Go Deeper E-A-G-L-E-S: Tribe of Fools Offers a Philly Special This Fringe

E-A-G-L-E-S: Tribe of Fools Offers a Philly Special This Fringe

Posted July 27th, 2018

The WORLD CHAMPION (!!!) SUPER BOWLWINNING (!!!) Philadelphia Eagles began training camp this week for their TITLEDEFENDING (!!!) 2019 NFL season. Philadelphia theater company Tribe of Fools is also putting on the pads and dusting off their playbook preparing for their 2018 Fringe Festival offering Fly Eagles Fly.

Tribe of Fools’ highly physical, enchantingly visual brand of theater has ensured high scoring wins at recent Fringe Festivals, with Two Street  – A Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers (2014), Zombies … with Guns (2015), Antihero (2016), and Fishtown – A Hipster Play (2017), taking the proverbial football and driving it into the proverbial endzone. It’s football for real this year with new work about Eagle fandom as physically daring as it is poignantly relevant. Tribe of Fools artistic director Terry Brennan spoke to the FringeArts blog about the show, the company’s process, and the EAGLES WINNING THE SUPER BOWL. [Editor’s note: the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII]

FringeArts: A number of your shows have hit on Philly institutions: the Mummers, Fishtown hipsters. Where does your inspiration generally come from for your work?

Terry Brennan: I went to school in a place called the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. At Dell’Arte they had a philosophy called “theater of place.” It’s the idea that you should make art about or inspired by the place where you live because your audience will appreciate it more and because theater is a social art and therefore if it’s social it should reflect society. I love Philly — I didn’t grow up here but I love it. I see so much of the human condition in the specific people that you’ll only find in Philly and I want to share that. I want to share what’s great and terrible and funny and sad about the specific types of people that only Philadelphians know.

FringeArts: What is your process like when putting a show together?

Terry Brennan: We spend the first third of the process just conditioning and learning how to do the tricks and stunts that will be in the show — sometimes it can be pretty grueling. The last two thirds of the process are devoted to writing, rehearsing and choreographing. We go from lots of time on physical training to smashing all the parts of the show together all at once. It can be a bit much at times, but it’s fun, we laugh a lot and our muscles are incredibly sore.

FringeArts: Did you come up with the show idea before or after the Eagles won the Super Bowl? [Editor’s note: Did we mention that the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII?]

Terry Brennan: Actually, Wendy Rosenfield of Broad Street Review posted something on social media saying that she was going to be really upset if Tribe of Fools didn’t create a show about the emotional sports radio testimonials that were happening the week after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. I had a different show in mind, but I scrapped it because I felt that the Eagles’ Super Bowl win really captured the complicated relationship that we have with our sports teams.

FringeArts: How do you think that win changed the city’s relationship with the team? [Editor’s note: No seriously, the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII.]

Terry Brennan: Philly is a rough sports town and we’re even rough to our players and teams. When I moved here in 2003 the Eagles were really playing well but for a few years they never quite made the Super Bowl and a lot of the people who came into the restaurant where I worked were really angry at the team for not making the Super Bowl, which blew my mind. They talked about it as if not making the Super Bowl was a choice or something. Then when we made it in ‘04 I thought if we lost that all those angry fans would burn the city down, but they didn’t.

I walked home from a Super Bowl party and the vibe in the city was just one of epic buzz-kill. No flipped cars or fires. It was just a bunch of really sad people moping back to our houses and apartments. After that everyone talked about the Eagles (and Philly teams in general) as chokers. We’re good, but we always blow it; almost like we didn’t deserve to win. I think this win had erased that idea, at least in the near future.

Police protect quietly celebratory Eagles fans from an unruly sideways car in the aftermath of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory.

FringeArts: The piece explores different relationships with the team and the sport. What kind of fan are you and your collaborators?

Terry Brennan: We have all types in the cast and production team from die hard fans to people who don’t follow football. Most of our collaborators are casual fans. They watch the games and keep up with how we’re doing each year but it’s not religion. There are a couple of religious fans in the mix, but they’re the minority. Personally, I’ve always been a casual fan.

FringeArts: What interests you about the different reactions to football?

Terry Brennan: The spectrum of how people feel about it. For a brief time last year I had hardcore blue relatives and hardcore red relatives both boycotting the NFL for literally opposite reasons. Right now, football is an intersection of almost every social issue that is being debated in America.

FringeArts: What similarities do you see between theater and football?

Terry Brennan: Theater and football share the “what’s going to happen next” quality. Good theater and good athleticism keep you on your toes as a spectator. Conversely, bad theater and bad athleticism often leave you bored because you know exactly what’s gonna happen.

FringeArts: How many games will the Eagles win this season?

Terry Brennan: 13 games and I think they’ll make it to division finals but no Super Bowl.

FringeArts: But we thought REPEAT was CERTAIN!?!!?… Um, what other Fringe shows are you looking forward to?

Terry Brennan: I’m really psyched to see Brian Sanders’ JUNK [Plunge], “UNHINGED”, Almanac [Jeanne/Jean/John/Jawn], Planet B, and Kyle Driggs [The Graveyard Slot and Same Picture Different Poses].

FringeArts: Thanks Terry! Go Birds!

— Christopher Munden

What: Fly Eagles Fly
When: September 6–10, 13–17 + 20–22, 2018
Where: Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake, 302 South Hicks Street
Cost: $15–$25
Created by Tribe of Fools