< BLOG

Archive for the ‘Festival’ Category

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Producers Circle

Posted November 21st, 2019

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, we sat down with some of the people who help give life to the arts in Philadelphia and FringeArts as an organization. Jane Pepper and Christie Hartwell are longtime Fringe fans who are also a part of the FringeArts Producers Circle, a cohort of dedicated supporters who help us present the most ambitious performances while expanding our audience and accessibility to the broader community.

Jane and Christie share their introductions to FringeArts, back when we were just the Fringe Festival, their favorite experiences over the years, and the importance of supporting the arts.

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.


[Music Intro]
Jenn: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premier presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Jennifer Shorstein Development Manager here at FringeArts.

Jarod: And I’m Jarod Hughes, the podcast production intern here at FringeArts. We invite you to pour one up and enjoy our conversation with some of the most imaginative people in the plane of existence.

Jane Pepper posing with

Photo by Kevin Monko. Jane Pepper (right) at the 2019 FF VIP Opening Night

Jenn: Here at FringeArts, we want to acknowledge our Producers Circle members that help make everything we do here at FringeArts possible. So today we’re talking to Jane Pepper, who is a member of our Producers Circle. Welcome.

Jane: Thank you. Delighted to be here.

Jenn: So first question we always ask, what are we all drinking?

Jane: I’m drinking water and I’m thrilled to have good Philly water.

Jenn: I’m rocking a Sprite Zero today.

Jarod: I’m not having anything at the moment.

Jane: He’s a teetotaler today.

Jenn: So first question, what was the first show and or year, if you can’t remember the show, that you attended the Philadelphia Fringe Festival?

Jane: Well, you’re really stretching my memory, but I would say I was here maybe on the second or third year of your existence. And the reason I got interested in the Fringe was because I grew up in Edinburgh. And when I saw my adopted city adopting something from my native city, I thought, “I have to go and check this out.”

Jarod: That’s really cool. So you just decided to just come stop in and see a Fringe show while you were here?

Jane: Well, I started to see promotions for it during the time when you just had the one week. And there were a lot of interesting sounding things that I had no knowledge of and I thought it would be a wonderful way to try to figure out why. I didn’t know Nick Stuccio at that point, why the developer of the Fringe wanted to copy what was going on in Edinburgh.

Jarod: That’s really cool.

Jenn: Do you have any particular favorite moments from Fringe festivals past?

Jane: Yes. I became a huge fan of Junk, Brian Sanders’ Junk performances, thanks to the Fringe. And I will never forget, you did one up on Spring Garden street and all of the dancers were dressed in robes like monks and they were trampling in water and I’d never seen anything like that before. So that was the start of my interest. And I think Brian does fabulous stuff still, but that was one of my first … Probably not one of the first, but one of the shows that really sticks in my mind.

Jarod: Can you talk about initials from this year that might’ve been one of your favorites or anything you really were interested in the most this year?

Jane: Well, I like to come to the dance performances because that’s one of my favorites. And also there are always different, you always have different dance companies, And I would say Anne Keersmaeker, is that how you pronounce it? That was one of the ones that I found really interesting. I wouldn’t say it was one of the things that I was totally in love with, but the fact that they kept on doing that repetitive motion with such incredible skill was really interesting to me. And I love the way that the Fringe brings performances here for me to see very close to home that I would never see under any other circumstances.

Jarod: So when did you become a member of the Producers Circle at FringeArts and why did you decide to joint?

Jane: I guess, well, as you’ve developed your development function, you’ve introduced new ways of giving to the Fringe. And to me this was an interesting way to participate. This year, I think I sponsored Úumbal, the dance performance that went throughout the streets of South Philly, was it?

Jenn: Yeah.

Jane: Yeah, so that was interesting. And I just had a woman come up to me the other day, I didn’t know she was there, but she said, “I saw you at Úumbal.” So you never know who else is going to be in the audience.

Jenn: Wonderful. Can you tell us why you think it’s important to donate to the arts?

Jane: I’m a huge art supporter in Philadelphia. I mean not financially but emotionally. And I just think this is something that brings so much to our community and it involves people from all different backgrounds, all different generations. And as I get older, I get more and more interested in seeing young people participating. And the Fringe is particularly special, I think for young people because the tickets have been kept affordable, somewhat, depending upon what stage you’re in. But I love to … I sit next to somebody who’s 40 years younger than I am and that’s really satisfying for me to see them becoming involved in the arts because I hope then that that’s a tradition that they’ll do with their families and as they grow older they too will be able to support it.

Jenn: I think you already started talking about this a little bit, but how has FringeArts impacted any aspects of your life?

Jane: Allowing me to see, as I said, performances that I would never have a chance to see, or never know about. And I would say that that’s one of the interesting things. I like to get paper catalog to go through it because I find it totally overwhelming online. And so I thumbed through and marked them up and then try to figure out, you have so much going on that you have to figure out a schedule that you can fit them all in. And so I just … It’s sort of a ritual of early, mid September when FringeArts is going on, that it’s a great time to be in Philadelphia.

Jarod: That’s really cool. So what is your favorite thing about being a Producers Circle member at FringeArts? Like what is something that you just love? Like being in the meetings or stuff like that, that you just love to do?

Jane: I just like to be part … I like to support it because to me it’s important and you can give in a lot of different ways, but to become identified with a particular event gives me satisfaction.

Jenn: Wonderful. As someone who listens to the podcast, have you had any favorite episodes?

Jane: Well, I’m fairly new to the podcast. And I did listen to some of them this summer and it intrigued me and now my memory is going to leave me but I know that there was one that I hadn’t signed up for. And after I heard the podcast, I thought, “Well, I need to go to that.” So I think it’s a great way to get people intrigued about what you’re planning to do.

Jane: And listening to the artist talk is always incredible to me because I just never understand where people have their imaginations come from. And they could be in a different part of the world and here they are talking about the performance piece that they’re going to put on in Philadelphia.

Jenn: What are some other organizations that you were involved with in locally or elsewhere?

Jane: Well, I used to work for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, so I love that. And the art museum, the Barnes, also things like the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. So there’s so many things to do in Philadelphia that it’s always an exploration. And I’ve, for example, I’ve never been to a performance of Azuka, I don’t know if that’s how you pronounce it, theater, so I’m going to do that this fall. So in Philly you can never get bored if you have enough time. There’s just an endless series of things that you could do.

Jenn : And the big question, how many shows are you able to see this festival?

Jane: Well I was away from part of it, which was dreadful, but that was what the schedule required. So I would say I saw maybe five. And then in the summer, I came to one of your circus performances. And before you did that, I had no idea that there was a circus arts school in Philadelphia. So those are the kinds of things that you introduced to me that as I say, I probably wouldn’t have known of in another situation. So keep being innovators and keep doing things that will help people who are a little more sort of out of the … I’m not part of the art scene, I would say, but you allow me to participate in that.

Jarod: That’s really cool. So you were talking about it earlier, like how … Or how has art really influenced you throughout your whole life? Like is it something that you’ve always been a part of or you just started getting into it towards like as you just continue to get older? Like how has art been?

Jane: I think … I’m retired, so I have more time. So it’s allowed me to develop more interests. I mean, before it was fairly traditional, I’d go to the orchestra, I might go to the theater a couple of times a year, but having more space in my life allows me to just experiment more. And with the Fringe, you have to experiment because there are going to be some performances that I absolutely don’t understand and it’s good that you offer talk backs and educational pieces that go with it, the podcast among other things, because then people who have a limited understanding of some of the more contemporary performances have an opportunity to grant themselves a little bit in what the artists are achieving.

Jenn: Jane, thank you so much for coming in and for being a member of our Producers Circle and appreciating and engaging with FringeArts as you do.

Jarod: And we’re back. Next, we sit down with Raina Searles Marketing Manager and Tenara Calem Audience Engagement Coordinator here at FringeArts to interview Christie Hartwell, another Producers Circle member.

Christie Hartwell laughing

Photo by Kevin Monko. Christie Hartwell (center) at the 2019 FF VIP Opening Night

Tenara: So today we’re talking to Christie who is a member of our Producers Circle. Welcome, Christie.

Jarod: Last we recall, you were talking about how you wanted it to resonate with the people. I just want to get a feel. How do you want your audience to get understanding of what you’re showing when the event happens? More so, what do you want them to experience, to take away from it all?

Christie: Thank you.

Tenara : So this is … The title of our podcast is Happy Hour on the Fringe. So of course our first question is always, what are we drinking? Knowing that it’s noon right now, I think that that answer can go to many different ways, but are you drinking anything wherever you are, Christie?

Christie: I am. I’m drinking LaCroix coconut water, which my 15-year-old son calls mom drink.

Tenara : That’s great though. I love that.

Raina: Is LaCroix a mom drink now or is it what you always drink?

Christie: No, I think he and his friends, apparently like the mothers of teenagers right now, this is the popular drink.

Tenara : Good to know. I always like a LaCroix as well, so it’s important to know what people are reading into that.

Christie: I have, seriously.

Raina: And so, I’m having a cup of peach passion tea. It’s in a tumbler that I filled all the way up and it’s definitely cool now.

Tenara : And I’m drinking nothing, I’m quite satisfied right now, so I don’t need anything to quench a thirst.

Raina: Yeah, and you have some fruit in front of you.

Tenara : I do have fruit, I have many slices of melon in front of me, which feels important. Great. So diving right in, we’d love to just talk to you about your experience with the Fringe festival and with FringeArts. So if you can think back, do you remember the first show that you saw in the Fringe festival?

Christie: I do, actually. I go all the way back to the first year of the festival. I didn’t know anything about the festival and I was seeing Melanie Stewart at the Annenberg the year before and she was performing in the first year of the festival. And I think the show might have been called something like “Trapture”? And so I followed her. I didn’t know anything about the festival. And she and a group of dancers, including Paul Turner, and I don’t remember who else, they were all bound in some way that affected how they were able to move in the space and interacting. And I learned about the festival through the program that was passed out that night. And the following year, I ended up attending eight or 10 shows and have been a huge fan ever since.

Tenara : Wow, that’s amazing that your relationship with Fringe has like been since the beginning. That’s so great. Now correct us if we’re wrong, but you actually don’t live in Philadelphia, is that correct?

Christie: Not anymore. I lived in Philadelphia until about 10 years ago. And I live in Virginia now. And when I moved away, I thought, “Wow, I’m sad to see this connection end.” But then I realized that Philadelphia is still only a short drive or train ride away. So I still come up for a couple of weekends every festival and make the connection that way.

Tenara : Well, we have to say, we really appreciate your dedication to us and being able to come even from so far away. That’s great. And you came this year for the festival, correct?

Christie: I did, yes.

Tenara : What was your favorite show that you saw this year?

Christie: Goodness, what was my favorite show? The one that was probably the most memorable was the … And I’m blanking on his name, but the former … The dancer who used to dance with Brian Sanders, who did the very bloody show in North Philadelphia. What is his name? It was a Fringe … And I’m, gosh-

Raina: Is it Gunnar Montana?

Christie: Yes, Gunnar Montana. Why can’t I think? He’s so memorable, why couldn’t I think of his name? But yes, that was probably the most memorable of the shows just because of the transporting nature of it all. But I also, the Wooster Group was the other one that really, really sent me quite a bit, the b-side.

Raina: Yeah, that was really beautiful. I do think it’s interesting though, because one of the things that I feel like we’ve seen a lot and especially that I’ve seen a lot from the marketing perspective is that so many people hear about our festival and hear about our programming through an artist. And so looking especially at our independent artists, but also the curated artists that we’re bringing in, there are people who are following an artist or have a friend in a show and so they come to see a random show in the Fringe festival and then they kind of hear about the rest of everything that’s happening after they’ve seen a show already.

Christie: Right.

Raina: And so I think it’s so fantastic that you’re going out and supporting actually the curated works but also the independent works. Has that always kind of been really important for you, is seeing like as many shows as possible in the festival?

Christie: I do think it is important. I have, particularly since I’ve moved away, I do tend to see more of the curated shows because I just, I know the caliber and the quality of the shows that are brought to the festival in that way, and since my time is more limited, I tend to see more of those shows. But I almost feel like I haven’t really done Fringe if I haven’t taken more risks and if I don’t get at least one like sort of oddball clinker out there, I haven’t taken enough risks with it. So I do try to get a few random new things and discover something exciting and unusual. But the more you have your favorites out there, it’s hard to fit everything in once you’ve started going year after year, there are so many amazing local artists that do such remarkable work year after year in the festival. And then repeat artists that come back to the Fringe, Even this year again, Nature Theater of Oklahoma is a huge, huge favorite of mine. And one of my favorite Fringes of all times was the year that they did Life and Times and just how many hours spent in that extensive multi-performance. Time there in the Wilma just hanging out and eating barbecue out on Broadstreet and just being with them for so many hours of wonderful, wonderful theater. And when they come back, they’re a must do kind of thing.

Tenara: I’m curious because your … So now that you are traveling to Philly for the Fringe festival, like you said that you come for … How long do you tend to stay when you come to Philly? Like this time around to see the festival.

Christie: I tend to come at least two weekends from Thursday through Sunday. And will pack in as much as I can over the course of those couple of weekends. And some of the other very dedicated longterm fringe supporters, we tend to start texting in the summer and comparing notes on–uh, Ed in particular has his spreadsheet and starts sending it around of who’s going to see what when. So we’re running from show to show and barely having time to eat between.

Tenara: Well it sounds a lot like our schedules during that festival season . And so that sort of dovetailed into my question, which is, I know what it feels like for me as somebody who works in the organization, what it feels like to be saturated with so much performance in such a short amount of time. But I’m curious, as somebody who has been a long time supporter of FringeArts, how does it feel to be filling your time so intensely with art and performance?

Christie: Well, it is. It’s a very, it’s almost like, to use sort of a food analogy, it’s kind of like a buffet of time of when you’re kind of feasting on this a variety of things and you go from something that’s really dark and serious and gloomy and to something that’s bright and cheerful and hilarious and you laugh your head off and just something else where you’re like, what the heck is that? And it is a little bit draining at the same time as energizing. And so I tend to come away refreshed and invigorated from this period. Every September, I do make it a priority in my schedule and find that this time is something worthy of carving out a time in my life. And I’m delighted that in recent years that FringeArts has become more of a year-round type of thing, so that as my work travel kind of takes me through and around the Philadelphia area that I can pop in for a show here and there and not just in the fall type of thing.

Tenara : Right. Do you feel like the energy that you store for watching all of this amazing art, do you feel like that … Like do you see art during the year in Virginia as well or are you like, got to save it all for the Fringe festival, and anytime you’re in Philly, there’s a show there too?

Christie: Performing art is a big part of my life year-round. And any opportunity I have to see live performance, I … That it fits in my schedule, I take it. There’s something different about the festival and I feel like it being part of FringeArts and being in the midst of this, we’re watching an art form evolve. And being part of it, whether it’s taking the behind the curtain opportunities with the talk backs or interacting with the artists late night at La Peg and seeing some works that are more in process, it’s a little different than going to a performance even on a fairly regular basis through the year. And so, even though I’m a fairly regular attendee of arts performances, this is a little different for me.

Raina: So I think you may have already answered it, but just to very specifically ask, what made you decide to become a member of my Producers Circle and when did you make that choice?

Christie: I don’t remember when I decided to make that choice. Probably early on when Producers Circle started and as I was able to participate. I think this is the work that FringeArts is doing is very important to Philadelphia, is very important to arts in general, nationally and internationally. And I think I feel very privileged to be able to support in a small way that happening. And I get a lot out of it. And then I feel like the arts in general, the performing arts in general, I worry that it’s operating at the extremes or has been operating at the extremes. It’s either on the one hand, very plastic and commercial and yet … I mean, I love the Nutcracker as much as anybody else, but it’s very plastic and commercial and canned and exactly the same, or so ridiculously studious and serious only for the intelligentsia and very serious theater students and very rich philanthropists on the other end. And there’s no room in the middle for the average Joe or people who could have their lives enriched by performing art. And I feel like FringeArts does that. And even though probably the audiences and the participants aren’t as diverse as what you’d like them to be, eventually, I think they’re far more diverse than what you see in the traditional American theater, commercial theater in other places. And I think that’s a really fantastic and encouraging thing.

Raina: Yeah. Well, I think it’s also great to hear about all the connections that you’ve made with other people in the Producers Circle, sharing your schedules and coordinating and getting together. Did you know a lot of the other people involved when you first joined the Producers Circle or are those friends that you made through FringeArts?

Christie: They’re absolutely friends I made through FringeArts, people that you start seeing the same faces around at various things year after year. There’s Shelley Green is one person who about eight or 10 years ago, I didn’t know her at all. And all of a sudden, one year we had virtually identical schedules and kept walking into the theater and oh my gosh, there she is again. And so we started chatting and now we see one another every year and chat again.

Tenara : So you’ve already spoken a little bit about this, but maybe if we can sort of revisit that part of the conversation, but can you talk about why you personally feel like it’s important to donate and support the arts? We’re getting ready to do some big end of year appeals and we want to make sure that people know that the work that we do is totally … It’s not possible without other people’s support. So yeah, we’d love to hear from you about what motivates you to support the arts.

Christie: Well, I think the arts, I feel like creativity and … Arts is a way to dig into things that are important in life. And I see as you experience, if you look at September festival time, unintended themes emerge based on what’s going on in society around us because the artists are influenced by what’s going on in the world around us and they are working on and cracking open in a different way, important themes, whether it be the impact on technology. And I remember very vividly the post-911 world that very next year and acceptance of the LGBTQ community and other things like that that come along. And I feel like the creative arts is an important venue that contributes to our world and contributes to our society. Not as this separate bubble that exists in a box over here that’s this nice adjunct that we do as entertainment, but it’s a critically and vitally important part of life.

And so the more that I work in healthcare, and so the health and wellbeing of people, and I work in children’s healthcare and I want children to grow up in a world that has that and their health and wellbeing is inspired by their ability to have creative outlets and to be able to express themselves creatively. And so, the more that we have organizations like FringeArts that are taking creativity and the arts into the broader world and the broader forum, the better we are as a society and a community. And so I think it’s really important that all members of society are supporting

Tenara : Yeah, I can’t remember which country I read about this in, I think it’s either the UK or Canada, but they recently published like a lot of research and information about exactly what you were talking about, the relationship between the arts, arts programming, arts education, and on holistic health within kids but also just like their general population. And sort of the conclusion that they came to was that the arts are a part of health and wellbeing and it’s just, it feels like that’s something I’d really like to see more of in our community, and understanding that we need to support and invest in our arts communities because they contribute to overall health and wellbeing.

Christie: Right, right. Well, and even, I think of like the very first piece that he brought to the festival about the man caring for his aging father. And that is part of the cycle of life that every human being deals with and just kind of see that in a different way and experience that in a different way and how what a human story that is and told out and an ability to kind of learn something and experience something in a really non-traditional way that without FringeArts working their way up to that, I’m not sure that Philadelphia was probably ready for until you’d done some groundwork, prepping for him, relatively speaking. That’s a really important story and a really important message.

And there just so many different avenues and ways we’re talking about health. But if you’re talking about education, the Elevator Repair Service’s take on Gatz or take on Hemingway, that like is a much more sort of interesting and vibrant way of experiencing literature than maybe another dry reading of a book that you might hear of somewhere else. And so just adding so much more richness to the way that we layer in things that are part of our history. I just, I get so much out of it from so many different ways and I wish more people would plug in. I’m always shocked when I come to Philadelphia and I get off the train at 30th street and hop in the cab and people don’t even know the festival is going on. And I’m like, how is that possible?

Tenara : Well, you’re doing some very vital work to make people aware.

Raina: Yes, please keep telling all of your taxi cab drivers. I like, yeah, that’s where I work, it’s FringeArts. So we don’t want to keep me for too long, but one of the questions that we normally close out with when we’re speaking to artists is their highbrow and lowbrow inspirations for making art. And so I’m wondering for you if there are one or two maybe more shows, because you’ve already mentioned so many, but if there are any shows that have really inspired you in various ways and made you take something back in your life or really reflect on something that you’ve seen throughout the years?

Christie: Well I’m not sure so much … I think some favorites, I guess, I’ll take it more in that way, Jerome Bell is one that I was really, the show must go on was one that so inspired me, kind of the the artist in every person of everyday movement and how breaking down that fourth wall and making the entire venue part of the experience part of the performance and breaking down that performer versus audience member in a way that was beautiful and a little bit uncomfortable because one of the things that I thought was so interesting was in the talk back after the show must go on. One of the young performers who I think was a university of the arts student was talking about being a little bit taken aback or uncomfortable that the audience was like moving around or doing stuff in reaction to one of the songs where she felt as though … Like, I mean she didn’t express that quite this way, but that according to the rules they were supposed to be watching the performers, play by the rules as the audience member.

And I thought it was so interesting because this was coming from a very young person and I thought, she’s been programmed in her education and her teaching where he as a choreographer is blowing this up yet she’s responding from a very traditional dancers kind of kind of perspective. And it’s like wow, what an interesting kind of dynamic on that. And it gave me much more food for thought because I loved the performance and it gave me some food for thought and then her comment in the talk back also gave me some more food for thought. So it was interesting.

Tenara : That’s awesome.

Raina: Yeah.

Tenara : We like Jerome Bel over here.

Raina: Big fans.

Christie: Yeah, and another favorite that’s just Jo Strømgren, and that made up language, fun stuff with The Convent was just like so, how like transported to like take you away from your reliance on the English language and just to like get such a fabulous story out of it. I think I went to The Convent three times because I loved it so much.

Tenara : Wait, say the title again. The Convent?

Christie: The Convent.

Tenara : Man, I love it when you have to go see, I’ve done that before. I’ve seen a show once where I was like, well got to see it again.

Christie: Yes, indeed. Yeah, I think I skipped something else. So I probably missed something wonderful but I had to go back.

Raina: I had a friend in 2017 when we did HOME by Geoff Sobelle, I remember I was seeing it for the Saturday night performance and she couldn’t make it, so she went to go see the Friday night performance, but then she ended up canceling her plans the next day and seeing both the Saturday matinee and the Saturday night performance because she loved it so much. And when I saw it, I was like, I wish I had done what she did and like come back three times so I could see all the different perspectives. So it was a show that like you just had to see more than once and then get a feel for everything that was going on on stage.

Christie: I know. My sister missed it. She often comes up, she lives here in Virginia and she often comes up with me, and that was one that she missed and I was, I said, “Carrie, you missed a good one.”

Tenara : Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Christie, for joining us for this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe.

Christie: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. It’s always fun to reminisce and think back and I look forward to my next Fringe [crosstalk 00:36:21].

Tenara : We look forward to seeing you around the theater. Thank you again.

Christie: Thank you.

Tenara : Bye, Christie.

Christie: Bye-bye.

Jenn: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and download the FringeArts app. Visit fringearts.com to see all of our upcoming programming. Thank you for listening.

[Exit music]

Happy Hour on the Fringe: DJ Dame Luz

Posted November 4th, 2019

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe we recorded musical artist DJ Dame Luz before her upcoming Halloqweens event that took place at FringeArts on October 26. Listen as she talks about the people who have inspired her, along with the origins of Halloqweens.

Featured photo: Halloquweens Event

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Conversation with DJ Dame Luz 

[Music Intro]

Raina: Hello, and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Raina Searles, Marketing Manager here at FringeArts.

halloweens promo with women dressed as devilsJarod: I’m Jarod Hughes, the Podcast Production Intern here at FringeArts. We invite you to pour one up, enjoy our conversation with some of the most imaginative people on the plane of existence. Today, we’re excited to talk about Halloqweens, the best queer Halloween party in Philadelphia, here at FringeArts for the third year, on October 26th, from 10 PM to 2 AM.

Raina: Created by DJ Dame Luz, the party features performances by artists spanning the nightlife and drag communities, alongside some of the most exciting DJs in the city. This is the party that you save your good costume for. So, welcome, Dame Luz.

Dame Luz: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Raina: Yeah, we’re excited to have you here. So, first of all, it’s Happy Hour on the Fringe. We always record at varying times, so our first question is, what are we all drinking, though?

Dame Luz: Water. I always stay hydrated.

Raina:Yes. I am also drinking water, out of a Mason jar, to be fringe-y. Just to start off, take us back to the start of HalloQueens? How did this idea come to you, what spurred you on?

Dame Luz: Halloqweens started out from an event that I used to do, in collaboration with someone else. It was called Cut and Paste. Halloqweens was just our yearly Halloween party. I’m a really big fan of Halloween, period.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: So, yeah, I was really excited to do that.

Raina: Yeah.

Dame Luz: Throw a big party!

Jarod: So, this will be the sixth year that you guys are doing Halloqweens, right? What are some of the highs and lows of this event for you? As you’re doing it, what is something that is extremely stressful, and something that you’re just bang on the part?

Dame Luz: The first few years, it was pretty low maintenance, as far as production wise. We held it at a smaller venue called [The Barberry 00:02:12]. We took up two of the floors there. You know, it was pretty low maintenance. Forward working at Fringe, yeah, we were able to elevate production. So, as far as what’s been stressful, low points, high points, was that the question? I think working by myself the past couple of years, I definitely felt like I was taking on a lot, you know? I’m a Virgo, so, yeah. This year, I’ve teamed up with someone else to co-curate, so I want to say that’s a high point.

Raina: Awesome. That is Hawkmoth Events?

Dame Luz: Yes.

Raina: How did you build that collaboration?

Dame Luz: I’ve just been in admiration of what they’re doing for a while now. I was like, yeah, this year, it’s a lot of work to do an event by yourself, so I was like, I’m not going to do it unless I find the right person to collab with. I was so excited when they said yes.

Raina: Awesome. So, is there anything that people might see this year, as you’re building this new partnership and trying new things, is there anything people might see that’s different this year?

Dame Luz: So, in my collaboration with Hawkmoth Events, they’re in change of the visual aspect of things. This year, expect to see an elevated, just better lighting and visuals. That’s something we’re really looking forward to.

Raina: Awesome.

Jarod: So, I want to talk about, now that you’re doing this collaboration, is there anything that’s been challenging you guys, where maybe conflicting ideas or anything, that you’ve had to work out?

Dame Luz: No. It’s been pretty organic and flowing, honestly. Yeah, they’re another Virgo.

Raina: Okay, so two Virgos together is good?

Dame Luz: It’s a super Virgo team.

Raina: Great. The goal of HallowQueens is to create a safe and equitable space for queer performers and audiences to come together, but with the success of Halloqweens, we’ve seen a number of people from different walks of life, coming together, all partying together. The question is then, what does it mean to be an ally in 2019? What are you excited about as you see Halloqweens grow?

Dame Luz: To be an ally in 2019, I feel like it’s offering support, but also knowing when to step back, you know? Yeah.

Dame Luz: Then, what was the other question?

Raina: How are you excited to see Halloqweens grow?

Dame Luz: Like, how am I excited?

Raina: Yeah.

Dame Luz: I mean, yeah. I’m like –

Raina: What are you excited about?

Dame Luz: What am I excited about? I’m excited about the visual aspect, for sure, this year. We’ve teamed up with a few artists who do 3D animation. I’m really excited to have these visuals. I feel like the visuals are going to be really queer, and spooky. I feel like it’ll resonate with a lot of people.

Raina: Are they going to be projected up on the walls?

Dame Luz: Yeah.

Raina: And moving around? Okay. Like a 360 view, or specific areas?

Dame Luz: We’re still figuring that out.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: We have a meeting next week with the visual team to figure that out. Yeah, there’s definitely going to be a lot more visuals.

Raina: Okay.

Jarod: Last we recall, you were talking about how you wanted it to resonate with the people. I just want to get a feel. How do you want your audience to get understanding of what you’re showing when the event happens? More so, what do you want them to experience, to take away from it all?

Dame Luz: I want them to experience, you know, queer night life at it’s weirdest. Yeah.

Dame Luz: More specifically, I want them to take away, from the artists, how amazing these queer, POC artists are.

Raina: Well, it’s Halloween. You said you’re a big fan of Halloween. What are some of your best costumes that you’ve done over the years?

Dame Luz: Over the years? I was a succubus thing last year, which I was really excited about.

Dame Luz: Honestly, I’m pretty basic. I’m Lydia almost every other year. Every version of Lydia.

Raina: Yeah. I mean, I can’t say I’m much better. I usually wear black, and then call it something. So, last year, I was a business witch, because I wore a long black sweater, and black heeled boots, and went to work like that. So, I was business witch. But, it’s usually business witch, model, spy, anything you can wear black for and then call it a night.

Dame Luz: Oh, no. It always has to be spooky.

Raina: Okay.

Dame Luz: Spooky only.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jarod: I’ve never dressed up.

Raina: Never?

Jarod: Maybe when I was a child. I haven’t done Halloween since I was, like, 13.

Raina: Oh, wow. What do you normally do?

Jarod: For Halloween?

Raina: Yeah.

Jarod: The past four years, my Halloween has been studying. So, that’s what I did on Halloween. I stayed in my library, and got 10-page papers. I haven’t done a Halloween in years.

Dame Luz: Maybe this is your year!

Jarod: Maybe.

Raina: Yeah. So, do you have any hints on your costume for this year?

Dame Luz: I’m still working out the details. Halloween is a season for me, so by the time Halloween proper happens, I’ve already done three different costumes.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: Yeah. There’s a lot to plan this season.

Raina: Yeah.

Jarod: So, you’ve been talking about some of the artists that you have. Can you describe some of the music, and stuff they’re going to be doing? Give us a little hint of what’s going to be happening, what they’re going to be doing?

Dame Luz: This year, we’ve got a live performance. We have this R&B singer, Tama Gucci, who is awesome. I’m really excited to have him. Yeah.

Raina: How do you choose the artists that you’re going to bring in each year?

Dame Luz: You know, that’s funny. Just yesterday, I was watching this TV show on Netflix that came out, it’s Rhyme and Flow.

Raina: Rhythm?

Dame Luz: Rhythm and Flow, yeah.

Raina: Yes.

Dame Luz: You know, I’m looking at the New York episode, and I’m like “Oh my God, that’s Cakes da Killa!” We booked Cakes da Killa for Halloqweens, like, three or four years ago.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: Seeing, you know, the growth of the artist that I’ve booked for this event. Like, Princess Nokia played Halloqweens a couple years ago, and she’s really big now. I think I’m really into finding, obviously, artists that resonate with queers, and that are doing amazing things, but that are also attainable.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do you have a reach goal, in the future, however far away it is? Someone who is on your radar, and you want to use this as a platform to let them know, you want them to come to HallowQueens.

Dame Luz: Oh my God, there’s so many! Mickey Blanco, for one. I’m a huge fan of Mickey Blanco’s work.

Dame Luz: Who else? Baby Mutha.

Raina: Awesome.

Jarod: So, what inspires you to continue to do this event, year in and year out? Like, I know you said this year, you wanted to find a partner to do it with you. Not even for just this event, but for your own artistic abilities and imagination, what continues to inspire you to do this?

Dame Luz: Like I said, I just really love Halloween. I just want to take the experience higher and higher, every year, as far as this particular event is concerned.

Raina: Where can we find you, year round, doing work around the city?

Dame Luz: I DJ all over the city. I put on numerous events.

Dame Luz: Most recently, I did a Beyonce Birthday Night, which I actually held here the first two years, at Fringe.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: Yeah. That was one of my big ones recently. I do all kinds of events.

Raina: Yeah. What are you looking forward to? We talked about what you’re looking forward to next in HallowQueens, but are there any career aspirations that you have, or goals, what your next big thing will be?

Dame Luz: I definitely want to work more towards collaborating with other event producers, and working more on festivals, and block parties. That’s how I envision my future as an event organizer.

Dame Luz: As far as a DJ, and music maker, I’m currently working on my P, so that’s what I’m working on.

Raina: Nice. Yeah. Do you imagine that you’ll stay based in Philly, or more open to traveling?

Dame Luz: I love to travel, so if I have the opportunity to travel, I would. Yeah, I love Philly, I’ve been here for seven years. I’m a native New Yorker, and this has given me New York in the nineties, which I’m very nostalgic for.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: Yeah, I won’t be leaving Philly any time soon.

Raina: Did you start DJing in New York?

Dame Luz: No. I started DJing when I moved to Portland, Oregon.

Raina: Okay.

Dame Luz: I mean, I learned how to DJ when I lived in New York, I grew up in the South Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop. DJing as an art form. I learned these things early on, but it wasn’t until I lived on the West Coast that I considered even doing it.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Portland is known for being kind of quirky, and weird in their art scene. Did that help shape your practice at all?

Dame Luz: Yeah, no, just my journey as a DJ and event producer has evolved so much since then. Yeah, no, I loved it. I was so … Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m just like, oh my God!

Raina: Yeah, awesome. What ended up bringing you to Philly, then?

Dame Luz: I tried to move back to New York, and after living on the West Coast for almost a decade … I’m giving my age away. It just was a different New York, and the pace was a little too much for me. I got acclimated to a more chill vibe, and an affordable, accessible type of city, at least economically so. Everyone was like, “Oh, you’d really love Philly.” So, I came to visit. Two months, and I just packed and moved to Philly.

Raina: Oh, wow. Well, that’s a great reputation for us.

Raina: It’s funny, I know Philly is often accused of having that younger sibling syndrome, or second place syndrome to New York, but Philly has its good things about it, which is always great.

Raina: Yeah, so, one of our big questions is just, in general, what are your high brow and low brow inspirations? So, high brow, like whatever high art, whatever you consider to be high art. Low brow can be what you’re watching in Netflix or whatever, like reality TV. Yeah, high brow, low brow inspirations for your work, your practice, as you’re creating?

Dame Luz: I grew up on a lot of John Waters movies.

Raina: Okay.

Dame Luz: That’s always low-key been an inspiration, as far as the kind of spaces I like to create. Just, yeah.

Dame Luz: Then, as far as low brow, high brow, Susanne Bartsch. I don’t know if you know her? She has a documentary on Netflix now. She’s this big, New York event promoter, producer.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: She’s known for her off-the-wall costumes, and very low brow but still fashion and glamorous.

Raina: Do you know what the documentary is called?

Dame Luz: I think it’s, like … It definitely has her name in it.

Raina: Okay. Susanne Bartsch?

Dame Luz: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Raina: Okay.

Dame Luz: You should watch it.

Raina: I will definitely check it out.

Dame Luz: I want to be the Dominican Susanne Bartsch, that’s goals.

Raina: Good goals to have. Awesome.

Jarod: Another question we just wanted to ask you was, how can people continue to support you? Not just now, but for years to come? For the people that are going to be listening?

Dame Luz: Yeah, you know, money talks.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dame Luz: That’s been a hindrance to elevating this event, has been the lack of monetary resources. Yeah, that’s been a challenge, finding people who will sponsor us, and give us money so that we can have this event be more amazing.

Raina: Yeah.

Dame Luz: We can get the artists that cost a lot of money.

Raina: While also keeping ticket prices.

Dame Luz: Also, keeping ticket prices lower and accessible, exactly.

Raina: Where can we find you on social media?

Dame Luz: So, you can find me @DJDameLuz on Instagram. Something to that effect on Facebook, yeah.

Raina: Great.

Raina: Well, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe. Before we close, is there anything else you want to share about Halloqweens, or what you have coming up?

Dame Luz: I think we touched on everything. Thanks for having me!

Raina: Yeah, thank you.

Raina: Halloqweens is October 26th at FringeArts, and tickets are on sale now. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and download the FringeArts app. You can also visit us at Fringearts.com.

[Exit music]

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Un Poyo Rojo

Posted October 18th, 2019

In this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, Zach Blackwood, FringeArts’ Artistic Producer, talks to artists Luciano Rosso and Nicolás Poggi of Un Poyo Rojo, which ran Sept 19–21 at Christ Church Neighborhood House. They share the origins of their relationship to each other, the work, and how they prepared for this dynamic physical piece.

Featured photo: Luciano Rosso and Nicolás Poggi, Un Poyo Rojo

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Conversation with Un Poyo Rojo Team

[Music Intro]

Zach: Hello, and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. Happy Hour on the Fringe is FringeArts’ podcast. What is FringeArts? FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premier presenter of contemporary performing arts and the producers of the 2019 Fringe Festival. Like I said, I am Zach Blackwood. I’m an artistic producer at FringeArts, and I invite you to pour one up with us. The bar is not open yet. Spoiler alert to our listeners at home. But I invite you to have a cocktail and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence. We used to say in Philadelphia, but it’s not where you’re from.

Luciano: No, we are from Argentina.

Zach: That’s great.

Luciano: Yeah, far away.

Zach: So before we jump into this conversation, I just want to take a moment to thank all of our Fringe Festival sponsors: the Durst Organization, the University of Pennsylvania, M&T Bank, Parx Casino and Getaround, the Airbnb of rental cars. I also want to thank our Fringe Festival bookstore partner, Head House books, for helping curate the selection of books you see all around you here at the Fringe Festival Bookstore. Today we’re excited to talk to the creators of Un Poyo Rojo, Luciano Rosso and Nicolás Poggi. Un Poyo Rojo is a dance performance in this year’s 2019 Fringe Festival happening tonight and tomorrow night at 8:00 PM still, that’s over at Christchurch Neighborhood House over on American Street, so a little bit around the corner. I have so many things I’m supposed to start with, so let’s do that. As we stated, me and Katy – my Artistic Producer partner here at Fringe – first saw this piece as a part of a circus festival in Montreal. It’s interesting because here in this festival, the piece is being treated as a work of a physical theater, kind of a dance theater work. That’s how we’re describing it to people. But how would you describe the piece in formal genre?

Read More

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Spooky Shows

Posted September 10th, 2019

Start spooky season a month early with these  hair-raising performances by eight of our independent artists.

BASEMENT
Gunnar Montana
Gunnar Montana transports us once again, this time downward into the dark depths of terror. Follow one man’s frightening descent into deranged madness and witness his unrelenting, visceral nightmare unfold. Graphic content.
More info and tickets here

 

Red Lodge, Montana
The Antidote festival spooky shows red lodge montana
A mysterious death. An enigmatic detective. And some damn fine huckleberry pie. Inspired by the work of filmmaker David Lynch, Red Lodge, Montana will immerse you in a nightmare world of danger, desire, and doppelgängers. (Pie not included.)
More info and tickets here

 

our ouija board, the games we played, the shit we conjured, & the dead dude we hate-fucked
ON THE ROCKS: Elaina Di Monaco & Haygen-Brice Walker
ouija boards | necrophilia | Kelly Rowland | yearbooks | Satan | ya fiction | sexual perversions | kitten play | instas | finstas | high school reunions | dog attacks | mascots | christianity | lesbians | crocodile teeth | passing notes | road head | celebrity ghost hunters | gotta sign a waiver
More info and tickets here

Read More

Fringe By The Numbers

Posted September 5th, 2019

The 2019 Fringe Festival features:

Úumbal, Mariana Arteaga1,274 performances of
179 shows by
210 artists at
102 venues

The Fringe Festival is in its
23rd year in Philadelphia

Of the 179 shows
11 are curated by FringeArts
148 are independently produced
14 are entirely digital

Read More

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Immersive Theater

Posted September 3rd, 2019

This year’s Fringe Festival features a new kind of adventure – enter the world of immersive theater and be transported to multiple alternate realities.

Here we talk to Sarah Elger, co-founder of Pseudonym Productions to discuss Question Reality which will be performed in Philadelphia on September 10 + 12–15 for the 2019 Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: How did the title Question Reality come into being?

Sarah Elger: The title “Question Reality” came from the very nature of the works we create at Pseudonym Productions. Our thrilling immersive experiences encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, live differently – and question reality. It’s our company tagline, our website (QuestionReality.com), and the very heart of what we do. So, as we (re)introduce ourselves to Philadelphia, it seemed like the perfect choice for a title.

But it’s not just a name. The title is reflected directly in the story and theme of the experience we have created exclusively for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival this year. The production is a mind-bending combination of live theater and exploration that may lead you to question the very nature of existence as we transport you through a tear in reality into another realm.

FringeArts: What part does the audience play in the piece?

Sarah Elger: We have been writing one epic story that connects multiple immersive experiences this year. At Fringe, Question Reality brings you into a century-old abandoned warehouse where you will meet our main character, who transports you into the realm she has recently discovered – where nothing is ever as it seems.

The story will continue throughout October as the portal expands to allow you to step into the realm between life and death and take part in a haunting evening of mystery, legend, and exploration in our month-long Halloween experience, which is called Dark Passage.

Both of these live immersive experiences will allow players to explore a vibrant themed world and interact with intriguing characters while figuring out and becoming part of the story that evolves around them. No two visits are the same in these ever-changing experiences.

And throughout September and October, players worldwide may interact with the story online beginning with our Digital Fringe experience that’s simply called Pseudoverse.

This experience bridges Question Reality with Dark Passage and takes players on a digital journey into the unexpected.

But if your question is: Why are players being drawn to this newly discovered realm? Let’s just say … no matter how you take part, it’s an unnerving experience that will move your soul.

FringeArts: What is it like to be back in Philadelphia with this work since Pseudonym Productions came out of a collaboration at Penn? How have you been exploring immersive theater since?

Sarah Elger: It’s incredible to be back in Philadelphia after being in Orlando for the past five years. This is a city that I called home for 3 years, but spent most of the time on campus. I’m excited and eager to share our unique productions with everyone here. Since returning a few months ago, I’ve heard from endless people that have wished Philadelphia had more immersive entertainment.

Since getting my Master of Architecture at Penn several years ago, I’ve had a career designing theme parks and attractions for Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and NASA. But I never let Pseudonym slide, as we have produced six immersive theater experiences over the past five years spanning Orlando, Los Angeles, and New York. And our lead writer, Nikhil Menezes, has been with us for all of them – all the way back to the early brainstorm sessions at Penn, when he was a mere freshman. After spending a few years in London, he’s now returning to the U.S. to get his PhD just up the road at Princeton.

We’re thrilled to now have the opportunity to host the Immersive HQ Lounge during Fringe where we look forward to meeting audiences throughout the festival and telling them more about the incredible immersive works that are being produced here.

We got our start in Orlando at the Fringe Festival there, so we couldn’t imagine a better way to resume our immersive journey here than with the Philly Fringe Festival.

What: Question Reality
When:
September 10 + 12–15, 2019
Where:
Immersive HQ
Cost:
$15–$20


Last year, SPIES! debuted at the Fringe Festival and this year, creator Kat Hinkel is back with the sequel SPIES!! Even More Spying. We spoke with Kat Hinkel who shared with us the process for building the show, what she hopes the audience will take away from the experience and how the performance space adds to the experience.

SPIES!! Even More Spying will be taking place on September 10, 12, 14, 17, 19 + 21 as part of the 2019 Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: For patrons who saw SPIES! last year, what has been your process for building this new show and how will it differ?

Kat Hinkel: Last year’s SPIES! felt very vintage noir, and this year we’re facing a more futuristic, tech-driven setting and “threat.” That said, many things the audience loved will remain the same: the chatbot that lets the audience vote on what happens next, the endless dad jokes, and the fabulous will-they-won’t-they of our two lead spies among them.

As last year’s show had 3 different endings, I had to start by creating a one-year-later setting that could believably follow any of the three endings. Last year, the countries of Gane and Westerly were at war, and this year they have teamed up… but of course everything isn’t as buddy-buddy it seems. All’s fair in love and spying.

FringeArts: What’s your experience in immersive theater?

Kat Hinkel: I saw my first immersive show, Sleep No More, in August 2012, followed by Speakeasy Dollhouse in 2014. I knew after that that I wanted to create my own immersive experiences, but it took some time to pull all the pieces together. Last year’s SPIES! was the first play I wrote, as well as my first time participating in Fringe, and the whole experience was wonderful. (The fact that we sold out before we opened was also a nice surprise for a debut.)

This year, I attended the amazing Immersive Design Summit and got to meet and learn from the best in the industry. I’m also very active in No Proscenium’s online community of immersive creators and enthusiasts, and I host the Philadelphia Immersive Experience Meet-up once a month to bring together those interested in immersive in the city.

FringeArts: What would you like the audience to take away from this experience?

Kat Hinkel: The audience will hopefully have tons of fun and laugh a lot. I also hope it provides all the “pretending to be a spy” escapism that we all want and need in our lives.

FringeArts: Why are you excited about Kismet Cowork Spring Arts as your new space for this year?

Kat Hinkel: I was really hoping to host the show in a coworking space, as our setting is the 2019 Future Summit, a tech/influencer conference. When I saw Kismet Cowork, I was blown away by its modern-industrial-whimsical-chic vibe, and also how welcoming and comfortable it feels. The great thing about site-specific theater is that the setting feels so believable as it is already fully formed and decorated. I wrote the script with Kismet’s layout in mind, and I think the audience is going to feel totally immersed in the space.

What: SPIES!! Even More Spying
When:
September 10, 12, 14, 17, 19 + 21, 2019
Where:
Immersive HQ
Cost:
$20–$35


Here we talked with Jessica Creane about the creation of Know Thyself which runs September 5–21 as part of the 2019 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: What inspired Know Thyself?

Jessica Creane: What even IS inspiration?! Kidding. That’s just one example of the vicious, time-consuming, mind vortexes that happen when you’re making a piece about philosophy. Which is probably why it’s an interactive piece – so we can all go down this rabbit hole together. For as theoretical as philosophy often seems, it’s actually incredibly active and consequential. The best philosophers over the years have asked really sharp questions, the kind that can cut through society and draw a little blood. Socrates was put to death for asking questions that threatened the social fabric of ancient Greece and Philippa Foot’s Trolley Problem has become a cultural touchstone and launched about a thousand memes in the process. Their work, and that of many others, boils down to questions of what we live for and what we would die for. It’s not exactly the height of fun to think about this stuff so as a game designer I’m interested in how those sharp questions can be made playful in a way that doesn’t water them down but concentrates them instead. Which is how this piece ended up exploring impermanence, ethical paradoxes, and superpositional states by way of cats in scuba gear and twisted party games. 

The first philosophy game I ever made was a destructible tabletop game. It’s pretty weird and I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it isn’t a game so much as an experience, and while it is absolutely a game, it got me thinking about what, exactly, the difference is. I started making more philosophy games, some of which are easily categorized as games, most of which are something else; a blend of games and immersive experiences that I thought might be best experienced as theater. Philosophies are systems of thought, games are systems of action, and immersive theater is a systematic breaking of the fourth wall; which means that participants can do more than just sit back and watch, they can make choices that alter the course of the piece. This ultimately resulted in Know Thyself, a gamified philosophy salon that uses play to break down the invisible walls that hold us back from knowing ourselves, and others, better. 

FringeArts: How do you plan to utilize the space at Kismet Cowork Spring Arts?

Jessica Creane: A lot of this depends on which version of the piece the audience ends up playing through but Kismet is set up with multiple work stations, open spaces, tiny rooms, and lots of glass walls, which is perfect for gameplay spaces that are both personal and social. Coworking spaces are founded on the principle that we are all individuals with important, personal work to do, and that we do that work best as part of a community. Know Thyself operates by the same philosophy; the community benefits from everyone in it knowing who they are and what they value, but there is no way to figure that out alone; we need each other to know ourselves.

FringeArts: We last saw you in the Fringe Festival with Chaos Theory and R&J in 2018. What have you been exploring since and how has your experience expanded over the past year as you’ve done more immersive theater and toured Chaos Theory so far?

Jessica Creane: It’s been a wild year! After premiering in the Philly Fringe, Chaos Theory was one of FringeNYC’s presented works in October, we were picked up by HERE Arts for a run in December, and we now have an extended, monthly run at Caveat, NYC on the lower east side. My Directors, Amy Blumberg and Joseph Ahmed, helped me to hone the piece after the Philly run and they did a phenomenal job of making sure I took the biggest creative risks I could, added more games, and tightened the narrative, which means that no show is ever the same. It feels great to have a home for the piece! We’re also in the process of figuring out dates and locations to tour Chaos Theory and the show (which is about a person who gets kicked out of a TED-style conference on chaos due to her experimental research methods) somehow got me invited to give an actual TEDx talk on designing experimental games about chaos, the meta irony of which is not lost on me. 

Chaos aside, I’m continuing to explore agency and connectivity through play and officially founded IKantKoan LLC, which is an immersive experience and game design company focused on the playful exploration of complex systems. I’ve been doing my best to live by my personal philosophy of Fail Faster, which is a phrase from game design that’s all about taking risks early and often letting work be really bad so that it can eventually get really good. With interactive, immersive work there’s just no knowing if it works unless you have an audience and Know Thyself, in particular, is contingent on the audience having significant agency, so it’s been a driving force in the last few months.

FringeArts: What drew you to immersive theater?

Jessica Creane: Definitely agency and tactility. I’m a kinesthetic learner and immersive theater provides an opportunity to touch things, talk to people, and make choices for what happens next in a piece. It’s a really active and engaging form of storytelling. I also love that immersive worlds are structured but not predetermined. The rules can change, the ending can change, the meaning of a particular game can change, and that change comes from both the actors and the participants. It’s fun to make work that leaves this much space for the audience to play but it’s also a challenge to find the right balance between structure and openness. I like a challenge. 

What: Know Thyself
When: September 5–7, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20 + 21, 2019
Where:
Kismet Cowork Spring Arts
Cost:
$25


Here’s your chance to catch all three Immersive HQ shows:

Announcing Tri-Mersive Day from Immersive Philly!
3 shows. 1 building. Limitless Adventure.
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Immersive HQ @ Kismet | 448 N. 10th St. Philadelphia, PA 19123

 

 

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Fringe Festival Veterans and Virgins

Posted September 2nd, 2019

In this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, April Rose, FringeArts’ Fringe Festival Coordinator, talks to independent artists Tara Lake, Terry Brennan, Joseph Ahmed and the Executive Director of Da Vinci Art Alliance (and former Fringe Festival Coordinator) Jarrod Markman about their independent show offerings for this year’s Fringe Festival and their experiences as newbies and seasoned veterans of Fringe.

I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman will play September 20-22 at The Whole Shebang.

Operation: Wawa Road Trip will play  at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake on September 5–9, 12–16, and 19–21.

 Dissonance and Generations are visual art exhibitions that will be showing at Da Vinci Art Alliance during the Fringe Festival. Free / Gallery hours: Wednesdays–Sundays, 12–5pm. DVAA is also presenting Composition in Concert, displayed at International House Philadelphia daily from 8am–10pm during the Fringe Festival.

Featured photo: Tara Lake, I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Conversation with Fringe Festival Veterans and Virgins

[Music Intro]

April: Hello. This is Happy Hour on the Fringe. I’m April Rose, the Fringe Festival coordinator, and I am here with Tara Lake, Terry Brennan, Jarrod Markman, and Joseph Ahmed. I’m going to let everybody go around, introduce themselves, and say who they are, and how they’re involved with the Fringe Festival.

Tara: Hi, everybody. My name is Tara Lake. I am super excited to be here. I’m here to talk about my show, I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman, which will be part of Fringe Festival this year. I am a storyteller, and a soprano, and a performer, among other things. Yeah. That’s me.

Terry: My name is Terry Brennan. I am the artistic director of Tribe of Fools. This year Tribe of Fools is doing a show called Operation: Wawa Road Trip. I’m not directing it, but I’m totally in charge of stuff that has to do with that.

Jarrod: I am Jarrod Markman. For four years I was the April and coordinated the independent artist section of the Fringe Festival. This is my first year not doing that. Currently I’m the executive director of Da Vinci Art Alliance.

Joseph: My name is Joseph Ahmed. I am a company member of Tribe of Fools. I am directing Operation: Wawa Road Trip, which is happening this Fringe Festival, which I am very excited to be working on with Terry.

April: Great. Thank you all for being here. Today’s topic is Fringe Festival veterans and virgins. So Tara and I are both participating in the Fringe for the first time this year, at least the Philadelphia Fringe. I moved to the position of Fringe Festival Coordinator, and this is like I said, Tara’s first year presenting work in the Philly Fringe. We’re going to just get a little bit of background from our two veterans, well, technically three veterans, and have a little conversation about our experiences with the festival. Joseph and Terry, if you would like to do a little background on the piece that you’re presenting this year?

Read More

Repping FringeArts: A Word with Ambassador Shoshana Lovett-Graff

Posted August 31st, 2019

The FringeArts Ambassador Program is a cohort of volunteers, artistic participants, long-time fans of FringeArts, and community stakeholders who work to connect new audiences with new works at FringeArts. We talked to a resident Ambassador, Shoshana Lovett-Graff, about her experiences with the program.

Shoshana Lovett-Graff headshot sitting by a windowFringeArts: How long have you been an Ambassador for FringeArts?

Shoshana Lovett-Graff: Since the program began in October 2018.

FringeArts: What do you like about FringeArts and the Fringe Festival?

Shoshana Lovett-Graff: I appreciate the opportunities that FringeArts and the Fringe Festival provide for new, forward-thinking artists and performers in and outside of Philly. The Fringe Festival offers a platform for work that pushes boundaries and breaks down conventions of what theater is, who makes theater, and who it’s intended for.

Read More

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Feminist Fringe

Posted August 30th, 2019

This year’s Fringe Festival has a variety of shows that put womxn at the forefront. Get to know our 2019 Fringe Festival feminist shows.

A Literal Doll House
MACHO GOAT
This deconstruction of Ibsen’s feminist classic A Doll House features the entire play acted out by a girl playing with literal dolls. Do not be fooled: There is more to this show than meets the eye. A struggle that rings true throughout the ages. This is not a one-woman show. Come and find out why.
More information and tickets

fringe festival Feminist shows women's film festivalAnimation Nation Pt. 2
The Women’s Film Festival
The Women’s Film Festival presents an amazing collection of animated films by, for, or about women. Come get a taste of award-winning short films from local and international artists along with a preview of our nine-day festival in March! Bring an open mind with a dusting of imagination! Send submissions to the 2020 festival to bit.ly/ twff2020submissions.
More information and tickets

Read More

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Fringe After Dark

Posted August 29th, 2019

The Fringe Festival doesn’t stop when the sun sets! The following shows offer performances starting at 10pm or later. Leave the kids at home and Fringe the night away with these after-dark performances.

A Manayunk Mystery Tour
Manayunk Theatre Company
It was a dark and stormy night when a young woman from Manayunk mysteriously went missing … and was murdered!!! Follow Manayunk’s finest private investigator, a child genius turned conspiracy enthusiast, and a very serious podcast reporter as they try to solve the Murder of Manayunk’s Missing Millennial.
More info and tickets here

BASEMENT
Gunnar Montana
Gunnar Montana transports us once again, this time downward into the dark depths of terror. Follow one man’s frightening descent into deranged madness and witness his unrelenting, visceral nightmare unfold.
More info and tickets here

Read More

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: LGBTQ+

Posted August 28th, 2019

Created and performed by queer artists, these shows explore issues of sexuality and gender identity through music, theater, comedy, and more. Come and enjoy every color of Fringe’s rainbow.

And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens
EgoPo Classic Theater
Candy Delaney is a “New Orleans queen” approaching his dreaded 35th birthday. While Candy is looking for romance, his newest pickup is looking for his next drink. Audiences are welcomed into Candy’s apartment, champagne in hand, for this stunning portrait of unrequited love. Coproduced with Provincetown Williams Fest.
More info and tickets here

Beards: A New Musical
Elana Mirella Mariani and Liberty Laferriere
Eva is a young woman in 1959 Manhattan who creates a business that pairs women with gay men to act as heterosexual couples. Beards examines themes of feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, family values, and emotional prostitution through a modern lens.
More info and tickets here

Read More

Happy Hour on the Fringe: 2019 LOVE Park Artists

Posted August 27th, 2019

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, we share a drink with Marc Wilken from Parks and Recreation and three independent Fringe Festival artists: Dana Suleymanova (Dear qupid), Eric Thayer (Give Your Heart), and Leah Stein with Asimina Chremos (RISE: Relationship is Self Existing).  All of the performances are participatory and engage with the City of Brotherly Love as they explore love, the beating heart, and how human bodies share space in LOVE Park this September.

Featured photo: RISE: Relationship Is Self Existing

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Conversation with Love Park Artists

[Music Intro]

Raina: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. Fringe Arts is Philadelphia’s premier presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Raina Searles Marketing Manager here at FringeArts and I invite you to pour one up and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence.

Raina: Today we’re excited to be speaking with some of the independent artists in the 2019 Fringe Festival who will be performing in Love Park this year, presented by Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. With us here today, I’d like to welcome Marc Wilken from Parks and Recreation, Dana Suleymanova, creator of Dear qupid, Eric Thayer, creator of Give Your Heart and Asimina Chremos and Leah Stein, co-creators of RISE: Relationship is Self Existing. Welcome.

Leah: Thank you.

Raina: So to start off, since it’s Happy Hour on the Fringe, our first question is always, what are we all drinking? Today where we’re feeling a little light. It’s noon, but we’re having water.

Eric: It’s delicious.

Leah: It’s 100 degrees out.

Asimina: I already drank all mine already.

Raina: So just to kind of start off, we would love to do some framing for the projects that are happening in Love Park. So Marc, could you tell us a little bit about the recent renovation of Love Park and what led you to seek out these artistic activations of the park?

Read More

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Theater Classics in the Fringe

Posted August 27th, 2019

In creating something original and new, artists often look to the past. This year’s Fringe Festival includes a host of theatrical works based on the literary canon. Shakespeare! Homer! Ibsen! Brecht! It’s the classics, Fringe-style.

A Literal Doll House
MACHO GOAT
This deconstruction of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House features the entire play acted out by a girl playing with literal dolls. Do not be fooled: There is more to this show than meets the eye. A struggle that rings true throughout the ages. This is not a one-woman show.
More info and tickets here

An Iliad
Jason Greenfield                           
This new adaptation by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare based on Robert Fagles’s translation of The Iliad telescopes Homer’s Trojan War epic into a gripping monologue which captures both the heroism and horror of war. Crafted around the stories of Achilles and Hector, in language that is by turns poetic and conversational, An Iliad brilliantly refreshes this world classic. Directed and performed by Jason Greenfield.
More info and tickets here

Read More

Get Involved with FringeArts: Conversation with Volunteer Dennis Hallda

Posted August 24th, 2019

Love the Fringe Festival and FringeArts? We’re always looking for volunteers, during the Fringe Festival and throughout the year. Usher a dance performance, collect tokens at a circus festival, or distribute programs at a play. The opportunities are endless; the art is spectacular! There is no minimum commitment and we welcome arts lovers ages 14-and-up. We spoke to longtime volunteer Dennis Hallda about his experiences.

FringeArts: How long have you been volunteering for FringeArts?

Dennis Hallda: Twelve years. I have T-shirts from every year in every color of the rainbow.  My favorite was 2013!

FringeArts: What do you like about the Fringe Festival?

Dennis Hallda: Everything. The originality, the talent, the great venues, the staff. There are so many wonderful shows and venues throughout the city … if only we could see them all.

Read More

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: Digital Fringe

Posted August 23rd, 2019

In addition to the free pieces listed here, this year’s Fringe Festival features fourteen free digital shows. Find some Wi-Fi and explore some online art in this Digital Fringe spotlight.

Ancestral Movements
Breanna Moore
Highlighting traditional African dance forms and modern dance forms of the African diaspora, Ancestral Movements expresses the dance experiences of the enslaved who were forced to dance on the decks of slave ships and on the auction block, and explores how they used dance as a source of spiritual strength.
More info

ArtDates
Miryam Coppersmith
ArtDates attempts to stop the cycle of meeting potential collaborators, talking about performing together, and then never being able to make it happen. Collaborators meet for just a few hours on one day and make something from scratch, creating a digital artifact to mark the collaboration’s completion.
More info

Dear Friend Society 
Loretta Gary / Radical Hearts Print Lab
Dear friend,
Have you heard about our new society yet? If you’re looking to spread more positive energy or you’re in search of a little pick-me-up, feel free to stop by anytime. We’ve saved space just for you!
With love, the universe
P.S. You’re worthy just as you are.
More info

Grasslands With Out Time  
Grasslands With Out Time
Podcast woven with photography exploring a digital nature-world through surrealistic fiction and images that strike a chord.
More info

 

If You Can’t Make ’em Laugh, Make ’em Cum: The Life Story of a Thieving, Whoring Saint    
James Bradford
Equal parts hilarious and dark, this autobiography of actor, singer, comedian, and filthy whore James Bradford details a life spent on the stage and TV screen and behind closed doors as an escort. The one-of-a-kind audiobook features traditional readings plus live storytelling, intimate Q&A sessions, and comedic retellings of the written version.
More info

The Island
Shawn Pierre
Rescue your friends from the peril they encountered on their vacation. You can only use your voice and your wits to uncover the secrets of the Island.
More info

Kingdom of Oz: An Immersive Audio Experience
REAL Immersive
Dorothy’s gone home. The Wizard’s in the wind. Many Ozians seek to claim the Emerald Throne. Will the wise Scarecrow ascend to lead? Does the Tin Woodman’s heart yearn for power? What sinister players lie beyond the Great Sandy Waste? Will you help discover the rightful ruler of Oz?
More info

Mad Deep Dish
Die-Cast
Mad Deep Dish will premiere with the 2019 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Online menu available September 6th at Midnight at Die-castphilly.org/mad-deep-dish
More info

 

memerememberme
williamCromar
Concrete poems scripted through randomization and memetic engineering.
More info

 

Pseudoverse
Pseudonym Productions
Pseudonym Productions presents an interactive adventure into the unexpected. Join our new layer of reality: the Pseudoverse. A game with no controller. A state of mind. An opportunity to be yourself—or whoever you wish to be. A companion to Question Reality, our physical Fringe Festival experience. Play either or both. Your choice.
More info

Suspended Lives / Vidas Suspendidas
Puentes de Salud
Recent Mexican immigrants and the children of immigrants created life-size self-portrait sculptures to interpret their identities and transborder lives and to describe their memories, emotions, and fears related to migration. View these sculptures at the Fringe Festival Bookstore at Cherry Street Pier, FringeArts, and Christ Church Neighborhood House (where you can also see the companion Curated Fringe show Cartography). Use the QR codes which accompany the physical sculptures to visit the accompanying webpages and hear the artists share their stories in their own words.
More info

Thimble: Staged
Thimble Literary Magazine
Poetry can be performance. Performance can be poetry. To explore this relationship, Thimble Literary Magazine recorded a series of podcasts in which poets and actors read poetry, discuss the creative process, and explore common ground.
More info

The Upstage
Ann Marley
New plays from new voices. This podcast is dedicated to telling stories by and about artists of diverse backgrounds. The Upstage produces play readings and interviews with playwrights to aid in exposure for artists and to spread awareness of social issues. Join our community.
More info

Voicemail Poems
Voicemail Poems
An online magazine and podcast that highlights the intimate and raw voices of new and established writers of all styles. Poets submit to the magazine by reading their work to a voicemail box. Our favorites are picked seasonally and published on our website and our Soundcloud. We also publish a specially hosted podcast episode after each issue.
More info

View our 2017 and 2018 Digital Fringe works online.

2019 Fringe Festival Spotlight: FREE Fringe

Posted August 22nd, 2019

FringeArts is committed to making contemporary art available to all. In addition to our Digital Fringe offerings, this year’s Fringe Festival features over a dozen free shows from a variety of disciplines. Enjoy theater, visual art, dance, and more without spending a dime!

A Manayunk Mystery Tour
Manayunk Theatre Company
It was a dark and stormy night when a young woman from Manayunk mysteriously went missing … AND WAS MURDERED!!! Follow Manayunk’s finest private investigator, a child genius turned conspiracy enthusiast, and a VERY serious podcast reporter as they try to solve the MURDER of Manayunk’s Missing Millennial.
More info and tickets here

BalletX Pop-Up
BalletX
This series of free performances by Philly’s premier contemporary ballet company comes to FringeArts for a one-off al fresco presentation. With over seventy world premieres to date, you don’t want to miss this exhibition of the company’s signature repertory.
More info and tickets here

Read More

Happy Hour on the Fringe: FringeArts Ambassadors

Posted August 20th, 2019

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, Ambassadors Josh and Meesh to talk about their 2019 Independent Fringe Festival picks. 

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Conversation with FringeArts Ambassadors Josh and Meesh 

[Music Intro]

Tenara: Hello, and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Tenara. I am the audience engagement coordinator at FringeArts. I invite you to pour one up, and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence. Here at FringeArts, we’re getting ready for the Fringe Festival. Fringe Festival 2019. It is here. Tickets for curated and independent shows are on sale now, so you can go to www.fringearts.com to grab your tickets and download the FringeArts app to start planning your festival schedule.

Tenara: But today, I’m chatting with two of the FringeArts ambassadors. FringeArts ambassadors are culturally curious people from all over the city who connect our work with communities who might not have heard of us before. If you’re interested in learning more about the program and about what it is to be an ambassador, you can always email me at tenara@fringearts.com, that’s T-E-N-A-R-A at fringearts.com. So pour one up, and join us.

Josh: Hey, everyone. My name is Josh Friedman, local Philadelphia resident.

Tenara: Yeah.

Josh: Ambassador to FringeArts.

Tenara: Absolutely. Our first question that we always ask in the podcast is … It’s Happy Hour on the Fringe is the name of the podcast, so what are you drinking, Josh?

Read More

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Conversation with Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper

Posted August 16th, 2019

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, we chatted with Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper about their latest Fringe Festival offering, Pursuit of Happiness. Liska and Copper discuss how reality TV and the current state of American politics have influenced this part-dance, part Western movie, and part comedy of manners. Pursuit of Happiness, is one of the curated shows in the 2019 Fringe Festival, and it will be showing at the Mandell Theater on September 20th and 21st. 

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Conversation with Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper

Raina: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premier presenter of contemporary performing art. I’m Raina Searles, marketing manager here at FringeArts, and I invite you to pour one up and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence.

Katy: And I am Katy Dammers, artistic producer at FringeArts. Today we’re excited to talk about the Pursuit of Happiness, a work by Nature Theatre of Oklahoma and EN-KNAP, that will be part of our Fringe Festival this September.

Katy: Today we’re pleased to welcome in the conversation, Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper from Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. Welcome!

Kelly: Hi.

Pavol: Hi, how are you?

Katy: Good! Thank you so much for joining us today remotely. I know you guys are not based in Philadelphia, so we’re excited that we can have this conversation. And just to start us all off since it’s Happy Hour on the Fringe, what are you guys drinking?

Pavol: I’m drinking a pineapple juice from this cleanse that I’m doing today.

Raina: Terrific.

Kelly: [crosstalk 00:01:17] And I’ve had a coffee.

Katy: Awesome. I’m drinking a big glass of water because we are in the midst of a heat wave in Philadelphia.

Raina: Yes, same.

Raina: So diving into Pursuit of Happiness, we’re going to talk a lot more about the piece and the history of the piece, but just for audiences contemplating coming to see the show, what can they expect when they walk in? What do you want audiences to know in advance about this work?

Pavol: Well they’ll walk in and see our set, which is kind of a saloon and they should come in … Ideally when you make a new piece of theater, you hope to undo people’s expectations. So whenever somebody always asks us what should people expect, it’s kind of a tricky question. You almost want to lie to people, because ultimately you don’t want to satisfy their expectations. So I don’t want to lie to you.

Katy: Well, and I know what you mean because I have seen the Pursuit of Happiness before. I thought when it premiered in the United States as part of Under the Radar, which is a festival every January at New York University’s Skirball theater, and I think the set is definitely the first thing that catches people, is that the piece is set in this kind of stereotypical western bar. And then for the first couple of minutes it starts with these kind of, they almost look like shots or some kind of a drink being kind of swished across the long bar. And it really kind of sets up this dynamic relationship between the players.

Pavol: And then it goes off into its own universe.

Katy: Very much so and totally defied my expectations as someone who was familiar with the work of Nature Theatre of Oklahoma but didn’t know EN-KNAP and certainly didn’t expect the piece to ultimately end up in Baghdad where it does, so think people are really in for a series of adventures in this work.

Katy: But I wonder Kelly and Pavol if you can tell us a little bit about the background of the creation of this piece. It was created in 2017 with EN-KNAP, which is Slovenian [inaudible 00:03:40] you would think, probably most well known, most renown contemporary dance ensemble. Tell us a little bit about how you came to be connected with EN-KNAP, and what it was like working with them.

Pavol: Well the artistic director Iztok Kovač kept inviting us to come and work with his company for several years, and since we were working on Life and Times at the moment, we could never really see ourselves leaving the project. And then we were in Grads finishing the project, and we were kind of left with nothing to do for the next couple of years. And it just happens that Ljubljana is about an hour away from Grads, and so he came over and we talked and then he took us over there to meet the dancers. We fell in love with them and went from there.

We went there for a couple of weeks and did the workshop with them to figure out if we were all a good match. And then we went home and we wrote the script and then came back and worked with them for two more rehearsal periods and created the show. And our focus changed after Life and Times. We’d been working on these recorded telephone conversations for 10 years and then we wanted to change direction and try something that we weren’t good at. So we really wanted to do writing, and because these people were dancers and had never really spoken on stage, we chose the most impossible task for them which is speaking as difficult language as possible. And at least one of the first part of the show is written in iambic pentameter, which we also had never written before. And so we just all tried to really challenge ourselves and take ourselves out of our comfort zone. And that’s what you get then.

Kelly: Yeah, I mean the surprise for us was we made it over the course of two years going back and forth many times and they kept us on our toes, because every time we went there and gave them something difficult to do and came back, they had kind of exceeded our expectations.

Kelly: The one thing dancers know how to do is work hard, and so they would work on the text in our absence and then we kept kind of having to reinvent the piece as we went and adding layers of difficulty.

Pavol: [crosstalk 00:06:20] I had to bring a lot of chewing tobacco to Slovenia because they learned how to speak, so we needed to somehow slow them down and make it more difficult. So most of them right now are chewing tobacco, real tobacco. So which at the beginning caused most of them during rehearsals to be fainting and passing out and throwing up.

Raina: Oh wow.

Katy: I’m curious if the idea for the themes in the piece came more from your end or if Iztok was originally thinking about these when he wanted to work with you.

Pavol: No, it came from our end. I mean after Life and Times, we have focused on going to a place and staying there for a while and really trying to figure out what is necessary for that particular place and making the work for the place and about the place. So we had made a film Nibelungen in the area where the story of Nibelungen happened. We went to Berlin and Cologne and researched and did work based on that research. And then we went to Austria to make our last film to work in the countryside and made the work about that.

We had been traveling with our shows one week here, one week there, constantly just on the road and felt completely disconnected from the place and really wanted to … And it felt like we were just doing exhibition games where we just showed the work that we had made someplace else and didn’t really feel like it’s necessary or integral to the place or needed. So we wanted to change our lifestyle and go to a place, stay there, make the work there and about the place. So we went to Slovenia and really kind of tried to figure out what is needed here. It all came from us. We weren’t told what to do.

Kelly: Yeah, and of course we bring our own preoccupations with us and over the course of that two years there was a lot of stuff happening in America that unnerved us, and sometimes when you go and … We were living in Louisiana for periods of time and with that distance you kind of look at things differently than when you’re living there. We felt very American, and out of our context, we were kind of able to think about some of those issues.

Katy: I wonder if you can tell us a little bit more about the research process. Thinking about the pursuit of happiness, this myth that really undergirds so much of American consciousness. Both in the colonial era, which, I’m seeing located in an old city in Philadelphia, I feel like we see all the time, but also for people who live all over the nation. I think that sense of the American dream and you’re really successful when you’re doing what you love, which is something that one of the characters speaks about in the work. What was your research process like in digging into that quintessentially?

Kelly: Well I think for this piece, I mean it started out as more of a personal look at happiness and trying to find it. We were in a bit of a personal hole, and also I would be lying if I said that we did a lot of research and that this work comes out of research. I mean for us mainly we usually start with a meeting point and in this case it happened to be an old 1930’s book that somebody had given us called Cowboy Dances, which we kind of just took in our baggage, thinking that maybe a place to start is with dancers, with dance. And it’s these really hard to imagine descriptions of weird dances and we just kind of tried to wade our way through this language, but it happened to be with the dancers, but it happened to be somewhat western themed and I mean even the bar came from the fact that there was a ballet bar in the room. So the bar started as a B-A-R-R-E, and then as you go, these things kind of layer on top of each other and more and then you follow the ideas that kind of present themselves rather than starting from ideas.

Pavol: Almost after the fact, you figure it out when you’re making work. You try to stay as open as possible to your intuition and instinct, and you’re trying to respond to different types of information. I mean we did watch westerns and we did I think, especially Kelly who was reading a lot of theoretical books or articles on American identity, and myth of the cowboy and the outlaw. But when you’re in rehearsal, it’s a much more intuitive process and then you can talk about it afterwards. Then once you have hours of material, then you see what do you have and then you shape it according to something that you feel like is relevant to the world. And it becomes yet something else.

Kelly: Yeah, I mean and it starts usually from personal and also kind of just utilitarian, like what’s in the room, who’s in the room. Keeping your eyes open.

Katy: And I was really struck by one of the lines that the dancer says pretty early on in the piece, that “Happiness is always in the past, a mutated form of melancholy.” And hearing you all talk about the process of developing the work, it makes me think so much of it’s relationship to your larger body of work with Nature Theatre of Oklahoma and kind of this sense of, I can imagine you all when you finished Life and Times, that was touch a huge series both in its construction and the amount of time that you spent on it. That’s actually when you were last at Fringe in 2013 with the series, and I wonder what that sense of melancholy has with happiness, both in terms of your own progression as a company, but also more broadly. I’m thinking of even slogans like “Make America great again” that might refer to a greatness that America had in the past. Whether that was actually true or probably not.

Kelly: Definitely we had come to a point in our work where we kind of broke ourselves a little bit on this monumental piece of work that was 10 episodes long and over 16 hours in performance and we had such ambition for what we were doing, but it completely wrecked all of us physically, emotionally, mentally and we were definitely in the aftermath of that. Just thinking about at what cost.

Pavol: Especially when you make theater, we put ten years of work and our life and our health into the project and then you look at what is left and you end up with three bags of dirty costumes in your basement. That doesn’t feel like you’ve really accomplished much in ten years. So you really have serious existential questions about whether all of this makes any sense.

We are American artists and we want to work in America and we want to be able to speak to this culture and be a part of the discourse, and when it takes such an effort … Now, thank God, Nick Stuccio and two others have brought the work of Life and Times to their festivals. But other than that, we don’t feel like our work here is what was relevant or really needed, necessary. And it might’ve been just self pity or it felt that way to us. And so we really, we we wanted to almost hide in Slovenia away from a kind of spotlight and just really focus on the work itself and where does the pleasure lie? It’s like we felt the same way we felt before we made No Dice, which also Nick brought through to Philadelphia-

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pavol: Where we rejected any kind of ambition of success, but where we focused on just the work itself. No Dice was a new beginning for us and this Pursuit of Happiness was also a new beginning for us where we really ask these serious existential questions of why we make work and should we continue to do it.

Raina: So while you’re, you know, working on this piece that is centered around American values, most of your tour has been outside of the US. So in two years, what has the reception been in other countries?

Kelly: It’s not a surprise, but a lot of other countries do follow American politics. It’s not like whatever we do just happens here. We’re out there in the world and we do change things out there in the world for other people. And also this kind of political process that’s been happening here is also mirrored in many ways in places like Germany and Poland. And it’s happening everywhere.

Kelly: And so, I think they recognize themselves in it and it’s not foreign. It’s not foreign to them. It’s not like they’re looking at something that has no meaning for them.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelly: But for us it’s super important to do it back home. I feel grateful that we get to take it to Philadelphia.

Katy: Well I’m curious if you guys have any ideas. I got in New York almost two years ago now and so much has changed even in those past two years within American politics, but as you speak Kelly, really on an international stage as many countries, Brexit comes to mind in particular, are considering some of the same challenges that we are here in America. And I wonder, do you imagine that the work might be received differently now, 18-24 months later or might there be aspects of it that hit audiences differently or might-

Kelly: Yeah, there’s aspects of it that come into focus for me differently every time we do it. Certainly after the school shootings, after every school shooting, just the amount of guns on stage and the use of violence to kind of solve every problem rings especially strongly. But at the same time, you talk about how different things in the world change. Sometimes it’s also how many things in the world don’t change. I mean all of this stuff in Iraq, insert different country here, but the same story, the same thing going on, some kind of proxy war somewhere, so, the more things change, the more things stay the same as well.

[FringeArts Commercial Break]

Katy: Hey Zack, are you ready to party?

Zack: Always.

Katy: FringeArts is kicking off opening weekend of the 2019 Fringe Festival with a late night rager featuring the Illustrious Blacks, a dynamic, out of this world duo, fusing music, dance, theater and fashion.

Katy: Come join us on Friday, September 6th at 10:30 in La Peg.

Fringe Festival Kickoff Party 2019 featuring the Illustrious Blacks

Zack: That sounds great. Then halfway through the festival we’re throwing a halftime party with DJ Heavenly. It’s called Feels. Stripping back genres of themes, DJ Heavenly and a special guests do what feels right at this open format dance party.

Zack: That will be September 14th at 10:30 PM in La Peg.

FEELS: 2019 Fringe Festival Halftime Party with DJ HVNLEE

Katy: And then, to close out the festival, Johnny Showcase & The Mystic Ticket will be joining us on Saturday, September 21st at 10:30 PM with an electrifying performance you just don’t want to miss.

Zack: See you there.

2019 Fringe Festival Closing Night Party featuring Johnny Showcase

[End FringeArts Commercial Break]

Raina: You mentioned violence and I’d love to touch on that within the context of this piece, because there is this juxtaposition of the old time-y western bar fights and shoot out, but then also contemporary military activity in Iraq. In what ways have you found that violence is interwoven into the ideas of what it means to be American and to this idea of the pursuit of happiness?

Kelly: I think what to me rings true to me personally or what this is the kind of violence of imposing your will upon other people, even if it has a kind of altruistic sense. Definitely for me, thinking personally about the company and imposing my own pursuit of happiness onto other people and dragging them along with me into my dream. Not everybody in the end wanted to travel the world and do this really difficult show night after night that we were doing. And in a similar way, one of the characters in this show kind of drags everyone else along into his dream, which becomes a kind of a nightmare, so. And in the way that the US sometimes with ostensibly good intentions kind of meddles in foreign countries in a way that-

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelly: Doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Pavol: With good intentions.

Kelly: Yeah.

Pavol: We want to spread democracy.

Kelly: Yeah.

Pavol: So we’re going to beat you up into it. We’re going to beat you into having a better life.

Katy: Well, what was so striking to me when I found a piece originally is that the violence was received kind of in two different registers simultaneously, which I think speaks to really the American paradigm in a lot of different ways.

Kelly: Yeah.

Katy: Some people when they saw the violence found it really funny, actually.

Kelly: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katy: You can tell that it staged combat, nobody’s actually getting punched. There are all these amazing sound effects-

Kelly: Right.

Katy: Who mimic cartoons and the blood that comes out in the latter part of the work is actually bright red streamers. And I think much of the work talks about the sense of the role of violence and its depiction in popular media, but also even in staged theatrical works. And I know that there has has just been a lot of discussion in the last two to three years about what it means to depict violence and who is being depicted in that moment, and I think in the Pursuit of Happiness, one of the things I think it’s been successful at is showing violence that is kind of unnerving in its depiction, where we’re not actually seeing blood and guts on stage, but in realizing how perhaps possibly comical it is, it at least made me very uncomfortable, which I think was kind of the point. I thought that was very effective.

Pavol: Thank you.

Kelly: Yeah, I mean it’s an interesting challenge and something that I think has preoccupied us in the last several pieces that we’ve made after this. Just how impossible it is to represent violence in the theater. It necessarily has to be theatricalized and it’s never convincing like it is on television or movies. You can’t make it look convincing, and so what do you with that kind of impossibility? I like it as just the potential for somehow pure theater or I like the unconvincedness of it.

Katy: Well it kind of gets me back to I think that one of the central questions is the work, which we touched on a little bit earlier, but what is the role of art, which is this awful hard question that I feel like we wrestle with every single day when we come to work, and then I’m sure you all do as well as you decide to recreate another work. Who do we create the work with? Why are we using it?

And I appreciated in the second half of the piece when we’re kind of moving into this nightmare as you described it Kelly, there’s a moment when it seems like, oh, this dance that’s happening might [inaudible 00:21:51] mechanism between NATO and Iraqi insurgent forces and then ultimately, that totally spirals into chaos, but it offers for a brief moment the sense of art as a way to sum up a very tangible problem, which I think art very rarely if ever actually does. So as you continue to present this work, how have your thoughts about that [inaudible 00:22:17] shifted, if at all?

Kelly: Oh, I think we’re always kind of in this balancing act between our hopes for what we do and also just not being able to kid ourselves entirely, that it does do those things that we wish it does.

Pavol: Well I think the work itself is in a way a quest for relevance.

Kelly: Yeah.

Pavol: It’s a kind of desire to be part of the discourse to be, almost like in ancient Greek theater where the theater itself was a place where the society came to dream of itself and discuss the irrational in our life, whereas the irrational seems to be repressed. We’re repressing the irrational nature of life, whether it’s in politics or even on television, where it could be a part of the conversation, but probably 95% of all life is irrational. We don’t understand anything. We deny the fact that we don’t really know why we’re here and what we’re doing. And if aliens are watching us from outer space, they have no idea what the hell we we’re trying to even do. And we don’t, we just kind of convince ourselves that we’re doing something that’s important, whereas it may not be important at all. And that’s what we … Every day we go into rehearsal, trying to answer that question, why are we doing this? And then if it’s not important inherently, which as American artists, we always believe … Sometimes we work with people in Europe who have state subsidies and they’re told that art is important. But we don’t believe that because we are spending most of our year in our apartment, in our underwear at the bottom of society where nobody’s willing to even acknowledge that we exist or that art is important. So we certainly have our doubts, and so if we consider that it’s inherently not necessarily important what we do, we have to create that value.

Kelly: [crosstalk 00:24:25] performance, we try to do that. I mean, I think every night we’re trying to articulate what that is with an audience. What this can be good for and who needs it. That’s, in a way, part of the actor’s job.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pavol: It’s like we [crosstalk 00:24:39] always have to undercut the actors and tell them “Look, what you’re doing is nothing. It’s shit. You’re just kind of dancing around and prancing on stage like show ponies.”, In a good way. We’re not cutting them down psychologically, but to kind of convince them that to have that doubt.

Kelly: And-

Pavol: That’s why it’s always interesting for us to work with Americans because they know that. Every American person who’s tried to be an actor or performing artist knows that you’ve got to go out there and work your ass off in order for something to happen. Whereas Americans sometimes take it for granted that they’re on stage-

Kelly: Europeans.

Pavol: [crosstalk 00:25:18] Europeans, yeah … That they’re on stage and therefore it’s important. So we have to somehow create this existential crisis for them in order for them to be able to talk about these issues.

Kelly: And in order for them to really look out over the footlights and somehow express those doubts to an audience and to kind of enlist in their help in the search for that importance, or in that search for what it could mean tonight, not just in a rehearsal room.

Raina: Yeah. Well I think that that’s a really interesting transition to our final question. Thinking about what inspires you and specifically your highbrow and lowbrow inspirations as you go into the rehearsal room and start coming up with whatever your next idea is.

Pavol: For this particular piece I know I was reading War and Peace, especially the war sections, as far as highbrow is concerned. Lowbrow we were watching Spaghetti westerns and things like that in general for the work. I would say really horrible American television, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are our all time favorite and Survivor as far as-

Kelly: Yeah.

Pavol: Lowbrow. Reality television, which in a way was what Life and Times was based on, they’re just recordings of things that happen and then you shape them just like in a reality TV show in a series, so Life and Times, ten episodes, it was like a Big Brother TV series in a way.

Pavol: I personally find inspiration in literature. Proust, Tolstoy.

Kelly: Yeah. And I mean the highbrow stuff, I guess I was reading during this was a book on Grands Goulets and also this book of cultural criticism by David Warshaw that was … There was a great essay called The Gangster As Tragic Hero and also The Westerner. These were two essays on two different genres in American film, if we were thinking a lot about some making at that time. It was mainly about how the western could be seen as a genre that was interrogating kind of American morality, and that was interesting for me to think about. And the gangster film as well, that those were two kind of flip sides of American moral works. And both of them equally, horribly violent.

Raina: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katy: Well thank you so much for joining us for this episode of Happy Hour on The Fringe. The Pursuit of Happiness will be presented at the Mandell Theater at Drexel University September 20th and 21st as part of the 2019 Fringe Festival.

Raina: In addition to the performances, we will also be screening Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s video Life and Times episode seven in partnership with Light Box Film Center on September 17th.

Katy: And if you want to hear more from Pavol and Kelly along with numbers of EN-KNAP, your community partners here in Philly, about what the pursuit of happiness means today, join us for a conversation at our Fringe Festival bookstore on Cherry Street Pier on Saturday, September 21st.

Raina: Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, and download the FringeArts app.

Interview with Veteran Fringe Fan Brett Mapp

Posted August 16th, 2019

Brett Mapp has been seeing Fringe Festival shows as long as anyone (he attended the very first Philly Fringe in 1997). His annual schedule picks have even attracted press attention! We talked to Brett about his festivalgoing, what he likes about the Fringe, and how he chooses which shows to see.

FringeArts: How long have you been attending Fringe Festivals?

Brett Mapp: From day one of the first festival in Philly. I have also done NYC, Washington DC, Toronto, and Montreal. I am saving Edinburgh for a special occasion like a honeymoon.

FringeArts: How many shows do you see each year?

Brett Mapp: I average 25-30 shows per festival. I have cut back from previous years. At my old job  I could take time off and see about 40 shows!

FringeArts: How do you put together your schedule? How do you choose which shows to see?

Brett Mapp: First I pick the curated shows that I want to see, focusing on the ones I think will sell out first. I then pick my favorite performers from twenty-odd years of going to the Fringe: IRC, Tribe of Fools, etc. I always try to see a show at PowerPlant Productions. I love site-specific locations. And I try to pick more dance performances than theater as I feel I don’t see enough dance during the year.

Read More