Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia theater’

Tongue & Groove

Posted September 23rd, 2017

Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater

Inspired by personal information anonymously submitted by the audience, this Fringe-favorite ensemble instantly creates a montage of hilarious and heartbreaking scenes & monologues!

For a detailed description of our Fringe show theme, and more info about the company and cast, go to tongue-groove.com.

“Hilarious… and fearless” Philly Weekly

“Acted with soul-baring sincerity, intelligence, & humor. Go see this!” City Paper

$18 / 65 minutes


Tongue & Groove just celebrated our Ten Year Anniversary! T&G is inspired by several forms of theater including long and short-form improv, Playback Theater, the Interactive Theater of Jeff Wirth, and the incomparable improvised plays performed by TJ & Dave. We have a unique company of actors-who-improvise and improvisers-who-act, who strive to create theater that elevates the power of spontaneous creation. Over the years, we’ve honed our signature style of serio-comic, realism-based ‘Actors’ Improv,’ and have created 15 original shows. We’ve performed all around Philadelphia in theaters and colleges, and garnered critical acclaim. The ensemble has become highly comfortable in our physical and emotional work, and has grown seamlessly connected (as our name implies). Artistic Director Bobbi Block has taught Actors’ Improv in Europe, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia, and the Tongue & Groove format has been performed in Rio, Holland, and New Zealand! “I wish I could conceive dramatic situations and genuine dialogue that’s a tenth as incisive and moving as a typical T&G show.” Mark Cofta, Broad St Review “Dazzling” Inquirer “Hilarious… and fearless.” Philadelphia Weekly

Wedgwood on the Green

Posted June 23rd, 2017

A story in light and sound. A performance in and out of the round. Follow a young man up the fire escape, through the sliding glass doors, to a world where curiosity consumes innocence, where friendships crystallize in the pressure of responsibility and misfortune. Drip Symphony debuts with Wedgwood on the Green.

$15 / 60 minutes

“Wedgwood on the Green” was originally published in the 2013 issue of Underground Pool, the University of the Arts’ annual publication of short stories and poems. It was conceived and written by Nick Schwasman, and penned during his final days of undergrad. A poetic memoir, “Wedgwood” reflected on his adolescent days spent among an ambitious group of friends who hungered for escape from the confines of their suburban lives. Together, they confronted the harsh realities of the freedom they recklessly sought, the dangers of substance abuse, and that complicated, sometimes toxic idea, manhood.

In 2015, Nick joined forces with long-time collaborator Nate Barnett to translate the story into a live radio play, which they premiered in the 2015 Solow Festival. They created musical underscoring, original songs, arrangements, and live sound effects to accompany a reading of the story. The audience was encouraged to wear eye covers to enhance the auditory experience.

This September, Drip Symphony presents a fully-realized Wedgwood on the Green to an audience of 25, seated in a circle of swivel chairs. Immersed in this world, its details appear all around as the story is brought to life. Audience members are free to turn in their chairs and choose what they do and do not see.

This show is developed through a unique style of collaboration, bringing together a diverse group of artists whose contributions have provided the rich layers of its design. Together they explore storytelling through puppetry, sculpture, music, sound, and light.


Drip Symphony is a live performance company that brings together diverse artists committed to creating new, engaging art. These artists fuse experimental practices with established technique to make innovative performance for a modern audience.

Drip Symphony is co-directed by Nick Schwasman and Nate Barnett.








Mr. Darby Goes to New York: Double Time, All The Time

Posted July 7th, 2015

langston actingLangston Darby is continuously working. “Double time. All the time,” Darby comments as we recently talked on the phone one afternoon. Born in Laurel, Mississippi, Darby is an actor based in Philadelphia. This September, after completing an apprenticeship at the Walnut Street Theatre and growing into one of the strongest actors in the Philadelphia theater scene, he is departing for the Atlantic Acting School in New York on a full scholarship. “The Atlantic Acting School is tailor made for what I was looking for.”

Langston photoThe decision to venture to New York was a difficult one. At first, Darby expresses his anxieties about the full-time conservatory program. He asks, “How much will this sustain me after?” As our conversation continues, however, Darby reveals his sadness for leaving Philadelphia. “It’s a dagger in the heart,” Darby remarks as his describes the close relationships, personal and professional, he has gained over the past five years. Philadelphia has become Darby’s supportive web. After finishing his apprenticeship at the Walnut Street Theatre, Darby was offered a position teaching acting to children. “No matter the profession, everyone who teaches their craft for the first time talks about how they have to reconsider everything that they’re doing to make someone else understand. Teaching acting has made a lot of my work much more specific,” Darby says as he talks about his growth through teaching. Darby has also began comedy improv through ComedySportz Philadelphia. Improv has influenced the young actor to take acting risks. “I realized how even my scripted work could benefit from me letting go more and really focusing on what is going on around me moment-to-moment. Not only do I listen better, I now have a sense that my next line adds to the scene.” The opportunities in Philadelphia, from picking up improv techniques with ComedySportz Philadelphia and later Bright Invention to teaching to struggling with Uncle Tom’s Cabin: An Unfortunate History, have contributed to Darby’s larger growth.

“Philly taught me that you don’t need to be in LA, that you don’t need to be in New York.” After a successful last season full of tremendous opportunities, Darby fears that he is leaving at a vital time in his career. While he is upset to leave, he believes more training in New York is the next step in his path.

Langston 2The Atlantic Acting School’s Full-Time Conservatory is offering two full scholarships for the first time. Darby will be attending the Atlantic Acting School on one of these scholarships. He had determined that he did not want an MFA, but instead was attracted to the rigorous training from actors and actresses within the industry, that the Atlantic Acting School offered. “Now that I am at this stage, I can take more ownership over the things I want to learn,” Darby mentions. He is interested in the school’s primary acting technique, Practical Aesthetics. First encountering Practical Aesthetics in A Practical Handbook for the Actor, and gravitating toward the technique’s concrete and literal essence, he will apprentice himself to the technique for the next two and a half years. Beyond Practical Aesthetics, Darby also strives to “fill in the gaps of my training.” Darby is drawn to the multilayered aspects of theater, such as voice-over, television, movies, and dancing. He says, “I am going to take advantage of every morsel of information.”

Darby has started a campaign to raise money and support for his upcoming experience. While Darby is receiving a scholarship, New York is still expensive. “Why should I receive any support?” Darby initially questions as we talk about his fundraiser. The hard working actor constantly considers his privilege and opportunities, however, as our conversation goes on, his perspective shifts. He shares, “I should not need to feel guilty for gaining resources.” Similar to the way theater companies raise money for new projects, Darby started this fundraiser to gather help from his surrounding communities to fund his upcoming endeavor. Instead of feeling guilty about asking for help, Darby has begun to embrace his campaign. “I’m going to ask for what I want.” 

After unpacking his larger anxieties about leaving Philadelphia at a time when he is rapidly growing, Darby has one last anxiety: the potentially long and unfamiliar commute.

You can learn all about Langston’s work on www.langstondarby.com. If you’d like to give to his Indiegogo fundraising campaign, go to: life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/support-langston-s-big-step.

–Courtney Lau

Other Blogs: Lessons From Newt Gingrich on How to Make America Love Performing Arts

Posted August 21st, 2013
Good people.

Good people.

A few months ago, Phindie.com, a new website covering Philadelphia theater and arts, re-publsihed an old blog post of mine from 2011 titled Lessons from Newt Gingrich: or how we in the theatre and dance communities can stop acting like losers and learn to make the nation love us. The article (originally published in the currently dormant theppaa.org), spurred by going through an old stack of New Yorkers and reading a profile of John Bohner, details his mentor Newt’s rise to prominence and his ability to change the course of a defeated Republican Party largely through rhetoric and looks to apply that same thinking to the performing arts. Rereading the article recently, I thought, wow, there’s some pretty good stuff in there that continues to be super-relevent.

Lessons from Newt poses a number of the following questions: “How often have you heard that performing arts are dying, that we’re a niche market, that you can never make a living off of it, that we’re a charity case? That dance and theatre will never be the way it used to? Have you ever caught yourself saying, as an excuse for some failure or inability to accomplish a simple task or even some slightly unseemly arrangement in your programming: well, you have to understand, that’s life in the performing arts.”

And goes on:

“Do you accept as given that theatre and dance will never be as culturally or socially as relevant as TV or film? Has it ever bothered you, that whether through foundation giving or corporate giving or the generosity of patron saints, that you have geared your programming, and by dint your organization, to appease the money that comes from those aforementioned sources, as oppose to appeasing your artistic vision and audiences? Yet you still make the spurious claim that you are not commercial because you have sold out to your funding “partners” as oppose to Dentyne?”

Who should come to the rescue of this dilemma? Newt Gingrich, that’s who! To quote from The New Yorker profile upon which Lessons is based:  “After Newt Gingrich served a few terms as a member of the Republican minority in Congress, a circumstance he detested, he devised a plan to achieve what most of his colleagues could scarcely conceive—a Republican majority in the House. Gingrich believed that the G.O.P. had been the minority party for so long—ever since the first Eisenhower Administration—that Republicans had lost the ability to imagine themselves as anything else.” (My emphasis.)

Read More

Stop With The Fake Sold-Outs And Extended-by-Popular-Demand Lies

Posted May 30th, 2013

For a while now, theater companies (and other performing arts companies) have been roping off sections of the theater during a performance, limiting the number of seats, at times by half or more, then claiming the show is “selling out!” in order to attract attention. At times it might feel as if those ropes close in on whatever the audience size is so that the “sold out” claim can be made.

This is not the Alps and that is not a Bentley.

This is not the Alps and that is not a Bentley.

Now, if you are playing the Academy of Music or the Miriam, or some other enormous venue, and you close the top balcony and “sell out,” well, it’s more like a little lie, because you’re still selling a shitload of tickets and that means lots of people are coming to the performances. But when you are in a 150- to 250-seat theater, and you sell 75 tickets (or 55 tickets and 20 comps) and you claim to be selling out your show, you are completely full of shit and only damaging yourself.

The problem isn’t just that you are lying to the public and your audiences, who after one or two times of this, don’t believe a word you say. The problem is also that you are buying into your own lies. It is not a good marketing strategy to lie to make yourself feel better. When a theater is half full, the show is not a runaway success, no matter how many seats you’ve “closed off” for the night. For small and mid-size companies, embracing a strategy that limits your audience numbers, and ensures success only through doublespeak, is not a good plan for growth. Because you are separating reality from work. You are embracing your own fantasy. How in god’s name do you plan responsibly to gain an audience?

Similarly, people may have noticed a lot of suspicious “Extended By Popular Demand!” show extensions that have no basis in popularity, announced at the beginning of a run, even though you may have just heard about this play from your friend in it. And then there are also plenty of seats available—look even some discounted ones—for the originally announced run. These are not runs extended by popular demands, these are pre-planned runs that are announced as extensions by popular demand in a desperate attempt to generate unwarranted publicity.

Read More

Phindie’s in Town: New Website Covers Philadelphia Independent Theater

Posted April 12th, 2013
Christopher Munden of Phindie, spotted in a crowd.

Christopher Munden of Phindie, spotted in a crowd.

There’s a new place to go for Philadelphia theater coverage: Phindie! Phindie (www.phindie.com) is a website that features reviews, articles, reflections, and the like on theater arts and performing arts more generally. At the helm of Phindie is Christopher Munden who has been covering theater for a number of outlets over the past few years–and been a theatergoer all of his life. He wanted to have a site that coalesced his work, and that of others, and where he could showcase some new projects, like a podcast series with local theater artists. We caught up with the British born, but Philly suburb-raised Christopher to get the scoop on Phindie.

FringeArts: What made you start Phindie?

Christopher Munden: I started Phindie for a few reasons: to get more editorial control over theater and arts writing in the city, to house a new conversational podcast series, and yes: to help address the dearth of coverage of theater and arts in Philadelphia.

The site launched with a backlog of 120 articles by me and other writers, drawn from often-defunct websites, covering theater, dance, writing, and museum exhibits. For now, my focus is on independent theater, with occasional and growing coverage of other arts. I want to bring contemporary and fresh voices to this coverage, writing that acknowledges it is 2013 and it’s the internet.

FringeArts: How has it been going so far? What’s been the reaction?

Christopher Munden: With anything like this, it’s a bit like throwing a snowball into a snowstorm, it’s hard to know what mark it made, if any, but the small reaction I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. I have a slow-burning strategy for the first few months, but I was surprised at the immediate reception. I had a soft launch, posted a few new articles, and told a couple friends, and with a day or two I had PR people contacting me for coverage, theaters putting a Phindie credit in their promotional emails, and over 100 visits a day. Also, I was in a bar after a show and two young actors told me they’d listened to and liked the podcasts. So the snowball is hitting something.

Read More

The Play About The Nose: An Interview With Michael Hollinger About His New Translation Of Cyrano

Posted March 16th, 2012

Michael Hollinger is one of Philly’s most successful playwrights. He has premiered seven plays at the Arden Theatre Company including Opus, Ghost-Writer, and Tooth and Claw. For his latest project, he has turned to translating a classic, Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano De Bergerac, and adapting it (along with director Aaron Posner) for modern audiences and a leaner cast-size. Cyrano is currently running at the Arden Theatre through April 15. It premiered in 2011 at the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC, and was recently honored with seven Helen Hayes Award nominations (DC-area Barrymores), including Outstanding Resident Play, Outstanding New Play, and Outstanding Direction of a Play. Just the other day I corresponded with Michael to ask about his approach to Cyrano, and to get a better understanding of the challenges of translating plays.

Live Arts: Why another translation of Cyrano? What has been missing?

Edmond Rostand, author of the original Cyrano.

Michael Hollinger: When I began this project, at Aaron Posner’s invitation, I didn’t think anything was missing in terms of previous English-language translations of the play. The two biggies—Brian Hooker’s prose version and Anthony Burgess’s rather ornate version in rhymed couplets—have held up well, and are frequently done. But when I read the play in French, I started to feel that Hooker’s prose version was, well, a little prosaic, and that Burgess’s rhymed version had over-embellished the play, focusing on its poetry at the expense of immediacy and actor-friendliness. Aaron’s initial impulse—a small-cast version, inspired I suppose from his many small-cast Shakespeare productions, which I have loved—suggested a conscious theatricality (with lots of doubling, direct address, and other devices) that differs from the original play; it also suggested to me that the language should be very immediate, rhythmic, and lively, and that its poeticism should feel more like slam poetry, with more interplay of sounds within and between lines than end rhymes, than the predictability of the 17th-century verse plays Rostand was emulating.

The small-cast perspective led to certain structural and plot changes, but these also arose out of the fact that dramatic conventions have changed in the past 115 years, and audiences don’t perceive the same things the same way. Certain devices that seemed utterly implausible to me were modified; things that it was clear Rostand wanted to provoke laughter were altered in order to make the humor work for a 21st-century audience.

LA: What was your first exposure to Cyrano? How did you connect to it, and how has that changed now that you’ve done this translation/show?

Literature's most famous proboscis. Eric Hissom plays Cyrano in the Arden production.

MH: I saw a production as a kid at the York Little Theatre in York, PA, where I saw and participated in many shows with my parents. I don’t recall a great deal about it. (I was much more impacted by the Depardieu film from the early 1990s, which holds up extremely well.) However, I was certainly taken with the idea of a sideways or covert courtship through art: a few years later, when I was in eighth grade, I had a massive crush on a violinist in the youth orchestra in which I played viola, and so I started writing  violin/viola duets so we could stay after rehearsals and practice them. We became great friends, but not romantic partners, which says something about the sideways courtship.

In working on this translation I’ve been very conscious of the big themes of the play: the contrast between artifice and truth, between external and internal beauty. The play puts a premium on true expression and its title character decries mere formality of expression—though he’s not above constructing an intricately-rhymed poem while sword fighting—in favor of letting the heart or soul speak directly.

LA: What are some of the basic challenges of literary translation?

MH: To translate a technical manual, you need to strive to capture meaning with clarity. To translate literary prose, you need to strive to capture both meaning and the voice of the author. To translate a play, you need to capture meaning as well as the voices of every single character, and, as every playwright knows, in a good play every character speaks a little differently, based on age, ethnicity, regionalism, education, etc.

Our interview continues after the jump!

Read More