Go Deeper

Previews, Showcases, and a Hot Meal for the Audience–HYBRIDGE Arts Collective Does It All

Posted June 27th, 2011

“We want to get away from art elitism; HYBRIDGE tries to make art affordable and accessible to everyone,” said Marcel Williams Foster, a co-founder of HYBRIDGE Arts Collective. A relative newcomer to the Philadelphia performing arts scene, HYBRIDGE creates opportunities for the kind of collaboration and cross-semination they want to see in Philadelphia’s arts community.

Thus far, their efforts have taken the form of “Last Mondays,” an ongoing monthly performance series held at Broad Street Ministry on the last Monday of every month. For its July and August “Last Mondays,” HYBRIDGE plans two showcases of performances that will go up at the 2011 Philly Fringe Festival.

“Because there are so many Fringe shows, just having a preview helps get people in the door during Festival time,” said Brie Hines, another co-founder of Hybridge. Brie directed The Jane Goodall: Experience which starred Marcel Williams Foster as a drag Jane Goodall.

“Early showings and previews allow for people to test things, to see how an audience will respond—that really helps the whole piece grow,” Marcel said of the experience, explaining that he wants Last Mondays to serve as a place for Fringe artists to find that space for growth later this summer.

After the jump: the value of collaboration, Brie on branding, and how Fringe performers can hook up with HYBRIDGE.

All five HYBRIDGE founders, Marcel, Brie, Sam Tower, Kelly Turner, and Lindsay Erin Anderson, attended Headlong Performance Institute together. At HPI they met the theater artist Mark Lord, who had once run a monthly dinner/performance showcase. Inspired by Lord’s description, Brie and Kelly thought they should revive the tradition and Last Monday’s was born. For five dollars, an audience gets five performances and a vegetarian pasta dinner. HYBRIDGE ensures that each Last Monday performance showcases artists from the wide array of the performing arts, be they musicians, actors, poets, dancers, movement theater practitioners, or artists who find their creativity somewhere in the confluence of those categories.

HYBRIDGE aims to create a community for performance, to provide ongoing opportunities for artists in the city, to provide affordable art on the Avenue of the Arts, and to foster conversation between different art forms. Brie and Marcel explained that starting dialogue between artists plays an integral role in the development of work and community. At one “Last Monday,” Marcel watched dancer Katherine Kiefer Stark‘s available space reduced by a collaborator who laid tape on the floor to restrict her movements in a shrinking area. By the end, Marcel said, she could only move her arm in small, vertical gyrations in the air.

After the performance, Marcel struck up a conversation with Katherine, introducing her to the Mascher Space Co-op (a dance cooperative in Kensington), and informing her that he would be “stealing her ideas” from the piece that he just witnessed. Though he said it with a laugh, ultimately this “stealing” of ideas allows for growth in and exchange among the artistic community.

To encourage this exchange among Philly Fringe artists, HYBRIDGE will curate its July and August “Last Mondays,” inviting artists whom they think will benefit from early showings and discussions of their works-in-progress. (If you’re a Fringe artist and want to apply, HYBRIDGE wants to hear from you–click here for application info.)

Brie said that even artists who traditionally work together benefit from the intimacy of “Last Mondays.”

“We had two classical musicians here last month, and they loved talking with the dancers. They said that these two art forms work together so often, but they don’t talk outside of production meetings,” she said.

Brie and Marcel were quick to credit at least some of their success to Broad Street Ministry. “[They’ve] definitely been a gift to us,” Brie said. “[The staff] bend over backwards to make sure we can use the space as we need it,” including not charging them rent for a trial period of “Last Mondays.”

HYBRIDGE also has Broad Street Ministry to thank for the location of its July fundraiser, which will be held in BSM’s sanctuary space on Broad Street–you know the church with the big red doors across from the Kimmel Center? That’s the one. On July 16, Megan Mazarick will host a benefit featuring some past “Last Mondays” performers, including dancer Zornitsa Stoyanova,” the comedy of the Bech/Doh Sketch Show, and Headlong Dance Theater will headline.

And of course, HYBRIDGE members are themselves performing in the 2011 Philly Fringe. Through Hyphen-Nation Arts, Brie is directing Branded at Power Plant Productions. The show, she says, is “a study in how corporate culture and thought is permeated into society. As we develop it more we want to see how a corporation has certain ideologies, and when it changes, how it shifts our culture.”

Another member of HYBRIDGE, Lindsay Anderson, will perform in the show as well. And Sam Tower, also of HYBRIDGE, will bring the stories of Mohsin Mohi-Uh-Din’s Lollipops Crown Youth Arts Initiative to Frankford Avenue through her Bright Light Theater Company.

“It’s really busy,” Brie chuckled. “There’s always [something to be done]—work, a production meeting, dealing with stuff for HYBRIDGE, or going to see someone else’s work in progress.”

HYBRIDGE’s fundraiser is scheduled for July 16 at Broad Street Ministry, 315 South Broad Street, Avenue of the Arts. The Fringe-focused “Last Mondays” are scheduled for July 25 and August 29; for application information, click here.

–Logan Tiberi-Warner and Nicholas Gilewicz