuriating, or frightening. It signifies that moment when you realize, again, that you can’t know what’s waiting for you in the future. Which is pretty much always.

This is in keeping with the basic notion at the heart of this current series of pieces: the world is not set, it continually evolves and changes. This is kind of a huge issue when it comes to live performance. And living in general. How much do you try to plan? How much do you make it all up on the spot? We’ve been studying ways that we try to tell the future: oracles, probability, fortune-tellers, astrology, intuition, algorithms. The fact is, there really isn’t a way to predict what’s to come with any certainty.

This truth has presented itself to us in a forceful way, recently, in our political life. We see the word “unprecedented” all the time to describe our situation.  The question: Is anything truly unprecedented or is everything? We want to make the case that everything is. Like that old Zen saying: you can’t put your hand into the same river twice. We have no choice but to get better at wrestling with unpredictability.  And, possibly, enjoying it. This is at the heart of everything we do at NPL.

FringeArts: What brings NPL back to the Kissimmee family and their adventures in the universe? What are some of the continuations from O Monsters as well as new directions that are being explored?

Whit MacLaughin: O Monsters was where the Kissimmee family first presented itself to us: a set of triplets, their carnivorous mother, and a father who vanished mysteriously some time ago. We thought it might be fun to figure out where they came from, this family of not-quite-human beings. O Monsters took place in a weird version of the present. Hello Blackout! happens in the distant past—actually, before the Big Bang. What a fun question: what was family life like before anything existed? Of course, there’s no answer, it’s like using nonsense to start a story. But that’s what creation myths do: they start with “in the beginning there was not-even-nothing.” It’s an unanswerable riddle. But we’ve challenged ourselves to imagine an answer. Imagining things that happened before there was anything requires us truly to empty our minds.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Sam Tower

Posted September 8th, 2016
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Sam Tower (photo by Arielle Salkowitz)

Name: Sam Tower

Type of Artist: Director, Creator, Producer

Company: Sam Tower + Ensemble

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Bailout!, Off-Color Theatre, 2009 – Actor
Precipice, 2010 – Director, Creator
All Places from Here, 2011 – Director, Creator
27, New Paradise Laboratories, 2012 – Assistant Director
The Adults, New Paradise Laboratories, 2014 – Assistant Director
901 Nowhere Street, Sam Tower + Ensemble, 2015 – Director, Producer

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016FEED, Applied Mechanics – Marketing & PR

First Fringe I attended: My first Fringe Festival was in 2009, when I was attending Headlong Performance Institute, and we saw a show almost every day of the Festival. Since then, I’ve filled every free hour of my time during the Festival with as many shows as possible. That was also the year I became a life-long groupie of New Paradise Laboratories, who produced Fatebook in the old Live Arts warehouse on 5th street – oh, and the warehouse Fringe bar that year was so so so good!

The Adults - image by plate3.com

New Paradise Laboratorie’s The Adults (photo by plate3)

First Fringe I participated in: During the 2009 Festival, I was also performing in a ‘live action sitcom’ called Bailout! while attending school and seeing tons of shows. That Fringe was totally exhausting, exhilarating, and addicting! That year, I got to see MORE by Headlong Dance Theater and there was a moment when a dancer vacuums the rug while the radio plays on random – it destroyed me quietly and I still think about that moment to this day. I don’t think it will ever leave me.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first Fringe show I was involved in producing included an installation of fabric corridors, which we were required to uninstall for 4 days in the middle of the run if we wanted to use that space. So, naturally, we agreed, and built the fabric walls to be taken down and put back up rapidly. And during the break between shows, we shot a short companion film. Our team spent the whole summer in a basement, working through the night in a crawl space, building an overly-ambitious immersive set of found objects and trash-picked speakers. It was our very first self-produced project, and looking back, we didn’t seem to need sleep that summer (just cigarettes and beer!)

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: In 2011, I co-produced a very large-scale show in an abandoned lot next door to the newly opened Frankford Hall. The production had a full light, sound and projection installation, and was performed outside on a loading dock with a meager fence surrounding it. We had hurricanes during tech, daily lugging of 80 metal folding chairs, a dressing room made from tarp and extra beams, no bathrooms or running water — but damn! That was bold, Fringy experimentation in its purest form!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FringeArts: Were you raised in a musical household?

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

bhob-non-event

Rainey at work.

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

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

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The Unprecedented Universe of O Monsters First Draft

Posted April 20th, 2016

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

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

whit

NPL’s Whit MacLaughlin 

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

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

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

Speculative Realism

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

IMG_9784

Photo by Plate3

Ancestrality

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

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

Posted March 24th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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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.

So Much To Do This Weekend!

Posted May 27th, 2014

What’s come to our attention:

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27, New Paradise Laboratories

Remember New Paradise Laboratories’ hit performance 27 in the 2012 Fringe Festival? Whether you missed it the first time or are eager for more, 27 returns Thursday, May 29th through Saturday, May 31st at the Painted Bride Arts Center, 230 Vine Street. Members of the “27 Club” of talented musicians who passed away at the age of 27—Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Jimi Hendrix—explore purgatory and deal with a new arrival to their group. Questions of musical genius, mortality, and the afterlife coalesce in this performance pulsing with music composed by guitar prodigy Alec MacLaughlin. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and can be purchased online.

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Kate Aid of Tangle Movement Arts. Photo by Michael Ermilio.

Looking for some circus arts this weekend? The Porch at 30th Street Station has been showcasing a series of dance and physical theater performances this spring and summer. On Saturday, May 31st at 2pm and 4pm, the Porch will come alive with acrobats and aerial dance in Tangle Movement Arts’ free performance of their new and original work Passages. The urban circus-theater will explore daily life in urban Philadelphia and play with the idea of 30th Street Station as a public center for Philadelphia. The rain date is Saturday, June 8th. More information can be found at: www.tangle-arts.com

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Performers in CATCH Takes Philly

After you leave 30th Street Station, head over to The Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N American Street at 8pm on Saturday, May 31st, for the explosion of performance events that is CATCH Takes Philly. Usually confined to Brooklyn, this weekend CATCH joins Philadelphia’s Thirdbird for a night of dance, theater, video, performance, and beer. CATCH Takes Philly will feature Tei Blow, Cara Francis, Meg Foley, Groundswell Theater Company, Cynthia Hopkins, Jaamil Kosoko, No Face Performance Group, Brain Osborne, Matt Romein, and Saúl Ulerio. Tickets are $15 at the door, beer included.

Round off your weekend by attending the culmination of a year of research into voice and movement improvisation by the Leah Stein Dance Company on Sunday, June 1st, at 5pm. The renowned composer Pauline Oliveros developed the deep listening method of incorporating environmental sounds into musical performance, and has been working with the Leah Stein Dance Company to explore the relationship between deep listening and movement. Oliveros, Stein, seven dancers, and seven singers will conduct a free performance, panel discussion, and opportunity for audience participation at The Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine Street, this Sunday. More information can be found at: www.leahsteindanceco.org.

Leah Stein Dance Company conducing research with Pauline Oliveros.

Leah Stein Dance Company conducing research with Pauline Oliveros

–Miriam Hwang-Carlos

Rehearsal Photo

Posted April 3rd, 2014

The Adults_rehearsal 8_Photo by Camilla Dely

January, 2014, The White Space at Crane Old School: New Paradise Laboratories in exploratory rehearsals for The Adults. Photo by Camilla Dely.

Dostoyevsky with an iPhone Camera

Posted September 12th, 2012

Festival Blog contributor Richard Bon lives in Northern Liberties with his wife and daughter. He posts original flash fiction of his own or by a guest writer every other Monday on his blog, liminalfiction.com.

He’s written plays, films, and television shows, and taught others about all of the above. But his newly produced seventy-seven minute movie, co-directed by and starring Seth Reichgott, is the product of a more than twenty years of thinking, and is the first full length film he’s produced himself from soup to nuts. The man is Larry Loebell, and the film he’ll debut as part of Philly Fringe is Dostoyevsky Man.

In his Mount Airy home, Larry discusses the evolution of this one-actor movie where Seth delivers all of its lines in the form of a monologue spoken into his smart phone. True to his art, Larry shot the entire film on his own iPhone. As he puts it, “The reality and the fiction of the piece is that he’s talking into his phone, the actor and the character he plays.” Interior footage was taken in Larry’s basement and at Arcadia University, with exteriors shot around Mount Airy and again at Arcadia, where Larry teaches playwriting and dramaturgy (he also teaches film history at University of the Arts).

After the jump: The history of man. Dostoyevsky Man.

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No Snooze in This News

Posted September 10th, 2012

Spooky spooktacular! Not really. But after the jump, coverage of Fringe in cemeteries, my friend Cherri interviews Jumatatu Poe for KYW, some top picks from our media posse, and more. Rounding up the roundups again, here we go:

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Roundup Roundup

Posted August 31st, 2012

It’s that time in a young cowboy/cowgirl’s life where we round up the roundups, as the Festivals are about to begin. Here’s some press and press-sorting of shows to help guide your way through the next three weeks:

>>>The South Philly Review has a beautiful cover story on the Aryadareis, one of the families performing in Headlong’s This Town is a Mystery.

>>>Great story from WHYY’s Peter Crimmins on the same. Hey, ditto for the Chestnut Hill Local!

>>>WHYY’s “Arts Calendar” pulls out some pics for the festivals, including Ivona, Princess of Burgundia, Brat RockPile, Tourettes: A Dancing Disorder, and Return Return Departure.

>>>uwishunu offers up lists of top participatory shows and top bets for unusual sites.

>>>Rep Radio‘s kicked off its podcast coverage of Live Arts and Philly Fringe this week. So far: interviews with Eric Balchunas about Wawapalooza, Whit MacLaughlin about 27, and commander-in-chief Nick Stuccio about all things festivals. Listen over here.

>>>J. Cooper Robb writes in Philadelphia Weekly about what is sure to be a most amazing post-show talk on body politics in the arts (following the single performance of Arguendo), featuring John Collins of Elevator Repair Service, Charlotte Ford (of this year’s Bang), and playwright Young Jean Lee (UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW).

>>>Art Attack, the Daily News-Drexel U collab arts reporting project plugs Barbie Blended, this year’s first Philly Fringe offering (opens tomorrow, whoa!).

>>>Top ticket for Stage‘s Debra Miller? The Gate Reopened.

>>>The Montgomery News runs down the MontCo connections.

>>>Ditto for Mount Airy, via the Mount Airy Patch.

>>>Dispatch from central Jersey, who loves us. We love you too! Come on down!

–Nicholas Gilewicz

New Paradise Laboratories in Rehearsal

Posted August 30th, 2012

Impressionistic video report from NPL’s rehearsals for 27 at the 2012 Live Arts Festival. There’s really quite a bit of kneeing going on, isn’t there?

 

27 runs September 5 through 9 and 12 through 16 at Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Place, Center City. Times vary, $23-$35.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

My Name is Nick, and I Live in the Internet

Posted July 17th, 2012

Today, start your morning with an overview of New Paradise Laboratories‘s online performance/venue FRAME, which has taken over the NPL website:

This fall, NPL returns to the Live Arts Festival with 27, an age I’ve long since lived past, and thus became a cultural nobody. That’s OK though; maybe I can move into the Internet, because it’s too freaking hot out here.

27 runs September 5 through 9 and September 12 through 16 at Plays and Players, 1714 Delancey Place, Rittenhouse Square. Times vary; $23-$35. Tickets here.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Artists & Their Coffee: Whit MacLaughlin

Posted March 28th, 2012

Name: Whit MacLaughlin

Company: New Paradise Laboratories

Artistic occupation: Artistic director

First experience with coffee that made you understand coffee: Coffee crept inexorably into my life. One day I turned around and I was married to it.

Coffee you drink at home: Whole Foods 365 brand. French Roast. Very reliable and it used to be pretty cheap.

How do you like your coffee? Naked.

Average no. of cups per day? Um between 3 and 30 cups.

Fave coffee shop: My house.

Fave fancy coffee drink: I don’t have one. No offense. On occasion I’ll drink a coffee boilermaker–black coffee with an espresso shot. But that’s just ridiculous.  In Japan they sell a “tonic” from vending machines: a sweet base with triple caffeine, nicotine, and a completely weird snort of full strength menthol. It’s compelling.

What’s the most inappropriate thing a barista has ever said to you? I still don’t always remember the NYC “black-but-no-cream-OR-sugar” coffee culture aberration. Also remember that coffee is now bonified medicine. Prevents depression, reduces suicide, provides deterrent to cancer in general, drastically reduces prostate cancer. Insurance companies should institute financial incentive to consume.  [Ed. note: neither of these answers really responds to the question, but that’s the artistic privilege.]

Enough about coffee, what are you doing now? The Poet Laureate of Capitalism with the Riot Group in NYC; Etched in Skin on a Sunlit Night—new play by Kara Lee Corthron at Interact Theatre; and 27, the new NPL piece at this year’s Live Arts. Also FATEBOOK in Prague and a crazy app delivered all-city performance piece in Kansas City, Missouri.

[Ed note: Check out this nice article on mashable.com about NPL and creating online performance spaces.]