Operation: Wawa Road Trip: An Interview with Terry Brennan
Tribe of Fools is a Philadelphia theater company dedicated to creating new works that tackle difficult topics with a sense of levity, bringing compelling characters to the stage, and pushing performers’ physical limits by obscuring the lines between theatre, dance, and acrobatics. In 2018, they brought their independent show Fly Eagles Fly, a piece about fandom and community, to the Fringe Festival. This year, Tribe of Fools will be presenting a highly anticipated show titled Operation: Wawa Road Trip. To learn more about this year’s offering, we sat down for an interview with Terry Brennan, who shared with us the company’s history, what inspired Operation: Wawa Road Trip, and what he hopes audiences will walk away with from the performance.
FringeArts: What inspired Operation: Wawa Road Trip?
Terry: This kind of happened in two phases. We always have company meetings after Fringe to talk about what we want to do in the following year. Phase one was, at a company meeting we were all discussing what would make for a fun show. Joe (the director) suggested something Wawa themed just because of how ingrained Wawa is to the Philly identity. There were lots of ideas on the table that night. Phase two happened in a later meeting when Joe talked about how Wawa really feels like home to him even though it’s just a store. That really kicked off a longer talk about how all of us had different places that feel like home, or like they “know us” even though they’re just places of business. In fact, in most cases, the places were corporate chains like Wawa – they weren’t even mom and pop shops. That second conversation is what inspired us to make that idea into this year’s show.
FringeArts: Beyond grief, what are other thematic elements that you explore in this play? What else can we know about Lee and Joey and their journey?
Terry: Beyond grief the two big themes in this play are family and tradition. Lee and Joey have very different relationships to their family. Lee is kind of a type-a rule follower who loves the idea of family and loves family traditions. Joey isn’t as close with the family. He’s not at odds with his family, he’s not the family rebel, he just doesn’t really fit in with them. Because of this, he has a hard time getting as excited about traditions as Lee. For Lee all of the things their family does has tremendous importance (even when she’s faking it) and to Joey they seem random and at some times completely false. A big part of the story is each of them trying to understand the other person’s very different point of view of their shared family.
FringeArts: Tell us more about Tribe of Fools. How does the company bring interdisciplinary elements into your original shows? Where did the name come from?
Terry: Tribe of Fools is constantly trying to find expressive ways to tell a story. The most obvious, and consistent, aspect of this is acrobatics, but we also dip our toes in puppetry and dance as well. In some shows we’ve even had characters that are heard but never seen. What we’re always striving for are ways to get audience members to say “wow!” to themselves in either big ways or small ways; to surprise them with the way that we portray certain characters or certain scenes for poetic effect.
The name Tribe of Fools came from one of the founders, Jay Wojnarowski. When we started the company we had toyed around with a handful of different names. Jay offered up Tribe of Fools. It was a name he wanted to propose for a different company that he had worked with years before but the company broke up before he could make the suggestion. He had spent a lot of time thinking about what he wanted to communicate with the name. For him, and then later for all of us, it meant a group of people who were really dedicated to each other while fumbling around in this thing we call art.
FringeArts: Tribe of Fools tends to create shows that grapple with difficult topics with a sense of humor. Can you tells us why?
Terry: It’s easier to get people to listen to different points of view if you can make them laugh. We all have walls that come up whenever discussing difficult topics – all of us. One of the most effective ways around those walls is laughter. We really want people to walk away from our shows thinking about the subject matter, having discussions with the people they saw the show with, feeling conflicted about different characters, etc, but without humor you’ll only get through to the people who already agree with you.
FringeArts: What do you want audiences to walk away with from this performance?
Terry: We want people to pick up the phone and call that person they’ve been meaning to call for years.
Operation: Wawa Road Trip will be playing at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake.
$15-$25/ 85 minutes
Thursday, Sept. 5 – 8pm
Friday, Sept. 6 – 8pm
Saturday, Sept. 7 – 2pm
Saturday, Sept. 7 – 8pm
Sunday, Sept. 8 – 2pm
Monday, Sept. 9 – 8pm
Thursday, Sept. 12 – 8pm
Friday, Sept. 13 – 8pm
Saturday, Sept. 14 – 2pm
Saturday, Sept. 14 – 8pm
Sunday, Sept. 15 – 2pm
Monday, Sept. 16 – 8pm
Thursday, Sept. 19 – 8pm
Friday, Sept. 20 – 8pm
Saturday, Sept. 21 – 2pm
Saturday, Sept. 21 – 8pm