FringeArts Blog

A Fierce Kind of Love Q&A with Tenara Calem

Posted February 28th, 2019

We sat down with Audience Engagement Coordinator Tenara Calem to chat about connecting and engaging communities around A Fierce Kind of Love, March 1—3 at FringeArts, as part of High Pressure Fire Service.

FringeArts: Can you start by telling us a bit about A Fierce Kind of Love (AFKoL)?

Tenara: Sure. The show is about the history of the intellectual disabilities rights movement specific to Pennsylvania. It started out of research that the Institute of Disabilities was doing in 2012. And they learned a lot from mothers of folks who have intellectual disabilities and were institutionalized. Pulling at that thread revealed so much information about the movement for self-advocacy and they realized that sharing those stories in a performance medium was a really incredible vehicle to communicate the themes of the show, which is all about love, acceptance, and building a more just world that is inclusive and designed universally for everyone to enjoy it.

FringeArts: What about the accessibility of the performance itself?

Tenara: It’s a mixed ability ensemble. So accessibility is baked into the conceit and design of the show, so all of the performances are ASL interpreted, have audio description for folks who are blind or have low vision. There’s sensory seating, accessible seating, and closed captioning. It really is a unique piece and we are really lucky to have it here at Fringe.

FringeArts: In your role as Audience Engagement Coordinator, can you tell us a bit about your process in beginning with AFKoL?

Tenara: I always start my conversation with the artist. So, I’m very lucky at FringeArts that the pieces are brand new and that they are being created by artists that are in the room and get to have conversations with me. Not every person gets to do that. With AFKoL specifically I feel very lucky to be working so close with Lisa Sonneborn who is the Director of Media Arts at the Institute on Disabilities. She’s an amazing collaborative partner. She really really understands and practices a community engaged approach to her art-making so that all of the work that is being done to cultivate an audience that is going to resonate really strongly with the material has the flavor of “not about us without us”.

FringeArts: Where did your early conversations take you about engaging with different communities?

Tenara: I mean, AFkoL is a very interesting project because it’s already made with community performers. So it’s very involved and engaged in that way on its own. But Lisa and Suli [Holum] and David [Bradley] were really excited by the idea of locating where AFKoL performs not as well, which is with the physical disability community. Unfortunately the physical and the intellectual disability rights movements are very separate. And there are a lot of reasons for that and some of them are really arbitrary and some of them are by design of institutions of power who are holding all the funding. So Lisa and David and Suli were particularly excited by using the opportunity to create community engagement with this show that tried to bridge that gap and try to include folks of physical disabilities and those activists into the conversation of the piece so we could maybe create a more comprehensive discussion about disability rights movements at large.

So we got a bunch of folks into a room and had an open forum.

FringeArts: What came out of these conversations?

Tenara: We proposed to them an idea we had to develop a timeline of the Disability rights movement that included both the physical and intellectual disability activists and that was basically placed somewhere where there was a lot of natural foot traffic so it would accomplish a number of goals. It would create more visibility for the play at FringeArts. And it would also engage a really high volume of people on the themes. The activists at Liberty Resources and ADAPT, and Disability Equality in Education, they got super excited about the idea and said they would create the content for the timeline if you guys worry about the production and installation. So that’s what happened!

Read more about the installations at Parkway Central Library and City Hall here.

Visit the show page for more information about the talkbacks and roundtables following each performance.

HPFS: A Commitment to Philadelphia

Posted February 25th, 2019

With the opening show in the new High Pressure Fire Service series kicking off this weekend, FringeArts Artistic Producers Zach Blackwood and Katy Dammers share what HPFS really stands for and why we’re pumped about the next few months of programming at FringeArts.


HPFS philadelphia

Photo by Robby Virus

In 1903, he FringeArts building at the intersection of Columbus and Race Streets opened as the nation’s first High Pressure Fire Service system, its name carved on the east and west façades. Water was pumped from the Delaware River via a six-foot diameter pipe into the brick edifice and then funneled out to more than 900 fire hydrants from Girard Avenue to South Street. This innovative system allowed firefighters to shoot a two-inch stream of water 230 feet in the air and led to a significant decline in fire-related deaths and damages. With this reassurance, insurance companies subsequently dropped additional charges on tall buildings, and Philadelphia’s downtown area entered a renewed period of urban growth and architectural advancement. Though the pipeline from the Delaware has long since been capped and decommissioned, a spidering pathway of pipeworks still connects our building to a huge swath of the city: to cafés and community centers, taverns and libraries, and inevitably several cheesesteak spots.


With High Pressure Fire Service (HPFS), we are affirming an investment in artists living and working in Philadelphia. We believe there’s something special about this city—something tender and grumpy and people-powered. Over four months this spring, we are excited to present five new works and one expanded remount—pieces that exemplify the ways in which these artists are deepening and expanding their practices. Through residency support, commission funding, technical advising, programmatic counseling, and community engagement, each artist has approached this opportunity uniquely.

Suli Holum and the Institute of Disabilities at Temple University open High Pressure Fire Service with an expanded version of A Fierce Kind of Love, their multidisciplinary dramatization of the intellectual disability rights movement in Philadelphia, by incorporating new oral histories and contextual information in this multifaceted show that puts accessibility first. Following their Obie-Award winning theater-work Underground Railroad Game, Lighting Rod Special’s new piece The Appointment considers bodily autonomy and the navigation of reproductive rights in ways alternatively hilarious and sobering. The Berserkers are creating a work for audiences of all ages for the first time, employing their clown and physical-theater training to engage children and adults alike in Broccoli, Roosevelt and Mr. House!. A Hard Time is the first Pig Iron Theatre Company production created by artists other than their artistic directors, with Jess Conda, Jenn Kidwell, and Mel Krodman taking the lead in a comedic cabaret that reveals the violence and absurdity of gender-based expectations. Team Sunshine Performance Corporation reflects on their commitment to long-form performance practice as they present the third iteration of their 24-year project The Sincerity Project.  Moor Mother employs a theater-based work for the first time, bringing her interdisciplinary practice in music, poetry, and performance to consider housing insecurity entitled Circuit City.

The breadth of the work in HPFS exemplifies something concrete and intangible about what we value: a bootstrapping sensibility, a rebellious empathy, and a fructifying density in the footprint. In the last ten years, our city has emerged as a particularly generative environment as young artists are drawn by training opportunities at our many universities and newer artistic programs like Pig Iron Theatre Company’s graduate program and Headlong Performance Institute. Upon graduation we have seen artists continually commit to living in Philadelphia—drawn equally by its frontiers and its gritty spirit. We hope that this program will provide a valuable opportunity not only to survey the wide perspectives of this inaugural group of artists, but to also consider the state of the Philadelphia arts ecosystem at large.

Through conversations and companion programming for each presentation we will also consider the relationship between these artists, their work, and the city in collaboration with organizations including the Free Library of Philadelphia, Women’s Medical Fund, Puentes de Salud, and Smith Memorial Playground among others. These works and artists are poised to tour and develop beyond the city limits, embracing the nimble and flexible nature of the work created at FringeArts and grounded in the DIY-ethos that rings in the air here specifically.

As much as High Pressure Fire Service is a platform for Philadelphia artists to stretch themselves, it is also a call for us to challenge ourselves and our institution. We are committed to doubling down on our dedication to local artists, investing in relationship-building across the many communities of our city, and working to make FringeArts more accessible and welcoming. This first year is just the beginning, and we look forward to the ways this festival will grow and change to include an even broader range of artists and collaborations in the future.

Zach Blackwood and Katy Dammers
Artistic Producers at FringeArts

Featured Photo by Robin Barnes

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Interview between ADAPT activist Tony Brooks and A Fierce Kind of Love cast member Shawn Aleong

Posted February 14th, 2019

We’re back! On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, A Fierce Kind of Love cast-member Shawn Aleong and ADAPT activist Tony Brooks sit down and talk about living with disabilities in an exclusive world, and the missing history of disability rights advocacy. The podcast episode is now available online or you can read the full transcript down below.


Interview between ADAPT activist Tony Brooks and AFKoL cast member Shawn Aleong

Tony: Hi, I’m Tony Brooks. I live in West Philadelphia. I am an advocate and activist for people with disabilities and a member of ADAPT.

Shawn: Why don’t you tell people what ADAPT is?

Tony: ADAPT is a grass-roots organization of activists and advocates for people with disabilities. Now why don’t you tell people who you are.

Shawn: Hi, my name is Shawn. I am a Temple University student studying legal studies with a minor in real estate. I am also a disability advocate. When I say justice for all I mean justice for all.

Tony: Be it black, white, green, blue. I think what people don’t understand is that everybody has a disability in the first place, you know that, right?

Shawn: Well, I tell people that society has the disability, because they fail to recognize people’s abilities. No matter if you have cerebral palsy, down syndrome, or what have you, we all have an ability. Sometimes societies fail to realize that.

Tony: True. People don’t understand disability or its history – that is one of the problems ADAPT is trying to solve. You remember when the ADA was signed in 1990 by the late George H. W. Bush? He signed it with Justin Dart, a disability activist, and everybody on the White House lawn? But many people don’t know that before the ADA, we just had ADAPT and the Gang of 19. They were the first 19 people with disabilities who broke out of nursing institutions with Reverend Wade Blank. We actually just celebrated the anniversary of the original Gang of 19.

Shawn: Congratulations on your Gang of 19 anniversary!

Tony: No it’s yours too! It is yours too. You see, I just recently got disabled maybe four or five years ago. When I got disabled I noticed that the first thing that happens to you is you are stigmatized.

Shawn: Yes. Very often. As soon as people figure out that you are just a little bit different, they will shut you out.

Tony: Too true, man. We are trying to fight that with ADAPT. We work with an independent living center called Liberty Resources to try and progress our people.

Shawn: Yes, Liberty Resources. Your President is Thomas Earle. I know Thomas Earle very well. Good man, very good man.

Tony: He’s the CEO of Liberty Resources.

Shawn: Liberty Resources is one of the staples in the disability rights movement just like the Institute on Disabilities. I learned most of my advocacy skills from a program at the Institute called the Academy for Adult Learning, which is now Career Studies. When I tell you the Institute has been a major staple in my adult life, it has – I learned how to advocate for myself. That’s why I’m here today because of what the Institute and my mom gave me. The support. We have to make sure that people are educated about the history of the disability rights movement so they can help support us. Like people like Justin Dart, the father of the ADA. People like –

Tony: Ed Roberts, the activist at the University of California.

Shawn: Yes, Ed Roberts. Civil Rights Leaders like Roland Johnson who created the organization Speaking For Ourselves – he was a great advocate for people that have disabilities, who were trapped in institutions. I play him in A Fierce Kind of Love. I like playing him because I can relate to him. Even though he had struggles, he never gave up. All that he’s been through – it just was a stepping stone. And of course then, ADAPT – y’all do a lot. Y’all do protests, y’all stop buses, y’all stop trains.

Tony: Yeah we were the ones who started the curb cuts, which are the concrete ramps that are on the corner of curbs and crosswalks. It wasn’t for mothers rolling their prams, or deliveries to pull their carts across, it was for us – people with physical disabilities. And it’s not just physical disabilities – I see invisible disabilities on us all as well. That’s why I said earlier that everyone in the world has a disability, even if they don’t have it yet. I just met a lady in Denver last month for the anniversary of the Gang of 19, and she told me, in this world, we have two passports: passports that we use to fly around and go wherever we wanna go, and the disability passport. It is when you get the second passport, the disability passport, then you shall see the struggles in life. And it is true. I was born and raised in Ghana. But I came here, I got into a motor-vehicle accident, and this is where I landed. And I noticed immediately how stigmatized I became.

Shawn: Society has always tried to progress on every issue. And I love that dearly, but it seems like when it comes to people with disabilities, it seems like we try to progress but yet –

Tony: We are being dragged down.

Shawn: Right, right! But here’s what I tell people – you have people with disabilities in every culture, in every ethnic group, in every movement –

Tony: In every home.

Shawn: From the Jewish community to the Christian to the LGBTQIA, you have people with disabilities all over, but we need to get to a point that society just looks at us as people. Just normal people. That’s all we are. We cannot sit here and call this a great country until people recognize that it takes everyone to make this a good country. It takes all types of backgrounds, and all times of abilities. And see that’s what I’m trying to get at – I’m no better than you –

Tony: And I’m no better than you. You know, the word inclusion just came to my mind.

Shawn: Inclusion is key. Inclusion is key.

Tony: Inclusion even amongst ourselves. We should understand ourselves in the disability community. They have divided us, they have forgotten that each and every person has a disability. It may be that you are born with it or along the way as you’re growing up, your disability comes along.

Shawn: That’s right, that’s so true.

Tony: But you were right, we are everywhere. Roland Johnson and Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, Reverend Wade Blake, they all came from different backgrounds, and they all wanted to create accessibility. Ed Roberts created independent living centers. That was the same time when Wade Blake was fighting for disabilities also. They did have assistance from other communities, other activist communities. The Black Panthers were some. Reverend Blake got his start with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and marched with him on Bloody Sunday over the bridge in Selma. When Blake came back to Denver where he was like helping in a nursing institution, he didn’t love the way those with physical disabilities were ignored while the abled bodied people could go into the park and enjoy themselves. So he got them together and asked them, what is your interest? What do you want? They said they wanted to leave. So, in 1978, after the first 19 were liberated from the nursing institutions with Reverend Blake, they decided to focus on accessibility for transportation. That is when they were fighting with the buses – leapt in front of the buses, held down the buses for 2 days.

Shawn: Right. And that’s why it’s so important that we educate. Educate people, educate communities, educate corporations so that we can get jobs that we want to work in. And it’s very important that we educate politicians so that they can write policies that benefit all people.

Tony: America had a disabled President!

Shawn: Yes! Yes! Yes!

Tony: America had a disabled President, and no one ever remembers that! The late George who signed the ADA needed assistance, he needed a wheelchair, he needed a companion. They talked about his dog for four days, about the career that the dog had with George, and I’m sitting back, watching all this and twisting my head to the side and saying, really, you would rather talk about a dog than the life that signed the American Disability Act into law – they didn’t really talk much about that. It was really sad. They might have said “he was the one who signed the ADA” but they didn’t explain what it really was.

Shawn: Yeah. How many people do you know who know where the curb cuts originated from? How many people know what the ADA really means? About sensory lighting? ADA friendly buildings?

Tony: How many people think about the labor it takes for us to leave our homes? We leave our homes at five in the morning to get ready to go to work, which is 3 or 4 miles away from where we live. You have to get to work at 8 o’clock to start working at 9-5. They said, okay, for the first four hours go, you have fifteen minutes to rest and get energy. At 12 or 1pm, you go for a 30 minute break, around 3:30 or 4 o’clock, you get another fifteen minute break, and in between this time, they have told you I am going to give you $7.50 an hour. That’s the wage rate in America. The outside world cannot believe that. Especially for a country that is being called the first world, even though it’s not being called that anymore! After the election, I turned on the television and I saw an orange face, yellow hair, a beak, and it said: U.S. AMERICAN PRESIDENT. As if we are not already fighting enough. When we have natural disasters, the disabled community is ignored. We have to educate the government about that. The only thing they want to do is help the people they see as physically healthy. But the disabled community is always forgotten about. That Shawn and I just came to the table to have a conversation – that is what the government is supposed to do too. But they won’t.

Shawn: Educate, advocate, and keep up the good fight. We got to keep on pushing.

Tony: Oh yeah.

Shawn: Togetherness is also the key, because look at back in the day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for everyone’s civil rights. He had a whole sea behind him! And backing him up. And see, that’s what we need to do today.

Lisa [Sonneborn]: So we’re talking a lot about inclusive societies. I would love to hear from each of you what that looks like – Shawn for you, or Tony for you, what is your vision for a truly inclusive society?

Tony: My vision is a community of inclusion of all kinds of disabilities, be it physical or invisible. We all have a disability, the only way we can have included communities is understanding each and every one’s disability. That for me is a community of inclusion – understanding individual needs. Be it a physical, or invisible disability, it’s all part of the community where we live and work in peace.

Shawn: My idea of an inclusive community is no more institutions, jobs for everyone, people with disabilities wouldn’t be judged when they talk or when they make a noise – just looked at as normal people. And live in the community and work in the community, We need affordable housing, good paying jobs, good support systems and a good community. That’s how I believe that we can all be as one.

Who’s Who in High Pressure Fire Service, part one

Posted February 13th, 2019
by Raina Searles, Marketing Manager

Opening this March, High Pressure Fire Service (or more colloquially, HPFS, pronounced “hip-fizz”) brings an incredible lineup of Philadelphia artists to the FringeArts stage for a series dedicated to highlighting the creativity and innovation that runs rampant in our city. The artists include an exhilarating mix of familiar and new faces to the FringeArts stage, from longtime collaborator Pig Iron Theatre Company’s newest work to prolific poet and noise musician Moor Mother’s first play. Some performers even appear in multiple HPFS shows. To get you ready for this new series, we’re breaking down Who’s Who in High Pressure Fire Service…part one.

Kicking off High Pressure Fire Service, is A Fierce Kind of Love written by Suli Holum, directed by David Bradley, and produced by the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University.

Wandering Alice, 2008

Many people may recognize the name Suli Holum as a staple in the Philadelphia arts community. Holum is one of the co-founders of Pig Iron Theatre Company, an award-winning director, performer, choreographer and playwright, and recently, Mrs. Capulet in the Wilma Theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet. She has been involved with numerous productions that have crossed Fringe’s stage, including Wandering Alice, written and co-directed with Nichole Canuso Dance Company and presented in the 2008 Curated Fringe Festival, and Cafeteria by Pig Iron Theatre Company in the 2003 Curated Fringe Festival, which earned her a Barrymore Award in choreography.

David Bradley is a director, producer and teaching artist who work has touched a variety of stages and collaborations across Philly. Bradley is the Founding Director of LiveConnections, in partnership with World Cafe Live, has performed in over 30 productions at People’s Light, is the Artistic Director of Living News at the National Constitution Center, has collaborated with Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and has traveled the world co-creating theater that addresses public health and social issues with Outside the Wire.

Bradley and Holum teamed up with Temple University College of Education’s Institute on Disabilities, which addresses disability as a valued aspect of diversity throughout civic life. In addition to producing the first iteration of this work in 2016 and its expanded remount here at FringeArts, the Institute is committed to innovation in pre-professional training, community training and technical assistance, research and information dissemination.

Other familiar faces in the A Fierce Kind of Love cast include Erin McNulty, most recently on the

FringeArts stage in Jerome Bel’s GALA in 2016 and 2018, as well as Cathy Simpson, a prolific and long-time Philly actress who has performed on a plethora of stages (InterAct, Wilma, and the Arden, to name a few) and was recently seen in the 2018 Independent Fringe Festival show, Day of Absence. Read bios for the full cast of A Fierce Kind of Love on the event page.

The second show in the HPFS lineup is The Appointment by Lightning Rod Special. No stranger to the FringeArts stage, Lightning Rod Special is an experimental performance company dedicated to exploring complex questions through an ensemble creation process and a lead artist for each show. Lightning Rod Special premiered their Obie Award-winning production Underground Railroad Game in Philadelphia at FringeArts in 2015, and they also performed their co-production with Strange Attractor Theatre Company Sans Everything here in 2017. They got their start, however, producing in the Independent Fringe Festival: Hackles in 2012 and Go Long Big Softie in 2013.

Sans Everything, 2017, Photo by Johanna Austin

For The Appointment (some may have seen the early draft performance titled Unformed Consent), Lightning Rod Special has assembled a stellar cast of Philly artists, and this new work is led by Alice Yorke. Yorke is a Co-Director of Lightning Rod Special, with whom she created and performed in Hackles, Let the Dog See the Rabbit, and Sans Everything. She has also collaborated on works with Pig Iron Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre, Theatre Exile, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret, and the Fringe favorite band Red 40 and the Last Groovement. Yorke also graduated from the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training.

In April, we see the launch of the next HPFS show, Broccoli, Roosevelt and Mr. House! by The Berserker Residents. Founded in 2007, The Berserker Residents are an ensemble dedicated to creating original works of alternative comedy with a focus on parody, absurdism, and subverting theatrical conventions. The Berserker Residents were last seen on the FringeArts stage in their March 2017 production of It’s So Learning, and they collaborated with the University of the Arts to create These Terrible Things as a 2017 Independent Fringe Festival show.

It’s So Learning, 2017, Photo by Kate Raines

They have also produced the works The Jersey Devil, The Giant Squid, The Annihilation Point, and The Post Show as part of Independent Fringe Festivals past. The imaginative co-creators—Justin Jain, David Johnson, and Bradley K. Wrenn—have brought their work to a variety of other Philadelphia stages (The Annenberg Center, Theatre Horizon, White Pines Productions, and more) as well as national and international stages like Ars Nova NYC, The San Francisco Mime Troupe, and The Assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Individually, you may recognize these performers from their work all over the city. Justin Jain is a member of the Wilma Theatre HotHouse, has been a part of the Shakespeare in Clark Park education team, and is a teaching artist for Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Arden Theatre Company, the University of the Arts, and People’s Light, in addition to performing at a number of regional theaters. David Johnson has performed with Theatre Exile, Enchantment Theatre, Mum Puppet Theatre, People’s Light, Commonwealth Classic Theatre, Theatre Horizon, and the Wilma Theatre, as well as the Baltimore Theatre Project and The Blue Ridge Theatre Festival. Bradley Wrenn has performed with Shakespeare in Clark Park, Lantern Theatre, Enchantment Theatre Company, BRAT Productions, and Mauckingbird Theatre Company, and is an accomplished puppeteer, “wiggling the dollies” for numerous Mum Puppet Theatre productions including the Barrymore nominated ensemble of Animal Farm. He also co-created the acclaimed 2013 Curated Fringe Festival work The Ballad of Joe Hill with Adrienne Mackey.

We’re excited for such a talented cohort of creators and performers to be joining us at FringeArts this March and April. Click below for more information on each show, and check out “Who’s Who in High Pressure Fire Service, part two” on the FringeArts Blog!

A Fierce Kind of Love
Suli Holum, David Bradley, Institute on Disabilities, Temple University
March 1–3, 2019

The Appointment
Lightning Rod Special
March 20–31

Broccoli, Roosevelt and Mr. House!
The Berserker Residents
April 12–14

HPFS Subscriptions:
$150 Six-Show Package / $120 for members
15% off tickets to 3-5 performances / 30% off for members

Single Tickets:
$31 general / $21.70 members
$15 students and 25-and-under
$2 FringeACCESS members

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Meet the Hosts

Posted December 21st, 2018

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

Feature Photo by Sabrina Carter

[Music Intro]

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

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

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

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

Zach: We’re the most about imaginative people.


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

Zach: What are we drinking?

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

Katy: Yeah.

Zach: That’s important.

Raina: And what we’re drinking.

Tenara: Yeah.

Zach: What are we drinking?

Tenara: Coffee.

Zach: It’s 11:00 AM.

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

Raina: I’m having some Raspberry Zinger Tea.

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

Katy: And I’m drinking water.

[laughter] [overlapping conversation]

Raina: Gotta stay hydrated. Yeah.

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


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

[overlapping conversation]

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

Raina: Tell us about yourself.

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

Tenara: Is that true?

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

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

Raina: Yeah.

Zach: It is.

Raina: It does make sense.


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

Zach: Yeah, it’s an air sign.

Tenara: Okay, got it.

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

Tenara: Hot tip.

Zach: Hot tip, keep in touch.

Katy: Yeah.

Zach: Rule of culture number… [chuckle]

Tenara: Keep showing up.

Zach: Keep in touch. Yeah.

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

Zach: Katy, who are you?

Katy: Yeah? [laughter]

Zach: What’s going on?


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

Zach: Late into the night.

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

Tenara: You have a dance background, correct?

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

Tenara: My gosh. We gotta go see it.

Raina: Yeah.

Zach: Yeah.

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


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


Zach: But with intentions and aspirations.

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

Katy: And we are so happy you did.


Zach: Tenara’s a super star.

Katy: Yeah, Tenara, what do you do?

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

Katy: Amazing.

Tenara: Raina…

Zach: Raina. What’s gucci?

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

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

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

Raina: Well, they see shows all year around.

Zach: Yeah.

Katy: We do.

Zach: Yeah.

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

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

Katy: ‘Cause we’re…

Raina: It’s so much fun.

Katy: Stuck in rehearsal.

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

Zach: Me too.

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

Tenara: And boy, do you see our emails.


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

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

Zach: Yeah.

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

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

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

Raina: Yes.

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

Zach: Mmm-Hmm.

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

Katy: So…

Zach: Woo! [laughter]

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

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

Zach: Hallie Martenson!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tenara: Yeah, we’re not in a vacuum.

Zach: Yeah.

Raina: Well…

Tenara: Recognizing that as important.

Katy: Yeah.

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

Tenara: Yeah. What a great segue.

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

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

Tenara: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zach: Yeah.

Katy: Totally.

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

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

Zach: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Raina: I can go first.

Katy: Should we go counter-clockwise this time?

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

Zach: We’re in a circle team.

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

Zach: That worked out.

Katy: I would say that’s probably happened.

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

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

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

[overlapping conversation]

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

Tenara: Yeah.

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

Zach: I don’t remember that time.

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

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

Raina: That was so different.

Zach: That was this year.

Raina: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Zach: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

Zach: All of your old beaver tees.

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

Zach: Do you wanna make me a dog quilt?

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

Tenara: It’s an aesthetic.

Raina: Yeah.

Zach: I have 15.

Tenara: It’s very Pinterest over there.

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

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

Zach: Your Saturn return.

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

Tenara: I feel like that’s totally achievable.

Katy: Absolutely.

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

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

Tenara: But biking and running are just so different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tenara: Oh my gosh, Katy let’s talk.

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

Zach: That’s so cool.

Tenara: I’m so excited for your showing.

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

Tenara: So what was it for you?

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


Raina: You still have two weeks.

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

Tenara: I’ve definitely hit that.

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

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

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

Tenara: I resonate with that so much.

Zach: It really moved me.

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

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


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

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

Tenara: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Tenara: Also you do an aerial yoga.

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


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

Tenara: A poet?

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

Raina: What a poet thing to say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tenara: Oh, my gosh.

Katy: Tenara?

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

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

Tenara: No, it’s really not, though.


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


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

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

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

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

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

Tenara: Low-brow?

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


Zach: I wept during the trailer.

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

Raina: Awesome.

Tenara: Wow.

Zach: Broadway found wig-less.

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

Zach: Who would absolutely disagree.

Katy: Totally.

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

Tenara: I would agree with that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katy: Until then…

Zach: Thank you for joining us.

Tenara: We’ll see you in 2019.

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

Raina: Happy New Year.

Zach: Punchy little episode.

Tenara: Yeah.

[Music Outro]

Who’s Who in Blue Heaven

Posted December 19th, 2018
by Kat Sullivan, Communications Intern Fall 2018


Blue Heaven, a FringeArts comedy festival, will showcase some of the most provocative voices in American comedy for one weekend of gut-aching hilarity. Our full lineup is live and now is the perfect time to plan which shows you just have to see (warning: it might be all of them). To help ease your comedic FOMO, we’re offering a limited amount of weekend passes to all 11 performances for $69 through Dec 31.

Read up on who’s who:


Michelle Buteau

Michelle Buteau, comedian, host, and actress headlining Blue Heaven, is bringing her unique perspective and big personality to stage and screen. She was most recently the co-host of VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live. Her other television credits include Enlisted on FOX, Comedy Central’s Key & Peele and @Midnight, and Best Week Ever.

Jaboukie Young-White

Jaboukie Young-White is an NYC-based comedian and filmmaker. He and his popular  Instagram and Twitter accounts have been featured on The Fader, Clickhole, and Buzzfeed. He made his late night debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to viral reception in 2017, and is currently a correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Erin Markey

Erin Markey cordially invites you to the “fantastically weird and occasionally terrifying” (Time Out New York) world of Wet Food. Comprised of Markey’s signature story-driven stand-up and scored by homemade pop, Markey presents an intimate musical conversation with themself. Philadelphia’s own Emily Bate helps the conversation along by singing and playing multiple instruments in Topshop flats (the shoes, not the music concept).

Cole Escola

Cole Escola, a comedian, actor, and writer, has been named one of the 2014 OUT 100 and Time Out New York’s Top Ten Downtown Cabaret Performers. His sketch comedy show, “The First Gay President,” sold out every performance and generated buzz and praise from the likes of PAPER Magazine and Lena Dunham.

Whitmer Thomas

Whitmer Thomas has most recently appeared in The Good Place (NBC), The Walking Dead (AMC), GLOW (Netflix), You’re The Worst (FX), and voiced and created the ADHD animated series Stone Quackers on FXX (now available on Hulu). His show The Golden One is a cohesive hour of Whit’s stand up, storytelling, and original music.

Catherine Cohen

Catherine Cohen is a comedian and voiceover artist living in Brooklyn. She was named by Time Out New York as one of five comedians to watch for in 2018. She hosts a weekly show at Alan Cumming’s new East Village cabaret, as well as the monthly variety show “It’s A Guy Thing,” which was listed as one of Paste Magazine’s “10 Best Alt Comedy Shows in New York City.”

Food 4 Thot

Food 4 Thot is a podcast where a multiracial mix of queer writers talk about sex, relationships, race, identity, what they like to read, and who they like to read. It’s not about food — they just really like the pun. Hosts include Tommy “Teebs” Pico, Fran Tirado, Dennis Norris II, and Joe Osmondson; catch them in Blue Heaven as they record a show live!

Champagne Jerry

Champagne Jerry (aka Neal Medlyn) is one of “New York City’s Top Ten Downtown Cabaret Performers” (Time Out). With perfect flow, outrageous lyrics, and impeccable comic timing, Champagne Jerry delivers a stage show that is at once shocking, smart, and very, very funny.

Sarah Squirm

Sarah Squirm is a Chicago based comedian who has become known for her unconventional, and popular show, Helltrap Nightmare. She was previously named one of Time Out Magazine’s five comics to watch for 2017.

Bechdel Test Fest

The Bechdel Test Fest is a comedy festival created in 2016 out of a frustration that stages in Philadelphia were still predominantly white, cis, straight and male. The festival celebrates the talented and hilarious women (both cis and trans) and non-­binary comedians who make up a significant part of the local comedy scene. Performance artist and clown Sarah Knittel and stand-­up comedian Tan Hoang will be part of the BTF segment at Blue Heaven, with more acts to be announced.

Good Good Comedy Theatre

Good Good Comedy Theatre is Philadelphia’s home for live, mercilessly unpredictable independent comedy. An intimate, BYOB black box theater located in Chinatown, Good Good houses up to four wildly different live comedy shows per night. This includes stand-­up, sketch, improv, storytelling and (especially) everything in between.


Check out our website for more information on the weekend schedule, ticket options, and more about each artist.

Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk with Nora Litz and Rev. Danny Cortés

Posted November 28th, 2018
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“I’ve been working with immigrant populations for 10 years now, and they are so ready to talk about it. It doesn’t matter what age group you belong to. It’s like being invisible most of the time, yet you have a story–a very important story–to say, to talk about. So once you open that door, it comes right out.”
–Nora Litz

FringeArts has had the opportunity to meet and hear about the amazing work that many different people and organizations in Philadelphia are doing to support their neighbors. On the latest Happy Hour on the Fringe, our hosts sit down with members of two organizations dedicated to improving the lives of Latinx men, women, and children living in Philadelphia.

Nora Litz with a young artist

Located in South Philly, Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that promotes the health and wellness of Philadelphia’s rapidly growing Latino immigrant population through a wide variety of programs. Their services range from providing high-quality and culturally competent healthcare, innovative educational programs that support young children through adults, legal support and community building, and the organization supports community members regardless of immigration status, race, and class. Nora Litz, as Director of Arts and Culture, guides children, adolescents, and adults as they use mixed media to recount their own personal immigration stories. The artists’ work has culminated in projects such as Las ligas que nos unen (“The Ties that Bind Us), which tells the stories of children from Puebla, San Lucas Atzala, San Andrés Calpan, and San Mateo Ozolco whose parents left them in order to find work in the U.S. and El viaje de los niños (“The Children’s Journey”), which was brought to FringeArts this November and tells the stories of Mexican immigrant children who have crossed the border to come live in Philadelphia. Although, Nora does not consider her work “art therapy,” it’s undeniable the overwhelmingly powerful effect telling their own stories through art have had on the participants. She lets us in on the process behind Salud de Puentes’ beautiful and meaningful projects.

On the other side of the city in Hunting Park, Esperanza, a faith-based nonprofit organization driven by the biblical mandate to “serve the least of these,” strengthens Hispanic communities through a large variety of educational, economic development, and advocacy programs and services. Their specific programs range from seemingly simple yet impactful programs such as distributing trees to community members to running the exceptional Esperanza Academy and Esperanza College (in partnership with Eastern College) to Esperanza’s latest project, the opening of a state-of-the-art theater in December. Rev. Danny Cortés, with his older brother Louis, sits at the forefront of this 30-year-old organization devoted to improving the barrio for the here and now and fortifying it for the future. For the second half of the episode, Raina and podcast producer, Sabrina, sit down with Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff of Esperanza, Reverend Danny Cortés, in the organization’s beautiful headquarters. He gives us a picture of how the organization got started and where it is going next.

                                 Dany Cortés

Listen to the episode to learn more about Puentes de Salud and Esperanza’s work and how you can support them.

Show notes
Learn more about Puentes de Salud:

Learn more about other projects Nora Litz has led at Puentes de Salud:

Al Dia


NBC News

Learn more about Esperanza –

If You Don’t Want to be Embarrassed at Your Next Ball, Start Here

Posted November 16th, 2018

“They see it [the LGBTQ community] as entertainment and forget that the entertainers you see go home at the end of the day. They don’t go home as this person. They’ve had coming out stories. Some of them have been homeless. Some of them have been in hiding. Some of them look for acceptance. Everybody. All of us look for acceptance because it’s not always given…They have to go other places to find acceptance. That’s exactly where this scene that everybody loves so much, that everybody is so interested in comes from.” – Torri Gillis


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Dating back to the early 1900s, balls and ball culture came to prominence between the 1960s and 1980s as largely Black and Latino LGBT youth in New York used it as a place and way to express their creativity and build community and family. The culture remains alive and well in its birthplace of course, but has spread to cities across the country including Philadelphia and world. With the popularity of documentaries like Paris is Burning (1990) and television shows such as My House and Pose, more and more people have fallen in love with the art of voguing and ballroom.

Tori Gillis, assistant director of Legendary and accomplished voguer in the Philadelphia Ballroom Scene, stops by Happy Hour on the Fringe and gives us an insider look into the the world of ballroom: The dos and don’ts of ball culture, the difference between a ‘dip’ and a ‘shwack,’ and the voguers that you need to know. She also reminds us that although balls are fun, we cannot forget about the real people with real struggles who are behind the fabulous outfits, the jaw-dropping hair and make-up, the boldest walks, and baddest voguing.

Photo courtesy of Johanna Austin


Required Reading/Watching
Paris is Burning (1990)
My House
How Do I Look (2006)
Voguers such as Ashley Icon, Kemar Jewel, Destiny West, and Allison Prodigy
This week’s episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe.


When an Ensemble Becomes a Family: The Cast of Pa’lante Stops by Happy Hour on the Fringe

Posted November 9th, 2018
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“Pa’lante is one thing we have in common. From childhood, we know, the LatinX people know that pa’lante means struggle, that you’ve got to move forward every day, that you have to work hard in order to have a tomorrow…”


Throughout the year, First Person Arts provides a platform for Philadelphians to share their personal stories, but every November, the year of programming culminates with the First Person Arts Festival, two weeks of first-person accounts of love, loss, pleasure, pain, and everything in between. Gabriela Sanchez, Philadelphia native, actress, and founder of Power Street Theatre, will be bringing the stories of a diverse group of LatinX art makers to the First Person Arts Festival stage with her show Pa’lante.

Ivan Vila, Virginia Sanchez, Alexandra Espinoza, Rachel O’hanlan-Rodriguez, Diana Rodriguez, Tony Mendez, and Erlina Ortiz join Gabriela in sharing their personal experiences in this piece of devised theatre. Pa’lante is about how members of the LatinX community find themselves “navigating Latinidad, navigating legacy, navigating tradition, navigating the five senses” and “how people navigate moving forward with their bodies and their spirit.”

Over wine, Ivan, Gabriela, and Virginia tell Happy Hour on the Fringe hosts, Raina and Tenara, more about what the audience can expect from Pa’lante. They give us a BTS look at the process of creating the show—how the cast came together, what it is like to be a part of a diverse ensemble telling “multidimensional and intergenerational” stories, their new extended family, the common threads that connect the individual stories, and what ‘pa’lante’ means to them.

Listen to Episode 16 of Happy Hour on the Fringe above or on our Spreaker page.

Come see Pa’lante Nov 11 & 12 at FringeArts. Tickets available at

Announcing New Festival: High Pressure Fire Service

Posted November 8th, 2018


We are pleased to announce programming for a new FringeArts festival! High Pressure Fire Service will run from March through June 2019 and feature six new productions—five world premieres and one expanded remount—from some of Philadelphia’s preeminent performers.

High Pressure Fire Service takes its name from FringeArts’ historic building, the first high pressure pump house in the country. Starting in 1903, the station pumped water from the Delaware River to fire hydrants across Philadelphia, connecting the city and helping it grow and thrive. This history of creativity and connectivity is at the very heart of the High Pressure Fire Service festival, reflected in the artists’ innovative practice and uniquely relevant work that exemplifies why Philadelphia has remained such a hotbed for excellence and experimentation in contemporary performance.

For the inaugural series, FringeArts commissioned works from Lightning Rod SpecialPig Iron Theatre Company’s Jess Conda, Jenn Kidwell, and Mel Krodman; The Berserker Residents; Suli Holum, David Bradley, and the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University; Moor Mother; and Team Sunshine Performance Corporation. Addressing issues of representation, gender, accessibility, reproductive justice, and more through devised theater, comedy, and participatory play, these new productions embody the vast range and exceptional talent of Philadelphia’s rich performing arts community.



March 1—June 22, 2019 at FringeArts


A Fierce Kind of Love by Suli Holum

Directed by David Bradley

Produced by the Institute on Disabilities, Temple University

March 1—3, 2019

Photo © Jacques-Jean Tiziou /

A cast of artists with and without disabilities chronicles the largely untold story of Pennsylvania’s Intellectual Disability Rights Movement in a remount of this deeply poignant work. Drawing from years of research and the performers’ lived experiences, A Fierce Kind of Love combines text, movement, and song to chart the Movement’s remarkable history and celebrate the struggle, activism, and fierce love that fuels the desire for dignity. This new iteration of the piece expands on the interviews and research conducted for the 2016 premiere, adding insight to the persistent issues in the disability community. The show, set, and theatrical environment for A Fierce Kind of Love are completely accessible; ASL interpretation and open captioning are directly integrated into the piece; all performances will be sensory-friendly, audio described and programs will be available in alternate formats. A Fierce Kind of Love was made possible with major support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

The Institute on Disabilities is Pennsylvania’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at Temple University. Since its inception, the Institute has continued to innovate and serve in four core areas: pre-professional training, community training and technical assistance, research and information dissemination. Located within Temple University’s College of Education, the Institute addresses disability as a valued aspect of diversity throughout civic life. They learn from and work with people with disabilities and their families in diverse communities across Pennsylvania to create and share knowledge, change systems and society, and promote self-determined lives so that disability is recognized as a natural part of the human experience.


The Appointment

Lightning Rod Special

March 20—31, 2019

World Premiere

Photo by Johanna Austin

Alice Yorke and Lightning Rod Special (Sans Everything, Underground Railroad Game) address the misogyny, hypocrisy, and absurdity surrounding the abortion debate in America in this musical satire. Following women at a clinic seeking to terminate their pregnancies, this timely new work uses a pop-musical format to ask tough, important questions about bodily autonomy, race, and who gets to have access. As hilarious as it is incisive.

Lightning Rod Special (LRS) makes live performance from the ground up. Raucous, contemplative, and highly collaborative, LRS uses theatre as a provocative tool to ask questions of ourselves, our audience, and the world at large. Since 2012 they have made six full length shows that have performed in 11 US cities and internationally. Underground Railroad Game, made by Jenn Kidwell and Scott Sheppard with Lightning Rod Special, received the OBIE for Best New American Theater Work and was listed among The New York Times’ 25 best plays of the last 25 years. Lightning Rod Special is Co-Directors Alice Yorke, Scott Sheppard, Mason Rosenthal, and company members Alex Bechtel, Oona Curley, Katie Gould, Rebecca Kanach, and Jenn Kidwell.


Broccoli, Roosevelt and Mr. House!

The Berserker Residents

April 12—14, 2019

World Premiere

Photo courtesy of the artist

The Berserker Residents are asking the big questions: can broccoli make you giggle? How much dance is too much dance? And does your house have feelings? The trio has whipped up a comedy for all ages that’s unpredictable, original, fun and vibrant. The three wacky title characters serve up unique impishness, snazzy games, silly sounds, physical flights of fancy that encourage interaction and elicit pure joy.

Founded in 2007, The Berserker Residents are an ensemble dedicated to creating original works of alternative comedy with a focus on parody, absurdism, and subverting theatrical conventions. They are a team of three Philadelphia-based wizards of imagination—Justin Jain, David Johnson, and Bradley K. Wrenn—who aim to plow the depths of the ludicrous and downright silly with one hand, while making a firm connection to their audiences with the other. They have been hailed as “daft, ephemeral and joyous” by The Scotsman and praised for their “refusal to relinquish that unrefined creative spirit” by The New York Times. The Berserkers’ work has been presented at Abrons Art Center, The San Francisco Mime Troupe, The Annenberg Center, FringeArts, Arcadia University, Swarthmore College, Theatre Horizon, University of the Arts, The Community Education Center, and The Assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland. They have been residents at FringeArts, White Pines Productions, University of the Arts, and Ars Nova NYC.


A Hard Time

Pig Iron Theatre Company

May 1—12, 2019

World Premiere

Photo courtesy of the artist

Jess Conda, Jenn Kidwell, and Mel Krodman want to give you A Hard Time—an outrageous alt-comedy and futurist cabaret. Enter a boozy watering hole, where three dynamic performers play men, women, and everything in between for your entertainment, blowing farewell kisses to the patriarchy amid the absurdities and violence of gender expectations.

Founded in 1995 as an interdisciplinary ensemble, Pig Iron Theatre Company is dedicated to the creation of new and exuberant performance works that defy easy categorization.

The Sincerity Project #3

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation

June 6—8, 2019

World Premiere

Photo by Jen Cleary

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation reunites The Sincerity Project cast for the third installment in an ambitious 24-year experiment that offers a new devised theater work every two years. A meditation on the passage of time that draws from the real lives of its creators, The Sincerity Project #3 explores the implications and challenges of aging, shifting expectations and identities, and how we all—as individuals and a culture—change, respond, evolve, and fail.

Since its founding in 2010, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation has created an eclectic array of performance works and interactive community-gathering events. Ranging from theatrical duets to massive, outdoor spectacles, the company’s body of work blends the social with the artistic, creating opportunities for people to come together and revel in the pleasures and difficulties of our collective contemporary experience. Team Sunshine returns to FringeArts after last spring’s hit ¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! or WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!


Circuit City

Written by Camae Ayewa

Music by Moor Mother

June 20—22, 2019

World Premiere

Photo by Bob Sweeney

Poet and noise musician Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother) presents her first theatrical work, a futuristic exploration—part musical, part choreopoem, part play—of public/private ownership, housing, and technology set in a living room in a corporate-owned apartment complex. Framed by Ayewa’s bold poetry and bolstered by new Moor Mother music performed live by Irreversible Entanglements and the Circuit City Band, Circuit City is an afrofuturist song cycle for our current climate.

A prolific voice in the Philadelphia arts community, Camae Ayewa has released more than a dozen EPs as Moor Mother and Moor Mother Goddess since 2012. She has performed in the punk band The Mighty Paradocs and is also the co-founder of Rockers! Philly, an event series and festival focused on marginalized artists, and Black Quantum Futurism Collective, a literary and artistic collaboration with Rasheedah Philips (The Afrofuturist Affair).


High Pressure Fire Service performances take place in the FringeArts theater at 140 N. Columbus Blvd. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, December 4 (Thursday, November 29 for FringeArts members).

Support for High Pressure Fire Service has been provided by Wyncote Foundation.


First Person Arts Festival is Back!

Posted November 7th, 2018

Everybody has a story, and First Person Arts Festival is back with a line up of personal stories that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect as well as workshops to empower you to tell your own. Jamie J. Brunson stopped by our podcast, Happy Hour on the Fringe, to give us a preview of this year’s Festival and an inside look into what the Festival seeks to represent.  FringeArts is excited to be partnering with First Person Arts to bring several shows to our own stage including:

Felonious Monk

Wed, Nov 7 to Fri, Nov 9

You may have seen Felonious Munk as the “resident blegghead” on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show, but now Felonious Munk has updated his smash-hit Second City performance and is bringing it to the First Person Arts stage. This is a hilarious yet harrowing first-person story of how one black man went from six years in a state prison to a six-figure job in corporate America. Felonious then transitions to a new life as an activist and satirist in his one-man show debuting at the First Person Arts Festival.

Pa'lante feature image


Sun, Nov 11 to Mon, Nov 12

Gabriela Sanchez, Founder and Executive Producer of Power Street Theatre Company, joined the First Person Arts creative team this year, but you might remember Sanchez and her work from Power Street Theatre’s past productions, Shelter in Place and Morir Sonyando, which appeared in the 2015 and 2014 Fringe Festivals respectively.

Gabriela is masterful at creating devised theater that is passionate and pushes for social change. Her Festival directorial debut Pa’lante is no different. This devised work asks a diverse representation of the Latinx community to share their stories of living the Latinx experience in these United States of America. Influenced by the five senses, cultural roots, and resilience, each storyteller explores traditions and legacies.

For this run of Pa’lante, we are proud to partner with Puentes de Salud, a health clinic serving the Latinx immigrant communities of Philadelphia by bringing Puentes de Salud’s El Viaje de los Niños, a visual project which tells the stories of Mexican immigrant children who have crossed the border to come to Philadelphia, to FringeArts. We invite you to explore “El Viaje de los Niños, developed by Puentes Director of Art and Culture Nora Litz, before and/or after the performances of Pa’lante.Legendary photo by Johanna Austin



Wed, Nov 14 to Fri, Nov 16

Voguing did not begin with Madonna by any means. Largely Black and Latino LGBT youth created the dance style during the 1980s Ballroom Scene in New York City. Kemar Jewel and the Xcel Dance Crew pay homage to the style and era with their hit show Legendary, which premiered in the 2017 First Person Arts Festival. The one-night-only performance was so fabulous, Legendary is back for a three-night run at this year’s festival.

Stay after Thursday, Nov 15’s performance for a talkback with Kemar Jewel and the Xcel Dance Crew. On Friday, Nov 16, we have a very special evening in store. A *legendary* Vogue Showcase Ball will follow the performance. The night continues with our November Get Pegged Cabaret featuring Justin Sayre’s Storytime Pajama Party.

GrandSlam Triumph main photo


GrandSlam: Swept Away

Sat, Nov 17

The First Person Arts Festival closes out with the GrandSlam. The culmination of First Person Art’s monthly StorySlam series, the GrandSlam brings togeter all the StorySlam winners from the past year to go head to head and see who will take home the title of “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia.”

Sometimes amusing, sometimes heartbreaking but always relevant and moving, First Person Arts Festival is a chance to sit back and listen – something so many of us do too little of today.

To hear more about what the festival has in store, check out our interview with executive director of First Person Arts, Jamie Brunson on Happy Hour on the Fringe here.

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Get your tickets at and see the full line-up visit Follow FringeArts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We’d love to hear what First Person Arts shows you’re seeing.


FringeArts creates new Accessibility Guide

Posted October 30th, 2018

One woman gives another woman a token after checking in for her ticket at the FringeArts Box Office.FringeArts believes in the inherent value of diverse communities, and the importance of learning, being open, and listening. From our ticket-buying process to arriving at our building, the performances themselves to our post-show experiences, we are working hard to continuously improve our accessibility. We’re excited to share our new Accessibility Guide, where you can find a description of what to expect when you come to any performances at FringeArts, including relaxed performances which are adapted to reduce anxiety and for audience members with sensory needs. We hope this new initiative creates an even greater sense of inclusiveness at FringeArts. You can find the guide under the Accessibility tab on our website, or directly here.

In addition to these efforts, we also provide Audio Descriptions, Open Captioning, and ASL Interpretation for any performance with one month notice. We always have Hearing Assistance Headsets available at the box office upon request.

FringeAccess Members, for those holding a Pennsylvania Access Card, can receive up to four $2 to any performance at FringeArts per year. Tickets may be purchased through the FringeAccess Membership login, by calling 215.413.1318, or at the box office before a show.

More detailed accessibility information can be found on our Know Before You Go sheet, or by contacting Patron Services at or 215.413.1318.

Many thanks to Roger Ideishi, Occupational Therapy Program Director and professor at Temple University, and his graduate student team (Remy Binder, Vivian Hin, Christina Neroni, and Johanna Reed) for their help putting together the Accessibility Guide!

Celebrate Halloweekend at FringeArts!

Posted October 24th, 2018

Halloweekend at FringeArts is jam-packed with ghoulish good times! Take a look at what’s in store.

Outdoor Movie: Ghostbusters (1984) Rated PG-13

Thu, Oct 25 8 PM (Quizzo at 7 PM)

Ghostbusters Feature Image

Calling all mega fans! We’ll start off the night flexing our film knowledge with a pre-show quizzo and La Peg’s Halloween drink specials ($8 mulled wine, $6 hot chocolate, $8 spiked hot chocolate, $8 New Harvest) at 7 PM. Then witness your fave ghostbusting professors exterminate ghosts and save New York City in the process. Costumes are recommended but a cozy sweater or blanket is highly suggested.

The night doesn’t end there. That same evening we will be moving inside for….

Burn It All Down: A BTF Spectacular

Thu, Oct 25 at 10:30 PM

Bechdel Test Fest was born in 2014 to create a comedy festival to celebrate the talented and hilarious women, trans and non-binary comedians who make up a significant part of the local comedy scene. Now entering its 4th year, Bechdel Test Fest is resurrecting their favorite acts for a Spooky Late Night Comedy Spectacular.

The line up will include:

Kat Mosely – Storytelling

A Song In Her Ear – The Musical Improv Group of Philly Phame

Tan Hoang – Stand up

Alyssa Al-Dookhi – Stand up

CJ Higgins – Musical comedy

Cups and a Half – Sketch comedy

…and more.


Sat, Oct 27 at 9 PM

Halloqweens Feature Image

Philly’s biggest annual queer and LGBT Halloween rager is back! FringeArts is being taken over by the dopest queer DJs, drag and burlesque performers, photo booths, tarot readings, and more. This is not a party to miss. Please note you must be 21+ to enter.

A few of the highlights-


PRECIOUS (Viceland’s My House)











Outdoor Movie: Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971) Rated G

Sun, Oct 28 at 6 PM

Bedknobs and Broomsticks feature image

Round out the spooky weekend festivities with your family! We’ll start off the evening with a children’s costume contest and pumpkin decorating at 5pm. Starting at 6, watch Angela Lansbury as Miss Eglantine Price, a witch-in-training, as she sets out to defeat the Nazi menace with the help of her powers, three inventive children, the head of her witchcraft school Emelius Brown, and an enchanted bed! While you cozy up in your favorite blanket (or costume!), enjoy some of the Haas Biergarten’s alcoholic and non-alcoholic selections, including apple cider and hot chocolate.

Where to Find Philly’s Digital Arts Community

Posted October 17th, 2018

Within the last twenty years, technology has changed every facet of our lives, and art has not been immune to the technological revolution. The computer and internet have given rise to an entirely new medium with which artists, whether they self-identify as one or not, can experiment and play.

In Philadelphia, the digital art community may still be a bit “underground”—some people may say non-existent multimedia artist and founder of CRUXspace Andrew Zahn notes, but they would be mistaken. The community of people using technology creatively is growing, and three very different institutions are at the center of that growth: CRUXspace, FringeArts, and Philly Game Mechanics.

Many galleries, like Philly’s Vox Populi, show digital and multimedia art, but few are dedicated solely to the medium. Bitforms in Manhattan comes to mind, but a comparable space does not exist in Philadelphia. Enter Andrew Cameron Zahn. Zahn, who started experimenting with online art and design applications like Photoshop and Quark as a kid, sought to fill that void with his new media art gallery CRUXspace in 2014. Growing out of art exhibitions for “hackers” that he organized as a student at the University of the Arts, CRUXspace found its first home at 7th and Master in Ludlow. Andrew and lead curator Kim Brickley have collaborated with the likes of Mural Arts, University of the Arts and FringeArts and have presented artists such as G. H. Hovagimyan and Molly Soda. Earlier this year CRUXspace moved out of its original location and found a new home at the WeWork in Northern Liberties, but its purpose, to provide a space for creators experimenting with technology in art and design has moved with it. In its new space, CRUXspace will be presenting a new exhibition featuring the digital media artists Swoon, who makes use of stop-motion animation, installation, and video techniques and Eric Westray, who employs cutting-edge 3D modeling techniques to bring to life impossible humans and environments. The Swoon/Westray exhibition opens October 26.

Past CRUXspace collaborator FringeArts seeks to provide digital artists with a platform of their own as well but in a very different way. FringeArts has maintained a mission “to present world-class, contemporary performing arts that challenge convention and inspire new ways of thinking” for decades. In 2015, the organization’s Fringe Festival was already 19 years old, but the team recognized that much of the art that aligned so perfectly with their mission was being created digitally but not presented nor seen. With about 15 digital art pieces, FringeArts launched its first Digital Fringe, a platform that allows audience members to experience the work of digital and multimedia artists for free, as part of the annual festival.  Three years later, Digital Fringe has grown to 26 pieces with an additional two digital works, R&J and SPIES!, featured in the traditional Fringe Festival. Digital Fringe artists provide a URL or another method (app, text message, etc.) to access their technologic creation on the FringeArts website and in the Festival Guide. This year, you were able to cook with drag queens, outsmart the undead, and escape-the-room (chatroom that is). 

Whereas Fringe and CRUXspace work with people who think of themselves as artists, that is not necessarily the case for FringeArts’ Digital Fringe partner, Philly Game Mechanics. Philly Game Mechanics is a charitable organization focused on supporting game development and indie game enthusiasts in Philadelphia, PA. PGM members take game development classes, create relationships and share their work with other gamers, creators, and makers through different talks and their indie arcade cabinet, the Philly-Tron (currently being housed at the Franklin Institute.) Through partnerships and relationships with other organizations such as The Franklin Institute and Drexel Game Program, Jake O’Brien from PGM points out, members further develop their skills and expand their perspectives. Recognizing the benefits of such partnerships herself, Jenny Kessler, a FringeArts intern brought her supervisor, Jarrod Markman, and PGM together to partner. Jake posed the question “What is digital art?” to the PGM community, and eventually, several Digital Fringe pieces were developed by members. On September 12, many of those pieces were shown at Philly Game Mechanic’s Digital Art Showcase at Harrisburg University’s Philadelphia Campus.

Although we may not be ready to distinguish digital art as its own distinct branch of art yet, CRUXspace, FringeArts and Philly Game Mechanics are filling the void and bringing the digital creative community to the surface. Once other institutions begin bridging the disconnect between themselves and the hackers, gamers, and artists utilizing technology in creative ways, these three groups will likely be cornerstones to the digital art community in Philadelphia. In a lot of ways, they already are.


Happy Hour on the Fringe: Circa Contemporary Circus’ Libby McDonnell & Nathan Boyle

Posted October 11th, 2018

Libby McDonnell and Nathan Boyle from Circa Contemporary Circus stop by Happy Hour on the Fringe to chat about their breathtaking show Humans.

Photo courtesy of Mark Garvin

Circa Contemporary Circus, one of the world’s leading performance companies at the forefront of the new wave of contemporary Australian circus, has been wowing audiences around the world since 2004. The company is known to use extreme physicality to create breathtaking performances that straddle the worlds of circus, dance, and physical theatre. Last month, Circa traveled all the way from Brisbane to close the 2018 Fringe Festival with a dynamic exploration of what it means to be human. Before wowing Fringe Festival audiences with their performances of Humans, Circa’s associate director, Libby McDonnell, and senior acrobat, Nathan Boyle, sat down with host of Happy Hour on the Fringe Zach Blackwood at the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. They gave him a peek into the creation of Humans and their current tour of the piece.   To learn more about Circa Contemporary Circus visit Let us know you think of podcast, and check back next week for a new episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe.

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Prismatica at FringeArts and Cherry Street Pier

Posted October 11th, 2018

FringeArts, Race Street Pier, and our new neighbor, the Cherry Street Pier, are the sites of Prismatica, an interactive installation created by Raw Design and brought to Philly with Montreal-based group Creos. Deemed “a modern ice palace”, each prism is more than 6 feet tall and coated with film that reflects various colors of the rainbow, depending on vantage point and time of day. The prisms are mounted on projectors, adding a new layers to the light show come nightfall. Moving the prisms triggers ambient bell sounds, which means they are indeed designed for interaction and completely family friendly.

The installation is part of the Festival for the People, presented by Philadelphia Contemporary in partnership with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, which officially opens Saturday, Oct 13, though the prisms are already on display at the Haas Biergarten. The next three weekends will encompass several kinds of events showcasing analog, digital, and embodied art forms of various subcultures. (Think: live tattooing!)

Over the course of the festival, in addition to many live events, Cherry Street Pier will also be hosting Impulse; a group of interactive, illuminated see-saws that promote urban play and tranquility.

Prismatica remains on display at FringeArts through Oct 28.

Experience Philadelphia Museum of Dance at the Barnes Foundation

Posted October 1st, 2018

The 2018 Fringe Festival performances of Boris Charmatz’s manger, were part of a larger project, Philadelphia Museum of Dance, which concludes in a  free public event at the Barnes Foundation on October 6 with a rich collection of performances.

The day-long event will explore the tension between public and private experiences, while offering a new opportunity to engage with how dance and visual art are exhibited. Known for his innovative exploration of choreographic assembly, internationally acclaimed French choreographer Charmatz co-curates the six-hour (3-9pm) public performance. See the full schedule here.

The event will allow its audience to explore new experiences, in a novel kind of museum that permits audience members to move through outdoor and indoor performance locations and witness choreography performed around and among fellow museum-goers. Guests will witness the Barnes Foundation transform. With dance performances taking place in nearly every corner, the museum will seemingly come alive. Audiences will interact directly by wandering through the dance “galleries.” As with any museum visit, it will be up to the audience to find juxtapositions between the exhibits. Performers will be spatially adjacent to audiences, with no proscenium separation, or interspersed with the audience, to facilitate maximum audience-performer interaction.

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Happy Hour on the Fringe with the creators of Variations on Themes from Lost and Found, Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez

Posted September 28th, 2018

FringeArts’s signature podcast, Happy Hour on the Fringe, is our chance to relax, have a drink, and get to know the inner workings of our favorite artists’ minds. Grab a drink of your own and join hosts Raina, Zach, and Katy for the laughs and conversation every Wednesday.

Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez returned to Philadelphia to introduce Fringe Festival audiences to Ishmael’s friend and collaborator, John Bernd, in their profoundly moving Fringe Festival piece Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works bHappy Hour on the Fringe Logoy John Bernd. In the piece, the duo took excerpts of dance performances created by John Bernd in the last seven years of his life and reimagined them to create an entirely new work that captures the vitality of John’s vision, demonstrates how his influence lives in modern-day dance, and serves as a blueprint for what his work might have become. 

Now, the collaborators stop by Happy Hour on the Fringe, and tell our hosts Katy, Raina, and Zach more about the life, legacy and work of the dancer, choreographer, artist, and friend and how the dance and gay communities are still affected by and mourning the loss of so many artists to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Grab a drink and listen to the conversation below or here.

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Fringe Shows After the Fringe

Posted September 24th, 2018

The Fringe is over, long live the Fringe.

Though the 2018 Fringe Festival officially concluded yesterday, there are still numerous chances to see some Fringe this week. Here’s a selection of the continuing shows:

Ten highly-skilled acrobats, a bare stage, and a stirring journey of what it means to be human. Straddling the borders between circus arts, theater, and contemporary dance, Australia’s bold contemporary circus troupe Circa explores the expressive possibilities of the human body at its extremes.
Presented with Annenberg Center Live and NextMove Dance.
September 28 at 8pm
September 29 at 2pm
More info + tickets

Stories of Refuge
Tania El Khoury
Tania El Khoury and Petra Serhal from Beirut-based Dictaphone Group collaborated with a group of Syrian refugees who had recently arrived in Munich. They provided each person with a discreet camera for a day, the only instructions being to film their lives in Munich and their favourite spots in the city. Interviews with the refugees work as a soundscape over the footage they created. Audiences engage with the films from metal bunk beds, outfitted with mattresses and pillows.
Presented in partnership with Bryn Mawr College as part of ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury.
September 26-29 during gallery hours 11am–5pm
More info

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Goodnight Sweet Fringe

Posted September 23rd, 2018

And flights of angels sing thee to your rest.

See you next year.