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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: 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 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

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:

Humans 
Circa
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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Happy Hour on the Fringe: Phyllis Chen & Nathan Davis talk In Plain Air

Posted September 21st, 2018

FringeArts’ signature podcast series Happy Hour on the Fringe is back with International Contemporary Ensemble‘s Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis.

Phyllis Chen at an In Plain Air workshop.

During a residency at Christ Church, composers Chen (known for her work with hand-wound music boxes and toy pianos) and Davis (a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments) immersed themselves in the sound-making possibilities of the church’s newly installed organ, bells, and open spaces, as well as the history and public role of the venerable institution. The resulting compositions form In Plain Air, presented this weekend in partnership with Christ Church Preservation Trust as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival.

In this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, the pair chat with hosts Zach and Katy about In Plain Air, the organ that will outlive us all, and Nathan’s security record.

Listen to the episode here.

Performances of In Plain Air will take place on September 22nd at 1pm, 3:30pm, and 6pm, and on September 23rd at 3:30pm and 6pm. Tickets are available at FringeArts.com or through the FringeArts app.

Excerpts from the Manifesto for a Dancing Museum by Boris Charmatz

Posted September 20th, 2018

This weekend’s performances of manger are part of a larger project, the Philadelphia Museum of Dance, copresented by Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design with FringeArts and the Barnes Foundation. The project presents Charmatz’s ideas for a new kind of dance and a new relationship between dance and public. He explains these ideas in his Manifesto for a Dancing Museum, excerpted below.

It seems to me that the designation “Museum, Dancing Museum” could function like a door flung wide open to culture and the art of dancing that we will not change into a sanctuary.

(…) Dance and its actors are often defined in opposition to the arts that are said to be perennial, lasting, static, for which the museum would be the favourite place. But today if one wants to stop obscuring the historical space, culture and choreographic heritage, even the most contemporary, then it is time to see, to make visible and bring alive the moving bodies of a culture which largely remains to be invented. And if one wishes the choreographic tradition to pursue the new technological trends and truly embrace the trans-media space of the contemporary world, then it seems to me that under the designation of “Museum” the artists will be able to have fun and create freely.

To not cut the matter short, ten commandments:

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Fringe Picks for Closing Weekend

Posted September 20th, 2018

Be not troubled, for all things must pass but the end has not yet come. We’ve all had a great Fringe so far and the fun continues. Though many shows have already concluded, some are just beginning.

Here’s so picks for what to see on the Fringe’s final weekend!

manger
Boris Charmatz
Whet your appetite with manger, a delectable work by French choreographer Boris Charmatz (Levée des conflits, 2016 Fringe Festival) that implores audiences to examine the nature of eating, of digesting information, of consuming. In manger (French for “to eat”), he sets bodies in motion not with the eyes, or with the limbs, but with the mouth.
Presented in partnership with Westphal College of Media Arts & Design as part of Philadelphia Museum of Dance.
September 22 + 23 at 8pm
More info + tickets

in plain airIn Plain Air
International Contemporary Ensemble
A 3,000-pipe organ, centuries-old bells as they are heard in the belfry, an orchestra of pipe whistles, community-built music boxes: the sounds of In Plain Air carry the audience through the campus and history of one of the nation’s most historic sites.
Presented in partnership with Christ Church Preservation Trust
September 22 at 1pm, 3:30pm + 6pm
September 23 at 3:30pm + 6pm
More info + tickets

ear whisperedear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury
Tania El Khoury
Working between Lebanon and the United Kingdom, Tania El Khoury meticulously crafts innovative performances and installations that engage the audience in multi-sensory interaction. Unlike more conventional theater and performance, El Khoury’s live art work comes alive through the audience’s interaction with it. An extensive survey of El Khoury’s art, ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury presents five pieces at locations in Old City and at Bryn Mawr College, all of which have performances or gallery hours this weekend.
Presented in partnership with Bryn Mawr College
More info + tickets

Company
EgoPo Classic Theater
Bring your blanket and pillow for a Beckett slumber party. EgoPo remounts their 2009 Fringe hit, which sold out in five cities. An immersive sensory experience, you are blindfolded on your back in the dark, the haunting text whispered in your ear. Free cookies and milk.
September 20 +21 at 7pm + 9pm
September 22 at 3pm, 5pm + 8pm
September 23 at 3pm + 5pm
More info + tickets

Circadium Presents: Autopilot & Galactic Garden Party
Circadium
Double bill: Autopilot is a circus-based examination of how life’s instructions are given, taught, or learned, and how we navigate life with and without those instructions. Galactic Garden Party utilizes juggling, dance, scientific lectures, and theater to show the wonders of Earth, and what lies beyond the atmosphere in the cosmos.
September 21-23 at 8pm
More info + tickets

a PRACTICAL DEMONSTRATION (of the EFFECTS of KINESTHETIC OCULAR NEURO-PSYCHOLOGY and its POTENTIAL as an AID in the DISCOVERY of SELF)
Fred Brown / Philly Improv Theater
Your eyes are your window to the world. They are also the world’s window to you. Enter a world of seeing your own mind, as Dr. Rhampon Stietger—using music to keep time—introduces kinesthetic neuropsychology as a tool to unlock deeply imprinted images, feelings, associations, and fantasies.
September 20 + 21 at 7pm
September 22 at 3:30pm + 7pm
More info + tickets

Pillow Talk
The Footlights International Tour Show, Pillow Talk brings together the brightest stars of student comedy, whose assembled forces deliver fresh, witty and downright funny sketches, monologues and songs. You can expect free-flowing hilarity, excellent original writing and side-splitting character comedy, so don’t miss your chance to see this inventive new offering from the group that launched many comedy greats, including Stephen Fry, Sue Perkins, David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade and Mel Giedroyc.
September 20 +21 at 8pm
More info + tickets

Heightened Sight
Heighten your senses with Leslie Elkins of foursome performance and Tap Team Two. Leslie Elkins of foursome performance will accentuate transitional spaces in Embracing the Liminal. Tap Team Two utilizes Hoofing, the original style of tap dance, as a means to educate audiences on the history of tap. Hoofing is an American art form that evolved from the roots of Irish clogging, African dance, and street and social dances of the early 20th century. Tap Team Two will showcase vibrant sounds in Cadence of Color. Get ready to feel provocative images, see in-between states, and hear color spectra.
September 22 at 4pm + 7pm
More info + tickets

Paprika Plains Natalie Fletcher / Jessica Noel
Sisters Natalie Fletcher and Jessica Noel will take you back in time to tell a story of love, loss, and bargaining with the universe inspired by Joni Mitchell’s 1977 album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. Told through live body painting and dance-theater, with lighting design by John Noel and music by Joni Mitchell. Philly PACK is an artistic home for dance- and theater-loving children and adults, located in South Philadelphia. Philly PACK is proud to welcome visiting artist Natalie Fletcher. Natalie is a Portland-based body-painter who won Skin Wars season 1.
September 21+22 at 8pm
More info + tickets

Darlings Kill Us Please
Good Good Comedy Theatre
The first Fringe production from Good Good Comedy Theatre, Philadelphia’s home for mercilessly unpredictable independent comedy. Darlings: Kill Us Please guts the innards of a full year’s worth of shows from Darlings, Good Good Comedy Theatre’s monthly, fast-paced comedy shit show featuring brand new bits, live music and special guests, and leaves in only the juiciest bits and chunks.
September 20 at 8pm
September 21 at 8pm, 10pm + midnight
September 22 at 2pm, 8pm + 10pm
More info + tickets

Metal & Kind’s Indestructible Flowers
Lily Kind and Mark “Metal” Wong
Metal is unexpectedly soft. Kind is unabashedly sharp. Together, they present a collage of new solo work designed for folks secretly underwhelmed by new solo work. Metal and Kind are both multidisciplinary powerhouses working in and around social and folk dance, devised dance theater, and experimental storytelling.
September 22 + 23 at 7pm
More info + tickets

Shelter
Drip Symphony
Shelter is the story of a group of artists living together in an abandoned theater, brought together by a shared sense of artistic integrity. It follows their lives as they create prolifically while their dreams and delusions grow wild inside their home. The show explores the value of art, the nature of creation, and the power of physical boundaries to shape our realities. Presented by Drip Symphony and Plays & Players, Shelter uses an immersive design where the entire theater is transformed into performance space, and the audience, seated on stage and scattered throughout the house, lives among the action.
September 20-22 at 8pm
More info + tickets

Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline (Music for Children and Other Curious People in the Fringe Guide)
Ants on a Log
Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline tells the musical story of Clio and her sibling Taylor as they strive to organize their town. With the help of a songful community, a dancing pencil, and you, dear audience, they strive for big change, even in the face of some bigger, more powerful people.
September 22 at 11am
More info + tickets

A New Kind of Whole
Paige Zubel & Eleanor Sofer
Written by Paige Zubel and directed by Claris Park, A New Kind of Whole is a surrealistic exploration of identity through sexuality and the relationship between the mind and the body. As Lea navigates the line between what is real and what is a projection of her deteriorating mental health, reality distorts and blurs.
September 20 at 7pm
September 21 at 8pm
September 22 at 3pm
More info + tickets

Tango, Tarantella and Tutus
The Rock School for Dance Education
Exciting, energetic young talent from around the world perform classical and contemporary vignettes that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Alumni from The Rock School go on to join the most prestigious dance companies worldwide. See the dance stars of tomorrow, today!
September 22 at 1:30pm
More info + tickets

In Plain Air Will Close the Fringe Festival on a High Note

Posted September 19th, 2018

The 2018 Fringe Festival signs off this weekend on a high note. And a low note. And all varieties of notes in between. A free multi-movement program by International Contemporary Ensemble, In Plain Air takes listeners around the historic Christ Church campus in five daytime performances September 22 and 23.

Created by composers Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis, In Plain Air celebrates the installation of the brand new C.B. Fisk pipe organ at Christ Church. It features work performed on the impressively huge new instrument, the centuries-old church bells, and all manners of other instruments. It’s the perfect project for Davis, a percussionist fascinated by the mechanics of instruments, whose work brings out the acoustics of sound-making devices and the physicality of playing them. Davis talked to FringeArts about the pieces that make up In Plain Air and the process leading to this weekend’s performances.

FringeArts: How does this project fit into your larger career?

Nathan Davis: I have long been fascinated with instruments, such as the organ, that place intermediary mechanical steps between the performer and the sound production. Ten years ago I wrote a piece for Phyllis called “The Mechanics of Escapement” for toy piano and clock chimes that are played by pulling long cords. And other pieces of mine explore the relationship of distance, separation, and communication. This project takes that one step further: the organ is a vast mechanical instrument. My work here is partly on the components of the machine (air, bellows, valves, keys, etc.) and their correlation with the instruments that the organ emulates.

FringeArts: How does it fit into International Contemporary Ensemble’s mission?

Nathan Davis: The project is closely tied to its multiple missions of creating and commissioning new work, building new audiences, and connection with place.

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Of Arms and the Man They Sing: Interview with Donald Nally

Posted September 15th, 2018

The artistic director of contemporary choral group The Crossing, Donald Nally has served as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He’s been music director of Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble, chorus master at The Chicago Bach Project, and guest conductor throughout Europe and the United States, most notably with the Grant Park Symphony Chorus, the Philharmonia Chorus (London), the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and the Latvian State Choir (Riga). Along with The Crossing, he won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance with Gavin Bryars’ The Fifth Century.

This Fringe, Nally and The Crossing bring their singular choral aesthetic to the Fringe for one-night only, in a new program featuring a world premiere by composer Ted Hearne. Nally spoke to FringeArts about Of Arms and the Man.

FringeArts: What inspired the use of the Virgil quote as the title? Do you remember where you were when that idea came about?

Donald Nally: The Park Avenue Armory asked me to develop a program for their ornate historic reception rooms.  Being the Armory, I got thinking about how the military has changed since those rooms were built; how it was a point of honor for the aristocracy that today mostly avoids it at all cost. So here are these beautiful rooms and they are a kind of monument to what we actually do in war: rich older people throw young people at a problem….So, we sing, and we do so about arms and about people: “Of arms and the man I sing.”  And, it’s a journey, so the first line of the Aeneid captures the whole thing well. I liked the program so much I wanted to bring it to the Fringe because you don’t need elegant 19th-century rooms to ask these kinds of questions: life, war, wealth, death, purpose. In fact, the clarity of FringeArts Theater is going to be a great environment for this musical discussion.

FringeArts: What themes or qualities unite the pieces in this program?

Donald Nally: The concert takes a look at life and war and life during war from a number of angles.  Some of it is national pride, some of it is grief, some of it is anger. Of course, I do not know quite what Ted’s new piece will be, but it’s going to fit into this overall theme of how we agree or disagree across nations and continents and what we’re actually doing when we act on those alliances or arguments.

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How to Fringe This Weekend

Posted September 14th, 2018

We’ve had one week of Fringe, how do you feel? FringeArts Blog is tired, hungry, happy, a little bit overwhelmed by all the great shows we’ve seen. But for many performers, Fringe is just getting started. The 2018 Fringe Festival enters its middle weekend with an unrivaled line-up of world-class contemporary performances.

Here’s some of the great work we’re trying to see this weekend.

Caen Amour
Trajall Harrell
Arising from performances at the World’s Fairs of 19th-century Europe and America, the hoochie-coochie presented bastardized, titillating versions of Middle Eastern dance. Informed by the ritualized moves of dance-floor voguing and the Japanese dance-theater tradition of butoh, Caen Amour explores the line between artistic and erotic dance of the past, and imagines how erotic dancing of previous eras would look today, exoticism and spectacle remaining intact. Choreographer Trajal Harrell returns to the Fringe Festival with a performance piece that invites the viewer to step into an unexplored historical imagination.
September 14 at 7pm + 9pm
September 15 at 5pm + 7pm
More info + tickets

The undergird
Meg Foley
Choreographer Meg Foley’s seven-year development of improvisational performance practice culminates in a viscerally affecting four-person work about death and grief as bodily experiences. The undergird is a love letter to what we think has been lost. It is a rhythmic and persistent celebration of where memory and imagination live inside the body and how they are remade real through moving ritual.
September 14 at 6pm + 9pm
September 15 at 3:30pm + 6pm
September 16 at 3:30pm
More info + tickets

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Happy Hour on the Fringe with Donald Nally of The Crossing

Posted September 13th, 2018

FringeArts continues its signature podcast series Happy Hour Hour on the Fringe.

The Crossing. Photo by Becky Oehlers Photography.

In this episode, Donald Nally, co-founder and conductor of The Crossing, joins hosts Zach and Raina to discuss the choral group’s unexpected origins, his brand spanking new Grammy hat, and The Crossing’s Fringe Festival show Of Arms and the Man.

Of Arms and the Man presents an enticing program of choral pieces performed by the 24-voice ensemble under the direction of Nally. In keeping with The Crossing’s mission of presenting new works for choir, the program features a world premiere from 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist Ted Hearne—the nation’s preeminent composer of works of social advocacy—and a rare live performance of David Lang’s “depart.” Catch the Festival performance September 16 at 8pm at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard.

Listen now to the the wide-ranging conversation about the show and Meg’s signature performance technique.

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“I’ve lost everything but I managed to save my life”: New Video of Stories of Refuge

Posted September 12th, 2018

Tania El Khoury and Petra Serhal from Beirut-based Dictaphone Group collaborated with a group of Syrian refugees who had recently arrived in Munich, Germany, fleeing the Assad regime and the violence engulfing the country. 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. The resulting interactive installation, Stories of Refuge is on display this month at Twelve Gates Arts as part of the Fringe Festival show ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury.

On opening weekend, videographer Dave Tavani visited the installation to record interviews with some audience members and footage as they experienced the intimate, affecting work.

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Scenes from a Life: Miguel Gutierrez on Discovering John Bernd’s Enduring Influence

Posted September 11th, 2018

Miguel Gutierrez initially joined collaborator Ishmael Houston-Jones in a limited role on a project reconfiguring dance by experimental East Village choreographer John Bernd. Watching videos of Bernd’s shows and reading about his work, Gutierrez quickly realized he needed to immerse himself in the project. The resulting Fringe Festival show Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd, mashes up works by the influential choreographer, whose work flourished during the era of experimental dance in 1980s New York, and whose life was tragically taken by AIDS in 1988.

Running this weekend, with performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the highly anticipated show combines Bernd’s last seven pieces into a new dance performance that honors the choreographer’s memory and imagines what dance would look like today if the community had not been decimated by the deadly AIDS epidemic. As a contemporary Brooklyn artist and performer who creates dance-based performance, music, and poetry, Gutierrez witnesses the lasting impact of Bernd’s multidisciplinary work on dance today and on his own work. He spoke to FringeArts about finding roots in the past and continuing Bernd’s legacy into the future.

FringeArts: What was your introduction to the work of John Bernd?

Miguel Gutierrez: I’d only known about John Bernd peripherally for the many years I had been in New York. It wasn’t until Ishmael asked me to help him out with this project that I sat down and watched his pieces. Within five minutes I knew I wanted to be involved in whatever way I could with this project.

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Remembering 2012’s Le Grand Continental As It Gets Super for 2018

Posted September 6th, 2018

The 2012 Fringe Festival kicked off on the steps of the art museum with a large-scale spectacular of dance by Montreal-based choreography Sylvain Émard. As we prepare to return to the iconic steps for a brand-new extravaganza combining the pure delight of line dancing with the fluidity and expressiveness of contemporary dance we look back on the 2012 show. Dozens of the non-professional performers from six years ago return this year for the bigger and better Le Super Grand Continental in three FREE shows this Saturday and Sunday. You should too.

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The Things We Don’t Know How to Explain: An Interview with Heiner Goebbels

Posted September 5th, 2018

The 2018 Fringe Festival kicks off this weekend with a performance piece unlike any other. Created by acclaimed German composer and director Heiner Goebbels, Stifters Dinge does away with actors in favor of light, pictures, murmurs, sounds (five self-playing pianos), and voices (recordings of William S. Burroughs, Malcolm X, and Claude Levi-Strauss), creating a meditative dreamscape that allows the audience to form their own opinions about what they witness.

This newfound contemplative space recalls the writing of 19th-century author Adalbert Stifter, after whom the piece in named. Goebbels explained to FringeArts his interest in Adalbert Stifter and the other inspirations for this large-scale performative installation.

FringeArts: What inspired this piece?

Heiner Goebbels: I was talking with set and light designer Klaus Gruenberg — with whom I’ve worked nearly exclusively for the last 20 years — and we asked ourselves if it was possible to create a theater piece without any people. That was the experimental question for our artistic research. That was the beginning. Everything else happened in the process.

FringeArts: Where did the title Stifters Dinge come from?

Heiner Goebbels: It came pretty late in the process; even the involvement of the text by Stifter came late, because I usually don’t know much earlier what I am working towards…

FringeArts: Could you tell me a little about Adalbert Stifter?

Heiner Goebbels: He was a landscape painter and author in the first half of the 19th century in Bohemia. The disturbing and surprising moments in his writings come in his attentiveness and sensibility toward non-human forces, natural phenomena, and things we don’t really know how to name and explain. That is what he calls dinge, “things.” You find that word on nearly every page of his writings.

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Kick Off Your Fringe With Johnny Showcase!

Posted September 4th, 2018

There’s more to the Fringe Festival than just the awesome array of shows listed in our Guide. Each night, after the Fringe it’s the after-Fringe at the FringeArts headquarters at Race Street and Columbus Boulevard. Performers and audiences alike congregate at La Peg and the Haas Biergarten for drinks, games, DJs, and pop-up entertainment.

The Festival launches this Friday with the annual FREE rager, the Festival Kick Off Party with popular 10-piece band Johnny Showcase, a joyful sexy psychedelic dance funk experience, complete with heavy jazz fusion elements.

An absurdist soul outfit based in Philadelphia, Johnny Showcase is an innovative, joyful tour-de-force that toes the line between performance art and a psychedelic soul revival. Carrying the torch of funk-rock pioneers like Funkadelic and Frank Zappa, the group has gained a massive following and become something of a funky Philly folk hero legend.

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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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What Makes Us Humans? Yaron Lifschitz on Contemporary Circus

Posted September 3rd, 2018

Jaw-droppingly impressive in its physicality, Circa Contemporary Circus pushes the boundaries of circus arts, exploring the expressive possibilities of the human body at its extremes. Its latest work, Humans, is presented in partnership with the Annenberg Center Live and NextMove Dance as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival.

FringeArts talked to Yaron Lifschitz, artistic director of the Australian circus troupe, about the heart-stopping work.

FringeArts: “Humans” is a beautifully universal title. What inspired it and made it fitting for the show?

Yaron Lifschitz: I was sitting at my desk and I’d just completed the arrangement to create a show for the Sydney Festival, and I’d called it my Untitled Show and I didn’t really know what it was about. I thought what interested me most was the way in which humans move, groove, pulse, beat with rhythm through them, and how this kind of connects us as a species, maybe it defines us, and yet this works against the static nature of much of acrobatic form. So the idea of what can make human the work we do—what can make it more intensely human and present—became the core idea of the show, and the title just sprung into my head. And then of course it’s such a beautiful title, and thinking about books like Sapien and Homo Deus and thinking about some of the contemporary thinking about humans led me forward from there.

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International Fringe 2018: A Welcome to Artists from Around the World

Posted September 2nd, 2018

The United States government may be pursuing an isolationist policy but the Philadelphia Fringe is doing the opposite: opening its doors not only to the most creative American performers and performances but also to the best and most creative theater artists and their productions from around the world—overcoming the ancient fear of the symbolic Tower of Babel with people not understanding each other.

To show the worldwide scope of the 22nd Philadelphia Fringe Festival, we offer this spotlight on performers from abroad and productions by American artists that present a global perspective.

Theater writer Henrik Eger, editor of Drama Around the Globe and contributor to Phindie and Broad Street Review, among other publications, has lived in six countries on three continents and has visited Africa and Australia as well. He bids everyone a hearty WELCOME to the City of Brotherly Love—this year in 18 different languages: Arabic, Celtic, Chinese, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Latin, Polish, Romanian, and Spanish.

We start this year’s overview with a special welcome to two programs featuring a wide range of global creators:

INTERNATIONAL CREATIVES

  1. le super grandBienvenue & welcome to Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard and Le Super Grand ContinentalLe Grand Continental wowed audiences during its run at the 2012 Fringe Festival and has garnered enthusiastic response across the world. Fully realizing a blissful marriage between the pure delight of line dancing and the fluidity and expressiveness of contemporary dance, the celebratory event enlists hundreds of local people to perform its synchronized choreography in large-scale public performances. The world’s most infectious performance event returns to the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in an even larger spectacle of dance.

More info and tickets here

  1. Bonvenon, willkommen, bienvenido, witamy, bienvenue & welcome to Do You Want A Cookie? from The Bearded Ladies Cabaret—a world premiere with an international cast. Do You Want A Cookie? serves up a delicious romp through cabaret history, with an international cast of artists performing a live revue of cabaret from the Chat Noir to Weimar nightlife to 21st-century drag. The all-star cast comes draws from around the world, including Bridge Markland (Berlin), Malgorzata Kasprzycka (Paris/Warsaw), Dieter Rita Scholl (Berlin), and Tareke Ortiz (Mexico City).

More info and tickets here

REFUGEES and EXILES

  1. ear whispered

    As Far As My Fingertips Take Me. Photo by

    وسهلا اهلا (ahlaan wasahlan) & bienvenu. Welcome to Tania El Khoury who lives in Lebanon and the UK with her multifaceted program ear-whispered. Little is known about Palestinian refugee camps and their communities. El Khoury presents her Fringe work in five parts through interactive performances and installations at Bryn Mawr College:

    1. Gardens Speak, an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
    2. Camp Pause, a video installation that tells the stories of four residents of the Rashidieh Refugee Camp on the coast of Lebanon. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
    3. As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, an encounter through a gallery wall between a single audience member and a refugee. (Old City & Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.  
    4. Stories of Refuge, an immersive video installation that invites audiences to lay down on metal bunk beds and watch videos shot by Syrian asylum seekers in Munich, Germany. (Old City.) Read more.
    5. Tell Me What I Can Do, a newly commissioned work featuring letters that audiences have written in response to Gardens Speak. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.

More info and tickets here

  1. Bienvenido & welcome to the bilingual (Spanish & English) cast of La Fábrica performing Gustave Ott’s Passport. Lost in a foreign country, Eugenia is detained and thrown into a vicious maelstrom of miscommunication. This poetic and immersive Kafkaesque thriller delves into the question of immigration—exposing the mechanics of language and power. Some performances will be presented in English, some in Spanish, and some will be decided at the toss of a coin.

More info and tickets here

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Stories of Refuge: Oral Histories of Syrian Asylum Seekers in Germany

Posted September 1st, 2018

In Munich recently, I found myself sitting in an Iraqi-owned café with three Syrian men. The first was a young businessman who spends much of his time, money, and energy helping Syrian refugees in Munich and sending aid to Syria. Second, there was a young poet who called himself “the poet of the revolution” and had several YouTube videos of him reciting his poems. The third person was a young man who just arrived in town, and was living in a “refugee camp” known as the “Yellow Camp.” The camp is actually a messy building with many small rooms where German authorities randomly group/house Syrian and non-Syrian refugees together. It literally serves as a systemic shock to people who for months dreamt of reaching Germany—the supposed land of the free, caring, and civilized. I was most interested in the story of the young man who had arrived to Munich. I wanted to give him a camera so he could film a day in his life living in the “refugee camp” in Munich. He seemed shy, did not want to jeopardize his residency application, and preferred to remain quiet. I assured him that his identity would remain confidential. He said that he worries about his parents who are still in Syria, and so chose to not participate.

An audience member sitting on a bunk bed and watching one of the videos in the installation.

The next day, I met a Kurdish Syrian man who was tortured by each of the Lebanese, Syrian, and Greek police because he happened to look like Hussam Hussam—a “false witness” in the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. It felt surreal to me that he manages to keep smiling and remain positive. He spends his time outside his normal working hours volunteering as a translator for Syrian refugees while putting human rights organizations in contact with various asylum seekers. Through him, I was introduced to three different individuals who would participate in what would become the Stories of Refuge project:

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Happy Hour on the Fringe with Trey Lyford

Posted August 28th, 2018

FringeArts signature podcast continues with new series of enthralling Festival-related shows.

accountant

The Accountant. Photo by Jenna Spitz.

Philadelphia-based theater-creator Trey Lyford is co-artistic director, with Geoff Sobelle, of physical theater company rainpan 43, for which he has co-created Fringe Festival works such as all wear bowlers (2005) and Elephant Room (2011). Lyford also develops and produces works as an individual artist and as an associate artist with the Obie Award-winning company The Civilians. His work has been presented at Center Theatre Group, St. Ann’s Warehouse, HERE Arts Center, Arena Stage, ATL’s Humana Festival, and La Jolla Playhouse, among others.

His new work The Accountant premieres September 6–9 as part of the opening week program of the 2018 Fringe Festival

Listen now as hosts Zach Blackwood and Raina Searles chat with the longtime friend of the Fringe and occasional magician on the nature of memory, Trey’s artistic process, and the story behind his latest work.

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