Go Deeper

Illadelph or Portlandia?

Posted September 18th, 2012

Ellen Freeman is a freelance writer and former Festival Blog intern who is based in Oregon.

We’re iller than thou. Portland’s still pretty awesome, though.

Remember the segment Adam Carolla used to do on the radio show Loveline called “Germany or Florida?” Oh, you had better things to do at 11:00 pm on weekdays than listen to ecstasy-addled sexually-active teens discuss their problems with Dr. Drew? Well the concept was simple: listeners would call in with bizarre news headlines like “Woman wearing sausage earrings is mauled by pack of toy poodles” and the hosts would try to guess whether the event took place in Germany or Florida.

Here at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe, we’ve come up with an even better game called “Philadelphia or Portland?” The two cities have been duking it out for supremacy in the categories of foodie snobbery, beer-lovers-per-capita, and rapidity of gentrification for years, but they’ve got something else in common—both are currently hosting some of the world’s finest performing arts festivals: the Time Based Art Festival in Portland and the Live Arts/Fringe Fest here, of course. We’ve compiled a list of highlights from both festivals, leaving it up to you to guess which city you can catch each event in. And before you say “That’s so ___________ (fill in city here),” remember that the answers may surprise you.

1) Shakespeare’s classic Antony and Cleopatra is transported through time and space to modern-day Egypt, as represented by the Nefertiti busts and sarcophagi of the Ancient Egyptian wing of the host city’s art museum.

2) Fat-livered audience members shotgun beers in time with the cast of a drinking-game-cum-sketch-comedy-show performed in a pub.

3) One of the creators of those wacky Old Spice commercials pulls audience members onstage for a live life-coaching session.

4) Audiences downward-dog and open their heart chakras to live acoustic music in a nirvana-inducing musical yoga journey.

5) More than 150 amateur dancers celebrate the joy of community in a performance that’s part flash-mob, part line dance extravaganza.

6) A genderqueer chanteuse belts out her R&B condemnation of societal evils like the gender binary and capitalism while making ample use of butt plugs and onstage golden showers.

7) An experimental American pop band plays auto-tuned covers of Tuareg desert jams.

8) A choreographer who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome crafts a dance inspired by her own tics.

9) Audiences will recognize the harsh fluorescent lighting and excruciating/hilarious mundanity of these gesture-driven vignettes depicting office life, performed in Japanese with projected English subtitles.

After the jump: Answers!

1) Philadelphia! Though Portland is artsy to the core, its art museums can’t touch Philly’s PMA and the Penn Museum, where The Porch Room/The Underground Shakespeare Company’s performance of Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives ran.

2) Philadelphia! Though Portland holds the title of Beervana [Editorial interjection: while impressive, Portland’s beer scene wasn’t really anything beyond what we got here. The drivers, however, are much nicer. –NG], Philadelphians love to get sloshed, which you can do at The Pub Theater Company’s Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play.

3) Portland! Artist Andrew Dickson is one of the brains at Portland’s Weiden + Kennedy, and will be airing people’s dirty laundry in Life Coach.

Andrew Dickson. Photo by Lord Blakely.

4) Philadelphia! And you thought grown-ups only smoked pot on the West Coast. [Note: pot-smoking assumption exclusively that of Ellen Freeman. But hey, she lives in Portland. –NG]

5) Both! Choreographer Sylvain Émard Danse is putting on his Le Grand Continental

6) Portland! Paul Soileau, A.K.A. Christeene the “Gender Terrorist,” calls Austin home but has fans in Portland’s queer community.

From “Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech.”

7) Portland! Portland pop trio Brainstorm are collaborating with Sahel Sounds, a blog which was inspired by North African cellphone music, to perform the music of Tuareg musician Mdou Moctar.

8) Philadelphia! Band of Artists founder Sutie Madison embraced the language of her own twitches to create a dance set to music by a composer who also has the syndrome in Tourettes: A Dancing Disorder. (Closed September 15.)

9) Both! Japanese theater troupe Chelfitsch are performing Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech at both festivals, a performance which promises to be more exciting than an episode of the last season of The Office.

–Ellen Freeman