Happy Hour on the Fringe: FringeArts Ambassadors
On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, Ambassadors Josh and Meesh to talk about their 2019 Independent Fringe Festival picks.
Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.
Conversation with FringeArts Ambassadors Josh and Meesh[Music Intro]
Tenara: Hello, and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Tenara. I am the audience engagement coordinator at FringeArts. I invite you to pour one up, and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence. Here at FringeArts, we’re getting ready for the Fringe Festival. Fringe Festival 2019. It is here. Tickets for curated and independent shows are on sale now, so you can go to www.fringearts.com to grab your tickets and download the FringeArts app to start planning your festival schedule.
Tenara: But today, I’m chatting with two of the FringeArts ambassadors. FringeArts ambassadors are culturally curious people from all over the city who connect our work with communities who might not have heard of us before. If you’re interested in learning more about the program and about what it is to be an ambassador, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s T-E-N-A-R-A at fringearts.com. So pour one up, and join us.
Josh: Hey, everyone. My name is Josh Friedman, local Philadelphia resident.
Josh: Ambassador to FringeArts.
Tenara: Absolutely. Our first question that we always ask in the podcast is … It’s Happy Hour on the Fringe is the name of the podcast, so what are you drinking, Josh?
Josh: Today, I’m drinking a delicious Old Fashioned made by …
Tenara: James, the bartender at La Peg.
Josh: Thank you so much, James.
Tenara: Yeah. Sincere thank you to James.
Tenara: Yeah. And I am drinking an indiscriminate white wine.
Tenara: I didn’t tell him what kind of white wine I wanted. I was just like, “May I have a white wine?” And he was like, “No questions asked. Here you go.”
Josh: How’s it taste?
Tenara: It tastes really good. It’s very fruity.
Tenara: Do you think that means it’s a Chardonnay? Or something … Because dry wines and fruity … Those are two separate things. Can you have a dry, fruity wine?
Tenara: You can?
Josh: I don’t know. I actually have no clue about wines.
Tenara: Okay. So Josh, tell us is this your first year in Philadelphia during the Fringe Festival?
Josh: It isn’t.
Josh: My last year, when I … For the FringeArts Festival, I only went to one show, though.
Josh: I know.
Tenara: Which show?
Josh: It was up in Kensington. I forget the name of it. Basically, they took us around …
Tenara: Kensington Street Play.
Josh: Kensington Street Play, yeah.
Tenara: Oh yeah.
Josh: So I don’t know if our listeners are familiar with that show, but basically we were paired up with different performers who went around and showed us different murals all over the neighborhood, and at each mural or each location, they would offer a little monologue. In between those little places while we’re walking around, you have the opportunity to talk about the neighborhood with the performers who are actually residents of Kensington.
Tenara: Yeah. That was by Mike Durkin and his company, The Renegade Company. He is an amazing, amazing, amazing theater maker in Philadelphia. And if we talk about participatory work with … However we define non-professional performers, which is … I don’t love that category, but people who don’t spend most of their time in the arts, he offers really, really effective and ethical models of how to do that. So I don’t believe that he has a show in the Fringe Festival this year, but any time he does, we should all go see his work. He’s amazing.
Josh: Yeah. I loved it.
Josh: It was so great.
Tenara: Yeah. But now you’re here. This is your first Fringe Festival as an ambassador.
Josh: That’s true.
Tenara: Oh my gosh.
Josh: I am thrilled.
Tenara: I am … Every time I get the guide and when I’m first going through it, I have to literally calm myself down and be like, “You will not see every show. It’s impossible.”
Josh: I had to remind myself of that.
Josh: It was literally … Also, I was looking at it on a PDF. So I was literally scrolling through being like, “Okay, this one is at this venue in this part of the city. Can I make it?” And I had to make some tough choices.
Tenara: You have to let it go a little bit. Yeah. You really have to be …
Josh: Yeah. They’re all so wonderful.
Tenara: I know. So before we get into your recommendations, what kind of work do you really like? What kind of live performance experiences do you love the most?
Josh: That is a tough question.
Tenara: It is a tough question.
Josh: I did really appreciate the participatory aspect of that last performance. I look for really good storytelling in performance. I’m a musician, so I love music, being able to add other elements of arts outside of just theater or things that I get really excited about, and being able to … An element of surprise is always cool.
Tenara: Oh yeah.
Josh: Yeah. Not necessarily knowing exactly what I’m getting myself into.
Tenara: That’s really brave of you. I feel like most audiences don’t love that.
Josh: Yeah. But I’m a brave person.
Tenara: You are a brave person.
Josh: I’m an Aquarius.
Tenara: That’s right. We’re both Aquarii.
Tenara: Thank you for the reminder. I was about to say that’s something that I share with you, is that I actually really like going into a show without knowing a lot about it.
Josh: Wow, would you look at that.
Tenara: Maybe it’s because I do spend a lot of my time in the arts that the more I hear about the show, I feel like my work brain turns on and I start thinking about it as an arts administrator more than just as an audience member that’s there for the experience. So it’s actually great if somebody’s like, “Oh, this show’s great. You got to go see it,” and then they don’t tell me anything about it. That’s primo for me.
Josh: Yeah. I like to know general themes, you know? But don’t give me what’s going to happen.
Josh: Yeah. I’m really excited to talk to you about these shows happening this year. I think generally, when I was looking through the guide of what’s happening this year, a lot of the work is really moving, you know? I really liked the range of … In terms of accessibility for adults versus kids, I feel like there was … That was something that people were thinking about. Yeah. And the fact that it was all over the city. I had no idea that these shows were so geographically diverse as well.
Tenara: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite things about September in Philadelphia, is that we’ve used language at FringeArts for a long time about the city explodes with art, because it really does feel like a combustion, in a way, where all of a sudden something that took up just a little bit of space now takes up all the space.
Josh: Yeah. Totally. I live in South Philly, as you know.
Tenara: Yes I do.
Josh: So I don’t always make it all the way up to our beautiful facility here at FringeArts, all two miles away. So I was so thrilled to see that there was shows happening even closer to me.
Tenara: Amazing. Amazing. Let’s talk about it. What are the shows that you’re really excited about that are in your South Philly neighborhood?
Josh: Well, okay. So I highlighted one show in particular, which is called I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman.
Tenara: Oh nice. I don’t know a ton about it. What I can say is that this artist and this show is one of our FestiFund winners.
Josh: Oh okay.
Tenara: So the FestiFund was an independent fund that stakeholders and other artists and fans and patrons donated to as a way of helping provide more resources to our independent artists. And artists who had a show in the Fringe Festival got to apply for the money, and then an independent review panel that actually featured some FringeArts ambassadors, which is great, they adjudicated the applications. And so this is one of those winners.
Josh: That’s awesome.
Josh: Yeah. It looks like … I was doing a little bit of research on it when I was that it was in the guide. She is from the south, and basically the things that really drew me to this show were that she wanted to tell a story about living in North Carolina, about navigating and growing up as an African American woman, and her experiences, and that this is her debut in Philly, her premiere in Philly. So I was like, “Oh, this is cool. I want to show up.”
Tenara: Yeah. What is it about that …
Josh: What is …
Tenara: That you were really drawn to?
Josh: Well, let me find what the blurb was.
Tenara: Yeah, yeah.
Josh: Because that’s what drew my eye in first. Okay, so the blurb says, “In this award-winning sojourn embracing Southern roots, gospel rhythms, and queer identity, one family’s love conquers all. A scrappy Jersey girl finds the courage to live authentically in this soul-rich performance of storytelling, theater, song, and poetry.”
Tenara: Oh my gosh. There’s a number of words there that I’m like, “That’s a Josh buzzword.”
Josh: Exactly. I was definitely really interested in what she meant by embracing her southern roots, and queer identity, and the intersection between that, and gospel rhythms, and music was … Sounded right up my alley. Yeah. It was combining … Like I said earlier, it was combining the theater elements of storytelling, also including song and poetry, and telling a story that I feel like needs to be highlighted, and prioritized in our moment.
Tenara: Yeah. In our moment. So wait, where is this show taking place?
Josh: It’s happening at The Whole Shebang, 1813 South 11th Street.
Josh: So it’s just south of East Passyunk.
Tenara: And then what are the dates?
Josh: September 20th at 7:30, September 21st at 3:00 PM and 7:30, September 22nd at 3:00.
Tenara: So it’s an end of the festival show.
Tenara: Great. That sounds really good. I can’t wait to see it.
Josh: Yeah. It looked like she has been touring in New York and in Chicago. So I’m …
Tenara: That’s awesome.
Josh: Really excited to welcome her to our city.
Tenara: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Every artist deserves an audience member like you in their little space.
Tenara: Okay. What’s next? What’s the next show that you are interested in?
Josh: Okay. So the next one I was looking at … La Bolivianita.
Tenara: Okay. I’m trying to …
Josh: La Bolivianita.
Tenara: Is it theater? Is it dance?
Josh: It’s dance.
Tenara: Let me flip to a different section in the guide. Yep. La Bolivianita.
Josh: This is an autobiographical one-woman performance work by Pasion y Arte artistic director Elba Hevia y Vaca, and explores her story as a Bolivian immigrant and mother. La Bolivianita delves into her almost lifelong journey with Flamenco, and how that has continued to evolve as she ages. The piece will culminate in an interactive dialogue with the audience. Directed by world-renowned Flamenco artist, Belen Maya.
Tenara: Okay. So many buzzwords, once again.
Josh: Yeah. So let’s break that down a little bit.
Josh: First of all, an autobiographical piece …
Tenara: You love those.
Josh: And also it’s a dance … Autobiographical dance piece.
Tenara: Oh my gosh.
Josh: I don’t even necessarily know what that looks like, because I’m not super familiar with dance, but the idea of someone directing and creating a story about themself through dance and through their body … Love it. Love it. And this is someone who has been working in Philly for a really long time. Her studio is a Flamenco dance studio up in North Philly. So it’s happening, I believe, at their studio. I don’t know where Exuberance is.
Tenara: North Mascher Street.
Josh: 1220 North Mascher Street.
Tenara: Yeah. So up north.
Josh: So yeah. This is a world-renowned Flamenco artist who lives in Philadelphia. She was born and raised in Bolivia, and has been dancing since she was five. So I’m definitely curious to understand how dance, for her, has evolved through her experiences as youth and teenager up to now, adulthood. And also the experience of dancing in Bolivia versus coming as an immigrant to Philadelphia, and what that experiences were like for her.
Tenara: This touches on something we were talking about before we started recording, but I feel like particularly artists who are seeking to share their immigrant stories, I just feel a lot of respect for that choice in this moment. It feels very risky, and also very courageous. It’s energizing to see that in our guide so frequently.
Josh: Yeah. I’m also interested in understanding how that process of creating it looked like for her. You know?
Tenara: Yeah, yeah.
Josh: I’m wondering if that’s what the interactive dialogue is going to be like at the end of the performance.
Tenara: Yeah. What are the dates?
Josh: The dates are September 19th through the 21st at 7:30, September 22nd at 6:30. So these are at the same … At the end of the …
Tenara: You’re going to stack your weekend.
Josh: I’m about to get super busy that weekend in September.
Tenara: Welcome to my whole month.
Josh: Yeah. You’re so lucky.
Tenara: I know. I know. It really is a privilege. I’m so excited for Fringe Festival season. Okay. Give us your last one.
Josh: This one is called And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens.
Tenara: Oh. Yeah. That’s EgoPo.
Josh: You know about EgoPo?
Tenara: Oh, that’s interesting. They’re performing … This piece is being performed at Asian Arts Initiative, but every time I’ve come to see EgoPo, they are at the Latvian Society Theater.
Josh: Oh okay.
Tenara: Yeah. I’ve known a lot of people who have worked with EgoPo before, a lot of people who I really respect. And I’ve seen … I’ve actually only seen one show there before, but it was show that was so dynamic and so interesting, and yeah. There were so many things about it that really took me aghast or aback. And yeah. I had a good time. But so tell us a little bit more about the show.
Josh: So this is a Tennessee Williams play that was actually written in 1957. The piece was never produced in Williams’ lifetime. It’s the only piece that explicitly has queer characters in the show.
Tenara: His only piece that actually … Wow.
Josh: Yeah, which is so interesting as a … Because he was a queer playwright.
Tenara: And so much of the dramatic tension in all of his plays is these unspoken queer relationships.
Josh: I’ve never seen this show before, and I love the idea of resurfacing, I guess, and highlighting pieces from our history. So when I was doing research about it, one of the things I thought was really interesting was the fact about this story centers a drag queen, her experiences of getting older in the scene, and also being a mentor for two younger gay boys who she … Or he rents to them upstairs.
Tenara: Oh, like living space?
Josh: Yeah. So …
Tenara: Got it.
Josh: The play is in one room, I guess. And Candy Delaney is the name of the queen. She gets broken up with, and starts stressing out about what it means to be 35. And I think that age is a really interesting theme that I am starting to think about.
Tenara: Oh, man. I wonder why that might be.
Josh: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Tenara: Wow. Okay. So when is And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens performing?
Josh: They are performing earlier in the month. September 5th through the 8th at various times.
Tenara: Nice. At Asian Arts Initiative. That’s great.
Josh: At Asian Arts Initiative Studio B.
Josh: 1219 Vine Street.
Tenara: That’s awesome. Great. So you’ve got your beginning of the festival planned, and you’ve got your end of the festival planned.
Josh: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tenara: That’s great.
Josh: I’m open to suggestions.
Tenara: Great. So I have got a couple for you.
Josh: Thank you.
Tenara: Yeah. I’m here for you. One great thing that you can do in the middle of your festival is a show called Emergency Contact.
Tenara: It is … Starts at the Good Karma Café. It’s performing September 8th through 11th, 15th through the 18th, and then again on September 22nd. So it’s spread out throughout the festival. So essentially, it’s a one person show and a one person audience, and you are given headphones. And you follow the actor through the streets. So you start at the Good Karma Café at the Wilma Theatre on Broad Street, and then the bio says, “Headphones on, follow along. Jenny has been summoned and you agreed to help. Retrace her steps and listen to her final dispatch to discover how we break the cycle. Emergency Contact is an immersive, traveling experience for a solo audience member.”
Josh: I actually did see this one.
Tenara: You did? Yeah?
Josh: Yeah. I was thinking about it. I thought it might be so funny to … I was imagining people outside of the performance watching these people in the street. It’s this one person following with headphones, and then …
Tenara: But I imagine that it won’t look strange to a passerby, because it’s one person walking, and then another person who has headphones walking behind them. It’s not like they’re connected by a rope or anything.
Josh: You’re right. I just thought it might be really silly.
Tenara: It just makes me think that there’s actually a lot … I mean, this for sure, this is an example of participatory mobile art that is on a much smaller scale in comparison to one of the shows that we’re doing in the curated section of the Fringe Festival which is called Úumbal, where it’s many Philadelphia residents, 50 plus Philadelphia residents, that are dancing in the streets of South Philly, and the audience follows them along. So this is two very extreme poles on that end. But that’s … I mean, I wonder if it’s this particular moment that has artists really thinking about that, and excited to present that to an audience, or what, but I’m super excited for Emergency Contact.
Josh: I feel like wearing headphones just as an experience when you’re navigating through public spaces pulls you out of it, make you just really into it. So I’m interested how audience members are going to feel just solely focused on this one person, but also being in public. How you hold those two things a little bit.
Tenara: Yeah. Oh, that’s really cool.
Josh: And I’m excited to … It feels exclusive, you know?
Josh: One person. I mean, I hope they pick me.
Tenara: I know. We should … Folks should get their tickets for that quick, because if it’s a one person audience, those are likely to sell out fast.
Josh: That’s what I’m thinking.
Josh: How do you …
Tenara: It’s 45 minutes long. And I see offerings by the hour, but yeah.
Josh: So they have two hourly things each day?
Tenara: So they have, for several of the days, they have performances on the hour for four hours.
Tenara: And then on September 22nd, they have performances on the hour for three hours.
Josh: Is there only one person in the cast?
Tenara: Yeah. It’s a one person show with a one person audience member.
Josh: Can you imagine being that performer?
Tenara: That’s going to be super intimate.
Josh: Yeah, super intimate.
Tenara: Cool. Well thanks, Josh, for going on this Fringe Festival guide journey.
Josh: Oh, no problem. I’m so thrilled that you asked me to participate, you know? I feel so honored.
Josh: [crosstalk 00:20:19].
Tenara: Now, for the listeners at home, do you want to really quickly mention in your own words what the ambassador program is and what you do?
Josh: Yeah. Basically as an ambassador, what I do is I recommend shows to folks in my community that might not be familiar with Fringe, or find the costs of getting to shows inaccessible, and offer free tickets to people. So I show up to monthly meetings where we talk about what’s happening at Fringe, and we go over different shows and different strategies for bringing new people into these performances. And then I go out to my networks and I reach out to people that I think might be interested. And I think what’s been really positive for me is being able to one, I’ve been exposed to a ton of different shows that I would not have been able to see, and also I’ve been able to bring folks who I know cost has been a barrier for to a bunch of really amazing performances. Yeah.
Josh: Last month, we went to see Moor Mother’s show. That was a really, really incredible show, where it was playing on themes of Afrofuturism. And the whole performance was set in this futuristic world where basically companies are totally controlling everything, it’s impossible to rent anything, and I guess thinking about themes of reclaiming space.
Tenara: Talking to ambassadors always reminds me that I’m very lucky to do what I do. Cool. Well thanks, Josh.
Josh: Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me.[FringeArts commercial break]
Stephanie: Hey there. I know you’re in the middle of Happy Hour, but I just need a moment of your time. My name is Stephanie, the podcasting intern for FringeArts. This year, FringeArts is partnering with local bookseller Head House Books to present a pop-up Fringe Festival bookstore. Head down to Cherry Street Pier, Philadelphia’s newest, most arts friendly waterfront park to browse books and publications by and about artists in the 2019 Fringe Festival. This is your chance to delve deeper into the curated Fringe Festival shows. During the festival, join us at Cherry Street Pier for a series of intimate conversation and live podcast records with the artists and community partners behind the shows. See? I told you it’d only take a moment. Now, let’s get back to our Happy Hour on the Fringe interview.
Meesh: I am Meesh.
Tenara: I am Meesh. Who are you, Meesh?
Meesh: I am Meesh. Just a lonely cowboy on his way home.
Tenara: Meesh is a FringeArts ambassador. And full disclosure, Meesh and I used to work together.
Tenara: At a preschool.
Meesh: Wrangling young children.
Tenara: Wrangling the youngins. And I pulled Meesh into the FringeArts ambassador program that I manage because I know that she is … She absolutely fits the description in that she’s a culturally curious person.
Meesh: I would say I’m culturally curious. I’m curious in nature, curious about lots of things.
Tenara: And you also are somebody who is connected to lots and lots of different communities.
Meesh: Aw, that’s cool.
Meesh: Yeah. I guess, yeah. I really like doing this whole thing, because I get access to amazing shows, but also I get to talk to people that have never even been to a performance. I brought a friend that never been to a FringeArts performance, or even a theater performance before.
Meesh: And they were just like, “Wow, thank you so much for that. I’m going to pay attention to these kinds of things. Let me know about other shows.
Tenara: What show was it?
Meesh: Yeah. I took him to go see A Hard Time.
Tenara: You took somebody who had never seen a theatrical performance to A Hard Time?
Meesh: I mean, if you’re going to do something, you better do it right.
Tenara: Better jump all in.
Meesh: Do it right. Get a little uncomfortable, which there are moments where he was just like, “What is this?” But at the end and how powerful of an ending that was, he was just like, “I loved that. That was awesome.”
Tenara: Wow. When you really start with A Hard Time, you probably just won’t have the patience for the Jungle Book on Broadway. [inaudible 00:24:45].
Meesh: Come on, Mowgli’s still got this … He’s got it. Come on.
Tenara: Okay. So Meesh, how long have you lived in Philly?
Meesh: 10 years.
Meesh: 10 whole years.
Tenara: You are somebody who could probably speak from both an outsider’s perspective, because you didn’t grow up in Philly, but also from somebody who feels very in it, because it’s been your home for the past decade. So can you tell me why you feel Philadelphia is such a primed city for contemporary performance? Or for art in general? Just art.
Meesh: For art. Yeah. Well, I did grow up in a rural community. So the juxtaposition of my experience, but Philly is amazing because there’s a lot of different types of people here that are engaged in lots of different types of work. And there’s a lot of great communities, and also different … I always think about Philly from the outside, when you look at … Bird’s-eye view of Philly, and you see all these connection points. And I feel like Philly’s a small big town. Big city, small town vibe, because you know everybody. And with art, there’s amazing galleries, and lots of different pockets. There’s different performances happening. Sometimes, I’m walking to a coffee shop and there’s some … It’s an open mic night or something, and a lot of comedians are trying out new material. I’m like, “Okay. I’ll stay here for that.” I see … There’s a lot of different things happening that you walk into.
Tenara: Have you ever seen those guys, that they walk around the city and they drum and they just do … I think it’s an anti-gun violence thing, or trying to stop violence. That’s their message or whatever, but it’s just these three guys that they have banners on their shoulders that say their message, and they just … It’s a drum-line through the streets of …
Meesh: That’s awesome.
Tenara: You don’t know …
Meesh: No, I actually never seen that, but …
Tenara: But stuff like that, I feel like I round a corner, and I’m like, “Drummers.”
Meesh: Wow. Jazz guy outside Reading Terminal Market.
Tenara: Exactly. Exactly.
Meesh: Yeah. And there’s … First Friday events are really, really well-attended, and people want it. We’re all interested in that. And I also think Philly has a large amount of artists, because it’s …
Tenara: It’s because it’s cheaper to live here than New York.
Meesh: Yeah. You can buy property here.
Tenara: Meesh knows.
Meesh: I own a house.
Meesh: On a preschool salary.
Tenara: Okay. So let’s just dive right in. Let’s just talk about the shows that we’re excited to see. Also, I realized we forgot the most pivotal question, which is what are we drinking tonight?
Meesh: Ooh. Well, I’m almost done with this.
Tenara: Yeah, same.
Meesh: Gin and tonic. I actually walked into this room, and it was waiting for me, which was …
Meesh: At its best because I had never had that happen to me before.
Tenara: FringeArts provides service.
Meesh: Walk into a room with no windows, and there’s a gin and tonic waiting for you.
Tenara: Thank you to Rachel Robinson, the development director here at FringeArts who’s letting us use her office.
Meesh: Thanks …
Tenara: For recording.
Meesh: Yeah. Thank you, Rachel. My name’s Meesh Robinson.
Tenara: Maybe you guys are related.
Meesh: I doubt it.
Tenara: Okay. So here’s the link up. The reason why I want to talk about this show, or the reason I thought to bring it up with you is because I am somebody who … I don’t often seek out the fine arts, by that I mean the visual arts. Most of the time, I’m always going to performances. You are somebody who oftentimes goes to visual art shows. You took me to a visual arts show called Got It For Cheap, where there was just six-foot long, seven six-foot long tables just spread out in a warehouse, and there were prints all over the tables, and each of them just cost 30 dollars in an effort to disrupt this hierarchy of who has the capital to buy art. And it was like listen, you got it for cheap, everything’s 30 dollars. The artists are making it for this event. Let’s just do it. Let’s … And it was so fun, and I got two prints out of it, and I love them so much, and they are hanging up in my home.
Tenara: And the reason I’m thinking about that is because I want to tell you about a visual arts companion piece to one of our curated Fringe shows. So one of our curated shows in the festival this year is called Cartography by Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers, who by the way, is the son of Walter Dean Myers.
Meesh: I don’t know who that is. But he sounds important.
Tenara: Walter Dean Myers, when I was in middle school, wrote all of the books that we had to read, like Monster. That’s the only one I remember.
Meesh: All I remember is Jack London.
Tenara: Certainly, I don’t think that that was … That’s not in the book list that I’m thinking of.
Meesh: Was that even an author?
Tenara: I don’t know. But Walter Dean Myers, he wrote a lot of young adult novels, particularly speaking to the black boy experience. Christopher Myers is his son, and illustrated a lot of the books that he wrote. And so he and Kaneza Schaal, Christopher Myers and Kaneza Schaal collaborated on this show called Cartography, which is five young immigrants sharing their migrant experiences. And the really cool part of it is that it is interactive in a way that it invites everybody in the room, particularly Americans who are not native, indigenous people to think a little bit about their migrant journeys. And for some of us, the migrant journeys were like, “We came on the Mayflower.” And others of us, they were like, “We actually can’t go that far back, because we do not know where we come from. We were stolen to arrive here.”
Tenara: Yeah. And so it’s really interesting, because it re-frames the narrative of this country, and one that is really rooted in a lot of migrant trauma. But it’s also an exciting thing to be able to look … There’s a really exciting portion where there’s a map, and you get to just watch in real time as the audience plugs in where their migrant journeys, and their ancestry come from. And so in live time, you see all the different places, how global and connected our world is through some pretty harsh realities and otherwise.
Tenara: So that’s the piece. That’s the curated show, but the companion piece that I want to talk about is actually also an independent digital Fringe piece. It’s called Suspended Lives, or Vidas Suspendidas. And it’s by Puentes de Salud, which is a health center and community center in South Philly that is serving mostly undocumented immigrants. And it looks at holistic community health. We partnered with them on a show that you actually saw.
Meesh: Yeah, with Palante.
Tenara: Yeah, which was a first person arts festival show.
Meesh: Yeah. There was those terrariums or dioramas.
Tenara: Dioramas, that’s [inaudible 00:31:57]
Meesh: Of children, but it was with kids.
Meesh: Yeah, and so they did the dioramas of their own migrant experiences, accompanied with headphones with their own story. Their voices telling the story as well.
Tenara: Yeah. So you would listen to their stories while you would watch … You follow along in this 3D diorama storytelling. So this is a very similar format. It is still immigrant artists that are creating pieces that are representative of their stories, and also you’re invited to scan a QR code that takes you to the digital Fringe site, where you can listen to those stories in real time. The difference is these artists are much older. They’re all mid-20s to late 30s, I would say. They make life-sized self portrait sculptures, and there’s a lot of pushing on the iconography and the cultural utility of piñatas. It’s super freaking cool.
Tenara: And so they are going to be stationed at Cherry Street Pier, outside the Fringe Festival Bookstore throughout the entirety of the festival. One of them is also going to be at the FringeArts box office here, and then another one is going to be at Christ Church Neighborhood House, which is where Cartography is performing. They are amazing. And I really highly encourage everyone to plot the path from Christ Church Neighborhood House down Race Street to FringeArts box office and then down to the Cherry Street Pier, where the Fringe Festival bookstore is. And you can look at each one of them. The majority of them will be at Cherry Street Pier. But they’re just incredible pieces, and they are artists who are connected through an incredible organization. It’s just … For me, Puentes de Salud is such an integral part of our community, and I’m so happy that they exist, because they are truly doing the Lord’s work. It’s amazing.
Meesh: Yeah. I’m really excited to see it. And it’s a nice walk. Everyone do it. Go around.
Tenara: Have a breezy walk in the Old City. What are you excited to see?
Meesh: Yeah. I lean towards … When looking through a book of lots of things to choose from, I lean towards comedy and improv.
Tenara: Because we all need a laugh.
Meesh: Yeah. I know. I always do. But there’s this one show called Prestige Drama at Good Good Comedy.
Meesh: That I really am looking forward to because it has a lot of buzzwords, like betrayal, sex, drugs, murder, hot dogs, karaoke, muscle milk. I’m not really into muscle milk, but I’m really into hot dogs and karaoke. But yeah, but also it just has a lot of buzz things too, like Breaking Bad, True Detective, Mad Men. I’m curious to see what it’s all about, and I think it’ll be really good and also funny.
Tenara: Yeah. Good Good Comedy, they were our partners for the Blue Heaven Comedy Festival.
Tenara: And I remember sitting with you watching one of Good Good Comedy’s … I think their weekly sketch groups How to Start a Cult. And we were cackling.
Meesh: Yes. No, they’re great. And then they had one of my favorite standup comedians now, Whitmer Thomas.
Tenara: Yeah, they brought Whitmer Thomas to Philly, and then we brought him for the Blue Heaven Fringe Festival.
Meesh: I’m really … Yeah. Anyway. Also in that same realm, the Riot In Rittenhouse: A Philly Sketch Comedy Show. I have a soft spot in my heart for sketch comedy. It’s all about Philly. The image is enticing. It’s a pretzel.
Tenara: Can you describe the image? Yeah?
Meesh: It’s a very [inaudible 00:35:28] pretzel.
Tenara: It’s a pretty sexy pretzel.
Meesh: With a Burt Reynold’s mustache [crosstalk 00:35:33].
Tenara: Is that because Philly is known for its pretzels?
Meesh: I guess so. I also …
Tenara: Maybe [crosstalk 00:35:38] company.
Meesh: I also love that they wrote, “Just get down here before the theater’s turned into luxury condos,” which is hilarious because it’s true.
Meesh: We just closed the hospital.
Tenara: Yeah, we did.
Meesh: We turned it into luxury condos, okay?
Tenara: We did just do that.
Meesh: So, there’s a lot of stuff happening.
Tenara: We got to look at our choices here.
Meesh: So, and I also love the … Turning to comedy as a coping mechanism. You know?
Meesh: So we’re just going to do that.
Tenara: That’s very you, I would say.
Meesh: I really … That’s what I … Yeah. I’m looking forward to that.
Meesh: I did notice that you guys … There’s the KYLD dancers, the Kun-Yang …
Tenara: Kun-Yang Lin Dancers. Yeah.
Meesh: Yeah. And they actually did some performances at my school, at the preschool, which … They didn’t come when you were teaching with us.
Tenara: I know. I’m so bummed.
Meesh: Unfortunately. But we had a parent suggest it, and the kids loved them, and they’re mesmerizing.
Tenara: Yeah. They’re amazing dancers.
Meesh: Yeah. So I’ll definitely be looking forward to that, but they also are coming on Thursday. So …
Tenara: To your preschool?
Meesh: I get … Yeah.
Tenara: So speaking of preschools, let me …
Meesh: I get to see them.
Tenara: Let me shout out a show that actually not only is it one of our family friendly performances … So I don’t know if you knew about this, Meesh, but there was something this year called the FestiFund. And the FestiFund was a way of connecting independent artists to additional resources to help them put their shows together. And so we partnered with CultureWorks Philadelphia in order to pull it off. And basically people, the community of Philadelphia donated to this FestiFund, and then a number of independent shows applied to receive funding for it, and only a couple of them won. And so then the pool is just split evenly and sent to those shows.
Tenara: And we’re actually fundraising throughout the festival, because that check won’t go out until the end of the festival. So there’s still time to be able … I just think that models of fundraising in that way are super amazing, because they make it really accessible for other people to be quote unquote donors and patrons of the art, you know? Literal patrons, as in my financial contribution is making this possible. And truly no financial contribution is too small, because it’s all going into this pool that then is split evenly. It’s just really nice. So we are still fundraising for that.
Tenara: And one of the shows that has won the FestiFund is a show called Billy The Badly Behaving Bully Goat.
Tenara: Yeah. So the copy says, “Billy’s parents and teachers are at their wit’s end. They cannot stop this bully goat from picking on kids in his class.” So I think it’s really interesting that it’s actually … The introduction to the story is through the adults in this kid’s life being like, “How do we get this kid to …: This literal kid, like a goat …
Tenara: How to we get this kid to stop bullying? Because I think it also … I mean, I haven’t seen it. I can’t wait to see it, but I’m curious, because it’s … It implicates a community as … We have to think a little bit more strategically about how bullying works, and how there’s a cycle of harm, and there’s a cycle of trauma, and how somebody who is behaving like a bully has a lot of trauma, most likely, or is moving through the world without having fully deconstructing what’s going on inside.
Meesh: Yeah. I’m really curious on how they’re going to meet him where he’s at.
Tenara: Yeah. Meet him where he’s at. Nice.
Meesh: Yeah. Totally. And it’s a musical, so …
Tenara: And it’s a musical.
Meesh: I bet there’s probably some really heartwarming songs in there.
Tenara: Yeah. So I’m just saying for all the parents who are listening, FringeArts has a lot of family friendly programming, and I am so excited that one of the independent shows that fits that category, one part of the FestiFund …
Meesh: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Tenara: Yeah. It’s amazing. What … So tell me more about what you’re excited about.
Meesh: Yeah. There’s this one … The digital …
Tenara: Oh yeah, the digital Fringe.
Meesh: [crosstalk 00:39:28]. Yeah. The Grasslands With Out Time. It’s a podcast with photography exploring digital nature through surrealist fiction and lots of … I bet really cool trippy imagines of the nature and the world, and I’m really excited [crosstalk 00:39:45] that.
Tenara: Yeah. Dark … A Dark Crystal vibe, is the sense that I’m getting.
Meesh: Yeah. Yeah.
Tenara: It’s stories and soundscapes.
Meesh: No, I know. I love soundscapes.
Tenara: [crosstalk 00:39:54] Yeah. I’m also …
Meesh: [crosstalk 00:39:55] put those on when I’m cooking dinner.
Tenara: Yeah. Absolutely. The other digital Fringe show that I’m really excited about is called Dear Friend Society, which is looking to spread more positive energy. If you’re in search of a little pick-me-up, which …
Meesh: I’m always looking for a little pick-me-up.
Tenara: I know. I’m like bring it on over here. I need all 10 of them.
Meesh: Yeah. Positive energy?
Tenara: Yes please.
Meesh: Give it to me. But also there’s this one show, or it’s in the dance area.
Tenara: Yeah. It’s in the …
Meesh: But it’s called Sneakers, and it’s at the Theater Exile. I’m really looking forward to that, because I don’t know. It says, “unassuming humor.”
Tenara: Ooh. Yeah, well tell us more …
Meesh: [crosstalk 00:40:36].
Tenara: About what we might be able to expect.
Meesh: Yeah. So it talks about the people that come into your life, and the way they enter it in a new way when they leave.
Tenara: Oh, interesting.
Meesh: And it’s by Nichole …
Tenara: Nichole Canuso is an amazing dancer in this city. She actually was the choreographer for A Fierce Kind of Love, which is one of our …
Meesh: I loved that.
Tenara: Yeah. So it actually doesn’t surprise me that you’re drawn to her show, because I know how much you loved A Fierce Kind of Love. She’s … Yeah. She’s an incredible dancer. She’s an incredible maker in this city. I’m really glad that she’s in our festival.
Meesh: Those are my top guys that I’m really looking forward to.
Tenara: Yeah. There’s another FestiFund winner that is in the dance category. It’s called Close to Home. It’s by the Leah Stein Dance Company. I actually know somebody who’s in it. I feel very starstruck. It’s an intimate performance project with 11 dancers in response to the paintings of Edith Neff, who’s a Philadelphia based painter, and her subjects included family, Philadelphia public spaces, and the mythological allegory, which is amazing. So I think that we hit on a couple shows that are really deeply connected to Philly, specifically, which doesn’t surprise me at all. I mean, I think that such a city that is responsive and making art based on the lives of the people that are living here, and it’s like … I so appreciate that Philadelphia is such a character in all the shows, in which it’s set. You know?
Meesh: Yeah. No, totally. It’s funny, though. We picked all the …
Tenara: I know.
Meesh: Philadelphia …
Tenara: Again, it doesn’t surprise me.
Meesh: No. That’s … Yeah. That’s cool. I’m really excited about what’s going on.
Tenara: I’m so excited.
Meesh: Yeah. And part of being an ambassador too is to be able to open people’s world up a little bit more, who have never experienced these kinds of performances. And also I have some plans to just talk to the people that make it … Let’s go see a show that you’ve never experienced before. Yeah.
Tenara: Last week, when I was having this same podcast conversation with another one of our ambassadors, Josh Friedman …
Meesh: Oh yeah.
Tenara: We talked about our preferences in terms of how we go see performances. And Josh is a pretty adventurous person and likes to go to shows knowing some of the buzzwords, but not a whole of information. And so I’m wondering about you, how you most like to engage with new work and work that’s unfamiliar for you. Are you somebody that goes on the website and looks at all of the stuff that’s available for audiences to check out?
Meesh: Yeah. Honestly, I use word of mouth most of …
Tenara: Oh, cool.
Meesh: Most of the time, because I mean, I have been in the city for 10 years. And so I know lots of different types of people, and different backgrounds. So if someone’s going to reach out to me and say, “Do you want to go to Vox tonight for this show?” I know nothing about it, and I will just show up with them.
Tenara: But you trust your community’s curation, essentially.
Meesh: Yeah. Totally. If anybody that I know or I know their name or something and they’re a part of a show, I’m going to go there, because I know that they’re connecting in performances and art … Yeah. All those kinds of things that I’m going to trust and want to be there.
Meesh: It’s word of mouth, but also there’s my favorite places that I know for sure I’m going to see …
Meesh: Something great. So there’s lots of great things, you know?
Tenara: Yeah. Again, Josh and I were talking about this last week. When I open up the FringeArts guide for the Fringe Festival every year, I have to take a small meditative moment and be like, “You will not be able to see all of these shows.” And I have to remind myself of that, because it is such an overwhelming and stimulating month, but it’s so amazing, because there’s just tons of art. And then right after the Fringe Festival ends, the Opera Festival begins. It’s one right after another. And it’s … Philadelphia truly is the city of festivals.
Tenara: Okay. Thank you so much for joining me, Meesh.
Meesh: Tenara, thank you so much for having me, letting me babble.
Tenara: Oh my god. I was babbling with you.
Tenara: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and download the FringeArts app. Tickets are on sale now for our 2019 Fringe Festival. Visit www.fringearts.com or call our box office at 215-413-1318 for more information. And if you haven’t already grabbed a Fringe Festival guide, you can drop by FringeArts or La Peg to get your copy.[Exit music]