Go Deeper

I Smell Philly: Observations from 100% Philadelphia

Posted July 25th, 2014
Participants speak in 100% Brussels. Photo by TMitchell.

Participants speak in 100% Brussels. Photo by TMitchell.

This summer, I’ve been the Festival Guide management intern here at FringeArts. Since the guide went to print last week (hooray, come to our party!), I’ve been editing interviews with participants in 100% Philadelphia by the German artist collective Rimini Protokoll. The show stars one hundred Philadelphians­ chosen according to the city’s census data. These non-actors—who are statistically representative of varying races, genders, ages, and neighborhoods—will share their views on current issues and tell their stories onstage, exploring what it means to live in this diverse yet fragmented city of cheesesteak. We are currently compiling interviews with all one hundred participants for a booklet to accompany the performance.

From the first twenty-three interviews, I already feel privy to a unique peephole into the life of the city. Since we all have to wait until September 19th for the real show, I’ll share a few observations, using the entirely scientific whatever-sticks-out-in-my-memory method:

When asked what smell they associate with the city of brotherly love, participants tend to respond with one of three answers: Cheesesteak, pretzels, or garbage. As some participants salivated over Philadelphia’s abundant pretzel supply, others waxed poetic about the heat-induced summertime stench of trash, punctuated by the watery aromas of the Schuylkill and Delaware.

Education is one of the most popular causes that Philadelphians would demonstrate for. Multiple teachers spoke of their love for their students, and many parents and grandparents watched children outside their window with concern. In general, these Philadelphians seem to agree that the way to a better future, for their own children and for the city as a whole, is increasing access to fairer education.

In a similar vein, many participants expressed great belief in community. Many identified the reason they stayed in Philadelphia as the desire to strengthen their communities, inspired by the mentors that helped them or that they wished had been present.

Philadelphians love their music. When asked what sounds they associate with Philly, many participants responded with music genres or particular songs. Or SEPTA noises, which I suppose could be a music of its own, if we’re being generous. On that note, I’ll leave you with this Philly classic:

To encourage the entire city to participate, tickets to 100% Philadelphia are pay what you wish. Get your tickets online here.

100% Philadelphia
Temple Performing Arts Center
1837 N Broad St
(between Montgomery Ave and Norris St)
Wheelchair accessible
Sept 19 + 20 at 7pm
Sept 21 at 3pm

—Miriam Hwang-Carlos