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Posts Tagged ‘Pig Iron Theatre Company’

A Period of Animate Existence Reading List

Posted September 15th, 2017

Next weekend the beloved Philadelphia institution Pig Iron Theatre Company returns to the Fringe Festival with their first major work in two years, and it’s clear they put that time to good use. A Period of Animate Existence may be their most ambitious work to date, an awe inspiring large-scale piece of symphonic theater that examines the most universal, urgent issue of our time: climate change.

In an era called the “Sixth Extinction,” when up to 50 percent of all living species might die off, rather than grappling with the issue in a lecturing, damning manner, the creative team hopes to achieve something more nuanced and universally relatable. “We’ve tried hard to avoid an activist voice with this piece—we want to avoid haranguing or scolding as we investigate the landscape of emotions around climate change,” director Dan Rothenberg told the FringeArts Blog. “As we contemplate extinctions, I keep talking about emotions that I don’t have a name for. I know what grief is, having experienced the deaths of people close to me. And I know what terror is. I think finding ourselves in the middle of extinction creates feelings like grief and terror, but it’s some other emotion that doesn’t have a name.” In taking this lofty approach to the issue, the artists have most certainly done their homework, and then some.

The company has been gracious enough to share with us a list of texts that helped inform the piece. These works may help deepen audiences’ understanding of the show, but, perhaps more importantly, they will help deepen their understanding of the serious crisis we are currently living with. If confronting this harrowing information sounds daunting or terrifying or a surefire way to send yourself into fear-induced catatonia, believe me, I understand. Yet, in reading from these works, I’ve found being informed in my dread has been far more comforting than being ignorant in it. And thankfully, despite the dire nature of the situation, many of these writers chart concrete courses of action for how we might curb the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Taking in this full picture, perhaps you’ll find yourself not quite feeling grief, not quite feeling terror, but feeling that liminal emotion A Period of Animate Existence strives to articulate.

Vibrant Matter
Jane Bennett

Renowned political theorist Jane Bennet—known for her focus on nature, ethics, and affect— examines the active participation of nonhuman forces in natural events. Exploring just how political analyses of public events might change were we to acknowledge that agency is not strictly human, she suggests that such a change in perspective might provide impetus for more responsible, ecologically sound politics.

 

Key Writings
Henri Bergson

French philosopher Henri Bergson was an influential thinker of the early 20th century, one who recognized his time as a distinctly new and modern age, and in turn helped shape its intellectual discourse. At the core of his philosophy is his concept of Duration, a theory of time and consciousness, but most pertinent to the show is his concept of élan vital, his explanation for evolution (a relatively new concept at the time) and the development of organisms which essentializes life into “mobility itself.” This collection assembles Bergson’s most essential writings, including excerpts from Creative Evolution.

 

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Amitav Ghosh

Acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh takes to task our inability to grasp the scale and violence of climate change, particularly in terms of what he sees as an imaginative failure of literary writers. Arguing that the extreme nature of climate events make them resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining, he sees this as connected to the fact that politics and literature have become matters of personal moral reckoning rather than a platform for collective action. They are therefore, at the moment, unequipped to deal with what is truly the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ghosh sees the climate crisis as an opportunity for us to imagine other forms of human existence. He sees no better realm to address this task than in the world of fiction.

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Composing for the Future: Interview with Troy Herion

Posted September 5th, 2017

Troy Herion is a composer and filmmaker whose works unite contemporary music with visual arts through film, theater, dance, and concert music. His  compositions range from classical and avant-garde orchestral music to intricate and melodic electronic scores. He has teamed up with Dan Rothenberg (director) and Mimi Lien (design) for Pig Iron Theatre Company‘s A Period of Animate Existence, which has been dubbed “a work of symphonic theater” and premieres at the 2017 Fringe Festival. Period is structured as five moments and tackles questions about the future of life in such turbulent times. It also features more than 80 performers including  children and elders, as well as The Crossing, Contemporaneous, and members of the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale and Philadelphia Girls Choir, and Philomusica. Troy shared some of his thoughts with us on the creation of A Period of Animate Existence earlier this year.

FringeArts: What does the title A Period of Animate Existence mean to you? And how did you first respond to it?

Troy Herion: When you look up the word “life” in the dictionary, one of the definitions you will find is: “a period of animate existence.” Our piece looks at the concept of life from a zoomed out perspective—one that tries to consider where life came from and where it is going. When I think of the dictionary definition of life—a “period” of animate existence—the word period implies something with a beginning and an end. The period of my own life is barely conceivable—to think I have a beginning and an end. But when I zoom out and think about the period of life on earth, or life in the universe, the origins and the future trajectory of this continuum of life are entirely beyond my imagination. When we consider the idea that life is a continuum, that all living things on Earth are part of an unbroken chain going back to the first emergence, and continuing into the future from generation to generation, then the period of animate existence is really on a timescale beyond comprehension.

FringeArts: How do you incorporate or consider the other artistic processes happening on this show when composing?

Troy Herion: I’m sort of obsessed with the ways music combines with things like images, environments, and story. I tend to work holistically by imagining music in some sort of context, which has led me to some more interdisciplinary projects like my visual music films. I’m interested in synesthesia, and I experience music as a very tactile thing. Sounds have color and weight, they can travel like objects in space with momentum and friction. So my music is definitely inspired by colors, textures, brightness, and movement. A Period of Animate Existence is a unique project in that we are writing (and revising) the music, story, choreography, and visual design simultaneously. I tend to be inspired by a concept or an image from Dan or Mimi, and then will write an unfinished demo of music. We then try to combine the music and design sketches, so that each can be influenced by the other.

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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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2017 Festival Spotlight: Family Friendly Fare, Part 2

Posted August 27th, 2017

Just because it’s at the Fringe doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home. Check out some of the Festival’s productions appropriate for all ages. Bring the whole family! Check out Part 1 here.

 

A Period of Animate Existence @ Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts 
Pig Iron Theatre Company

Children, elders, and machines contemplate the future in a time of dire predictions and rapid technological change in this work of symphonic theater. How do we contemplate the future in such a perilous time, an era called the “Sixth Extinction,” when up to 50 percent of all living species might die off? An inspired, large-scale melding of music, design, and theater, A Period of Animate Existence investigates the intense, unnamable emotions that arise in a time of extinction. More info and tickets here.

 

Photo by Michael Bach.

Lost in the Woods @ German Society of Pennsylvania
A Moment for Music

Lost in the Woods is the journey of two starving children who must find their way in a world that threatens to both empower and devour them. This family-friendly romp through Hansel and Gretel’s forest is a multimedia adventure featuring classical, jazz, and pop singing, lip-sync, and dance. More tickets and info here.

 

Photo by Michael Ermilio.

 

Life Lines @ Christ Church Neighborhood House 
Tangle Movement Arts

Seven women collide and are changed forever. In this dynamic circus-theater show, strangers meet their match, empty rooms listen in, and women find their power in flight. Tangle’s acrobats climb trapezes and aerial silks as they face sudden changes, spark chain reactions, and test the hidden threads that bind us.

 

Worktable @ BOK
Kate McIntosh

We provide the hammer, you do the rest. Worktable is a live installation that takes place in a series of rooms, which visitors engage with one at a time. Having signed up beforehand for a specific time slot, you enter and can stay as long as you like. Once inside there are instructions, equipment, and safety goggles so you can get to work—it’s up to you to decide how things come apart, and how they fall back together. More info and tickets here.

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Textbook Definition of Life: Interview with Dan Rothenberg of Pig Iron

Posted July 13th, 2017

“I think the question ‘Does a machine have a perspective?’ is another way of asking the question ‘What is alive and not alive?'”

Brilliant in their innovation and shining in their craft, the Pig Iron Theater Company has earned its accolades for its artistic excellence. The recipient of several Obie awards, the company never fails to amaze in its fresh, interdisciplinary takes on current events and social themes of the human experience. Dan Rothenberg is one of the founders and artistic directors of Pig Iron, producing their newest work, A Period of Animate Existence. This production has amounted to a huge collaboration between actors, musicians, and a number of choirs, culminating in a show about the human experience of climate change, in the form of a symphony. We caught up with Dan to find out about how the idea for this show came about, and what it’s been like to put it all together.

FringeArts: How did the title A Period of Animate Existence come into being?

Dan Rothenberg: Troy Herion proposed this title.  He looked up the word “life” in the dictionary.  It is a textbook definition. We were working with a few different sources of inspiration: Alan Watts, who talks about “the rocks peopling” as a way of imagining the beginnings of life on Earth, and understanding that we organic creatures are made out of exactly the same stuff as inorganic rocks. We looked at Richard Dawkins and “the Selfish Gene,” which talks about humans as big lumbering robots “operated” by genes within us.  This grade-school question: “what’s the difference between alive and not-alive?” remains elusive for both scientists and philosophers, even today.

FringeArts: How did you go about gathering your key collaborators, what were the artistic conversations you were hoping to foster between not just them and Pig Iron, but between each other?

Dan Rothenberg: Some of the collaborators are folks I’ve worked with before for years, like Tyler Micoleau (lights) and Nick Kourtides (sound). These are people I trust who have contributed to some of the Pig Iron work I am most proud of. I am working with the librettists Kate Tarker and Will Eno, and with choreographer Beth Gill, for the first time. We were looking for artists who take on big ideas and who care about form. People who make work in which the form is front and center.  Especially with choreographer Beth Gill, I wanted somebody with a deeply mathematical mind. Someone who sees the poetry in mathematics, since I feel that this piece is about seeing the world in terms of fundamental forces rather than as a set of relationships between people.

FringeArts: What prompted the five movements structure?

Dan Rothenberg: Gustav Mahler said that a symphony must be like the world, containing everything. So the five-movement structure is a symphonic structure. It’s our own “13 ways of looking at a blackbird.” A deliberate effort to get at something that’s too large to get your head around, by coming at it from five very different angles.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Dito van Reigersberg

Posted September 23rd, 2016
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Dito Van Reigersberg in Zero Cost House (photo by JJ Tiziou)

Name: Dito van Reigersberg, sometimes Martha Graham Cracker

Type of Artist: Actor/Cabaret Performer

CompanyPig Iron Theatre Company, Co-Founder

This is a partial list of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Cafeteria, Pig Iron, 1997 (First Fringe!) – Charlotte the cafeteria lady
The Lorca Cycle, Pig Iron, 1999 – Federico
Shut Eye, Pig Iron, 2001 – Clark
Hell Meets Henry Halfway, Pig Iron, 2004 – Henry
Isabella, Pig Iron, 2007 – Angelo
Welcome to Yuba City, Pig Iron, 2009 – Tom White/Joaquin
Takes, Nichole Canuso Dance Company, 2010
Oedipus at FDR Park, 2010, – Messenger
Twelfth Night or What You Will, Pig Iron, 2011 – Orsino
Zero Cost House, Pig Iron, 2012 – Present Okada
Pay Up, Pig Iron, 2013 – Scene 21

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016: I’m mostly watching this year but then closing the festival with a Martha Graham Cracker show at FringeArts on the 24th of September, with some special guests I’m very excited about. I’ll also be doing sprints to prepare for scaling the steep seating risers of the FringeArts theatre. I have lovingly dubbed those FringeArts stairs “the K2 of alternative theatre.”

First Fringe I attended and highlight: I moved to Philly just in time for the first Festival in 1997.  During that first Fringe I remember meeting the incredible members of Headlong Dance Theater and New Paradise Labs, who by now have become lifelong friends (I think Whit McLaughlin let us Pig Ironers watch a dress rehearsal of Gold Russian Finger Love, a sort of James Bond fantasia which was deliciously odd and unforgettably beautiful); I guess that was the moment I realized that, as the Talking Heads might say, “this must be the place.”

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from Cafeteria (photo by JJ Tiziou)

First Fringe I participated in: So when we arrived in Philly in 1997, we had rehearsed all summer at Swarthmore College to make a wordless piece about the American life-cycle called Cafeteria. The piece is set in junior high, a corporate and then a retirement home cafeteria, and all the dramatic action in the show is told in movement. We had no audience in Philly, no sense of what kind of reach the Fringe might have, and also we had this new, weird, hard-to-categorize piece to try to sell. Thankfully we were veterans of the Edinburgh Fringe, so we shamelessly flyered for the show all over town like mad people and hoped for the best.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Mel Krodman

Posted June 21st, 2016

Name: Mel Krodman

Type of Artist: Performer, creator

Companies: I make and perform work with various ensembles including the Philadelphia-based companies Pig Iron Theatre Company, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, and No Face Performance Group. And since 2010 I’ve worked in collaborative partnership with New Orleans-based choreographer Kelly Bond.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Elephant, 2010, with Kelly Bond – performer, creator
Colony, 2012, with Kelly Bond – performer, co-choreogrpaher
Swamp Is On, 2015, with Pig Iron Theatre Company and Dr. Dog – performer, creatorIMG_4776

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Sincerity Project with Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (performer, creator).
Also in November my show JEAN & TERRY: Your Guides Through Dark, Light, and Nebulous will premiere at FringeArts.

First Fringe I attended: The first time I came to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival was with Kelly Bond when we were producing Elephant in 2010.  We were both still living in DC and drove into town in pouring down rain, rushing to make it to the Kimmel on time to see Jérôme Bel’s piece Cédric Andrieux. I was absolutely blown away by this work—instantly impacted, forever changed. As soon as the show was over we jumped back into the car and were rushing (possibly even more than before) to make it to Brian Sanders’ JUNK. It was a truly jam packed evening of dance work at two ends of a spectrum: Bell’s stripped down and Brian’s spectacle. From then on I was in love with Philly and totally hooked on the festival.

First Fringe I participated in: I was a co-creator and performer, along with Lillian Cho, in Kelly’s piece Elephant. Kelly had found a venue that was an artists’ collective—FLUX space—in North Kensington up near Allegheny and Front streets. Our piece was performed entirely in the nude, which was kind of hilarious in this raw space with fine sawdust everywhere. And it was hot out and we were sweating. So you can imagine. But that kind of artists’ space was so inspiring to see. It was my introduction to the badass DIY Philly art scene that I love. It was during this run of Elephant that we met the magnificent Megan Bridge of <fidget> space. She invited us to come back and perform Elephant at <fidget> the following spring. In 2014-15 Kelly and I were yearlong artists in residence with <fidget>, so we have Fringe to thank for launching a significant creative relationship and friendship.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Corinna Burns

Posted June 2nd, 2016

Name: Corinna Burns

Type of Artist: Theater MakerCorinnaBurns

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Wow. A lot.
A series of short plays produced by the now-defunct Brick Playhouse performed at the now-defunct Old Original Bookbinders, 1996
Bartleby the Scrivener, the Madmen, 1998 – actor, creator
The Trial, 1999 – adaptor, director
Live at the Apollo Diner, Theatre Exile, 1999 – performer
Live Girls, 2000 – co-creator, performer
Brinksmanship!, Termite TV, Bad Penny Productions, 2001 – co-creator, performer
Little/Yma, Weak Chin Productions, 2004 – actor
Pay Up!, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2005 – performer, creator
Isabella, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2005 and 2013 – performer, creator
Oedipus, Emanuelle Delpeche at FDR, 2008 – actor
Purr Pull Reign, Johnny Showcase, 2009 – Lady Dancer
Raw Stitch, Jackie Goldfinger, 2012 – actor
The End of Hope, the End of Desire, [ad hoc theatre project], 2013 – actor
99 Breakups, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2014 – performer, creator

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: I’m not signed up for anything (so far) this year! But that just means I can go see more stuff!

First Fringe I attended: I’ve been Fringe-ing since the beginning. I remember doing these little plays at Bookbinders while people ate their three-course lunches and thinking how exciting it was that Philadelphia now had this special time of the year when people could think about performance in new ways. Even though in that year, that particular project wasn’t super boundary-pushing, we were still performing new plays for an audience of people that would otherwise never have been exposed to them. And in the early years, the Fringe office was on Vine Street and the Fringe Bar was at what I think was a Turkish restaurant across the street, and everything was performed in Old City, so there was a closeness to everything. You’d run from show to show to show because you really could. And everyone would gather at the bar to dance and talk at the end of every night.20160526_135838

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I produced entirely on my own was an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, performed by three actors at the Museum of Jewish American History in their old space. What is most memorable to me about that experience: the number of people who are willing to help you for free! I think the museum gave me the space for free, and the actors basically donated their time, although we split the profits at the end. And that people who don’t know you will come to see your show!!! I’ve never not had audiences for any of my Fringe shows, even the ones that I thought were a disaster and I didn’t want anyone to see (Live Girls)!!

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: I think I’ve been blessed to be in some of the Fringiest of the Fringe, but I’d have to say that the experience of performing Oedipus at FDR down at FDR Skate Park would top the list. Pure magic. Walking the edge of the bowl in a red satin dress with Pearce Bunting as the blind Oedipus holding on to my yards-long train, audience seated in the other end of the bowl, the chorus of skaters swooping through the space like bats, and the intimacy of all the sound happening through headphones because the atmospheric noise of being under I-95 made it otherwise impossible to hear anything—being so far from the audience but able to whisper in their ears. I feel so blessed to have been a part of that show.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Terry Brennan

Posted May 27th, 2016

Name: Terry BrennanTerry Brennan

Type of Artist: Devised Theater Actor/Director

Company: Tribe of Fools

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Echo (2007), Armageddon at the Mushroom Village (2009), Dracula (2010), Heavy Metal Dance Fag (2011), Antihero (2013), Two Street (2014), Zombies . . . with Guns (2015).

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Antihero (remount), director

First Fringe I attended: 2004. The highlight was Pig Iron’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway.

First Fringe I participated in: 2007. The Metro didn’t review our show (Echo) because we only ran one week, but they later called us one of the “best surprises of 2007.” That was a really big deal for us at the time.

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Berserker Residents—The Jersey Devil. Before I saw The Jersey Devil I was always trying to “make art” or “do what a good artist would do,” and these guys made a show that had all the kind of stuff that I loved—AND IT WAS ART. It made me realize that I was my own artist and I had the ability and permission to make the type of work that—at the time—wasn’t being made as much and that’s not only okay, that is art.IMG_1882

Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: The Berserker Residents. After seeing The Jersey Devil I was up in their face as often as possible about possibly helping them, working together, whatever. They needed someone to play a small role that originally was supposed to only be a mentioned character. As the process went on they realized this character was going to need to make a cameo appearance at the end of the play. Because of my intense love of The Jersey Devil and my less than subtle offers to work with them, they asked me to play the role.

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Museum of Broken Relationships

Posted September 4th, 2014

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

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

–Nicholas Gilewicz

The Untenable Career of a Successful Philadelphia Theater Artist: Interview with Charlotte Ford

Posted May 20th, 2014

“The most I’ve ever made in a year is $23,000, and that year was filled with 60-hour weeks of overlapping work, which I was thrilled to have.”

Charlotte Ford. Photo by JJ Tiziou.

Charlotte Ford. Photo by JJ Tiziou.

Philadelphia’s theater scene is better than ever—haven’t you heard? With so many shows, exciting performers, original work, and new theater arts grads flooding the city each year you might mistake it for being healthy. But when so few of its practitioners, on the artistic side of things especially, can eke out a living wage from it, and when even its most successful artists live a tenuous economic existence, it is time to take a serious look at how poor the health of the theater industry is in this city.

Theater artist Charlotte Ford is well known in Philadelphia thanks to her creations like BANG (Live Arts Festival, 2012), a huge audience and critical success, which she also produced and performed in. She has also been a widely seen performer with Pig Iron, the Arden, and Theater Exile, among many others, including some of the areas most innovative “art-maker” types. Over the past five or six years, she has made her living as a theater artist—meaning she stitched together income from grants that support the work she creates herself (also including Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl and Chicken), acting gigs, and teaching. Recently, however, she took a look into the future and did not like the view. She has decided to put her theater career on hold, go back to school to get a masters degree in a field that would allow her to earn a decent wage, and pursue a different future.

Recently, we caught up with Charlotte, who shared with us both how she came to make this decision, and how the economics of being a theater artist in Philadelphia just don’t hold up.

FringeArts: Recently you made a big career decision—can you explain what that was and how it came about?

Charlotte Ford: I decided to return to school to get a second masters degree in speech language pathology. The catalyst was the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative [PTI, which now exists under the more general banner of The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage] changing its funding guidelines. I didn’t receive funding for my new project. It seemed likely, given the other artists who had also relied on PTI funding for years and were denied funding, that I may never receive funding from them again. PTI has been the main funding source behind each play I’ve made. I lost the majority of my income for the year, and was scrambling to make enough money to pay rent and eat, and needed a new long term plan. I’ve been able to make a living as an artist without a “day job” for the past five years. Suddenly, I needed a day job. I love teaching, and have an MFA [in theater], which allows me to teach at the college level, but tenure track teaching gigs are about as scarce as foundation funding these days.

FringeArts: What got you interested in speech language therapy?

Charlotte Ford: I started by researching jobs that were in demand. I didn’t want to accrue more student loan debt and then graduate without any job prospects. Most speech language pathology [SLP] programs boast a one-hundred percent hire rate. Every pathologist that I spoke with loved their job. I’m excited to research how theater exercises, which can foster huge personal growth, could help clients who stutter, have selective mutism, or autism. SLP work also seems like a lucrative freelance gig where I could still make theater. If I had to get a day job, I wanted it to be meaningful work.

Charlotte (left) with Sarah Sanford and Lee Etzold in BANG. Photo by Kevin Monko.

Charlotte (left) with Sarah Sanford and Lee Etzold in BANG. Photo by Kevin Monko.

FringeArts: Looking over the few years, can you roughly breakdown where your income came from?

Charlotte Ford: It really depends on the year, but usually, about a third of my work is made of one or two “straight” acting gigs a year at a local regional theater. Half of my year is devoted to creating my own work, and the remainder is filled by teaching gigs—I teach for Pig Iron, at the Arden Theatre, as well as lots of workshops at local high schools and colleges. I had a great experience directing and teaching at Bryn Mawr College.

It can be a tricky juggling act of taking on too may jobs because nothing pays super well, and you need to make up for the weeks of the year when you may have no employment at all, which is difficult financially and emotionally. The most I’ve ever made in a year is $23,000, and that year was filled with sixty-hour weeks of overlapping work, which I was thrilled to have.

With Matt Pfeiffer in Red Light Winter at Theatre Exile.

With Matt Pfeiffer in Red Light Winter at Theatre Exile.

FringeArts: How did you go about organizing your life so as to put this all together?

Charlotte Ford: The busy year—the year I made that miraculous $23,000—all my projects overlapped. So first I was in a show at Theatre Exile while teaching, and then I was creating BANG while teaching and creating a show at Bryn Mawr College, and then rehearsing at the Arden while also creating the show at Bryn Mawr, then simultaneously teaching for Pig Iron and the Arden while performing at the Arden and prepping for BANG, then creating BANG again. So those are mostly sixty-plus-hour weeks. But then I didn’t get any acting gigs for the fall, so I needed to live off of the money I’d made in the winter and spring. That’s part of the problem: weeks of unemployment, while a necessary break after no days off for months, eat into your meager reserve. There’s no paid vacation.

FringeArts: What made you finally see this path as unsustainable?

Charlotte Ford: I was initially excited when I had enough theater work to fill out a year and quit my day job, and I naively believed that if I kept improving and having more success, that I would make more money. I was up for the Pew [grant] in 2013, and made it through four rounds of feedback before not getting it. They read you some of the feedback. One person on the panel said, “She actually thinks she can make a living doing this?” When I didn’t get the funding, after having years of increasingly successful work and still scraping by, I was like, yeah, maybe she’s right. I can’t afford to do this anymore. Maybe I could have worked smarter, and not harder—maybe I could have done a better job of diversifying my funding, or teamed up with universities, or if I was willing to relocate . . .

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If You Don’t Know Now You Know: Mini Artist Profiles at Philly Post

Posted September 3rd, 2013

sobelle-the-object-lesson-2Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo runs down 10 notable FringeArts performers worth checking out this year.

It’s a pretty good quick guide to some awesome shows this year, actually: Martha Stuckey of Pay Up, Gunnar Montana of Basement, McKenzie Maula of A Doll’s House, James Michael Baker of Ballad of Joe Hill, Geoff Sobelle of The Object Lesson, Jess Conda of Eternal Glamnation and Pay Up, Scott Sheppard of Go Long Big Softie, Mary Tuomanen of St. Joan, Betrayed, Kevin Glaccum of Dutch Masters, and Brian Sanders of Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak.

If you’re looking for somebody to pick some especially adventurous shows for you, you couldn’t do much better than Victor’s list.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Photo of Geoff Sobelle by Lars Jan.

Get Caught Up with “Pay Up”

Posted August 27th, 2013

PayUpTumblrImage

Do you have your mind on your money and your money on your mind? Or perhaps money ain’t a thang? Regardless, visit Pig Iron’s handy tumblr on their 2013 FringeArts remount of Pay Up, where you can find discourse about dollars, a photo of Justin Bieber‘s monkey in quarantine, among other things.

Pig Iron’s Pay Up runs nearly every day September 4 through 22 at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street, Chinatown. $25, times vary.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

This House Is Made of Waste Products Only: Thinking about Kyohei Sakaguchi

Posted September 18th, 2012

Julius Ferraro is a freelance writer in Philadelphia, a former Festival Guide intern, and regular blog contributor.

Kyohei Sakaguchi. Photo via Pig Iron.

One of the 2012 Live Arts Festival highlights is Toshiki Okada and Pig Iron Theatreʼs Zero Cost House. The show is about, among other things, Kyohei Sakaguchi. Though Sakaguchi is relatively unheard-of in the United States, his Zero Yen House project has traveled as close as Canada, and with the sustainability movement in full force here, heʼs a figure who bears extensive discussion.

Sakaguchi is an artist, a documentarian, the author of two books, a musician and illustrator, and an avid blogger and tweeter. He is Bear Grylls crossed with John Lennon. He is an architect who does not build houses, a Tokyo-based artist, a performance architect, and a revolutionary. But it was not until March of 2011 that he became the Prime Minister of Japan.

After the jump: Running the new government, living in a water tank, and questions of freedom.

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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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The Weekender: What You’re Doing and Why

Posted August 24th, 2012

Rest up and recharge, boys and girls, because we’re only two weeks out from opening weekend of the festivals, holy crap! Here are a few things to get up to this weekend:

>>>All weekend: Explore Edgar Allen Poe, his death, and production documentation at the new most excellent tumblr for Red-eye to Havre de Grace, which opens September 7 at the Live Arts Festival.

>>>All weekend: More exploring. Next week, you’ll read intrepid blog contributor Julius Ferraro’s report on Museum Without Walls, a new way to explore the remarkable collection of 51 sculptures along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive. Go this weekend, and compare notes with Julius on Monday.

>>>Saturday: The first of two must-do Saturday shows, Megan Mazarick presents DBDP, AKA the David Bowie Dance Project, an informal showing of work set to David Bowie songs at the Mascher Space Cooperative. Dancers include Bethany Formica, David Konyk, Beau Hancock, Lindsay Browning, and others. 8:00 pm. (And don’t forget to check out Megan’s Philly Fringe show, Mining the Mine of the Mind for Minderals.)

>>>Saturday: After DBDP, bust down Frankford Avenue to Johnny Brenda’s. Martha Graham Cracker turns seven, yikes, she’s old stately and handsome. What a dame! Dame Martha. Pre-Martha performances include a special pre-festival performance from the dames of Bang!, who, according to JB’s website, “promise a naked karaoke keytar extravaganza.” Sets start at 9:00 pm.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

How Bad It Can Go: The Strange Pleasures Of Live Theater Gone Wrong

Posted July 24th, 2012

Sarah Jordan has written extensively for national and regional magazines and newspapers. She is also the author of four books and a regular contributor to the Festival Blog.

Left to right: Geoff Sobelle, Quinn Bauriedel and Trey Lyford in machines x7

Only five minutes from the end of the show. Only five minutes. That’s what Pig Iron Theatre’s Quinn Bauriedel remembers thinking about his 2009 show machines machines machines machines machines machines machines when he found himself backstage wearing a black plastic bag covered in cereal and unable to bring his Rube Goldberg-ian masterpiece across the finish line. Moments earlier Bauriedel had been shot into “outer space” on a conveyor belt on a plank of wood. Fellow performer Geoff Sobelle had kicked the board to shoot him through a cat door leading offstage, but things hadn’t gone right with the stunt and Bauriedel had cracked his head on a two-by-four as he went through. (Someone said later it looked like a puppet head thrown against a wall.)

With Sobelle on stage and the injured actor still needing to run a light cue, Bauriedel knew his tingling head and diminishing sensation in his fingers and toes wasn’t good. He remembers wondering if he would be paralyzed. “It had been one of the great performing moments of my life, and I was five minutes away from the end,” he recalls. “But I couldn’t continue. What’s funny is that Geoff made an announcement that one of the actors was injured and we had to wrap it up, but the audience thought it was just the next level of the show with an actor hurting himself . . .five minutes later the audience is still waiting for something to happen.” The next thing was the EMTs carting Bauriedel off to the hospital.

“We had trained the audience to believe anything was possible,” says the actor.

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Lee Etzold And Her World Of Funny

Posted May 7th, 2012

Lee Etzold with Madi Distefano, co-artistic directors of BRAT Productions, going over finances.

When it comes to creating art, Lee Etzold is not afraid to work up a sweat.

“I’m not really a sit-down-at-a-computer playwright. I’m more of a get-in-a-big-space-and-jump-around playwright,” she explains.

A lifelong athlete, Etzold has always been a very physical person. She played sports in high school and believed she would play basketball or field hockey in college. Everything changed when she auditioned for a school play and turned her attention to the arts. As an actor and playwright today, she brings her athletic background to the stage.

“Because I was an athlete first, I always have a physical approach to theater. I have better muscle memory than any other kind of memory,” she says; in fact, she never learns her lines until she learns her blocking. [Ed note: hmmm, actors have an excuse for everything.]

After college, Etzold moved to Philadelphia to work with New Paradise Laboratories, the experimental theater company headed by director Whit MacLaughlin. It was Philadelphia that inadvertently sparked her imagination and led her to create her own work.

Etzold originally moved to Philadelphia during the Philly Fringe and saw the city rife with musicians and actors. After the shows, she felt lonely as the city went back to business as usual. “I felt like everyone I had just met had vanished into their other lives. I started writing songs—ridiculously depressing songs that made me laugh at myself.”

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