Fringe at 20 Profile: Rebecca Wright
Name: Rebecca Wright
Type of Artist: Director, Creator
Company: Applied Mechanics
List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Rrose Selavy Takes a Lover in Philadelphia, New Paradise Laboratories, 2004 – crew
Batch, New Paradise Laboratories, 2007 – crew
Inside Julia Child, with John Jarboe, 2009 – director/creator
It’s Hard Times at the Camera Blanca, Applied Mechanics, 2009 – director/creator
Portmanteau, Applied Mechanics, 2010 – director/creator
Overseers, Applied Mechanics, 2011 – director/creator
Some Other Mettle, Applied Mechanics, 2012 – director/creator
Black Market, Applied Mechanics, 2015 – director/creator
2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: FEED with Applied Mechanics, as director and creator
First Fringe I attended: 2004 was my first Fringe in Philadelphia. Everything was a thrill! I remember seeing Thaddeus Phillips do his Tempest in an alleyway, and watching Brian Sanders’ JUNK over a chain link fence by the Festival bar.
First Fringe I participated in: I ran camera for New Paradise Laboratories’ Rrose Selavy Takes a Lover in Philadelphia in 2004. I taped the show for live feed every night, and also had a few prep tasks that included hot-gluing a string to a glass bottle and emptying out a shop vac so that it could be set to reverse and blow rose petals out all over the space. I felt so cool. I got to watch that show maybe a dozen times and I loved it more with each viewing.
First show I produced/created at the Fringe: I produced two shows at once in 2009—Inside Julia Child with John Jarboe and It’s Hard Times at the Camera Blanca with Applied Mechanics. They were super different and both super memorable. John and I were living together at the time, and we had to make two tarte tatin for every show. I remember peeling and coring hundreds of apples together with this hand crank apple peeler/corer he got Williams Sonoma to lend us for the labor. John also performed in Camera Blanca, which Applied Mechanics produced at Murph’s Bar in Fishtown. They donated the space to us, but we didn’t realize until right before opening that they weren’t planning on closing down the bar during the show—rookie mistake on our part to not be clear on the agreement!—so every night was this wild mix of regulars and Fringe audiences, plus our actors who were playing down and out circus performers all over the bar.
The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: For Overseers in 2010, we rented the upstairs storeroom of a marble and tile business on Washington Ave. It hadn’t been used in years and was full of weird old stuff, and we had to (try to) sweep and mop all this 50-year-old tile dust out of there so that we could use the space. I remember just being covered in muck. And it was so hot in there that we had to eat our company meals outside—so many dinners sitting on a tarp in the parking lot! Inspired by the space, we built a play about a city suffering from drought. We ended up serving the audience cold beer and popsicles during the show, and giving them little spray bottles to keep themselves cool with.
A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Elevator Repair Service’s The Select was such a joy—made me understand that there are interesting and artistically viable ways of engaging the canon.
Found Theater’s Tales—they had all this super energetic repetitive movement and it was this revelation of enthusiasm and magical use of the particular bodies in the room. Loved that piece.
Artist I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: When I saw the Riot Group’s Hearts of Man in 2007, I was like, “Oh my god. Who is this amazing writer? This is some of the best writing for performance I’ve ever heard.” Five years later, I got to make Sophie Gets the Horns with them in New York, still one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever worked on. In between those two experiences, Adriano Shaplin (founder and writer for Riot Group) and I met, fell in love, and got married. So… collaborations on many fronts! I probably would’ve been too shy to talk to him if I hadn’t been able to lead with “I loved your play” when we were first introduced.
The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish I had done or to one day do: Not telling—could still happen!
Fringe notes: Shout out to Maria Shaplin who makes all Applied Mechanics’ shows look gorgeous and badass, often while simultaneously doing stellar work on other Fringe shows, and always in a way that feeds the storytelling, always with the right doses of scrappiness and elegance. We’ve made more than a dozen shows together, including three Fringe premieres, and I can’t wait for the next one.