Fringe at 20: Aaron Cromie
Name: Aaron Cromie
Type of Artist: Multidisciplinary theater artist
Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
First Festival Volunteer Coordinator, 1997
Son of Fantoccini, Mum Puppettheatre, 1998
I Was A Teenage Fantoccini, Mum Puppettheatre, 1999
Across, Big House Plays & Spectacles, 2000
The Story of Your Life, Threadbare Theatricals (self-produced), 2000
Hotel Obligado, Hotel Obligado, 2001
Contagion, Hotel Obligado, 2002
Contagion 2.0, Hotel Obligado, 2003
Two Hats, Two Heads, with Dave Jadico, 2003
The Foocy, workshop reading with Ugly Stepsister, 2004
Punchadelphia, Self-Produced Punch & Judy Show, 2005
Eye-95, Re-tarred, with Brat Productions, 2006
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2007
The European Lesson, Jo Strømgren Company, 2008
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2009
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2010
A Paper Garden, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2011
Saint Joan, Betrayed, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2013
The Body Lautrec, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2014
The Swamp is On, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2015
The Light Princess, workshop presentation with Ugly Stepsister, 2015
There might have been a couple more collaborations in there—I feel like we are all helping each other find/make/give feedback on each others’ developmental work each year—so I might have left out some things.
2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Exile 2588 with Almanac Dance Circus Theatre. I am writing and performing the original score to Almanac’s new piece with my acoustic music duo Chickabiddy (with Emily Schuman).
First Fringe I attended: The very first one. Probably the highlight was seeing Dan Froot play sax naked. A good start to the first 20 years. Lines were out the door at Christ Church Meeting House. And I ran around a lot finding volunteers to cover shifts—we learned a lot that first year.
First Fringe I participated in: I was volunteer coordinator for the first festival, but the next year I got to perform with Mum Puppettheatre. The memorable moment was making people laugh by standing still in a stupid hat.
First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I did myself was a teeny puppet show in the box office of the National Building—remember that place?—called The Story of Your Life in a shared space with a woman who knitted herself naked from a single length of yarn which made up the dress she was wearing/making.
The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: Teatr Biuro Podrozy – in a big parking lot by the river – suits afire. Stilt Walking oppressors. Victims running. Blasting sound. Oof. Very moving.
A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Participating in the creation of The European Lesson by Jo Strømgren Kompani definitely inspired me as a designer, and taught the power of precision and nonsense (language). Also, The Devil and Mr. Punch by the Improbable Theatre Company. It was like being awake, asleep, alive, thrilled, terrified and gratified. Achingly good.
Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: Jo Strømgren. A brilliant creator, designer, choreographer, director. And cooks a mighty good slab of whale. It’s a Norway thing.
Headlong Dance Theater. I’ve seen a lot of their work, but probably Hotel Pool and Britney’s Inferno were the two that stand out—it was before they invited me to help found Headlong Performance Institute.
Whit MacLaughlin and the fine friends at NPL. Loved seeing their very first show and then over the years having the chance to work with many of the founding members in various projects.
Robert Smythe at Mum Puppettheatre. He most definitely shared much in the way of puppetry, mask, and making a start in the business.
The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish I had done or to one day do: I’m fascinated by the legacy of Samuel Mockbee, an architect, teacher and MacArthur Genius grant winner who passed away of leukemia in 2001. He was a co-founder of The Rural Studio in Alabama, a program which deeply valued the creative use of salvaged, recycled and surplus materials. I’d love to create an interactive, object based installation celebrating his life and artistry. Lots and lots of strange and beautiful ideas on how to create living spaces from the things left around us. Also a three card monte pop up street hustler show exploring charm, machismo and the preconceived notions we have about meeting strangers on the street – featuring my friend Marisol Soledad in male drag. More on that later.
Fringe notes: I love the “back to school” feeling of gathering with all of the artists, patrons and friends that comes when we meet at the Fringe Bar on the first night of the festival. Always reminds me how lucky we have it in Philly.