Happy Hour on the Fringe: Fringe Festival Veterans and Virgins
In this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, April Rose, FringeArts’ Fringe Festival Coordinator, talks to independent artists Tara Lake, Terry Brennan, Joseph Ahmed and the Executive Director of Da Vinci Art Alliance (and former Fringe Festival Coordinator) Jarrod Markman about their independent show offerings for this year’s Fringe Festival and their experiences as newbies and seasoned veterans of Fringe.
I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman will play September 20-22 at The Whole Shebang.
Operation: Wawa Road Trip will play at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake on September 5–9, 12–16, and 19–21.
Dissonance and Generations are visual art exhibitions that will be showing at Da Vinci Art Alliance during the Fringe Festival. Free / Gallery hours: Wednesdays–Sundays, 12–5pm. DVAA is also presenting Composition in Concert, displayed at International House Philadelphia daily from 8am–10pm during the Fringe Festival.
Featured photo: Tara Lake, I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman
Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.
Conversation with Fringe Festival Veterans and Virgins
April: Hello. This is Happy Hour on the Fringe. I’m April Rose, the Fringe Festival coordinator, and I am here with Tara Lake, Terry Brennan, Jarrod Markman, and Joseph Ahmed. I’m going to let everybody go around, introduce themselves, and say who they are, and how they’re involved with the Fringe Festival.
Tara: Hi, everybody. My name is Tara Lake. I am super excited to be here. I’m here to talk about my show, I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman, which will be part of Fringe Festival this year. I am a storyteller, and a soprano, and a performer, among other things. Yeah. That’s me.
Terry: My name is Terry Brennan. I am the artistic director of Tribe of Fools. This year Tribe of Fools is doing a show called Operation: Wawa Road Trip. I’m not directing it, but I’m totally in charge of stuff that has to do with that.
Jarrod: I am Jarrod Markman. For four years I was the April and coordinated the independent artist section of the Fringe Festival. This is my first year not doing that. Currently I’m the executive director of Da Vinci Art Alliance.
Joseph: My name is Joseph Ahmed. I am a company member of Tribe of Fools. I am directing Operation: Wawa Road Trip, which is happening this Fringe Festival, which I am very excited to be working on with Terry.
April: Great. Thank you all for being here. Today’s topic is Fringe Festival veterans and virgins. So Tara and I are both participating in the Fringe for the first time this year, at least the Philadelphia Fringe. I moved to the position of Fringe Festival Coordinator, and this is like I said, Tara’s first year presenting work in the Philly Fringe. We’re going to just get a little bit of background from our two veterans, well, technically three veterans, and have a little conversation about our experiences with the festival. Joseph and Terry, if you would like to do a little background on the piece that you’re presenting this year?
Terry: Oh, yeah. Joe, do you want to talk a little bit about Operation: Wawa Road Trip?
Joseph: Sure. Yeah. The Tribe of Fools has been producing work in the Fringe for a long time. This year, Operation: Wawa Road Trip, I’ve been describing it as sort of a mix between Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and Little Miss Sunshine. It’s two siblings who, in the wake of the death of their father, decide to take a road trip from Ohio to Philadelphia to scatter his ashes in a Wawa parking lot, a Wawa that was their childhood Wawa that they grew up going to. The play is a comedy, though with lots of elements of diving into sort of avoidance and denial in the face of grief, and the different ways that people in families grieve and feel about one another. But it’s a very sort of wacky, surreal journey, that incorporates all sorts of acrobatics, and dance, and puppetry to tell the story.
April: Awesome. Tara, can we get some info about your specific presentation this year?
Tara: Yeah. Sure. I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman is a collection of three stories that are sort of interwoven with poetry and song. The show takes its name from one of my most popular stories as a storyteller called I Know It Was the Blood. I get this question sometimes, or I have this year, but there’s no zombie elements or anything like that. People are like, “So, where are you going?” Either that or people who actually know the song, it’s a song, sort of freak out, because it was a very popular congregational song. Really common in African American churches of the south, and it sort of made its way northward with the great migration. It’s not particularly old, but just was very popular, especially in the 1960s and the 1970s, and sort of traveled with people whose families moved from the sound. Actually, that’s an important aspect of the story, just an experience of a girl. It’s very autobiographical. It’s all my true stories, so it’s my true, crazy life.
But looking at different aspects of what it’s like to be a young African American woman growing up in a family of people who have migrated from the south to the north with all of their traditional notions, and their brand of Christianity, and their ideas about family, and the experience of that as a person who is queer, a person who is a woman in that family, et cetera.
Then also, a person just being a young woman growing up as the urban environment transitions, the environmental that she lives in transitions, and becomes a bit harsher and more difficult to deal with, both because of things that are happening politically, and things that are happening within her family.
April: Okay. I was lucky enough to last night witness Tara singing at the Scratch Night that we had, and it was really, really magnificent.
Tara: Thank you.
April: You have a very beautiful voice by the way.
Tara: Thank you very much.
April: That’s great. I would like to, because there’s some different histories with the Fringe in this group that we have, maybe starting with Jarrod because it might be interesting to hear just a little bit about your time here and how maybe things have changed, and maybe a little bit of what it’s like to not be going crazy right now and preparing for the Fringe.
Jarrod: Sure. Well, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival I think is really interesting, especially in the context of the organization, in that the organization started as just the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I started coordinating the festival right when the organization moved into this beautiful new building, and they started trying to figure out what year round presentations looked like for the organization. When I started, I felt this shift in just from being involved in Fringe Festival productions myself, in that the organization felt very focused on trying to figure out this year round presenting model, and this big building. Two huge challenges to figure out. I came in to the role as Festival Coordinator, and wanted to put some of the focus back on the independent artists in the city. Because I felt that there was a current of that desire from the community. I did a lot of work at first to sort of get to understand what artists wanted out of the festival. We reshaped a couple of things and really tried to listen to what the community was saying. I think over that time, we grew the festival a significant amount, and got to really develop closer relationships, I think, with independent artists. Which I think you could see from just different aspects of the marketing, to how we talk about independent artists.
I even saw this year that that was furthered in that some of the larger communications that went out to the full Fringe Festival list included a lot of information about the independent artist shows which previously was just not there. So I think there’s a lot of positive growth in that aspect, too. My favorite thing about working with Fringe Festival artists and the organization, was the idea of risk, and that I felt that everyone participating in the festival was taking some sort of risk. Some people that was a financial risk, some people that was an artistic risk, or some sort of personal risk, but there was always this idea of people putting themselves out there. That was really a big through line of the four years I was here of some people doing this for the first time, some larger institutions doing new material that they wouldn’t do outside of the Fringe, and that something I really enjoyed.
April: Yeah. I noticed when I came into the position how many I guess loyal Fringe participants that there are. So many that knew you so well. So it was interesting to go and collect all these people and be like, “Hi, here I am. You don’t know me.” But a lot of companies have a very long history with participating in this Fringe and they come back every year. I guess that sort of brings us into Terry’s experience with which we just learned how many years have you and your company been participating?
Terry: Off and on, 12.
Terry: There’s a couple years we didn’t do shows, but yeah, before we turned the mics we counted and that was really upsetting. It was exciting, but also you’re like, “Oh, that’s 12. That means I’m 12 years older, but more.” But yeah, we’ve been doing it for a while, and have really enjoyed our time here. A lot of our audience was built at Fringe. We used to produce outside the Fringe, but at the time we were much smaller, it was a lot harder to get an audience.When we started doing Fringe, more and more people started coming back every year. It kind of became the model for, “Oh, well this is where we’ll do our big … if we’ve got a big splashy idea Fringe is where we’ll do it.” Also because people are looking for that when they come to the Fringe like, “I want to see a weird show.” It’s an easier sell to be like, “Yo, we’re doing this show where these siblings go to Wawa to spread their father’s ashes because they’re so distraught and don’t really know what to do.” And people are like, “That sounds Fringey, I’ll see that.” When you’re trying to push that in April, people are like, “I was thinking the Music Man? Yeah. Are you doing the Music Man? Does he go to Wawa?” So yeah, anyway the Fringe has really helped us build our audience. We have a lot of really loyal people, but we found them, not all of them, but many of them through the Fringe.
April: Yeah. I find talking to audience members a lot that they genuinely don’t know, the way that they know of Fringe arts is through the Fringe Festival a lot of the time, and they’re not aware of the difference between the independent artists and the curated work. Sometimes all of the Fringe audience, certain aspects of the audience see, is the independent work. They don’t realize that there are these different facets that this organization does and everybody kind of comes into us through the independent branch of the festival. Awesome. So Tara, I’d like to return to you to have a little talk about how you found your experience this year, and what brought you to the Philadelphia Fringe.
Tara: Okay. I know I didn’t really answer all of your question last time either, but basically when I decided to do this show, the show just turned a year old. I was in London at Camden Fringe, on the birthday of the show. So it’s only a year old, and I actually decided to do this show as a result of having an opportunity to perform I Know It Was the Blood again, which I hadn’t done in a really long time. I only ever performed it a few times.
I performed it at a storytelling event in Cincinnati, Ohio of all places, and just because of conversations there, people were like, “Hey, you should think about doing a show. You have something full length,” that I started looking at that and started writing. That was January, and it really started to come together June of last year. Through that process, I started looking for Fringe Festivals to participate in. I’d already missed a lot of deadlines and was just late. Just late. [laughter] Just late. I was just late, I didn’t-
April: You weren’t the only one, I promise.
Tara: Yeah. I didn’t know anything about Fringe, I felt late on so many levels. I knew about Fringe conceptually, but hadn’t had an opportunity to really attend one of them. Anyway, I was just sort of late. Just started looking for curated festivals to apply to, and so the show debuted at Chicago Fringe last August, which turned out to be the last Chicago Fringe. But-
Terry: Oh, no. I was literally like, “You need to tell me about Chicago Fringe.” Like, “Oh, it’s dead.”
Tara: Oh, it’s awesome, but it’s done. It was actually an amazing Fringe and a really great way to start because like as I said, just being a new person to the entire process and it was just a really warm and crunchy Fringe, kind of Canadian. It was just pretty awesome. Just sort of developing the show as I went, I did Chicago Fringe, Rochester, New York Fringe, and Charm City Fringe last year. Just was really encouraged by what happened there. We won the artist choice award at Chicago Fringe and got really great press titles at Charm City Fringe, and also at Rochester. So it was encouraging. I was like, “Oh, okay. People like this.” It’s Fringey in a different way. People are not used to hearing about queer identity and subversive discussions around religion, and certain social and cultural institutions, like wrapped into this sort of homey, uber-southern throwback couching.
It was cool to just kind of learn as I went. I don’t know. This year I was looking for festivals to start again, to do this whole process again, and take the show out again. I felt as if I had really gotten a chance to tighten and get ideas from people and a lot of wonderful feed back, which was amazing. This year, just one really important thing is that Cincinnati was a great catalyst for my deciding to move to Philadelphia. When I got here, I was in the process, because this was again I was looking in December, December through February, I was also looking for Fringes to apply to. This is how Philadelphia became part of my summer/fall Fringe tour this year. I brought this with me so I wouldn’t forget. But yeah, so this year I’ve done Capital Fringe in Washington DC, and I just wrapped up Camden Fringe in London.
Then I’m headed now to the Dream Up Festival, which is in New York, starting this weekend. Then I’m super excited I’m here at Fringe [laughter] and I was actually really, I had a lot of apprehensions about doing the show here, because I’ve been able, the other Fringe’s that I’ve done, have had a different model. The venues are sort of selected, so they had a very different model. I would say Camden is somewhere between that and Fringe in that it is … but it’s still very different. Going out and looking for a venue was actually something that I was really concerned about. I’m so glad that you all had the mixer early on, so that I’m pretty sure I came to you and collapsed into tears or something like that. Something like that, and just said, “I really want to do your Fringe, but I just I don’t know anybody, and I don’t know where to.”
That process, it’s been great actually, because you have been so helpful, and the entire team, all of Fringe has been so helpful because I probably emailed five questions a week or something, I think still, just through the entire process, so registering, and looking for a location. I’m really excited about the venue for the show, which is The Whole Shebang. It’s in South Philly, it’s a neighborhood I love. I don’t live there right now but I love it. Just wanted to find the perfect place, a place that was intimate enough, but also had the space for my show which is kind of very physical. Yeah, so it just really has taught me a lot about Philly, too, which has been really great for me.
Katy: Hey, Zach. Are you ready to party?
Katy: FringeArts is kicking off opening weekend of the 2019 Fringe Festival with a late night rager, featuring The Illustrious Blacks, a dynamic out of this world duo, fusing music, dance, theater, and fashion. Come join us on Friday, September 6th, at 10:30 in La Peg.
Zach: That sounds great. Then halfway through the festival, we’re throwing a halftime part with DJ Heavenly. It’s called Feels. Stripping back genres and themes, DJ Heavenly and a special guest do what feels right at this open format dance party. That’ll be September 14th, at 10:30 PM in La Peg.
Katy: Awesome. Then, to close out the festival, Johnny Showcase and the Mystic Ticket will be joining us on Saturday, September 21st at 10:30 PM with an electrifying performance you just don’t want to miss.
Zach: See you there.
[End FringeArts commercial]
April: Yeah and Tara, you have this amazing story with where you’ve taken this, and how it’s been perceived in different places, which is super different to our friends at Tribe of Fools who seem to, at least in the recent history, create Philly specific work that topically is very Philly specific. I’d love to hear both Joseph and Terry, if you have any comments on what it’s like to work with both topic specific work in the Philly Fringe, and how you feel like it’s perceived, and if you would take it elsewhere, I guess?
Terry: Oh, yeah. Well yeah, taking it elsewhere, that’s a whole thing. I’ve had that convo with people, and sometimes they’re like, “Oh, the thing is, that sounds really Philly specific,” and I’m like, “It’s about two people whose parents died. I’m pretty sure that happens in a lot of places.” But it is tough to sometimes get over the idea that the things we’re talking about can’t live other places. A long time ago we did this show called Heavy Metal Dance Fag, and that was kind of what everybody was like, “Oh, who are these guys?” Because before that people were like, “Who are these guys? I don’t think I’m going.”
It was kind of all about this South Philly dude who was trying to figure out a lot of things about his life. The short version was, is that he was really confused about his gender identity, well not gender identity, it was about his sexual orientation, but also there was a lot of gender roles things where he was like, “I want to do these things, but the community doesn’t explicitly say it, but it’s very frowned upon to do these other things.” And then a big spoiler at the end is that he’s dealing with the fact that his father just died, and his father was secretly gay for a number of years. So that had a lot of very Philly heavy things. People went crazy. They were like, “Man, I know that guy. I know that guy’s dad.” Everybody wanted … that was kind of the hook, was like not that people didn’t care about the story, but it became really, everyone suddenly was like, “Oh man, I feel this.”
What we started to do, is we started to, the next year we wanted to do a show that was all about the idea of the obsession with vigilante superheroes. It was all about like we all love the idea of a superhero, but I was like, “But let’s look at Batman.” That’s a good one, because Batman doesn’t have powers. I was like, “Let’s look at what would it be like if you wanted to be Batman.” You’d be late for work all the time, and you’d probably get your … can I say this … your butt kicked all the time. You’d get totally rocked out there because you don’t know how to fight. Then we were like, “And what would you be fighting?” And then we were like, “What if …” because we also were talking about, oh man, people always focus that on there’s this big, usually like an organization or something. And we were like, “Well, people hate the PPA. What if Philly Batman wanted to fight the PPA?” So that became a thing. That’s the Philadelphia Parking Authority. No, yeah.
April: Tara has a confused face.
Terry: Tara was like, “What’s the PPA?”
Tara: [crosstalk 00:22:38] parking.
Terry: But it was basically all about the injustice of … it would take a long time to explain, but people were really into it because people had such hatred. In the show there’s this antagonist character who works for the Philadelphia Parking Authority who gets killed in the show, because it all comes down to if you’re only escalating your point of view without a certain amount of just taking in the world, then the stakes become so high.
Terry: They get into this big fight over literally whether or not Philly Batman can put quarters in someone else’s meter. The PPA guy is like, “I’m not going to let you.” And Philly Batman is like … and it turns into this big, big thing, over a tiny, tiny thing. During the fight he gets pushed, it’s not even on purpose, and he hits his head on something and that is literally how people reacted. They go, “Oh.”
Terry: And I had people who were like, “Yo, the way that ends is like way too dark man. You had this really fun section, maybe you want the fun section.” I’m like, “That’s kind of the point though when you let something escalate to violence.” But again, people would tune into, “I never thought you’d get me to care about somebody from the Parking Authority.” So the reason we always go back to Philly things is that people just tune into characters that they may or may not identify with faster, because they’re like, “Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that person-
April: This is for me.
Terry: … in my city.”
April: I know this exact person.
Terry: Yeah. “I’ve been to Wawa. I might also do something irresponsible and ridiculous at Wawa.” Or when we did Fly Eagles Fly last year, it was mostly about in groups and out groups. And people are like, “I’ve also been left on the sidelines, no pun intended when everyone talks about football and I’m like, ‘Oh, I don’t really know.'” That was kind of why we tackle Philly. We try to take another thing that we’re interested in, and we try to put into something Philly, because people, they just really get excited about I live in this place, and this is very … so that’s a fun thing. We have another set of shows that we do that are solo shows that happen in the spring, and we purposely don’t make those Philly specific because those will probably tour. They’re one person shows.
We just learned that it’s people outside of Philly that are like, “Oh, well I don’t know what the Philadelphia Parking Authority is.” I’m like, “You have tickets in Chicago. We can just rename the organization when we come there.” Or it doesn’t matter, there’s enough exposition that people are like, “Oh, I get it. Tickets. I hate tickets.” But that’s kind of why we tackle Philly things. We try really hard to make sure that it’s something sort of social, something ideal that everyone can kind of plug into, and that it is usually … we try to get into, “Oh, I feel this way about it,” but there’s actually a lot of feelings around this subject, whatever it is, that land in legitimate, or varying degrees of legitimate, that are easy to be like, “I’m not listening to you.” Because that’s a real thing that we run into.
But the Philly aspect of that helps people relate faster we found. And more people come see the shows. That’s the other thing, is no one saw our shows for forever. I’m like, “Man, when we do Philly shows, people come.” So that’s a thing, too.
Jarrod: That’s a thing, though, in I think all arts presenting in Philly, is that people who live in Philly respond to Philly centric shows. We at Da Vinci Art Alliance did a show, an exhibition last year called South Philly, Pretty and Gritty, which was literally just a visual exploration of South Philadelphia. We got an outpouring of reception just because it was about our community.
That’s something also I think that’s interesting to the Fringe Festival specifically, in that I think Philly Fringe is for Philadelphia, more than it is for touring shows necessarily. As you were pointing out earlier, it is really hard, or a lot harder, to bring a show here because you are finding your own venue, you are trying to put roots into a community, at least for a short amount of time.
That’s also something I think is really interesting and unique, in that you can put a show into a unique space rather than a space that’s been given to you that you have to get out of in ten minutes. I just think that’s a really … the Philly centric-ness, and the fact that the festival really has roots in these communities is really interesting.
April: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We’re talking a little bit about the Philly specificness, and obviously Tara’s on the other end of this where you’ve gone everywhere, you have this rich history in your work, and I guess I’d like to, since we’re nearing the end of our time here a little bit, talk about some of your artistic influences in your practice, to sort of broaden it out a little bit from Fringe specific chat, and whoever would like to start, we have a little bit of a note on who are your artistic influences both in high brow and low brow type work if that makes sense? If you have any thoughts on that. Maybe who, maybe what, maybe [crosstalk 00:27:56]-
Terry: Yeah definitely, yeah. I don’t give it a lot of thought. I mean, I probably do, but I don’t give it a lot of conscious thought. When I moved here, I remember I was like, when people would be like, “What kind of theater do you make?” I’m like, “Oh, it’s like this thing. It’s physical, but also I mean it’s stories, but also you move.” People were like, “This is a really long explanation man.” But people would be like, actually people would say, it was really actually disheartening, they’d go, “Oh, we have a company like that already.” Then you’re like, “There’s only one?” And they’re like, “That’s Pig Iron.” I was like, “Oh.” I actually went and saw a lot of Pig Iron’s for a long time. There’s a part of me that really keyed into the way they tell stories, which was really wonderful.
And I think for a while, I didn’t do it on purpose, but tried to imitate certain aspects of that, and then I realize luckily that that’s not us. In fact, somebody at the circus school where I work, they were like, “What do you do?” And I was like, “Oh, I run a physical theater company,” because I found a better way to describe instead of going on for ten years. They were like, “Oh, like Pig Iron?” And I laughed, I’m like, “Sort of.” I was like, “Pig Iron’s a little more European, and we’re a little more NASCAR.” Somebody overheard me and laughed, and they were like, “That’s a perfect description.” But Pig Iron, really I watched some Headlong early on which was really great, I really love currently Berserker Residents and Lightning Rod Special.
Actually, a lot of the stuff that actually moves me, or inspires me to be like, “Well, maybe like this, maybe like that,” is actually a lot of movies and not high brow movies. I’m like, “Yo, if this was an Avengers movie, what would happen?” But it’s mainly because I want people to get really excited and … Do not worry about it. Do not worry about it.
Tara: Seriously [crosstalk 00:30:00] we’re still moving.
Terry: But I also look at what blockbuster movies are where I’m like, “How do you get people really excited?” And then how do you slide in things that are really … what’s the word I’m looking for? Well, we want to make people think. At the end of the day we want people to walk away. I usually say, “We want people to talk about the show and have conversations about the content afterwords.” But if you’re thinking during the show, then we’ve done something wrong. We want to push you through the show in a way where you’re like, “It’s happening.” In fact, we try really hard at times to get you on the side of somebody that maybe later on you’re like, “Oh, I hadn’t through that through. It felt really kind of icky at the end when that twist happened.” We always want people feeling their way through like you would a blockbuster, but we want to put actual meat in there for you to grab onto and be like, “Oh, so …” That’s my answer on that.
April: Oh, great. No. NASCAR to … what was the-
Terry: NASCAR, Avengers, Pig Iron, Lightning Rod Special.
April: Perfect. Tara, do you have any-
Tara: That sound was the auto play of Sarah Jones show Bridge Over Tunnel. I was like, “Is it Bridge Over Tunnel? Is it Bridge … I’m not sure.” I would have to say Sarah Jones, Anna Deavere Smith, John Leguizamo-
Terry: Oh, John Leguizamo was huge for me when I was younger.
Terry: I love John Leguizamo.
Tara: Right? I know.
Terry: That dude is insane.
Tara: And these are people who showed up. There was one more person that I … shoot. Oh, Nilaja Sun who did a show called No Child, which was amazing. It was a one woman show, and it was about the school system. It’s about her experiences as a teaching artist in the school system, in the Bronx. I was in California when it came there, and it was amazing. Those are people who have done amazing solo work. The first three that I mentioned, so accessible for me when I was younger because they were popping up on HBO. I wouldn’t have had the resources to see those shows as a kid who was too nerdy for my parents [laughter]. So being able to see that was amazing.
I would have to say probably those four people. There’s a lot of music in the show. A lot of music. Musically people like Kathleen Battle, and The Parks Sisters, and Dr. John … Oh, what’s his name? A lot of really old school almost shape note gospel mountain singers, because that comes up a lot in the work as well. So musically, those were the things that I was thinking about, was trying to do a show that could tell a cultural story, while also so it could tell a story about a particular group of people and their cultural practices and influences. Those are like, they’re quasi religious, they’re very cultural, they’re folksy, a lot of folk retention of just music and arts from just way back. Way back. My family’s been in Carolina a really long time, and then before half of them were in Georgia. What does 400 years of southern and African American music history look like, and what are those intersections? That’s a part of it. But other parts of it is like what is urban northern New Jersey in the 80s and 90s, what does that look like? What are those kids experiencing. What was I experiencing?
Those names that I mentioned, those music artists were really helpful for me in terms of being models for how you can tell those kinds of layered, complex stories, and how you can present characters, become characters, and especially characters who come from varying socioeconomic backgrounds and ensure that those characters don’t become caricatures, but are at the same time just as funky and gritty as they need to be real, to be real characters. Those are people within my family, people outside my family, people across ethnicities. Yeah, recently I told you, I was in London recently and it was interesting. I had some people who really understood. I literally had to stop and do translation, like the way we had to translate [crosstalk 00:34:39]-
Tara: … yesterday.
Tara: I had to stop and translate a lot of things about food ways or music, both R&B hip-hop stuff, like Mary J. Blige stuff, to older spirituals and stuff like that, things that pop up in the show that especially I think because the script is fast paced and because there are a lot of different characters with different accents and ethnicities that pop up.
So literally in the middle of the show, there would be one or two people if we had French people in the audience and English people, there’s people from everywhere. Everywhere. A lot of different continents. South Asian people and West African people, and Caribbean people, it’s just that’s London. You, as a performer especially in small spaces, you can see people’s faces like, “Now what just happened? I didn’t even … was that English? I didn’t understand that.”
I’m actually having to stop and translate this is what this food is, and this is how we like to eat this food, and this is an American thing, or it’s a southern delicacy, or whatever, having those moments, so certainly there is a lot of translation that has to happen. In the states, that doesn’t happen as much. Often, people, they get it. If they don’t get it from a personal experience which certainly is the case in the Midwest, but even in places like Rochester, New York, where people just got it, got it, got it, Chicago, too, like got it, got it, got it, I think that there’s enough sort of stuff in our cultural ether that people can kind of like, “Oh, yeah. I know that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.” They can pick and choose what resonates.
April: Cool. And Jarrod, I guess just out of curiosity, as with a curator capacity, and an artist and creator yourself, what are some of your artistic influences?
Jarrod: Oh, gosh. Well, oh God. That’s a hard question. My background comes from musical theater. Anything in that realm, like Adam Guettel, Light in the Piazza, Floyd Collins is my go-to in terms of musical theater repertoires where my artistic life exists.
But in terms of what I do now, the interesting thing is that it’s really actually non-curatorial in that the platform I ran before with the Fringe Festival was all about promoting the whole festival to the same degree. Right now at work I run a community visual art organization for about 225 different visual artists, and it’s sort of the same goal of providing that artistic platform without any sort of curatorial voice on top of that. A lot of my work is actually not my own personal artistic take on anything, which I also feel like is why I don’t have a great answer for this because I’m not in the practice of that. I focus most of my energy on the administrative side of building a platform for artists to have their own sort of take on stuff.
April: It is amazing that you went from the Fringe Festival which is something that is so absolutely really no bar for participation and everyone that wants to create can create, and then now you’re doing that elsewhere which is kind of amazing.
Jarrod: Yeah. That’s the reason. I mean, I have no personal background in visual art [crosstalk 00:38:12]. It’s been a whole new world to me to where I sometimes am repairing walls now, and doing things I never thought I would do. But it’s the same sort of through line of providing a platform for artists to come in and shape their own vision of whatever they’re working on.
Jarrod: That’s my favorite thing about the festival, too.
April: Great. Speaking of that platform, let’s talk and do some plugs. What are the Fringe pieces that you, Da Vinci Art Alliance, is presenting?
Jarrod: Da Vinci Art Alliance has three visual art exhibitions in the festival. The first one is Composition in Concert, which is our collaboration with International House Philadelphia at Lightbox Film Center. We for the past two years have been curating exhibitions based off their film programming. This is an exhibition inspired by experimental music through film that is out at International House Philadelphia.
Then we have two different exhibitions at Da Vinci Art Alliance, which is located at 7th and Catherine in Bella Vista. The one downstairs is called Generations, and it is a examination of mothers and sons, both artists and where art comes from in family lineage. And then upstairs is a solo show of a printmaker named Bill Brookover. He is exploring Dissonance through printmaking, and his own sort of experimental take on his own practice.
April: Great. And Terry, where can we catch your show and what days?
Terry: Okay. My plug is going to be a little bit pluggy, but a little bit different, so hang with me. Operation: Wawa Road Trip is at the Drake Theater, we’re in the Proscenium this year. We’re usually in the Bluver next door, but this year we’re in the Proscenium. It opens on the 6th of September. We have a preview on the 5th, so it’s a discounted price, you can come and watch the preview, but we open the 6th, we run through the 23rd.
Terry: We’re like Thursday through Monday. We actually got a lot of people who come on Monday’s because a lot of artists are like, “I really want to see your show,” and I’m like, “You’re in luck, it’s on a Monday night.” Those actually usually fill up. But the other thing, sorry, do you have the app? Do you have the Fringe Artist app? I’m about to plug your app, because I plug this app everywhere I go.
April: You’re doing my job.
April: It’s literally my job. This is literally my job.
Terry: There’s an app. Do you have it?
Tara: So I’m a Luddite, but I’m beginning-
Terry: See, I knew this was going to happen.
Tara: … to see why. I shouldn’t be left alone with phones.
Terry: I thought that was actually the best part of the podcast. Because I’m usually the person who lets my phone go off and I’m like, “I thought it was on silent.”
Tara: It was totally on silent.
Terry: But apparently it was on loud-
Tara: But the video … it was on-
Terry: [crosstalk 00:41:07] That was like an auto play, yeah.
Tara: … do not disturb, and then I was like, “Yeah. Sarah Jones.” And it just boom starts playing this. Oh, man.
Terry: But so-
Terry: Well, you should get the app, because the thing with the app is you can get tickets on the app, it’s a super good app.
April: It’s a great app.
Terry: Some people were like, “It’s not a very good app.” And I’m like, “You need to shut up, because I like it a lot.”
April: Who said that?
Terry: But there’s a most liked section. And you can have people who are listening to the podcast-
Jarrod: [crosstalk 00:41:29] This is like a true Fringe secret here.
April: This is?
Terry: Yeah, no. I’m trying tell everyone.
Jarrod: [crosstalk 00:41:33] It has its own secret. Yes.
Terry: Well, so you can have people on this podcast go and find … it’s not listed under the name of your show probably, it’s probably listed under your name as an artist, but I’m only saying this because I am in that thing every day. People can click like. We’re going to open this, and I’m going to go like your thing in a minute, but it raises your profile. Meaning when people are, “Well, what should I see? What’s most liked,” whereas they can find me and you.
Terry: Tribe of Fools is number two right now, and I’m getting my butt handed to be my Raw Street Productions and if they’re listening, I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re better at this than me. But yeah, and so just have your friends go and hit like. And that’s why when people are like, “What show do I see,” there’s featured artists on the app, there’s something else, and there’s most liked.
Terry: So the higher you are on those rankings, people are like, “Oh, that looks interesting.” They can buy tickets for your show on the app. If you’re listening, you should get the app, and you should totally like Tribe of Fools, and you should totally like … Tara, what’s your last name?
Terry: Tara Lake.
Tara: It’s so easy.
Terry: It’s like water, you just got to like it.
Tara: There you go. Water and Wawa.
Jarrod: But that is coming from someone who’s seen the evolution of pre-app days to app days, and that isn’t something anyone would know, unless-
April: This is 12 years.
Jarrod: … you’ve seen it. Yeah.
April: 12 years of-
Jarrod: That’s like real-
Jarrod: … real-
April: … Fringe.
Jarrod: …. real insider knowledge of them.
Terry: Yeah, no. I’m telling you, I’m like, “There’s an app. You got to download it.” I’ve done videos where I’m like, “This is it, right? This is someone else’s phone because I’m filming it on my phone.” But it just helps new people find you. So you should go and like Tribe of Fools, and you should go like Tara Lake, and you just bump around and see if there’s anybody else you like and hit like.
April: Yeah. The app is a great way to schedule your entire festival experience, too.
Terry: And that’s the thing, right? I was noticing that’s why a lot of artists I know like it, is because you don’t have to make that list. You can literally just do the thing right on there. So anyway, we’re in the 6th through the 23rd, but you should like us on that app. When is your show?
Tara: My show is September 20th through September 22nd. It opens September 20th at 7:30 PM, and then let me tell you where it is. Okay. My show is called I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman, and it is playing at The Whole Shebang, which is at 1813 South 11th Street. The entrance is in the rear. When you get there, you just walk around to the back, you walk through that free parking lot where you can park your car if you’ve driven. Right there in that school parking lot. And-
Terry: What is the cross street?
Tara: Not a [crosstalk 00:44:02]-
Terry: 11th and-
Tara: … probably not a-
Terry: Oh, I’m so sorry. Just I was just like, “I want to go, but …” I’ll find it.
Tara: No, no.
Tara: It’s 1813-
Terry: … South 11.
Tara: … South 11th Street. The name of the venue is The Whole Shebang. It’s actually a great dance and yoga and performance space. It’s in south Philly and yeah, so the shows are Friday night, September 20th at 7:30 PM, Saturday, September 21st at 3:00 PM, Saturday September 21st at 7:30 PM, so there’s two shows that day, and then Sunday, September 22nd at 3:00 PM. Do come and check us out.
April: And you’re really wrapping up the last few days of the festival there, so-
Tara: Yeah, yeah. I’m at the close there. And that’s almost the end of my tour, touring season, too.
Tara: So just really sweet. I’m so excited to be … because this is home now. So I’m so excited to [crosstalk 00:44:54]-
Terry: Do you live here now? Or do you-
Tara: Yes. I live here now.
Terry: That’s awesome.
Tara: Yes. I’m a proud and happy Philly girl.
Terry: You’ll know the PPA soon.
Tara: Oh, okay. Thanks so much.
Terry: They’ll find you.
Tara: Thanks, awfully.
April: Well, thank you again, to everyone for joining us here for Happy Hour in the Fringe, and again, get that app. I guess I don’t need to tell you that [crosstalk 00:45:13]-
Terry: You should get the app.
April: And like these artists and some others and you can schedule your whole festival experience on there. So thank you so much to Jarrod, and Joseph, and Tara, and Terry, for joining us, and see you next time.
Raina: Fringe Arts thanks our Fringe Festival supporters, including the Durst Organization, M&T Bank, the University of Pennsylvania, our Producers’ Circle, and members and listeners like you.