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Posts Tagged ‘Simpatico Theatre’

The Best of J Hernandez

Posted August 11th, 2018

In 1996, Floridian Ricardo Lopez mailed a bomb to Icelandic singer Bjork, then shot himself in front of a video camera, his falling body revealing the words “The best of me” on the wall behind him. Theater artist J Hernandez takes these words as the title for his entry into the Simpatico Theatre’s 2018 Fringe Festival show, 4Solo. Cowritten with Amanda Schoonover, “The Best of Me” is one of four solo pieces by male artists contemplating masculinity in America and exploring the repercussions of our hyper-gendered society.

Hernandez spoke to FringeArts about the issues his play raises and about his experiences in Philadelphia theater.

FringeArts: What inspired “The Best of Me”?

J Hernandez: I don’t know. On accident I read the story of Ricardo Lopez which led me to the 18 hours of footage he recorded over the period of 9 months before he shot himself in front of a rolling camcorder. His isolation, his issues with mental illness, his loneliness as an artist, his struggle in finding his own cultural identity in America being a child of immigrants, and his hang ups with his own skin, it led me to believe that that Ricardo and I aren’t so dissimilar … and I found that frightening … but it’s almost typical for any Latnix man who’s felt “different” or felt that they “don’t belong.”

There’s a pecking order in the Latinx community, men, women, cat, dog, it doesn’t matter, and it takes its toll on a good number of us. Ricardo’s story isn’t wholly about a man who stalked a celebrity … stalking the celebrity gave him the excuse he needed to take his own life … you don’t see stories like this from a brown person’s perspective. It made me sad. It made me think. It made me want to sit down and write.   

FringeArts: How does it fit with the other pieces in the show?

J Hernandez: These are all pieces starring men, but the stories we’re telling aren’t what we normally imagine when we think of your standard male-driven narrative.

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Sam Tower Straps On Her Director’s Helmet For Simpatico’s Red Bike

Posted June 1st, 2018

Sam Tower is a longtime Fringe Festival favorite, having participated in at least six Festival shows since 2009. Her newly renamed production company, Ninth Planet produced Festival hits 901 Nowhere Street (2016) and Strange Tenants (2017).

This month, she’s teaming up with Simpatico Theatre as director for Red Bike, a play written by Caridad Svich that follows an 11-year-old child who, while riding a bike, discovers a world bigger than they could have imagined. We asked Sam about the play, her directing, and her newly rebranded company.

FringeArts: How did you become involved in this project?

Sam Tower. Photos courtesy Plate 3.

Sam Tower. Photo courtesy Plate 3.

Sam Tower: When Allison Heishman became the new artistic director of Simpatico Theatre, it was clear that her talents as a producer and director would support the community-centered mission of the company, and that she would continue to bring imaginative, socially driven new work to Philadelphia. Well, she decided to waste NO time in getting a new season up on its feet. She approached me as a director for Red Bike, and upon my first reading of Caridad’s play I was shook/enthralled/conflicted/inspired… all the things you want to be when beginning a new artistic process.

FringeArts: What appeals to you about Caridad Svich’s writing and this play in particular?

Sam Tower: The play is direct address from the perspective of “The Kid”, an 11-year-old. “The Kid” is a detailed storyteller, and also a dizzying narrator, taking you down winding curves and tunnels of memory, fantasy and vulnerable confessions of the pre-adolescent person. The play is cyclical, raw and poetic, and the language is so vibrant — dreamy and cutting at the same time. On first reading, I was already seeing three bodies in space as The Kid and hearing percussive musical scoring inside my head — that’s when you know you have to go for it. I quickly brought Jordan McCree and Andrew Nittoli of ILL DOOTS on board as live musicians to score this Kid’s epic afternoon on their bike.

FringeArts: How does directing this play fit into your other work?

Sam Tower: Caridad has written, “Writing for live performance is about writing for the body. It’s all in the body,” which speaks to my artistic process so directly. The rhythm and physicality of the body are integral in the work I make with actors. Athletic physicality is a vessel to be filled, a container for our deepest rivers of unexplainable expression. Those experiences must be held somehow. And in this play, they live in between the details, in lives in the long strings of broken words, they live in the music, and in the body.

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