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

Posted April 2nd, 2019
by Raina Searles, Marketing Manager

In March, we kicked off High Pressure Fire Service (or more colloquially, HPFS, pronounced “hip-fizz”) with an incredibly moving production chronicling the disability rights movement in A Fierce Kind of Love, produced by the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, and we followed that with a thought-provoking musical satire about the American abortion debate, The Appointment, by Lightning Rod Special. In just a couple weeks, we’ll kick off a highly interactive show made for a family unit and exploring the line between play and performance, Broccoli, Roosevelt and Mr House! by the Berserker Residents. But today, we’re talking about the final three shows in HPFS: where you’ve seen these artists, what to expect in their work, and breaking down Who’s Who in High Pressure Fire Service…part two.

Coming up this May,  A Hard Time by Pig Iron Theatre Company opens at FringeArts. Long time Fringe fans will recognize Pig Iron from many of their notable devised works presented by FringeArts. Most recently, they produced A Period of Animate Existence in the 2017 Fringe Festival. Other recent works include Swamp Is On (2015), 99 BREAKUPS (2014), Pay Up (2013), Zero Cost House (2012), Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2011), and many more going back to the origins of the Fringe Festival in 1997!

What makes A Hard Time stand out, however, is that this is the first production with female lead artists and with lead artists who are not one of the Artistic Directors of Pig Iron Theatre Company. Jess Conda, Jenn Kidwell, and Mel Krodman are no strangers to the FringeArts stage though. Jess Conda is a cabaret and performing artist who was mostly recently seen on our stage in the cabaret extravaganza, Do You Want A Cookie? by the Bearded Ladies Cabaret in the 2018 Fringe Festival, but you may have also caught her in 1812 Productions’ Broads this past February. She has also joined us onstage for Get Pegged Cabaret in the past, 99 BREAKUPS (2014) and Pay Up (2013) with Pig Iron, and as a band member of the popular group Red 40 and the Last Groovement. In Philadelphia, she’s also a Teaching Artist at Wilma Theatre, has performed with a multitude of organizations including BRAT Productions, Arden Theatre, and Shakespeare in Clark Park, and she is a two-time Barrymore nominee for Outstanding Ensemble in a Play.

Jenn Kidwell has collaborated with a number of past Fringe artists and is notably not only a company member of Lightning Rod Special, but is also the lead artist on their work Underground Railroad Game, which won an Obie Award in 2017 for Best New American Theatre Work and was hailed as one of the 25 Best American Plays Since Angels in America. She was last seen on the FringeArts stage in Geoff Sobelle’s HOME in the 2017 Fringe Festival, and was also seen recently in Sans Everything with Lighting Rod Special and 99 BREAKUPS with Pig Iron.

Mel Krodman is also a familiar face, especially if you came to see THE TOP at FringeArts in 2017 from No Face Performance Group. As a company member of Pig Iron Theatre Company, Mel was also seen in A Period of Animate Existence (2017) and Swamp Is On (2015), and she has choreographed a number of works with collaborator Kelly Bond, appearing in the Independent Fringe Festival (Elephant (2010) and Colony (2012)) and our season programming as well (JEAN & TERRY: Your Guides Through Dark, Light and Nebulous (November 2016)). Mel is also in another High Pressure Fire Service show, which leads us to June…

¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! or WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE! Photo by Kate Raines

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (TSPC) will be producing the third iteration of their 24-year series The Sincerity Project. This work, The Sincerity Project #3 (2019), will feature the same cast as the first two productions and follow the lives of the performer-creators as they change and grow every two years. Dedicated to creating opportunities for people to share in the pleasures and difficulties of our collective contemporary experience, Team Sunshine was last seen on the FringeArts stage in April 2018 with their bilingual production ¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! or WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!, and in 2017 for The Society of Civil Discourse, a co-production with The Philly Pigeon. The cast features Mel Krodman (see above), Benjamin Camp (Founding member of TSPC), Makoto Hirano (Founding member of TSPC) , Aram Aghazarian, Jenna Horton, Mark McCloughan, and Rachel Camp and is directed by Alex Torra (Founding member of TSPC).

These performers come from all over Philadelphia every two years to put together the next iteration of The Sincerity Project, and where are they now? Benjamin has performed with a number of groups around Philadelphia (Pig Iron, Shakespeare in Clark Park, etc) and was lead artist for TSPC’s Punchkapow, Terrarium, and Zombie Defense. Currently, he is also a realtor with The Kelly Group, selling houses to artists all over Philadelphia. A former US Marine, Makoto is currently a dance and theatre artist who has created over 20 original roles and collaborated with artists such as Bill Irwin, Thaddeus Phillips, and also Pig Iron Theatre Company. In addition to co-founding Team Sunshine, he also created an art duo, Gatto+Hirano. Aram is currently on the faculty at the Pig Iron School and has performed with the company as well (Swamp Is On (2015), 99 BREAKUPS (2014), Pay Up (2013)), co-founded Strange Attractor Theatre Company (Sans Everything (2017)), and has also performed with Lightning Rod Special and SwimPony Performing Arts in the past. A performer as well as a writer for thINKingDANCE, Jenna has collaborated with a wide range of artists including past Team Sunshine works, Annie Wilson, The Berserker Residents, SwimPony, Applied Mechanics, Lightning Rod Special, Shakespeare in Clark Park, Chris Davis, and The Bearded Ladies Cabaret.

THE TOP

Mark is one half of No Face Performance Group with Jaime Maseda (recently seen in The Appointment last month) and performed THE TOP (2017) at FringeArts. They are also a writer and visual artist, with poetry awards from the American Poetry Review and L+S Press. Rachel is a theater and teaching artist who has performed across the city with Philadelphia Theatre Company, Opera Philadelphia, Arden Theater, 1812 Productions and more, and she has been nominated for 5 Barrymore awards, winning Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Theatre Horizon. And finally, director Alex Torra is a Swarthmore professor, a 2018 Pew Fellow, the director for all of TSPC’s major works, a regular collaborator with Pig Iron Theatre Company, and he has received fellowships from the Independence Foundation, the Philadelphia Live Arts Brewery, the Princess Grace Foundation, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and NY’s Drama League. The cast of The Sincerity Project #3 (2019) has touched just about every corner of Philadelphia theater.

In late June, we’re excited to close out High Pressure Fire Service with a new work that’s part musical, part choreopoem, and part play, Circuit City by Camae Ayewa, stage name: Moor Mother. Camae is a prolific poet and noise musician who has made Philadelphia her home and is taking on the housing crisis, highlighting the connections between public and private ownership and technology through original poetry and live music by the Irreversible Entanglements and the Circuit City band.

Camae is co-founder of Black Quantum Futurism Collective, a literary and artistic collaboration with Rasheedah Phillips, and Rockers! Philly, an event series and festival focused on marginalized artists. As Moor Mother, she has released more than a dozen EPs since 2012, and just recently became one of the newest members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, a group whose work she’s long admired. She’ll be featured on their upcoming album We Are On the Edge later this year. In her music and her public work, Camae sees herself as an archivist of black memory against erasure, and this work will be no exception. You can get a feel for Moor Mother’s musical style by listening to her 2018 album, FETISH BONES.

We’re excited for such a creative and collaborative cohort of artists to be joining us at FringeArts this May and June. Click below for more information on each show, and make sure to purchase a subscription for the best deals on tickets! You can also check out our blog post: Who’s Who in High Pressure Fire Service, part one.

A Hard Time
Pig Iron Theatre Company
May 1–12, 2019

The Sincerity Project #3 (2019)
Team Sunshine Performance Corporation
June 4–8, 2019

Circuit City
Moor Mother
June 20–22

HPFS Subscriptions:
15% off tickets to 3-4 performances / 30% off for members

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

Fringe at 20 Profile: Adrienne Mackey

Posted July 11th, 2016

Name: Adrienne Mackey

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Type of Artist: Theater and lately interdisciplinary

Company: Swim Pony Performing Arts

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
A Portrait of Dora as a Young Man, Stolen Chair Theatre Co, 2003 – actor
Hell Meets Henry Halfway, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2004 – assistant director, sound operator
Like Ink and Paper, 2004 – director
Bardo, Leah Stein Dance Company, 2005 – production manager and vocalist
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2006 – director
recitatif, 2007 – director
Echo, Tribe of Fools, 2007 – director
The Giant Squid, The Berserker Residents, 2008 – director
Purr, Pull, Reign, Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret, 2009 – director
Lady M, 2011 – director
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013 – director
It’s So Learning, The Berserker Residents, 2015 – outside eye – fringe

Also a past LAB fellow.

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Possibly working with Mary McCool on her in-progress piece. Still not definite . . .

First Fringe I attended: My initial experience with Fringe was in 2000 as a first semester freshman in college. I was only weeks into school, living away from home for the first time and so excited to see what Philly’s arts scene had to offer. I remember taking the train into Philly with some guy on my hall named Dima who I barely knew. We picked a show at random—all I remember about it was that it was a middle-aged woman in a tutu who took off all her clothes halfway through the show. I had no idea what was happening and I remember feeling both overwhelmed and extremely cool to be doing something so weird. Later that same festival I saw a play in a karate dojo in which actors were trapped in a scene with their own feelings portrayed by other actors wearing black and white mime makeup. Sort of Marcel Marceau meets No Exit by way of Pirandello. I remember thinking, “I could do that.” Two years later I was in my first fringe show.

First Fringe I participated in: While I was still a junior in college I acted in a show called Portrait of Dora as a Young Man that explored Freud’s famous case of Dora, one of the few women who ever rebelled against his analytic theories. We rehearsed an entire summer together at Swarthmore College—a mix of folks who had just graduated and a bunch of us still in school. We lived together and worked together in this commune-style experiment in creative collaboration. I played Herr K, a neighbor to the young troubled girl, I think, it’s all a blur now and designated this mostly using an old fedora and trying to talk in a low voice.

 The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

What a gorgeous mess! I broke up with my boyfriend, the director, near the end of the process and half of us ended up furious with each other because we would rehearse all day and then have to go home and sleep 10 people in a tiny house with no room to get away from each other. I remember taking the train into Philly from Swarthmore and setting up a dress form mannequin in the courtyard of the old National Museum of American Jewish History (behind the bank on 5th and Market). I did an entire scene puppetting that inanimate mannequin while playing a German man named Herr K. Dear god, we had no idea what we were doing—all the actors wore khaki pants and either a forest green or maroon long sleeved shirt and did vocal warm ups outside the museum’s entrance as homeless people passed by looking at us in mild horror.

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The Walk Is the Work: An Interview with Ann de Forest, Adrienne Mackey, JJ Tiziou, and Sam Wend

Posted March 18th, 2016

A city is such a massive concept to wrap your head around. You can spend your whole life in one and still end up lost when you’re no more than a few miles from home. Time spent in one place does not directly translate into knowledge of it. As the demands of work, family, and home life all begin to accumulate it’s easy to lose sight of the possibilities that may be no more than a twenty minute stroll away. Walking is undoubtedly the best means we have to fully absorb our surroundings, but only if proper attention is paid. Thankfully there are people here in Philadelphia willing to go the distance and remain present.

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The crew piled into a rusted-out car down the hill beside the Cobbs Creek woods trail (Photo credit: Sam Wend)

Swim Pony Performing Art’s Cross Pollination project is an interdisciplinary residency program funded by the Knight Foundation that brings together artists practicing different disciplines, whose creative paths would likely never cross, to investigate new methods of collaboration and artistic process. Theater artist Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony’s founder, launched the program as a means of extending her company to reach new disciplines. Without the pressure of a pre-defined outcome, participants have the freedom to learn from each other and unlock new approaches to creating and thinking about art. Since it began in 2014, the program has paired artists from all manner of backgrounds and disciplines yielding remarkable results, the influences of which continue to reverberate in many of the participants’ subsequent work.

During the last weeks of February, writer Ann de Forest and photographer Jacques-Jean Tiziou—both drawn to Cross pollination as a means of breaking from their familiar artistic routines—along with Mackey and Swim Pony’s artistic associate Sam Wend, embarked on a project dubbed Walk Around Philadelphia. The name is literal. This group of intrepid artists followed the entire border of the city of Philadelphia completely on foot in what ended up being just over a 100-mile pilgrimage. On ApriI 27 they will be sharing stories and lessons learned from their journey at the Philadelphia History Museum. The event is free but space is limited, so RSVP here while you can. In the meantime, we reached out to the exhausted but inspired quartet to learn more about the project and experience.

FringeArts: What shared interests or ideas led to the inception of Walk Around Philadelphia?

Adrienne Mackey: We met several times before our official start of the week residency. Themes that came up were the identity as a Philadelphia artists, our sense of the city and the people within it, as well as how we personally moved through the city in our artistic processes. We had talked about the potential of something that blended the idea of process and product – creating an exploration that was as much about the journey as a particular end goal.

Ann de Forest: We all were interested in maps and mapping, as a means of defining space, of guiding people through a geographical territory, but also were intrigued by the questions maps raise. Are boundaries and borders arbitrary lines that divide people, that foster a sense of inclusion/exclusion? Another theme we discussed was “margins,” which led to us deciding to experience the city from a different perspective, not focusing on the center, but exploring what happens at the margins or edges.

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A brief walk along the Fox Chase rail line, which forms a small section of the border (Photo credit: Adachi Pimentel)

JJ Tiziou: Ann and I talked about trading roles, setting up creative prompts and games, and discussed interests ranging from interfaith dialogue to mass incarceration to community interviews. But we kept on coming back to ideas of maps, neighborhoods, borders, boundaries, journeys, pilgrimages, and processions.

Sam Wend: The idea of walking continued to resonate, as did the focus on margins and interviewing people along them. Then JJ found a rough cycling route around the circumference of the city (which clocked in at a lowly 64 miles due to its compensation for accessibility), and the idea of Walk Around Philadelphia was born: it felt like the perfect combination of walking and exploring margins, with the opportunity to use meals and various stopping points as places to reflect and re-engage with people, all in all a great way to explore all of the many topics we’d been thinking about.

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If You Don’t Know Now You Know: Mini Artist Profiles at Philly Post

Posted September 3rd, 2013

sobelle-the-object-lesson-2Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo runs down 10 notable FringeArts performers worth checking out this year.

It’s a pretty good quick guide to some awesome shows this year, actually: Martha Stuckey of Pay Up, Gunnar Montana of Basement, McKenzie Maula of A Doll’s House, James Michael Baker of Ballad of Joe Hill, Geoff Sobelle of The Object Lesson, Jess Conda of Eternal Glamnation and Pay Up, Scott Sheppard of Go Long Big Softie, Mary Tuomanen of St. Joan, Betrayed, Kevin Glaccum of Dutch Masters, and Brian Sanders of Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak.

If you’re looking for somebody to pick some especially adventurous shows for you, you couldn’t do much better than Victor’s list.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Photo of Geoff Sobelle by Lars Jan.

Changing Perceptions of Historical Truths: Talkin’ Joe Hill with director Adrienne Mackey

Posted August 9th, 2013

“There is a beautiful stillness that is oppressive.”

Joe Hill. (The original.)

Joe Hill. (The original.)

For the 2013 Fringe Festival, Adrienne Mackey and her creative cohort Bradley Wrenn are leading Swim Pony Performing Arts in the revival of their 2006 Philly Fringe hit The Ballad of Joe Hill. The show, while retaining its original infectious spirit, is getting a major updating, thanks in no small part to historical evidence surfacing that changed the creators’ perspective of Joe Hill’s story. Adrienne and Bradley had for years wanted to revisit this show that helped form Swim Pony’s identity and performance aesthetic. Partly this was a love for the show, but it has also been their desire to revisit the show with the artistic maturity—and confidence—they’ve acquired in the years since the original production. The following is an excerpted interview we had with Adrienne in the spring, when the company was  embarking upon the rehearsal and (re)creation process.

FringeArts: Why is the show title The Ballad of Joe Hill?

Adrienne: The show is named after a song of the same name written after Joe Hill was executed. The lyrics of the first verse:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
alive as you and me
Said I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”
“I never died,” said he.
“I never died,” said he.

It helped inspire the image of the female narrator seeing a kind of ghost of Joe Hill many years after his death.

Adrienne Mackey directs! Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou.

Adrienne Mackey directs! Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou.

FringeArts: How did you stumble upon his story?

Adrienne Mackey: We originally heard of Joe Hill through Utah Phillips—another folk singer and Wobbly, or IWW member [Industrial Workers of the World]—who passed away just a few years ago. Hearing the story, the idea of Joe Hill dying for a larger cause just kind of stuck. It was hard for us to understand how, and why, someone would do such a thing. We began to look more into the music Hill wrote and read up on the story. The intricacies of the case seemed so of the moment Hill was living but eerily similar to today.

FringeArts: When did the show begin to form for you?

Adrienne Mackey: It was when we started playing with the vaudeville style that the two aspects of the show—the simple naturalism mixed with the bouncy cartoonish stuff—that the picture of what we’d be doing started to clarify. And then when we secured Eastern State the whole thing really started to form an image.

FringeArts: How will the show be evolving in this remount?

Adrienne Mackey: The narrative will be different based largely on expanded research about Hill’s guilt. Beyond that, the historical content will be much the same, but we may emphasize different aspects. In terms of approach, we will definitely be changing around the content to clarify the history content without some clunky devices we used in the first version. Like many original works, it was really once we saw the thing in performance for the first time that we saw which characters and scenes were truly vibrant in the first one, and our hope is to pull out more of these.

We’re also looking at bringing in more of the media presence, in the sense of newspapers of the time period, and how it informed the climate that surrounded Hill as he was convicted and going into trial. Like many major trials today, the media helped create an environment that whipped the public into a fervor.

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More Press!

Posted September 1st, 2011

And the champagne bottle won’t smash on the bow of the 2011 Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe until tomorrow!

>>>For Philadelphia Magazine, Victor Fiorillo writes up ten of the most talented Live Arts and Philly Fringe artists, including Geoff Sobelle (Elephant Room), Sebastienne Mundheim (Paris Wheels and The Ready-Maids present . . . Not the Henri Rousseau that Some of You Know . . .), David Disbrow (Red Rovers), Jess Conda (Heavy Metal Dance Fag, Water Bears in Space, Festival bar!), James Ijames (WHaLE OPTICS), Adrienne Mackey (Lady M), Matt Pfeiffer (The Aliens), Sarah Sanford (Twelfth Night, or What You Will), J.J. Tiziou (photog extraordinaire), and Leah Stein (Rock Reed Tatami Stream).

>>>Today’s City Paper belongs to us: Holly Otterbein talks to the magicians of the Elephant Room, A.D. Amorosi talks to the Rude Mechs about Method Gun, Joshua Middleton writes up four of this year’s puppetry shows, Mark Cofta rounds up some of this year’s Shakespeare, and Shaun Brady writes a big piece on the more experimental edge of the festivals.

>>>The Metro says we’re playful. We agree.

>>>Steven Weisz writes up Red Rovers for The Dance Journal.

>>>I missed this somehow, but the Northeast Times wrote a big piece on the tap show Too Darn Hot!

>>>Christopher Munden rounds up some NoLibs/Fishtown/Kensington picks for The Spirit, including Red Rovers, My Dad is Now Ready for His Sponge Bath, Jericho Road Improvement Association, A Vegan Kids Dance for Adults with Nudity, Task, and Grab Bag. And of course, recommends the Festival Bar for your nightcaps.

>>>Montgomery Newspapers runs big stories on Iron Age’s Christie in Love and MM2’s One Word.

>>>The Chestnut Hill Local profiles Lauren Rile Smith, whose Tangle Movement Arts will present Ampersand at Philly Fringe. Do people in Chestnut Hill actually refer to themselves as “hillers?” Just curious.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Newspaper photo by Daniel R. Blume via Wikimedia Commons.

Red Rovers image by Chris Doyle.

MisInternPretations: “Lady M”

Posted August 11th, 2011

I asked outgoing Festival intern and alleged funny person Lulu Krause for her thoughts on what a number of 2011 Live Arts Festival shows were all about. Her video responses indicate something funny indeed. Humorous, though? You’ll have to watch to decide. First up is Lady M. –NG

Lady M runs September 1 through 4 and 6 through 9 at The Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad Street, Center City. All shows 7:00 pm, $25 to $30.

–Lulu Krause

Model Sets for “Lady M”

Posted August 9th, 2011

Ooh, pics from Lady M set designer Lisi Stoessel! The show runs at the 2011 Live Arts Festival from September 1 through 9 at the Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad Street, Center City. 7:00 pm, $25 to $30. Here’s a teaser; click through for more.

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Department of Distractions: Pony Swim

Posted August 1st, 2011

So one of the secrets of latter day lazy bloggers (only sometimes us! often we work hard!) is the Google News Alert. Lately, my robotic monitoring of Swim Pony Performing Arts–which is bringing Lady M to the 2011 Live Arts Festival–has yielded a disproportionate number of links to the 86th (!) Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim, which is something that just happened.

I understand that a film titled Misty features said swim. Wild horses swim! From Virginia to Maryland! And are then auctioned! To raise funds for firefighting! Who knew? Is this a sign that I’m too city? Probably. In any case, you already missed this year’s pony swim, but you can still get tix for Swim Pony’s Lady M.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Today’s Wacky Theater News

Posted June 2nd, 2010

Here’s some theater news to enjoy this afternoon:

>>>The Inquirer runs a great op-ed from the good folks of Young Involved Philadelphia, condemning the so-called promoter’s bill before City Council. They’re right to point out that one of the few things stemming the loss of population from the city is its vibrant and pervasive creative culture. To some, this might seem like a sudden event, but if you’ve been hanging out with us for the past—how many years? a lot—you know that fostering this culture has taken a lot of dedication, largely from the small event producers who put on shows like those you see at Fringe. The bill as introduced includes dangerous provisions such as allowing the police to shut down events as late as 10 days before an event. Philebrity has some details about its evolution, but the heavy-handed bill still poses a risk to adventurous performances of all kinds, be they last-minute music shows at a club or Fringe performances in a garage. Check out this Facebook page for details about how to sign an electronic petition opposing the bill, and to get the email addresses of the City Council folks responsible—Anna Verma, Bill Greenlee, and Darrell Clarke. Now’s not the time to be shy, or say that you’re apolitical.

>>>Then whoa! The Inquirer flips the script so well! Breaking news: Don’t advertise that your play discusses pedophilia. Nice People Theatre Company wanted to take out a video ad on Philly.com for their Philadelphia premiere of Love Jerry, a musical about child sexual abuse. Dead Tree Edition has Nice People’s press release detailing the situation, and boy, is playwright Megan Gogerty hot about it. Love Jerry opens June 4 at the Latvian Society. [Hat tip to Brett Mapp]

>>>uwishunu gives a nice plug to Swim Pony’s Survive! It’s directed by Adrienne Mackey, and assistant-directed by Justin Jain, two young Philly folks whose profiles and talents have been growing every year. Opens at the Wolf Building on Friday, and there are still tix for the last preview tomorrow, unless the Internet is lying to me. It can’t, though, because everything you read on the Internet is true.

–Nicholas Gilewicz