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Posts Tagged ‘Terry Brennan’

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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Combat Theater and the Flipside of Violence

Posted June 5th, 2013

Terry Brennan puffs up his chest and speaks in a burly voice, mocking his inner idiot superhero. “Screw the system! I’m going to work outside the rules to ensure the rules are in place!”

Picture 3As brainchild of Tribe of Fools’ Antihero, the formally-trained gymnast found himself in threatening situations between fantasizing about fighting crime and doing combat-style theater. About five years ago, Brennan heard yelling while walking down South Broad Street in the late evening. Across the street, a guy is grabbing his girlfriend by the hair and “literally throwing her around.” Terry hurried over thinking about how he was probably going to get killed.

“I thought for a day, ‘Maybe I’ll just go around and make sure everyone’s okay.’ Then I thought, ‘That is fucking stupid. That’s what police are for.'”

Brennan did end up diffusing the situation slightly, and that’s when he started posing questions. “You inevitably would misunderstand situations,” he wonders aloud before going into superhero mode again, imagining himself as a bruised waiter ready to save the day after his shift ends.

In a reality without harness wires, the Tribe of Fools cast has been spending the past year learning parkour in a Fishtown studio to get the satire up to cinematic standards (Antihero’s homepage and fundraising site features clips of the cast practicing the street-based sport that involves ad-hoc acrobatics in urban environments). But like dreaming about being a superhero, parkour is not “terribly practical,” to put it in Brennan’s words. It was having to deal with Philadelphia’s public spectacles of domestic abuse and his own ego that left Brennan with unanswered questions about the physical residues of violence and a pitch for Tribe of Fools.

“It rests on the idea that the single individual sees everything incredibly clearly and doesn’t make any mistakes . . . we always cast ourselves as the hero.”

The poignancy and purpose for Antihero for Brennan comes in getting over the theatrics of violence in order exposing our personal responsibilities for violence. “I’ve never met anyone who’s said, ‘You know what the problem is? It’s me.’ That’s where this comes out of.” Brennan recalled how a day before our interview, he witnessed a man dragging a woman on the floor in a South Philly alleyway near Brennan’s block.

Picture 1When he started punching her full force in the face, “I just couldn’t take it anymore.” Brennan rushed behind the man and held his arms back long enough so that the young woman could escape. Brennan ran back to his living room to a furious girlfriend and some strange sensations.

“Even though [defending people] brings up a lot of weird feelings, there is a rush. There’s a lot of endorphins that run through your body.” Brennan wants to evoke what we get cheated out of at the movie theater.”When an act of violence of occurs, there’s all these unpredictable elements that just live in the air and float around.” He gets pissed off at how we have to be vigilant about challenging illusions of violence and heroism, such as his cousin’s idea that the last Ironman flick is going to prepare us to defend ourselves.

“I think the biggest disservice is that [movies] act like the when the actual act is done, that everything’s gone . . . they tell me that as long as I have good intentions, I can win a fight, and that is not true.”

By no means is Antihero a serious play. As the clips of parkour attest to, kicking and punching people is usually dealt with as a joke, and Brennan makes it clear that he’s not here to make a sociological analysis anytime soon. “We have a vocabulary in our culture of violence being hilarious, and we want to play on that.”

Antihero comes across as a joke on big cinema and a metaphor for the reality of theater and violence. Without the luxury of flying equipment and multiple retakes, we get an entertaining hybrid of the two that is sure to be thought-provoking.

-Monica Rocha

The Fringe Hit Experience (And Now What?): An Interview With Terry Brennan About 2011’s Heavy Metal Dance Fag

Posted April 3rd, 2012

Janice Rowland and Terry Brennan in Heavy.

In every Philly Fringe a few shows capture the festival buzz, and take off in popularity, audiences, and critical attention. In the 2011 Philly Fringe, Heavy Metal Dance Fag by Tribe of Fools definitely caught that buzz, establishing itself as a festival hit that nearly all Fringe goers knew about. It became the default show to see if you were going to see a Fringe show, and got a long glowing review from The Philadelphia Inquirer and a parade of good press from just about every media outlet. We wanted to find out how being the center of Fringe attention felt, what Tribe of Fools did to make it happen, and how, and if, the company has been able to use their Fringe success as something more than a one-off. We caught up with Tribe of Fools cofounder, and Heavy Metal Dance Fag co-creator and performer, Terry Brennan.

Live Arts: Did all the pieces just kind of come together for Heavy Metal Dance Fag, or did the buzz and the attention take you by surprise?

Terry Brennan: I can’t really speak for the rest of the cast, but the buzz and attention took me by surprise. We were hoping for some good buzz and word of mouth, we were promoting the show everywhere we could, and we tried to get as many reviewers and media folks in as we could. But Tribe of Fools has been creating shows since 2003 and every year we hope that lots of people come to see our shows and while recently we’ve been getting larger audiences, there were many times in the past when we thought we had a knock-out only to discover that the show just wasn’t received as well as we’d hoped it would be. So, I was psychologically prepared for Heavy Metal Dance Fag to be received tepidly as well. After a bunch of good reviews the first weekend, the biggest being Howie Shapiro’s glowing review in the Inquirer, I was floored. I didn’t really know how to react.

LA: Were you prepared for the attention, and did it alter the show in anyway—either as a performer or a producer? 

TB: Well, as a performer the only thing that really affected me was occasionally there would be people in the audience that I saw who intimidated me. During the show I have six sections of a eulogy for [the main character] Timmy’s father that I give. If I didn’t hit my light correctly, which was rare since it was a single spotlight, I could see people in the first row. One night I saw that Frank X was sitting in the front row and I almost went up on my lines. But usually I just tried to do the show, not think about the buzz or who might be in the audience, and if I did that it didn’t really affect the show too much.
As a producer, it altered a lot of stuff. Mostly ticket stuff and infrastructure stuff: boring stuff. But it really changed the way we deal with audience members because so many different types of people came to see our work. We usually just get Fringy young adults and a few older theater-goers who are looking for something weird and different. But Heavy Metal Dance Fag brought in everybody: young, old, theatre-types, non-theatre-types, LGBT, old-school South Philly—everybody.

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