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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.

A HISTORY

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.

A NEW PRESENTATION SERIES

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

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 stay tuned for our “Who’s Who in High Pressure Fire Service, part two” blog post, coming soon!

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

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.

Hello Darkness My Ol’ Chum: REV’s Graveyard Cabaret

Posted September 11th, 2018

Since 2012, REV Theatre Company has brought Fringe Festival audiences into the iconic Laurel Hill Cemetery for a macabre cabaret of music and theater. As Philly Voice put it, Death is a Cabaret Ol’ Chum has become “a consistent favorite and top ticket seller… head to the cemetery for free cocktails and cabaret that spooks and stirs the soul.” The 2018 Fringe show opens this Friday and has four performances through September 22.

REV’s artistic codirector Rudy Caporaso spoke to FringeArts about this years happening.

FringeArts: Describe Death is a Cabaret Ol’ Chum for the uninitiated?

Rudy Caporaso: First of all, the show is listed in the Fringe Guide as a happening because that’s exactly what it is. Audiences will enjoy free cocktails as three “departed souls” appear out of the darkness of historic, iconic, beautiful Laurel Hill Cemetery, to music ranging from Bessie Smith to the Scissor Sisters and Cole Porter to Sonny and Cher. The music is a “Whitmans Sampler” of death-centric songs, all sung by—according to a critic—”performers with killer pipes”. And another critic said they’ve never experienced a more life-affirming theatrical event. An adventurous audience seeking a truly unique and immersive theater experience will like this.

FringeArts: What makes Laurel Hill Cemetery so suitable for this piece?

Rudy Caporaso: The piece was specifically made with Laurel Hill in mind—and I hope this doesn’t seem too terribly self-aggrandizing, but Laurel Hill is tailor-made for this production. It has the prerequisite mysterious and splendid Gothic grandeur. I always think of the Cemetery as the fourth character in the piece.

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Art, Activism, and Poison Cookies: Watch John Jarboe talk about the Bearded Ladies’ Fringe show

Posted September 4th, 2018

“It’s like Sleep No More without dancing and a lot more booze.”

The Fringe Festival officially kicks off this Thursday, but the shows begin tonight with a preview of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret’s Do You Want A Cookie?

Last month, John Jarboe, artistic director of the Bearded Ladies, talked to Jill Horner of Comcast Newsmakers about the company’s 2018 Fringe Festival show. Touching on  the history of cabaret, he tells her about the company’s political grounding and how the show considers the role of art in activism: “You get to wander from room to room and encounter these brilliant cabaret performers that are doing this work of crossing between art and activism. You get to encounter them in various spaces and installations throughout the piece. There’s going to bar on every floor. It’s going to be a really fun event.”

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Cooking Up Cabaret: An Interview with John Jarboe and Sally Ollove

Posted July 23rd, 2018

“We could write a book, but we’re cabaret artists, so we decided the best way to understand the history and the present moment was to explore it through performance.” Sally Ollove, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret 

John Jarboe and The Bearded Ladies Cabaret are back with a new treat, The Poison Cookie Project. Artists will perform live in Do You Want A Cookie?, a curated show in this year’s Fringe Festival; individual performers present extended cabaret acts as Late Night Snacks; and audiences can learn more about the long history of cabaret in the Digital Fringe offering, The Poison Cookie Jar.

Jarboe, the founder and artistic director of the Bearded Ladies, is one of FringeArts’s most frequent collaborators, serving as host and curator of our monthly series Get Pegged Cabaret. Together with Sally Ollove, the group’s associate artistic director and dramaturg, the Bearded Ladies will present an international cast of cabaret performers who trace the role of cabaret in community building throughout history and its heightened importance in today’s world. Like a poison cookie, this performance will tempt the audience with outrageous costumes and innovative collaborations, and lead them to consider art’s place in society and what it means to give visibility to sometimes hidden communities.

We asked Jarboe and Ollove about the evolution of this enticing project and about what it’s like to assemble such a diverse cast of performers into one room.

FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration for Do You Want A Cookie? and The Poison Cookie Jar?

John Jarboe: I realized in 2013 that I was a practicing cabaret artist, but I didn’t really know what cabaret was or where it came from. Since much of my work straddles the personal and the political, I also wanted to know what the political roots of the form were. How was it used in relationship to political and social crises? Who are my ancestors? What did they do?

Sally Ollove: Once we began looking for those answers, we realized pretty quickly that resources were scarce. There are a number of great books about specific moments in cabaret history, but very few that look at the form across geography and time, and none that extend into a close look at what’s happening in cabaret today. We could write a book, but we’re cabaret artists, so we decided the best way to understand the history and the present moment was to explore it through performance.

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