International Fringe 2018: A Welcome to Artists from Around the World
The United States government may be pursuing an isolationist policy but the Philadelphia Fringe is doing the opposite: opening its doors not only to the most creative American performers and performances but also to the best and most creative theater artists and their productions from around the world—overcoming the ancient fear of the symbolic Tower of Babel with people not understanding each other.
To show the worldwide scope of the 22nd Philadelphia Fringe Festival, we offer this spotlight on performers from abroad and productions by American artists that present a global perspective.
Theater writer Henrik Eger, editor of Drama Around the Globe and contributor to Phindie and Broad Street Review, among other publications, has lived in six countries on three continents and has visited Africa and Australia as well. He bids everyone a hearty WELCOME to the City of Brotherly Love—this year in 18 different languages: Arabic, Celtic, Chinese, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Latin, Polish, Romanian, and Spanish.
We start this year’s overview with a special welcome to two programs featuring a wide range of global creators:
- Bienvenue & welcome to Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard and Le Super Grand Continental. Le Grand Continental wowed audiences during its run at the 2012 Fringe Festival and has garnered enthusiastic response across the world. Fully realizing a blissful marriage between the pure delight of line dancing and the fluidity and expressiveness of contemporary dance, the celebratory event enlists hundreds of local people to perform its synchronized choreography in large-scale public performances. The world’s most infectious performance event returns to the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in an even larger spectacle of dance.
- Bonvenon, willkommen, bienvenido, witamy, bienvenue & welcome to Do You Want A Cookie? from The Bearded Ladies Cabaret—a world premiere with an international cast. Do You Want A Cookie? serves up a delicious romp through cabaret history, with an international cast of artists performing a live revue of cabaret from the Chat Noir to Weimar nightlife to 21st-century drag. The all-star cast comes draws from around the world, including Bridge Markland (Berlin), Malgorzata Kasprzycka (Paris/Warsaw), Dieter Rita Scholl (Berlin), and Tareke Ortiz (Mexico City).
REFUGEES and EXILES
وسهلا اهلا (ahlaan wasahlan) & bienvenu. Welcome to Tania El Khoury who lives in Lebanon and the UK with her multifaceted program ear-whispered. Little is known about Palestinian refugee camps and their communities. El Khoury presents her Fringe work in five parts through interactive performances and installations at Bryn Mawr College:
- Gardens Speak, an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
- Camp Pause, a video installation that tells the stories of four residents of the Rashidieh Refugee Camp on the coast of Lebanon. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
- As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, an encounter through a gallery wall between a single audience member and a refugee. (Old City & Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
- Stories of Refuge, an immersive video installation that invites audiences to lay down on metal bunk beds and watch videos shot by Syrian asylum seekers in Munich, Germany. (Old City.) Read more.
- Tell Me What I Can Do, a newly commissioned work featuring letters that audiences have written in response to Gardens Speak. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
- Bienvenido & welcome to the bilingual (Spanish & English) cast of La Fábrica performing Gustave Ott’s Passport. Lost in a foreign country, Eugenia is detained and thrown into a vicious maelstrom of miscommunication. This poetic and immersive Kafkaesque thriller delves into the question of immigration—exposing the mechanics of language and power. Some performances will be presented in English, some in Spanish, and some will be decided at the toss of a coin.
G’day & welcome to Humans by Circa, Queensland’s much talked-about group of ten highly-skilled acrobats who straddle the borders between circus arts, theater, and contemporary dance, exploring the expressive possibilities of the human body at its extremes.
Bienvenu & welcome to Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, and sisters Natalie Fletcher and Jessica Noel who, through their Paprika Plains, will take you back in time to tell a story of love, loss, and bargaining with the universe inspired by Mitchell’s 1977 album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter—told through live body painting and dance-theater, with lighting design by John Noel and music by Joni Mitchell.
欢迎 (Huānyíng) & welcome to Hua Hua Zhang performing 天问 Tian Wen: Heavenly Questions For Modern Times, an experimental performance using puppetry, sculpture, movement, and live music to explore difficult questions we face in modern times. Zhang is committed to using Asian and Western puppet art to explore universal themes and ideas through visual cross–cultural expression.
- Welcome to the Cambridge Footlights, considered “the most renowned sketch troupe of them all” (Independent). Previous members have included Peter Cook, Douglas Adams, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Germaine Greer, Salmon Rushdie, Clive Anderson, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, David Mitchell, Richard Webb, and Richard Ayoade. Produced with the Philly Improv Theater, the long-running group performs Pillow Talk, which brings together the brightest stars of student comedy for fresh, witty, and downright funny sketches, monologues, and songs.
- Welcome to William Shakespeare, R&J, and Jessica Creane who presents a two-player, multi-day game based on the unmitigated emo clusterf*ck that is Romeo and Juliet. In this web-based game, each day corresponds to one of the five stupidest days in literature, during which players (spoiler alert) party crash, elope, swallow poison, kill their lover’s cousin and stab themselves. Online, aka the digital abyss, Sept. 4 at midnight and ongoing throughout the festival. It takes five days to play via text message.
- Welcome to Svaha Theatre Collective, a term which means to go into the fire; to throw yourself into something with all of your heart, body, and soul. Svaha takes on William Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s Henry VIII. Long Trouble calls attention to the trials and tribulations of Queen Catherine, her daughter Mary, and her lady-in-waiting Anne Boleyn. “All the expected good we’re like to hear for this play, at this time, is only in the merciful construction of good women” (Shakespeare, Henry VIII). The company also brings English playwright Sarah Kane to the Fringe with Phaedra’s Love.
- Welcome to William Shakespeare and the Indecorous Theatre Production with their version of As You Like It: cross-dressing lesbian princesses in the woods—people who are incapable of expressing their deepest emotions. Join this outside performance of the Bard’s much-loved comedy with your friends and a picnic basket at the Spring Gardens Community Garden.
- Welcome to William Shakespeare, ShakesBEER Roulette, and the Manayunk Theatre Company, well-known for their wit. They give a new “spin” on Hamlet! Macbeth! Romeo and Juliet! and Much Ado About Nothing! They would like you to spin their roulette wheel of scenes to see what they do. A new show every night and it’s the audience that makes it happen. “Drinking is strongly encouraged as you help make history, or break history!”
- Welcome to C. S. Lewis, British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist, whose retelling of the Cupid/Psyche myth tells the story of Orual, who dares to indict the gods for sadism and fraud. Philadelphia’s popular Alex Bechtel and Tony Lawton will present excerpts from the new script and score via a staged reading in Till We Have Faces.
Tere tulemast & welcome to Songs of Wars I Have Seen with Estonian conductor Annu Tali, German composer Heiner Goebbels, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and baroque ensemble Tempesta di Mare. A work of theater as much as one of music, this literary-musical event juxtaposes modern and period instruments, electronic atmospherics, Baroque compositions, modernist harmonies, and the haunting text of Gertrude Stein’s World War II memoir to create a bittersweet lament on war’s insidious effects. The performers speak Stein’s words and play Goebbels’s compositions. Bridging centuries of music, the melodies range from jazzy bursts to plaintive moans, incorporating melancholic and violent segments by the 17th-century English composer Matthew Locke.
- Bienvenu & welcome to French choreographer Boris Charmatz with his challenging show manger: “We launch movement with our mouths. Dance is in the stomach. Dance is in the palate. Dance is in the teeth. We envision a sort of meal in motion, we eat everything, we eat anything, all the time. We are an orchestra in motion, self-fueled. The essence is jammed down the throat. You don’t want to die stuffed. You swallow the message without having read it. You swallow reality. You digest conflicts.”
- Bienvenu & welcome to Savannah Reich who takes us to Avignon, France, in 1348 with Pestilence: Wow!, where “a third of the population has been wiped out by the Bubonic Plague. The other two thirds is extremely freaked out. Part reality television, part psychedelic fever dream, this is a play about humans and the way we deal with real, actual tragedy: totally inadequately, and like assholes.”
- Willkommen & welcome to Heiner Goebbels, a German composer, director, and artistic director of the International Festival of the Arts Ruhrtriennale from 2012–14 with his no-man show featuring light, pictures, murmurs, sounds, voices, wind and mist, water and ice, which act as mere props or set pieces to Stifters Dinge (Stifter’s Things) at the Navy Yard.
- Willkommen & welcome to Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, and the West Chester University’s Department of Theatre and Dance performing Berlin To Broadway With Kurt Weill, A Musical Voyage—exploring the musical catalog of the Tony Award-winning composer. Weill’s German work challenged government corruption and corporate greed while his American work addressed issues of racism and warfare.
- Willkommen, tere tulemast & welcome to Songs of Wars I Have Seen by German composer Heiner Goebbels, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and baroque ensemble Tempesta di Mare, and conducted by Estonian maestro Annu Tali. Based on the work of Gertrude Stein, an American Jewish poet living in the Nazi puppet state of Vichy France, this program details her everyday life in a neutral, descriptive style, pausing as much on the food she ate as on the atrocities engulfing Europe. Her Wars I Have Seen tells us what is happening, without telling us how to feel about it. Iconoclastic German composer Heiner Goebbels emphasizes this meditative neutrality and sharpens our focus on the gendered experience of war.
Καλωσόρισμα (kalosórisma) & welcome to AntiCone, and two performers who walk the tightrope between comedy and pathos in this contemporary take on the Antigone story. Told through physical theater, dance, clowning, audience interaction, and . . . orange traffic cones—this production has been described as an “exquisitely executed” experience.
नमस्ते (namaste) & welcome to Pratima Agrawal, whose Voided, a solo performance, explores the existential question of what it’s like to be an unconventional Indian woman trying to exist in a marginalizing world. Pratima’s own experiences and the true story of Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian female astronaut in space and one of the crew members who died in the 2003 Columbia accident, inspired this piece, probing the culture, status quo, and representation that dares to color outside the lines.
آمدی خوش (Khosh Amadi) & welcome to Iranian-American performer, writer, and director Sara Mashayekh’s Off The Curtain, which lets us experience East meets West in a one-woman show that brings ancient stories to the modern audience. The drama and tragedy of an ancient tale will engage your feelings, and the innovative style of storytelling will keep your fancy and emotions in high alert.
- Fáilte & welcome to Trey Lyford and The Accountant, a visual theater piece inspired by the disorientation that death can bring into our lives and Samuel Beckett’s ruminations on impermanence on Krapp’s Last Tape. Co-creator of festival favorites all wear bowlers (2005), Amnesia Curiosa (2006), and Elephant Room (2011), Trey Lyford characteristically blends physical theater, vaudeville routines, illusion, and slapstick to celebrate the beauty fluttering in the details of everyday life and the poetic humor embedded at the epicenter of loss.
- Fáilte & welcome to Samuel Beckett and the EgoPo Classic Theater in their much talked-about slumber party version of Company, which sold out in five cities. An immersive sensory experience based on a short story by Beckett, you are blindfolded, lying on your back in the dark, the haunting text whispered in your ear. (PS: Free cookies and milk.)
3. Fáilte & welcome to Billy Roche and Irish Heritage Theatre. In Roche’s bittersweet play Lay Me Down Softly, the characters spar and jab, seeking purpose and meaning in a dangerous world. Set in 1962 in rural Ireland, the play is raw and the characters are rough, and living lives as outsiders. They are deeply troubled and dissatisfied with their positions in society. Performances begin August 30.
- Salutatio, benvenuto, & welcome to Virgil’s Aeneid and Of Arms And The Man. A quote from the Aeneid serves as an apt title for this epic aural voyage that explores the timeless themes of nationalism and war and navigates personal stories and joy and despair. The Crossing , the Grammy-winning choir, brings to life music by 12 contemporary composers whose work examines victory and loss across national and personal borders: Louis Andriessen, Benjamin C. S. Boyle, Sebastian Currier, Suzanne Giraud, Ted Hearne, Gabriel Jackson, David Lang, David Shapiro, Kyle Smith, and Toivo Tulev—with cellists Arlen Husko, and Sujin Lee, and Thomas Mesa. Donald Nally directs and presents a program of chorale pieces performed by the 24-voice ensemble.
- Benvenuto & welcome to Onwards & Upwards: The Italian American Dream. This show deals with past Italian immigration and recent immigration that happens worldwide, the values that immigrants bring along, and their life-long difficulties and upsets. Written by Angelo Aiello (storyteller, actor, puppeteer), and with music by Antonello Di Matteo (accordion, Italian bagpipe, flutes, and clarinet). The 60-minute minimalist, evocative play combines traditional Italian and experimental puppetry, authentic live music from Southern Italy, and a narrative in English and Italian to explore the motivations, challenges, sacrifices, losses, gains, trials, and successes of Italian immigrants in America.
Witamy & welcome to Tribe 12, a group of 20s/30s adults who have a Jewish connection to our city, to enrich their experiences, build community, and help sustain a Jewish life long into the future. They are performing Sage Wisdom where a town full of fools stands on the brink of collapse. With the economy in peril and crime on the rise, the townspeople of Chelm, Poland, look to the Wise Sages for help. The Chelmites trip over their own feet trying to make their town good enough to get love and respect.
Bine ati venit & welcome to actor and playwright Diana Lobontiu who sets her one-woman comedy Sfânta in a Moldovan convent in the 17th century, at a time when Saints were actual celebrities. This absurdist solo show follows Teodora, a young novitiate who wants to become a saint for the fame and glamor of it. Teodora’s path is blocked by Gheorghe, her bro-y betrothed, a romance with shepherdess Iosefina, and an impending Ottoman invasion.
- Fàilte & welcome to Kathleen Murphey who presents a new version of Peter Pan by Scotland’s famous novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie: P Pan And Beyondland, a world-premiere. She retells the Peter Pan story where Krystal, Kyle, and Jamie realize that their society won’t allow them to express the gender identities that seem truest to their core selves. P Pan offers them sanctuary in Beyondland, and they go to find new lives of acceptance and support. German Society of Pennsylvania.
- Fàilte & welcome to Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie and the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective performing Mary Rose: a reckoning with loss, love, and immortality explored in and around the haunting Woodlands. Explore a generation of those lost after World War I, remembered by loved ones as the young men and women they once were. The event takes place at the Woodlands Mansion and Cemetery—a National Historic Landmark.
Bienvenido & welcome to Evan Kassof, Anaïs Naharro-Murphy, and Nicole Renna for The Propaganda Machine Show, the U.S. premiere of Kassof’s opera Greenland; the 1939 Dreyfus film Refuge with live score by Joshua Hartman; and a contemporary cabaret. Each focuses on the meaning and making of propaganda over the last century—presented in artistic collaboration with 1fiftyOne Gallery.