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Go Deeper happy hour on the fringe

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Meet the Hosts

Posted December 21st, 2018

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, sat down with…ourselves! Get to know the hosts of Happy Hour on the Fringe: Raina Searles, Zach Blackwood, Katy Dammers and Tenara Calem, as they discuss the how this podcast came to be and where it’s headed, goals for 2019 as an organization and individually,¬† and how they all got to where they are now. Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Feature Photo by Sabrina Carter

[Music Intro]

Raina: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe.

Zach: FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of contemporary performing arts.

Katy: We invite you to pour one up and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence.

Tenara: This week, we’re chatting with ourselves.

Zach: We’re the most about imaginative people.

[laughter]

Katy: So today, we’ll go around and say who we are. And this is an exciting opportunity for us to reflect on the past year and to dream about what might be coming in 2019.

Zach: What are we drinking?

Tenara: And for you guys to get a better sense of who your hosts are.

Katy: Yeah.

Zach: That’s important.

Raina: And what we’re drinking.

Tenara: Yeah.

Zach: What are we drinking?

Tenara: Coffee.

Zach: It’s 11:00 AM.

Tenara: It’s 11 in the morning. [chuckle]

Raina: I’m having some Raspberry Zinger Tea.

Zach: Having a Peach Sangria Tea from Kari’s Tea shop in the food hall at The Bourse.

Katy: And I’m drinking water.

[laughter] [overlapping conversation]

Raina: Gotta stay hydrated. Yeah.

Zach: I like this first question because it reminds me a lot of the seminal question from a podcast by one of our Blue Heaven artists, Cat Cohen. Blue Heaven is a Comedy Festival at FringeArts running February 1st and 2nd. And it’s on her podcast Seek Treatment, and she says, “Who were you, who are you, and who do you wanna be?” But our version of that for today’s purposes is, “Who are we, how did we get here, and what do we do now?”

[laughter]

Katy: So, Zach what do you think of that?

[overlapping conversation]

Katy: I feel a little attacked by that question, personally.

Raina: Tell us about yourself.

Zach: Who am I? Oh gosh, I’m a triple air sign.

Tenara: Is that true?

Zach: Yeah, yeah, a Libra sign, Aquarius Moon, Aquarius rising.

Tenara: I always forget that Aquarius is an air sign ’cause it’s aqua.

Raina: Yeah.

Zach: It is.

Raina: It does make sense.

[chuckle]

Tenara: If we’re thinking Latin, it’s like water.

Zach: Yeah, it’s an air sign.

Tenara: Okay, got it.

Zach: Yeah. I am the artistic producer here at Fringe, one of two, with my close friend Katy Dammers. How did I get here? Circuitously. I would say that’s how you get into any programming position, is you luck out, [chuckle] and then you work really hard, and then you continue to luck out. I was here initially in 2013, as what was then called the Neighborhood Fringe Coordinator, it was a temp position. I was here for a little bit, then I went on to the Kimmel Center in a role in their programming department. I just kept in touch, a little bit.

Tenara: Hot tip.

Zach: Hot tip, keep in touch.

Katy: Yeah.

Zach: Rule of culture number… [chuckle]

Tenara: Keep showing up.

Zach: Keep in touch. Yeah.

Raina: We’ll be giving out some job advice on this podcast.

[laughter]

Zach: Yeah, my thing was like, I kept in touch with Carolyn, our managing director. Really, as the rest of the staff just kind of moves and shifts and undulates like, “Find a person who seems like they’re not going anywhere and talk to them.”

[laughter]

Zach: You know? And that was Carolyn for me, and we just kept in close contact. And then when a position in the programming department here opened up, I applied. Actually, this was so bad, from the desk at my last job. It was a bad day. And [chuckle] I just, I needed something different, and after the election, I really was less interested in commercial presenting and really wanted to fully believe in everything that we were doing. That’s not a read at all, it’s just…

Tenara: Yeah, no shade to our friends at the Kimmel.

Zach: No, no, no, I loved that job. And I learned so, so much there, and I had the best boss in the whole world. Best bosses. But, no, I just wanted to move in a different direction and work on art that was more directly aligned with my personal aesthetics and taste level, which is selfish, but I wanted it. And what do I do now? Whatever, whatever is best.

[laughter]

Zach: This is looser. No, I mean, whatever is appropriate, I think. I have a vision for where I’d like to see this institution and our programming go, and I’m following that. And really, it’s more representative of the Philadelphia community and that’s what I want.

Tenara: I love it. I know you didn’t need my permission or my approval or anything, I just wanted…

Zach: Katy, who are you?

Katy: Yeah? [laughter]

Zach: What’s going on?

[laughter]

Katy: I’m Katy, I work with Zach every day, all day, as the other artistic producer here.

Zach: Late into the night.

Katy: Our role really is a 24/7 job, which is amazing. We live it and love it and breathe it. I am new to FringeArts. I just got here in the middle of August and so thrilled to have moved to Philadelphia, and I’m still learning a lot about this community. But I’m really moved by the vision and the mission of FringeArts, and I’m glad to be helping to chart its way forward into the new year. But previous to my time here in Philly, I was the assistant curator at The Kitchen and also their archive manager. So, The Kitchen is a small non-profit performing arts center, with a gallery space in New York City, in the Chelsea-based neighborhood. And I was there for five years, working in a variety of different capacities, curating exhibitions, organizing performances, and then also managing their vast archives. And in addition to that, I also worked independently with a number of choreographers as their manager, and all around administrator, some of which I still do now. So, yeah, that’s me.

Tenara: You have a dance background, correct?

Katy: I do, yeah. So, I studied dance and art history and music growing up. And I still dance now but not publicly so much anymore. Although, I am in Trust Your Moves. And by the time this comes out, our final concert has probably concluded, but you guys should all check it out. It’s an amazing Queer Choir in West Philly that Emily Bate runs, that I have really loved being part of, this fall.

Tenara: My gosh. We gotta go see it.

Raina: Yeah.

Zach: Yeah.

Katy: Yeah. It’s gonna be great. [chuckle] Tenara, who are you? How did you get here?

[laughter]

Tenara: I’m Tenara. How did I get here? I think I tripped and fell into this job, is what I’m gonna say. But that’s like how I usually arrive anywhere.

[laughter]

Zach: But with intentions and aspirations.

Tenara: Yeah, yeah. It was a situation where I won’t get into the thorny details, but last year, I was in a mid-20s crisis transformation, and I was having a respite from Philadelphia. I was in Providence, Rhode Island for a couple… Several weeks and then I was abroad, and I knew I was coming back to Philly, but I had literally no idea what I was gonna do when I got back. But while I was in Rhode Island, this audience engagement coordinator position floated to my job board spheres, and I was like either I’m super qualified for this job or I’m super unqualified for this job. There’s actually no middle ground. And so, I just, on a whim, applied and I didn’t have very high expectations of getting the job and then I did get the job. So… [chuckle]

Katy: And we are so happy you did.

[laughter]

Zach: Tenara’s a super star.

Katy: Yeah, Tenara, what do you do?

Tenara: Yeah, what is my job? That’s such a good question. The audience engagement coordinator position is grant funded through the William Penn Foundation’s New Audiences/New Places grant. And so, it encompasses a lot of different things, but essentially, my job is to be the bridge between new audiences and communities in Philadelphia who either historically have not been very connected to FringeArts or we just don’t know what FringeArts is, or have always wanted to be, but I haven’t always found the right route or pathway into our institution. And so, that kind of engagement and partnership takes many, many, many different forms, but my main role is to facilitate all of that, yeah.

Katy: Amazing.

Tenara: Raina…

Zach: Raina. What’s gucci?

Raina: Well, I’m Raina, I am marketing manager at FringeArts. I have been here for just about two years, but that’s actually counting an internship, so I actually started off in the programming department because even though I studied marketing in college, I felt like I wanted something different and also reading the job description for our programming internship, it’s all about organization and working with artists, and all these things that I was like, “Yeah, that sounds like so up my alley.” And so I did and I worked a lot on the fringe festival, especially for independent artists and recruiting all of the artists that we were gonna be working with last year in 2017. And I loved it. And I fully expected to leave without a job. And then the marketing coordinator position opened up while I was still an intern here, so I had a few little nudges to apply and I did, and ended up getting the job. And it was really exciting because I was going over to a new department but I was able to talk about how my experience of working with artists and also my experience kind of coming from the marketing side of business, but also, having had experience on the artistic side, really melded together really well.

One of the reasons I love FringeArts is because we’re able to support so many independent artists. And since that was kind of my whole thing, when I started, I do still have a special affinity for all of the artists who are making their own work, and using this as a platform to really build their voice and build their name in the Philadelphia community. I mean, I’m definitely in the 30+ show range. The number goes up if you count digital fringe shows.

Tenara: Oh yeah, Raina beats most of the staff. Well, maybe with the exception of the two of you.

Raina: Well, they see shows all year around.

Zach: Yeah.

Katy: We do.

Zach: Yeah.

Katy: But during the Fall festival we’re often here or in other theaters, managing the shows as they happen. So, I think Raina still probably sees more shows than we do.

Zach: Yeah, you definitely beat us during the festival.

Katy: ‘Cause we’re…

Raina: It’s so much fun.

Katy: Stuck in rehearsal.

Raina: Yeah, I love the Fringe Festival. [laughter]

Zach: Me too.

Raina: But yeah, so what I do now, we have a pretty small department, so my job is marketing and everything that that encompasses. If you see our print materials, if you see our emails, it’s coming from over here.

Tenara: And boy, do you see our emails.

[laughter]

Zach: If you’re listening to the podcast, you’re definitely… You’re at a deeper level of engagement. You’re reading…

Tenara: Oh yeah, you like our emails, right?

Zach: Yeah.

Tenara: I can’t imagine a person listening to this podcast who doesn’t get our emails.

Zach: We’re talking to them right now. They’re… This isn’t one-to-one.

Katy: We hope that you will sign up for our email subscription list. If you’re not already on it.

Raina: Yes.

Tenara: Yeah, well, I just… I mean that because the easiest way to get our emails is by coming to see one of our shows.

Zach: Mmm-Hmm.

Raina: Yeah, so…We do have some amazing shows.

Katy: So…

Zach: Woo! [laughter]

Katy: One the other many things that Raina does as part of her job was starting this podcast, right?

Raina: Yes, so I do have to give a shout out to Hallie Martenson…

Zach: Hallie Martenson!

Raina: She is currently the Director of Communications and Development at Pig Iron Theater Company and so we’re still working very closely with her. And previously, she actually worked at FringeArts and was the first person to get this podcast off the ground. If you listen to some of our earlier episodes, she’s gonna be the host. So, that’s the voice that you’re hearing. And so, this summer, we really wanted to revamp the podcast, bring it back, since she left and really give new life to it. And so now, we actually have this lovely rotating cast of four different hosts. And really, we’re so excited for where this podcast is going. We have some big ideas, we started off talking to a lot of the artists that we presented this past year, and it’s been really great to be able to talk to them about the work that they’re doing and get different perspectives on how they think about their work. But we have some real exciting goals for 2019.

Zach: Yeah, yeah. I definitely would love to see this podcast kind of break out of some of the promotional ways that we framed it previously, and just to be completely transparent, that’s generally because those artists were already in our space. [chuckle] So, we could sprint downstairs to a dressing room and be like, “Excuse me, can I bend your ear for a moment?” But we’re now I think more interested… With that accent. I think now, we’re still interested in all those people’s perspectives but we have some space to kind of expand and to really maybe bring some of our arts and cultural peers into this space, talk about what they’re doing and the way that they’re presenting practice works. I think that we’d be very interested to speak more broadly with larger groups of artists, maybe to cede some space in this podcast. Maybe have one of us moderate a discussion of a larger group.

Zach: We’re interested in the idea of having a cohort of people who maybe see all of the shows in the High Pressure Fire Service presentation series and sit in this space and talk about them as they happen. So kind of following one group through multiple shows and really getting to know some more broad and diverse perspectives.

Katy: We hope that will give people an opportunity to think about the ecosystem of the Philadelphia Arts community at large. So, for those of you who haven’t tuned into previous podcasts, High Pressure Fire Service is a new festival, that we’re debuting this coming year and it will run March through June, and it’s with only Philadelphia based artists across a variety of different disciplines. So we hope that by inviting different people into the room to look at those works, not only can they talk about the content and the artists that we’re working with and their practice, but also situate it within a larger history of our town, of the community as it works here, and what Fringe has done being part of that community for nearly 25 years and how our role has changed.

Zach: And we’re still happy to announce here on this podcast that all of those recordings will be taking place at the 11,500 square foot Wawa at 6th and Chestnut. We’re kidding, but it just opened today. There was a parade.

[laughter]

Tenara: Also something we’re excited about with this podcast is, like Zach and Katy, were saying that this is a space for practitioners to be reflecting on our programming and on this ecosystem that we are very much a part of, both artistically, but also just organizationally. We FringeArts are a non-profit organization that exists in a city full of non-profit organizations that are doing incredible work, both as artistic institutions, and otherwise, and so we’re also hoping that the podcast will be a space for our community partners that are invested in our work just as much as we are to come in and share their perspectives on what we do and what they do.

Tenara: We actually already did one of those podcast recordings with the Director of Arts and Culture at Puentes de Salud, Nora Litz, and Reverend Danny Cortes, who is the Executive Vice-President of Esperanza, which is a massive organization in the Huntington Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s doing incredible work, increasing the quality of life for their Latinx communities there. So more podcast episodes like that, I’m sure will be on the horizon.

Zach: Yeah, I think it’s important to all of us to situate this podcast and this institution in the city of Philadelphia. As we continue to bring in a lot of international arts and cultural opportunities for people, I think it’s always important for us to keep our feet on the ground in Philadelphia.

Tenara: Yeah, we’re not in a vacuum.

Zach: Yeah.

Raina: Well…

Tenara: Recognizing that as important.

Katy: Yeah.

Zach: I think as we move into 2019 here at FringeArts, I think that’s a big kind of driving force in a lot of ways. We’re definitely thinking internationally as well and checking with our peers, but one thing that’s so, so exciting is High Pressure Fire Service and what we’re doing there.

Tenara: Yeah. What a great segue.

Raina: Yeah, I know, I’m really excited about our programming for the spring. The shows we have, and that will be affectionately called HIP-FIZZ, for High Pressure Fire Service. They’re all so diverse, just on the topics that they touch on, where the artists are coming from.

Zach: The forms that they’ve used to build these pieces, the kind of territorial frameworks or sorry, performative frameworks, are all just really, really cool. And kinda bend our understanding of performance in Philadelphia in cool ways.

Tenara: Yeah.

Katy: And are also moving in exciting directions. We’ve thought of this series as a platform to really support the people that are here in our local community, but also to share how excited we are about them with the broader country and internationally. So, we’re so pleased that we’re able to provide important development support and commissioning funds. So that artists like this can then take their show on the road, whether that is to New York or to the Edinburgh Fringe festival or to other communities here within Philadelphia.

Tenara: Yeah, and like you were saying Zach, about, we’re not choosing between Philadelphia and our international partners, it’s actually, we can maintain our rootedness in Philly and still be very connected with the international artists and presenters that we work with, and in fact, we don’t have to sacrifice one or the other in creating spaces for cultural and international exchanges. So great for a Philly and for us.

Zach: Yeah. Listen, it’s not all service, like selfishly, I’m really excited for all of these shows. I’m so, so excited for the Blue Heaven Comedy festival, to have Michelle Buteau and Jaboukie Young-White and Cole Escola and Erin Markey with Emily Bate, all in our space over two days. It’s just a lot of activation, and it’s really us reaching deep into the alternative comedy scene, kind of nationally, and supporting this next wave of great American Voices in comedy.

I think it’s cool that we’re in that space and it’s cool that we’re thinking about the way that the Fringe dial and the Fringe aesthetic can in some way be expanded or… I guess more realistically, what we’re recognizing is that there’s a Fringe on every genre in every form and you dive in and you really learn about that form and those things tend to be, those spaces, those experimental and alternative spaces, tend to be where there’s a lot of innovation happening, and tend to be where there’s a lot of marginalized people and that was all important to me in building that card.

Tenara: Yeah, Fringe being a place where people are pushing on a boundary and the boundaries of form, the boundary of style, etcetera. That’s all in our programming.

Raina: One thing I will say I’m also really excited about are our accessibility and our diversity equity and inclusion efforts, it’s something that we are really focused on and are trying to find ways to incorporate more not just in providing audience services. So, having shows that do include ASL interpretation and audio description services, but also making sure that we are representative of… Making sure that we represent on the stage, what we also wanna see in our audience.

Zach: Yeah.

Katy: Totally.

Raina: And I know that our present team has been working so hard on that, and in really bringing in a diverse amount of artists and not just racially, or gender, but really across all bounds. One of the first shows in High Pressure Fire Service is “A Fierce Kind of Love,” which features a mixed ability cast. This is actually a re-mounting, so it had first come out of 2016, but we’re so excited to be able to bring people into our space who have maybe never been here before. And really make sure that our space is as accessible as possible for anyone coming through our doors.

Tenara: Yeah, and access is not just on the lines of race, of gender, of disability. Really, like you said, who hasn’t been in our space? Who has traditionally felt unwelcome in our space? We are starting a new teen volunteer program. We don’t have an education department, but we’re really committed to making sure that we are accessible to young people who wanna get involved and who care about the kind of programming and the kind of aesthetic that we’re curating. So we’re working with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Stamp program to start this new teen volunteer program. We have two teen council members who are spear-heading that program, and they are literally just the best and smartest 15 and 17-year-olds that I’ve ever met in my life.

Zach: Yeah.

Tenara: I was never that good when I was that age.

Zach: We’re thinking about how this space is welcoming to those audiences who are parents as well. I really think that accessibility, the more you dig into it, the more there is. It’s the paper fortune teller. You just open it up, and there’s just more and there’s more and there’s more. There’s just so many more communities and constituencies that we can open the doors to.

Tenara: And the recognition that it has to be integrated into literally every corner of what we do, where we are, who works here. It can’t be one additive of our programming. It has to be an integration into everything that we do. Otherwise, it’s not gonna be effective.

Katy: And it’s not solely external, either. It is really grounded in the hard questions that we’re asking ourselves as a staff, as an organization. So much of that is visible in the programming that we present and the ways in which we relate to audiences. But we have a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee here within our organization that’s formed of different staff members, and that has been embraced by our board. And we’re also working to build an advisory board that will help to serve us as we continue to move along and try to seek best opinions and best practices and advice from members of the community, so that we’re guided both from within and without as we move forward.

Zach: So those are kind of institutional New Year’s resolutions, but I think it might make sense for us to, given that this is a year-end episode, talk about what you wanted to accomplish in 2018, maybe personally or professionally, and what you’re looking forward to you for yourself in 2019. I’m not going first.

Raina: I can go first.

Katy: Should we go counter-clockwise this time?

Raina: Yes. Let’s go counter-clockwise, based on how we’re sitting.

Zach: We’re in a circle team.

Raina: We’re in a circle. Yeah, well, so it’s funny. On my 2018 New Year’s resolutions, I wrote a brief list just in my notes on my phone. One of them was take on more responsibility at work.

Zach: That worked out.

Katy: I would say that’s probably happened.

Tenara: And then eventually you became the sole person working in the department.

Raina: Yeah, there was a 7-month period where I and our lovely communications coordinator at that time, Hugh Wilikofsky… Who’s now over in development. So yeah I achieved that goal.

Tenara: The universe was like, “I see you and I raise you.”

[overlapping conversation]

Katy: Props to Raina for that incredible work and hard dedication in that transition period.

Tenara: Yeah.

Raina: Yeah, and Zach, too. I don’t know, maybe this is on your list…

Zach: I don’t remember that time.

Raina: Blocked it out. Yeah, it has been such a crazy year. I did so many things I didn’t expect to do, but also things that I was like, “Well, thank goodness. I like doing this.”

Zach: Do you remember when we did Fashion Machine in January?

Raina: That was so different.

Zach: That was this year.

Raina: Yeah.

Zach: That was 2018, and it’s just… That was a show that we presented a…

Tenara: That was such a good show by the way. I just wanna say. I came to that show as a patron of FringeArts and a lover of theater for young audiences, and I was blown away.

Zach: It’s a really special show. But it’s so wild to look back on this last year, because it simultaneously feels like it has passed in the blink on an eye and it took all year. So it’s interesting.

Raina: Yeah. The Fringe Festival went by so quickly. I felt like I was working towards Fringe Festival for so long. Then it happened and I was like, “Okay we did it.”

Zach: Absolutely.

Raina: Yeah, I’m so excited for 2019. We do have a whole bunch of new staff members. I’m no longer a department of one/two. I’m really excited to be working with our new marketing and communications director, Claire Frisbie, as well as Tenara and the rest of our new staff as well. On a personal note…

Tenara: Yeah, tell us your personal New Year’s resolution.

Raina: I’m just gonna plug this. I’m starting a quilting business. I said it was gonna happen this year, but it’s happening in 2019.

Tenara: I will definitely commission you for a big old quilt.

Raina: Yeah, they’re t-shirt quilts. It’s not just any old quilt.

Zach: All of your old beaver tees.

Raina: Very specific. It’s something I started after I graduated college, I made a college quilt, and then I made myself a high school quilt cause I was like, “I have too many t-shirts and I don’t wanna pay someone else to do it.”

Zach: Do you wanna make me a dog quilt?

Raina: I mean if you have… You actually… Zach is wearing, and has a lot of, dog head shot tshirts.

Tenara: It’s an aesthetic.

Raina: Yeah.

Zach: I have 15.

Tenara: It’s very Pinterest over there.

Zach: Pin who? Tenara, why don’t you talk to us about what you’ve accomplished.

Tenara: This is such a good exercise. I love questions like these. But yeah, in 2018, I felt really strongly that… I was working in early childhood education at the time, and I just knew that though I love working with kids and don’t necessarily wanna stop that work. I’m still teaching Improv at Philadelphia Improv Theater, which is really fun and exciting, to the babies, the little babies. I didn’t wanna stop doing that work, but I also knew that I wanted to be working more directly in my field and industry. I had no idea how that was gonna happen, which was kind of that aforementioned mid-20s crisis mode, where I just…

Zach: Your Saturn return.

Tenara: Yeah, my Saturn return, absolutely. I left my job at the pre-school blindly and threw myself off the ledge and just was like, “Here I go. Adventure Time.” But now I am working more directly in my industry, which is very, very exciting, so I feel good about that. My personal New Year’s resolution for 2019… I really haven’t thought about this enough, I probably should have but I just think I would really like to be able to run five miles without stopping.

Tenara: I feel like that’s totally achievable.

Katy: Absolutely.

Tenara: I run two miles without stopping now, so it’s fine.

Katy: And Tenera’s an amazing biker, you have so much stamina already.

Tenara: But biking and running are just so different.

Raina: Yeah, you can sit when you’re biking.

Tenara: You can sit when you’re biking. [laughter] Also I’m always riding my bike to arrive to places and running is very different than that. But yeah, that’s my low-ball New Year’s resolution. Katy, what about you?

Katy: Well, I’m thinking back to my 2018 resolutions and it’s funny you bring up Saturn return because as many of you know, Zach knows so much about astrology and I know very little, in fact, probably zero, but I learned briefly about what the Saturn Return was and it was calculated to be sometime in the next year and a half for me at the beginning of 2018, and it really freaked me out, and I was like, what is that? What is it gonna mean? .

Tenara: For listeners at home? What is the Saturn return?

Zach: It’s when Saturn is in the same place it was at the time of your birth and that happens generally around on your 27th year. It’s a reset in a certain way, to reflect a lot and for some people it is when your quarter life crisis happens.

Katy: So for the friends that I was drinking with who told me about this phenomenon, they all describe really traumatic things that happened to them, they were all my friends from the Cunningham company and for many of them, it had been when member’s passed or when they had a serious injury when they broke up with their significant life partner. So I was convinced that something really awful was going to happen, but instead I moved in to Philadelphia and I’m so happy about it.

Tenara: Well that’s so good. I was shielding myself I was like, oh no, oh no, oh no.

Katy: No, I just wanted to say I never could have imagined that this would have been where I ended up at the conclusion in 2018, but I’m really happy to be here and if this is my Saturn return and I have super lucked out. I’m so happy about that. I think my goal for 2019 is actually take an improv class, and I don’t even know that you taught that.

Tenara: Oh my gosh, Katy let’s talk.

Katy: So we definitely have lots to discuss. I have never done theater before or improv or anything in that way, so it’s gonna be totally outside of my comfort zone, but with our new Comedy Festival coming up, I’ve been inspired by Zach who’s taken improv classes and I know that I’m someone who will have a greater appreciation of the form, even if I do it in the smallest worst, most amateur way, it will just help me to understand it a little bit more and so I’m happy to do that.

Zach: That’s so cool.

Tenara: I’m so excited for your showing.

Zach: Katy’s gonna come back in here, we’re just gonna quip all day. It’s gonna be the worst. What did I choose myself in 2018. I was really making joke resolutions at that time, because I was playing in my head with the idea of what’s a resolution that no one would ever want you to accomplish or a resolution that means that if you accomplish it has a negative effect on your life.

Tenara: So what was it for you?

Zach: Mine was to marry someone in 2018, who I met in 2018.

[laughter]

Raina: You still have two weeks.

Zach: No, ’cause I changed it in July because I thought that, that was interesting and then the show Married at First Sight was casting in Philadelphia. So I was like this is it, this is so subversive and then I’ll write a book of poetry about it. I was really in that space and then I made a different choice to hit 2000 tinder matches this year, because the idea of hitting 2000 tinder matches and still being alone felt so, so funny and like a weird accomplishment threshold, like open channel, kinda feedback loop type thing.

Tenara: I’ve definitely hit that.

Zach: Me too! So I did it this year, I did accomplish it, it felt good, whatever, we traveled a lot. For 2019, I don’t know, I would like to document art, both my own and the things that I’m seeing, the things that we’re presenting here more rigorously. I’d like to keep a better record of what performances I saw, of what readings I was a part of, when I wrote kind of getting a better sense of my own practice. So that doesn’t feel random or shocked any it feels like maybe a laser, but I wanna keep up with my acupuncture practice. I had a great first acupuncture appointment.

Tenara: Zach, and I talk about this for so many minutes.

Zach: I want to tell you I was walking home like from my acupuncture appointment still feeling very just unsettled by like, oh my God, this is what it feels like to release years and years of pain from my musculature. It felt like in the Claritin commercial and they kill, the sepia tone.

Tenara: I resonate with that so much.

Zach: It really moved me.

Tenara: Hot tip, everybody check out acupuncture, West Philadelphia Community Acupuncture is a sliding scale acupuncture clinic.

Zach: There are lots of sliding-scale acupuncture clinics in Philadelphia and we will not endorse any of them.

[chuckle]

Tenara: Oh really, we’re not okay. Well, I go to West Philly.

Zach: Yes, there are lots of great ones. Guys, I think we have to do some lightning round here.

Tenara: Yeah.

Zach: Yes, so Katy what work do you do outside of FringeArts.

Katy: Outside of Fringe, I work with two choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Reiner, that work together, they’re dancers and artists living in New York City and I am their general manager so I handle all of their tours, administrative things, development, website, I do it all and I’m also a writer, I do mostly non-fiction. Whether it’s criticism or particularly historical pieces that look at history as it relates to the performing arts.

Zach: Tenara, what work do you do outside FringeArts.

Tenara: I am also a writer but I don’t write non-fiction. I am a first year playwright, at the Foundry Emergent Playwrights Lab with Play Penn. I also am one of a trio of podcast hosts for the podcast Sarah, Sarah and Sara, now available… No, I’m not gonna do that. And I, this is really stressing me out, this lightning round. I also make some of my own theatrical work. Raina.

Raina: I am a patron of the arts and a citizen of Philadelphia. I love seeing things and doing things around the city. As I mentioned, I quilt, a lot and I also am taking a little bit of a lull from acting and what not, but I might get back in to.

Tenara: Also you do an aerial yoga.

Raina: Yeah, I do aerial yoga, it’s so much fun.

[laughter]

Zach: What do I do outside of here? I love home cooking, I think that’s very, very important to me. I like to spend hours and hours and hours learning how to cook new things, pickling, canning. All of those things. And then, I… Yes, I am also a person who writes poetry. I…

Tenara: A poet?

Zach: Yes, I don’t like to call myself a poet, actually.

Raina: What a poet thing to say.

Zach: I generally would say I make poems or that I make poems and stories, poetry and story telling. I also do a little bit of comedy but it’s boring and there’s…

Katy: That’s not true, audience members, that’s not true.

Zach: A very serious world in which I will release a book in 2019, and it’s happening.

Tenara: Yes, that was what I was… Yeah, I was so excited for you to get there.

Zach: Yes, everybody’s… Is miming book hands at me like I don’t know that I’m doing a book.

Tenara: I just wanna make sure that you say it.

Zach: Yeah, but it’s a book primarily about a practice of seeing performance and refracting that through personal experience, through personal narrative. And it’s also about Bravo television programs, specifically reality TV shows, like “Vanderpump Rules” and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” It deals with violence and queerness.

Katy: So now, last lightning round, let’s do high-brow/low-brow inspiration.

Tenara: Oh, my gosh.

Katy: Tenara?

Tenara: Oh. Oh, man, okay. My low-brow inspiration is probably “The Great British Bake Off.” Yeah, just in every… It inspires me in all aspects of my life.

Raina: Isn’t that high-brow because they’re British?

Tenara: No, it’s really not, though.

[laughter]

Zach: Have you ever seen “Geordie Shore” or “Love Island?”

[laughter]

Tenara: Oh. So yeah, it just inspires me to bake more and to just be a kinder person. So I think that that’s really important. My high-brow inspiration… This is really quite a question, but I just have a lot of amazing mentors and practitioners who are doing community engagement in the arts and they have thought so much about ethical and effective practices of how to make that happen organizationally and also, as independent artists. And so I am just… I continue to be deeply, deeply inspired by their work, and love just… I’m very lucky to have a position in this organization where part of my work is to just talk to them and listen to them about what they do and take copious notes about what they do, and ramble on with them on the phone.

Raina: Need to perfect the lightning round. [laughter]

Zach: I know, I’m so sorry. Low-brow, “Great British Bake Off”; high-brow, my friends who are doing some comparable work. Go.

Raina: Okay, low brow is two. It’s Shakespeare, ’cause I’m putting him in… Definitely low-brow, but I love him. And then other one is “The Bachelor,” entire franchise. Shoutout to “Bachelor in Paradise.” High-brow, I’m gonna say is FringeArts and also, actually all of the Philadelphia theater community. ‘Cause I kind of am on this binary where I’m like watching trash TV and then I go see like really thoughtful topical pieces in theater and I’m like, “This is not an aesthetic, this is just… ” We’re all over the map.

Zach: Okay. I only picked poets, really, for high-brow, which is… Sorry. My high-brow inspiration’s Sam Sax, Jason B. Smith, Morgan Parker, Kimberly Drew, Aziza Barnes and… Yeah, that’s them.

Tenara: Low-brow?

Zach: Low-brow… Oh, you guys know.My low-brow is huge, it’s like an iceberg. I… “Vanderpump Rules,” absolutely; “Vanderpump Dogs”; “Sexy, Unique, Restaurant”; Charli XCX, AG Cook, anything about Twitter culture, sci-fi… And I’ve never been more excited for any film than I am for Godzilla: King of Monsters.

[laughter]

Zach: I wept during the trailer.

Katy: I love it. Okay, high-brow. For me, it’s really been our international partners, Zach and I have opportunities throughout the year to travel to see other festivals around the world. And so we went to Compl√®tement in Canada this year, which is a circus festival, and then I went to two different festivals in France. One which is in Paris and then the TNB Theatre Festival in Brittany, and both of those were deeply inspirational. Not only thinking about their government and funding structures that are very different than ours, but also the amazing art that’s coming out of those areas. Low-brow, for me, is Instagram, which I love paging through. And also, musicals, which I don’t necessarily think has to be in the low-brow category, but compared with what we do, sometimes ends up there and I love them very deeply.

Raina: Awesome.

Tenara: Wow.

Zach: Broadway found wig-less.

Tenara: I wanna talk to you more about categorizing musicals as low-brow, ’cause… Not in the comin’ at you way, Katy, but just because that is my instinct as well, but I just know so many people who would disagree.

Zach: Who would absolutely disagree.

Katy: Totally.

Zach: But Sondheim is very, very far away from “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Tenara: I would agree with that.

Raina: Well, this sounds like a discussion for another podcast episode.

Zach: Next time on “Happy Hour on The Fringe,” Broadway: High-Brow/Low-Brow.

Raina: Thank you so much for joining us through this journey through our journeys to FringeArts.

Zach: Send us your new year’s resolutions, we wanna know what you’re committing to professionally, artistically and low-browing-ly.

Raina: Yeah. Comment on Facebook and Twitter with the #HHOF, for “Happy Hour On the Fringe.”

Katy: And if you don’t already follow us, make sure to follow FringeArts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and on our app.

Katy: Until then…

Zach: Thank you for joining us.

Tenara: We’ll see you in 2019.

Zach: Have such a good New Year’s, everybody.

Raina: Happy New Year.

Zach: Punchy little episode.

Tenara: Yeah.

[Music Outro]