Beyond the Fringe: Liz Zimmerman on “Sex, Drugs, and Heartache”
In Beyond the Fringe, we connect with our independent artists from Fringe Festivals past to share what they’re working on and where you can check out their work…beyond the Fringe Festival! With Philadelphia Theatre Week coming up February 6-16, 2020, we reunited with 2018 and 2019 Fringe Festival artist Liz Zimmerman to talk about her upcoming show with Sewer Rat Productions.
FA: Tell us about your company.
LZ: Sewer Rats Productions is an organized collaboration of artists. We are dedicated to producing and developing new works that offers a multitude of perspectives on art as a whole. We embrace and mold conventions in order to express the unmistakable beauty in this world despite its persistent ability to turn things upside-down. We pool together our artistic resources in order to create something unique and special. Our focus has always been to express themes of compassion and empathy through faithfully displaying a perspective that isn’t often shared. Our hope is to create an air of understanding and maybe inspire those we reach to be mindful and sympathetic.
The name “Sewer Rats” comes from the idea that our perception can determine our opinion of something and how we handle it. The image that comes to mind of a sewer rat is not a pretty one, with gnarled teeth and menacing eyes. If we could honorably display even that perspective in a sympathetic light, we are doing our jobs. Founded in 2018 by two Philly transplants, Kelci Schlierf and Spencer Ventresca, Sewer Rats Productions began with their inaugural production of Life in Eight Parts, a two person semi-sketch, semi-improv one-act play featuring Spencer and company member Nolan Maher. It was performed as part of the 2018 Philly Fringe Festival. Since then they’ve been developing, producing, and finding their voice and identity as a company.
FA: When did we last see you in the Fringe Festival? Tell us about that work.
LZ: Most recently, Sewer Rats with Ragtime Players produced Period House by local writer Kent Dwyer for the 2019 Philly Fringe Festival. This play was a dramatic comedy that tackles issues including motherhood, marital strife, and PMDD, but with a healthy luster of comedy and snappy dialogue. Period House was a rare opportunity for women to reclaim ownership of something we’re taught to be ashamed of. It was a humorous look at what it is to suffer silently and the importance of friendships in helping us to cope. It was a celebration of women and the bonds that they form when they make the effort to support each other.
“This was a refreshing experience,” says director Kelci Schlierf, “Not only because it was my first chance to direct comedy, but because of the immediate sense of synergy in the room. When you get a group of strong, talented women in a room, it’s easy to feel supported and cared for. I connected with some of Philadelphia’s finest artists, and learned things about myself as a person and as a director. It was cathartic, the heart and the message of the show really came through, and the chance to be a part of something so positive is something I will always be grateful for.”
Through this collaboration, Sewer Rats met Liz Zimmerman who has since become the latest addition to the Sewer Rats family. As the producer of Period House, she sought out an audience and made the experience easier and more fun than ever could have been expected. She has continued to aid in the growth of Sewer Rats as a company.
FA: What have you been working on since?
LZ: Most recently, Sewer Rats has been producing Sex, Drugs, and Heartache for the 2020 Philly Theatre Week. A world premiere performance of two one-act plays both by Philadelphia playwrights, each one deals with the challenges of relationships, heartbreak, and love.
Lucy Isn’t Real by Leah Lawler – While going through a rough breakup, Amelia is burdened by the presence of Lucy, the human manifestation of her insecurities and negative self-projections.
You May Not Know Until You’re Finished With It by Spencer Ventresca – is an evening with three friends. Two of them embark on a psychedelic trip and struggle with the emotional and psychological ramifications of all that is brought to the surface.
FA: Tell us about the inspiration for this new work.
LZ: Sex, Drugs, and Heartache has been an opportunity to express our understanding of the concept of love through our experiences. Both shows draw from personal experiences with love, relationships and brings to light the darker side of human connection. It reflects on some of the negative thought patterns and lifestyle habits we will often fall into making this work incredibly personal and relatable.
FA: What can audiences expect to experience?
LZ: Exactly as promised: Sex, Drugs, and Heartache! The evening is a 90 minute ride with one intermission. You’ll laugh with us, you’ll relate to the characters (maybe a little too much, maybe you’ve met them before), you’ll be entertained and surprised. This show comes directly from the heart and will make you question what you know about love and life.
FA: Where can we find more information?
LZ: More information regarding the production can be found at www.Sewer-Rats.com or at https://www.