Go Deeper Fringe at 20 Profile: Hannah Van Sciver

Fringe at 20 Profile: Hannah Van Sciver

Posted May 24th, 2016
Hannah Van Sciver in Safe Space, Photo: JJ Tizou Photography.

Hannah Van Sciver in Safe Space, Photo: JJ Tizou Photography.

Name: Hannah Van Sciver

Type of Artist: Theater: physical theater, devised theater, actor, lead artist, director, playwright, producer, musician, photographer . . . I wear a lot of hats.

Companies: The Greenfield Collective, iNtuitons Experimental Theatre, Apocalypse Club, The Porch Room, Revolution Shakespeare.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Alternative Theatre Festival, 2012 – actor
Raw Stitch, 2013 – actor
Alternative Theatre Festival, 2013 – playwright, director
Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives, 2013 – actor
Marbles, 2014 – actor, playwright, producer
Safe Space, 2014 – actor
Fifty Days at Iliam, 2015 – lead artist, actor, producer
Love’s Labours Lost, 2015 – actor/musician

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: King John (Revolution Shakespeare), actor/musician.

First Fringe I attended: Oh man. The First Fringe event I saw would have been the iNtuitons 2010 Alternative Theatre Festival. I was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and was invited to attend a night of new work by the resident student-run “experimental theater” company, iNtuitons. I fell madly in love with them, and spent the next three years serving on their board. I remember seventeen-year-old Hannah being bowled over by a piece called Going In which was about coming out as heterosexual. It was written and performed by Joshua James Herren.

First Fringe I participated in: After working with David O’Connor on Cymbeline over the summer at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, he invited me to audition for Raw Stitch–a play set in Quigs pub, featuring a bunch of lady superstars in Philly doing incredible, vulgar monologues by Jacqueline Goldfinger. I was totally out of my league. I remember auditioning on his back porch, and meeting Jackie for the first time. I was deeply intimidated. The monologue was about a Southern Jewish gal on trial for acts of public indecency. She claimed she had no control over her behavior, as she had been born with the “double-slut gene.” I remember thinking, “Oh god, WHAT am I doing? Do they care if the neighbors hear this stuff?”

Jackie and David are now both on the advisory board of my theater company, The Greenfield Collective. This July, David and I will produce our seventh show together. So, it worked out. Also, rather memorable: in that show, Jennifer MacMillan played a thirsty, deaf lesbian. She demonstrated to the audience how to give proper head, using a peach. It remains one of the most outrageous and hysterical things I’ve ever seen happen onstage in Philly.

Hannah Van Sciver and Sam Sherburne in Marbles, JJ Tizou Photography

Hannah Van Sciver and Sam Sherburne in Marbles, JJ Tizou Photography

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: In 2014, I wrote a play called Marbles, and asked some friends to work on it with me for the Fringe. It was sort of a blur. Perhaps the most memorable moment was when we showed up as a top pick in a list I hadn’t yet heard of. (It was the Phindie top-picks.) Word got back to me that Emilie Krause, an actor and theater maker who I deeply admired, had thrown our name out to them as a project to feature. I was extremely flattered. For me, it was a moment of realization that, at its core, the Fringe was an even playing field.

Also memorable–our house capacity for Marbles was about 25. We sold out, even with an added show, and did the final performance for an audience of close to 40. We were performing in the basement of Chapter House Coffee Shop. Suffice to say, it got pretty intimate.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: In Safe Space in 2014, I and six other actors played high schoolers in a Live Action Role Playing game. This meant that audience members followed us at will around the second floor of Doug Williams’s home. At one point in the show, I took off my shirt and wandered out onto a balcony for a tactical meeting. Standing in my bra, on a balcony in the open air, surrounded by strangers, in full view of the neighbors, making a rope out of human clothing felt rather terrifically Fringe-y. Shout-out to my scene partners, Andrew Carrol and Trevor Fayle.

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: While I was unable to see the final product due to show overlap, I was and continue to be–deeply inspired by the female-centric devised ensemble work that went into Sam Tower’s 901 Nowhere Street (2015). If you haven’t seen Sam’s work, do. It’s rigorous, strange, and deeply moving.

Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with:
I met Megan Slater, Corinna Burns and Jackie Goldfinger working on Raw Stitch. Megan was in Fifty Days at Iliam with me two years later. Corinna and I worked together in Clark Park last year. Jackie helped inspire me to write Bicycle Face, and now is on my theatre collective’s advisory board. I met Will Steinberger through the Alternative Theatre Festival. He went on to direct Marbles (2013) and Fifty Days at Iliam (2015). I have collaborated again with every single solitary member of Safe Space (2014). Cast member Richard Chan was in Iliam (2015) and is now a core member of my theater company, The Greenfield Collective, and will be in our upcoming production of The Magnus Effect. I met David Pica, Griffin Stanton-Ameison, Samantha Reading and Pete Pryor working on Love’s Labours Lost (2015). Pica will be in The Magnus Effect. Griffin and I will work together again this summer on King John. I will be working this winter out at People’s Light with Sam and Pete. I could say more. The point is, it’s a beautiful, beautiful web y’all make.

Hannah Van Sciver in Raw Stitch, Joanna Austin

Hannah Van Sciver in Raw Stitch, Joanna Austin

The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish to one day do or to have done:
I have several.

  1. Tilda Swinton Adopt Me Please, a two-person play about alien abduction and celebrity stalking.
  2. And The Beast, the story of a murderous/sexist madman, told by the imaginary Mrs. Potts, a person he believes inhabits his teacup. (Riffing on Disney here a little bit. A lot.)
  3. As of yet untitled . . . a bunch of prominent actresses in town all shave their heads before a live audience, while their best reviews/head shots scroll on a screen behind them.
  4. Hamlet. Played by me. In this version, Hamlet is an angsty drummer chick.

But what takes the cake: David O’Connor told me once that Scott Greer had an idea for a Fringe Show called Ghost Story. The audience shows up, and Scott Greer wanders around saying “BooooOoooooOooooOOo!!!” until everyone gets frustrated and leaves.

Fringe notes: I think I probably answered each question twice, so. I’ll keep this short. Thank you FringeArts, for giving me the platform to become an artist.