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A glitch in the festival: BIG CRUNCH Comes to Fringe

Posted August 8th, 2016
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Congdon as TOLVA (photo by Monique Baron)

Sam Congdon’s new solo piece, BIG CRUNCH, envisions a future world where a ruthless government strictly enforces gender roles. In this dystopian fantasy, one cyborg with a queer glitch rebels against the state enforced gender binary. “I’m inspired by the radical power of science fiction,” says Congdon. “I think especially right now we need stories of queers fighting back against the system. Science fiction allows us to both examine what things might look like in the worst case scenario future, but also how we might be able to change the world for the better.”

Congdon is a Philly based curator and multimedia artist. His work combines live performance, experimental electronic music, video, and new media. Two years ago, Congdon created the alter-ego TOLVA, “a space princess who travels the universe in an orb of vibrating color in search of the weird, the queer, and the magical.” Since TOLVA’s inception, she has evolved from an alias for Congdon’s musical work to “her own character with a developing back story and very separate personality,” says Congdon. He explains that this development has happened through performance: “It’s a process of trying things out, understanding what works and doesn’t, and building on that. I don’t think her evolution will ever really be complete.”

In BIG CRUNCH,  TOLVA performs as cyborg BC108. The robotic protagonist packages products at a make-up factory, where it obeys strict rules of gender expression. That is until one day when a “queer glitch” occurs in its programming. For Congdon, the piece explores the power of queer possibility in the face of government control. “Instead of thinking of glitches as problems that occur in a computer,” says Congdon, “I like to think of them in the same way mutations contribute to evolution in living organisms: they change and develop an entity in new and exciting ways. The ‘big crunch’ refers to the moment this glitch occurs in our cyborg protagonist.”

Audience members can look forward to spacey electronic music and a glitter-filled post apocalyptic landscape. For a peek at Congdon’s earlier work, check out this music video “faavric” by TOLVA.

Besides his independent work, Congdon is a founding member of the curatorial collective SuperObject. The collective celebrates queer experimental theatre and performance art by emerging Philadelphia artists. Two SuperObject co-founders, dramaturg JD Stokely and costume designer Najee Haynes-Follins, are collaborators for BIG CRUNCH. Congdon is also joined by musician Stephen Piccarella, and cinematographer Max Gideon Basch.

BIG CRUNCH premieres in the 2016 Fringe Festival this September at the 319 Performance Space at Vox Populi. A limited number of zines featuring local artwork can be purchased to accompany the performance.

BIG CRUNCH
Vox Populi’s 319 Performance Space
N 11th and Wood Streets
Sept. 15 and 22 at 8pm
Sept. 16 and 23 at 9pm

—Hannah Salzer