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

Posted February 14th, 2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Shawn: Congratulations on your Gang of 19 anniversary!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tony: He’s the CEO of Liberty Resources.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tony: We are being dragged down.

 

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

 

Tony: In every home.

 

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

 

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

 

Shawn: Inclusion is key. Inclusion is key.

 

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

 

Shawn: That’s right, that’s so true.

 

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

 

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

 

Tony: America had a disabled President!

 

Shawn: Yes! Yes! Yes!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tony: Oh yeah.


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Wandering Alice, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sans Everything, 2017, Photo by Johanna Austin

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

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

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

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

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

We’re excited for such a talented cohort of creators and performers to be joining us at FringeArts this March and April. Click below for more information on each show, and stay tuned for our “Who’s Who in High Pressure Fire Service, part two” blog post, coming soon!

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

The Appointment
Lightning Rod Special
March 20–31

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

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

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

Who’s Who in Blue Heaven

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

 

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

Read up on who’s who:

 

Michelle Buteau

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

Jaboukie Young-White

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

Erin Markey

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

Cole Escola

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

Whitmer Thomas

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

Catherine Cohen

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

Food 4 Thot

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

Champagne Jerry

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

Sarah Squirm

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

Bechdel Test Fest

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

Good Good Comedy Theatre

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

 

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

In Essence, Things Move: J. Wolfgang Fry talks Quiddity

Posted September 21st, 2018

Ideas form and dissipate. People move and imaginary things travel. Ideas, memes, concepts, and theories all move and grow, some grow old and obsolete, some grow strong and vibrant. What are the migration patterns of imaginary things? What is their essence?

J. Wolfgang Fry asks these questions in his 2018 Fringe show, Quiddity: Migration Patterns of Imaginary Things, which opens and has its sole performance this Tuesday. He spoke to FringeArts about the name and inspiration behind the piece.

FringeArts: Where does the idea for the show come from?

J. Wolfgang Fry: The idea for the show comes from the name of the show, Quiddity: Migration Patterns of Imaginary Things. Originally it was just art speak jargon meant to hold a place, a placeholder concept, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do a show about the movement of ideas.

FringeArts: What does quiddity mean?

J. Wolfgang Fry: Quiddity is a word that means essence, I first learned it reading a Clive Barker novel in which he had named a sea Quiddity, which in the story brought things into the essence of what they were or would become.

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Comedy to Kill For: Good Good Comedy Brings a Greatest Hits to the Fringe

Posted September 19th, 2018

Even before the company opened its Center City (Chinatown) theater in October 2016, Good Good Comedy was the leading presenter of new comedy in Philadelphia. Founded by powerhouse comedy team Kate Banford and Aaron Nevins, the company has only continued its rise to the pinnacle of local comedy, attracting local and visiting stand-up performers and hosting popular monthly game show, improv, and sketch shows. For the 2018 Fringe Festival, Good Good Comedy has taken all the best bits from the last year of its monthly show Darlings and combined them into an hilarious sketch revue. Darlings: Kill Us Please opens tonight.

Good Good Comedy Theatre.

FringeArts spoke to Banford and Nevins about the show, the theater, and appealing to audiences who don’t have rocks for brains.

FringeArts: How are things going with Good Good Comedy Theater? What’s excited you most about the space. What has been surprising?

Kate Banford & Aaron Nevins: Everything has been surprising and exciting at Good Good for us. We’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of the theater opening, and in that time, we’ve been named Best Comedy Club by Philadelphia Magazine, we’ve watched the local comedy scene AND local comedy audiences grow exponentially, and we’ve had performances from amazing people like Maria Bamford, Chris Gethard, Aparna Nancherla, Andy Kindler, Julio Torres, and so many others—people whose support of the theater has been incredible and unexpected.

FringeArts: That’s great! So what’s the story with Darlings: Kill Us Please?

Kate Banford & Aaron Nevins: Darlings: Kill Us Please is basically a hodgepodge of all the best bits from our monthly show Darlings at Good Good. It’s ostensibly a sketch show with all of our best and weirdest junk all smashed together.

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Gerald van Wilgen and Love Across Time and Place and Fringe

Posted September 18th, 2018

Gerald van Wilgen (“Gerhardus”) has an eye for a good story. He worked as a journalist in the Netherlands before he moved to the United States. He became an active member of the early 1990s South Street theater collaborative the Brick Playhouse, an institution which helped spawn the careers of dozens of local actors, directors, and playwrights. He moved to Nebraska to get an MA in theater from the University of Nebraska in Omaha; since his return he has produced and directed a variety of Fringe shows under hjs own name and as Ari Flamingo.

Gerald van Wilgen headshot by Christopher Kadish.

His 2018 Fringe Festival production, I ???? Adriaen (listed in the Fringe Guide as “I <3 AvdD”) is a time-spanning monologue about a scholar who fall who falls for Adriaen van der Donck, an ambitious Dutch lawyer born 400 years ago who had big plans for America. Van Wilgen spoke to FringeArts about the play, which opens tonight at Old Swedes Church in South Philadelphia.

FringeArts: What inspired the show?

Gerald van Wilgen: Van der Donck has always been on my to do list, but I never knew how or what to do with him. This guy was a rebel, but one who fought with his pen. When I interviewed Julie van den Hout for a magazine I work for about her biography of Adriaen van der Donck, she told me she liked him a little bit “too much.” I loved the idea of a scholar falling in love with her own subject. I put the two together and started working on it. When I was in the Netherlands, I visited Adriaen van der Donck’s hometown, Breda, there the story started to crystallize.

FringeArts: How would you describe your style of writing?

Gerald van Wilgen: Someone once described my style as “economic.”

FringeArts: What themes or message are you trying to convey?

Gerald van Wilgen: I’m an unassimilated immigrant living in two worlds simultaneously.

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Cocktail Plays: Recipes for a Great Night of Theater

Posted September 17th, 2018

One morning, a few weeks ago, Sonya Aronowitz sat at a bar in Fishtown, double-fisting cocktails. The executive producer of indie theater company Juniper Productions had good reason: she was tasting cocktails for the company’s 2018 Fringe production, Cocktail Plays, which opens tonight.

Aronowitz sent the four short plays in the production over to Canyon Shayer, beverage manager at Philadelphia Distilling. The experienced bartender shook up four cocktails, one to represent the themes and characters of each play. Cocktail Plays runs September 17-26 in the spartan bar of distillery and each drink contains a spirit made in the copper stills which loom behind Shayer as he describes the cocktails.

For Date Night by Mark Costello, about a woman who’s uncomfortably dressed up for a meeting, Shayer created a sparkling pink drink made with lemon juice, raspberry simple syrup, Bluecoat gin, sparkling wine, and fresh raspberries. “I wanted a redness reminiscent of lipstick,” he says. “It’s about being too classy for a situation.”

For Out of Time by Bill D’Agostino, Shayer favored an “old man’s drink” to represent one of the characters onstage, so he used the distillery’s barrel aged gin, with birch bitters and maple syrup for a twist on the old fashioned.

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The PINK HAIR AFFAIR Returns, Heartbroken

Posted September 14th, 2018

A collaborative dance company started by UArts grads in 2007, the Pink Hair Affair a series of playful Fringe pieces in the late ‘00s showcasing their choreographic talents. Several of the Pink Hair founders —Annie Wilson, Christina Gesualdi—went on to become key figures of the Philadelphia dance world, but the company lay dormant for the last few years as its members spread across the world, from Oregon to Panama City.

Company director Laura Jenkins recently returned from Los Angeles and has revived the much-loved company for a 2018 Fringe Festival production, The HeARTbreak of a Serial Monogamist, with performances at The Whole Shebang September 17 + 18. The piece deals with the middle stages of grief, that time after the initial shock, when people simply offer the advice of “time will heal”. Jenkins compiled her  experiences with grief—break-ups, moves, career changes, deaths—and turned them into an interactive interdisciplinary work that shows there are tools we can use to help us through the rough times.

She spoke with FringeArts about the project.

FringeArts: What inspired the show?

Laura Jenkins: I moved back to Philly in October 2017 (after living in LA for just under three years). I knew once I got back that I needed and wanted to put on a show again, and I thought the Fringe Festival would be a good way to ease back into the dance scene here. I originally wanted to do a show idea I’ve had with PINK HAIR AFFAIR for almost 10 years now… but life happened. In April of this year, I had a strong desire to do a show based on experiences I was going through, experiences that I’ve been through and little did I know, experiences I was going to go through. It sort of evolved from the need to heal and process grief. Creativity is and was a huge part of my healing process and I felt driven to share it—to normalize this feeling of grief, and to let people know it happens to the best of us.

FringeArts: What themes/messages do you want to convey?

Laura Jenkins: I want to share the grief that we all go through (or will go through). I want to normalize the feelings of despair, depression, feeling lost and alone, feeling crazy and angry, feeling so sad and heartbroken you don’t know what to do. I also want to show that there are ways to deal, tools to use to get your through. To note that this shitty time is important for us to go through — because it’s where we learn, grow and tap back into our true selves or maybe even find ourselves. To stay present during the dark time and not just hide in our bed or fall into a replacement relationship.

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Where Have All the Black Actors Gone? To Flying Quilt’s Day of Absence

Posted September 12th, 2018

Opening tomorrow at Painted Bride Arts Center (after two free performances for community groups), the thoughtful comedy Day of Absence explores the dilemma of an unnamed Southern town awakening to find all black folk…gone. Who will tend the children? Who will do the menial work? Who really wears the mask? It’s as relevant today as when Douglas Turner Ward wrote it in 1965.

The list of actors performing in Flying Quilt Productions’ Fringe show reads like a who’s who of black actors in Philadelphia: Joilet F. Harris, Cathy Simpson, Brian Anthony Wilson, Anthony Cooper, Steve Wright, Nastassja Baset, Rich Bradford, Kim Brown, Carlo Campbell, Niya Colbert, Walter DeShields, Andre N. Jones, Tiffany Bacon, Renee Lucas Wayne, Olivia Wayne, Lenny Daniels, Eric Carter, Chyna Michele, Jack Drummond, and Lary Moten. FringeArts spoke to Moten, artistic director of Flying Quilt, about his impressive cast and contemporarily pertinent play.

FringeArts: What first moved you about Day of Absence?

Lary Moten: When I first read it, I was in college—called Hampton Institute when i attended, now Hampton University—studying theater. It was 1968 and we were studying the plays that exploded from black playwrights during that turbulent time. Day of Absence struck me so much because it’s a comedy. It showed how all of the anger and frustration, analysis and commentary, could be turned into genuine laughter without casually dismissing the underlying causes, facing those issues unflinchingly. It grabbed me then. Unfortunately, it still grabs us now.

FringeArts: Why did you want to bring it to this year’s Fringe? 

Lary Moten: There is so much turmoil in the U.S. at this moment—people questioning black lives matter, political, social, cultural and economic upheaval—and Day of Absence speaks directly to those issues. And with lots of laughs. Day of Absence is castor oil smothered in honey. As usual in times like this, the best art rises to the challenge of connecting folks with issues that affect their daily lives concretely. That is why i wanted to see this show mounted. Especially during the Fringe. And at the Painted Bride given their history of community work.

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Gimme Shelter: Drip Symphony Returns to the Fringe

Posted September 12th, 2018

Nick Schwasman and Nate Barnett are local Philadelphia artists who run Drip Symphony, an experimental performance company now entering its second season. This Fringe, Drip Symphony presents Shelter, the story of a group of artists living together in an abandoned theater, brought together by a shared sense of artistic integrity. Staged using an immersive design where the entire theater is transformed into performance space and the audience, seated on stage and scattered throughout the house, lives among the action, Shelter explores the value of art, the nature of creation, and the power of physical boundaries to shape our realities.

Shelter runs September 19-22 at Plays & Players Theatre (and Barnett also sings with the Grammy-winning ensemble The Crossing in its Fringe show Of Arms and the Man, September 16). Schwasman and Barnett spoke to FringeArts about their artistic process, upcoming production, and views of the Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: What was the inspiration behind Shelter?

Nick Schwasman: I just turned 19. I was sitting around a fire behind a barn, talking to my dad and friends. My dad had recently received a letter from his dad, who is homeless and schizophrenic, and whom I had never met. I was talking about how I wanted to meet him. The idea came to me somewhere in this moment, that any homeless person I saw could possibly be my grandfather, and that’s essentially where it started.

We began writing the script for it back in 2013, in a barn on winter break. We still have scraps from back then, and many of the characters still exist in evolved forms. But it’s changed a lot. We’ve allowed this process to take any twists and turns that appeared, so much had changed. The show is now most strongly inspired by our artist colleagues and ourselves, and the experience we all have trying to navigate a very fraught artistic landscape. It’s about the decisions we make to survive and stay true to ourselves, and the spaces we create in support of those decisions.

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

Posted September 11th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scenes from Opening Weekend

Posted September 10th, 2018

The Fringe is OPEN for business!!!

Opening weekend kicked off with hundreds of performances in every corner of the city, from deep south Philly to the Art Museum steps, from the Delaware Riverfront to University City. Relive some highlights with this photo diary of performances.

 

Anu Tali conducts Heiner Goebbels Songs of Wars I Have Seen at FringeArts. Photo by Joanna Austin, AustinArt.org.

Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s production of Eccentricities of a Nightingale by Tennessee Williams, at Bethany Mission Gallery through September 23. Photo by Joanna Austin, AustinArt.org.

An audience member experiences Tania El Khoury’s Stories of Refuge, at Twelve Gates Gallery through September 28. Photo by Joanna Austin, AustinArt.org.

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The Plague Comes to Philadelphia: Pestilence: WOW!

Posted September 7th, 2018

Playwright and director Savannah Reich recently moved to Philadelphia after making work with her company Eternal Cult for ten years and touring it to bars, basements and warehouses across the country. Opening tomorrow night, Pestilence: WOW! marks the Fringe debut for her raw and immediate style of theater, produced punk-rock style: collaboratively, accessibly, and strange.

Reich spoke to FringeArts about this new play about the bubonic plague that lives somewhere between a game show and an acid trip.

FringeArts: What’s the worst illness you’ve ever suffered?

Savannah Reich: I was a sickly child and always had some kind of a cold. I have a real fascination with the the intimate nature of illness, and the way it takes away our illusions of control. I did a lot of reading about illness in preparation for this play: Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, and Eula Biss’s On Immunity; An Inoculation are particular favorites. None of this ended up in the play directly, of course.

FringeArts: What brought you to Philadelphia?

Savannah Reich: I graduated from Carnegie Mellon with my MFA three years ago, and I’ve been kind of an art tumbleweed ever since. I lived in Chicago for a few years, and I’ve been bopping around and doing plays in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis and traveling a lot. I think I’m looking for my artistic home.

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Revisiting Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. With a Bear.

Posted September 6th, 2018

This my excavation

In 2006, musician Justin Vernon left North Carolina after two breakups: with his band and longtime girlfriend. Broke, heartbroken, he drove back to his home state of Wisconsin and spent a cold autumn and winter in his father’s hunting cabin. There he cut wood, drank, and wrote and recorded one of the finest, most emotionally moving, rawly authentic albums of this young millenium.

That’s the story.

It’s one that playwright Doug Williams and director Maura Krause wanted to explore and flip over. “We’re both music obsessives, and the story behind Bon Iver’s first album is a modern music legend,” says Williams. “But there are larger questions about the ‘broken male genius’ that feel really primed to be pushed back upon right now.”

These questions get a outlandish treatment in the pair’s world premiere Fringe Festival show, Bon Iver Fights A Bear, which opens tomorrow. “We figured, if we’re really trying to tell this story in the most outrageous way possible, we gotta have this talking bear narrate it and sort of call bullshit on the mythology of the whole thing,” says Williams.

“We want to explore the ways in which we romanticize the story of the white-male-genius-type that retreats to the woods to get over his heartbreak,” adds performer Emily Schuman, who plays Bon Iver, hipster beard and all. (The moniker was taken from French for “happy winter,” a repeated greeting in cult TV show Northern Exposure.) “Really, he was just a 24-year-old kid who was trying to figure himself out but ended up doing something incredibly honest.”

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Tanaquil Marquez’s Passport Across Language Borders:

Posted September 5th, 2018

Heads: English; tails: Spanish.

On select nights, La Fábrica will present Gustavo Ott’s play PASSPORT in a language decided by a coin toss. The concept fits Ott’s kafkaesque tale of miscommunication and unexplainable border discrimination well. For the less adventurous, most performances of the timely work take place in either English or Spanish (see the show webpage for details).

We asked Tanaquil Márquez of La Fábrica about the unusual staging and her attraction to Ott’s absurdist play.

FringeArts: What moved you about the Gustavo Ott’s play?

Tanaquil Márquez: Yajaira [Paredes] and I were sitting in her car outside of Headlong Dance Studio. We just finished rehearsal for Azul, a production we worked on last year, when she pulled up the script on her phone and told me, “Tana, necesitamos hacer esta obra.” (Tana, we have to do this play) My first thought was, “What? We are already in a play, I don’t have space in my brain to think about another one.” But it’s the name that really stuck, PASSPORT. The title already seemed like a demand.

We had a reading a few months later and the message resonated in the room. In a beautiful and violent way. PASSPORT exposes how miscommunication can lead to distrust and confusion. Ott’s poetry is full of imagery and really blossoms throughout the hour while the main character’s situation gradually gets more and more dire. He mixes the two so well that you don’t know if you should be moved by the language or horrified by the action on stage.

FringeArts: What makes it a fitting show for this year’s Fringe?

Tanaquil Márquez: PASSPORT is a very current and important show. It spotlights the current immigration crisis. The long struggle of our community with the immigration issue has currently reached a boiling point. We cannot be but shocked at the actions of ICE against our society and the immorality of the Berks Family Prison in Pennsylvania detaining children as young as two weeks old. By presenting PASSPORT we want to raise awareness and funds to promote immigration rights.

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What Shamus Hunter McCarty Loves About Fringe

Posted August 31st, 2018

Name: Shamus Hunter McCarty

Show in 2018 Festival: Close Your Legs, Honey: A New Musical

Previous Fringe shows: The Jane Goodall: Experience (2010),  Branded (2011), The Playdaters (2012), The Hunchback of Notre Dame…A Mute Play (2014), Animal Farm to Table (2016), Pericles  (2017)

What I Love About Fringe: It’s impossible for me to think about my career as an artist in Philadelphia without acknowledging Fringe.

Fringe was my first gig in Philadelphia and although we were self-producing filled my 22 year old heart with all the confidence in the world that I could do it, I could make it as an artist. I connected with my first cohort of Philadelphia collaborators and whole life and career have put too many miles between us, I stand here, eight years later, nostalgic, proud and ready to unleash a brand new musical on the Philadelphia Fringe audiences. Over the last eight years I have worked on a variety of Fringe projects, grown immensely as an artist and learned a thing or two about how to maximize output and intake without burning out during one of Philadelphia’s busiest performance times.

That’s what I love about Fringe.

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The Complex Yet Simple Messages of For Colored Girls…

Posted August 30th, 2018

A theater professional with over twenty years experience in New York and Philadelphia, Ardencie Hall-Karambe, Ph.D. is an associate professor of English and theater arts at the Community College of Philadelphia and an adjunct professor and the director of theater Arts at Cheyney University. She cofounded and leads Arden Blair Enterprises,  which houses several subsidiaries, including Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective.

The resident theater company of North Philly’s landmark cultural hub The Church of the Advocate, Kaleidoscope presents Ntozake Shange’s seminal work For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival. Ardencie talked to FringeArts about the work, its relevance, and the role of art.

FringeArts: What was your introduction to For Colored Girls…. ?

Ardencie Hall-Karambe: I was introduced to For Colored Girls when I was a senior in high school in LaPorte, Texas, a small town outside of Houston. I read some of the poetry in a speech/forensic tournament.

FringeArts: What moved you about it?

Ardencie Hall-Karambe: What moves me about the piece is my relationship to some of the situations the characters go through on their journeys to healing. It was one of the first pieces about black people that I read that didn’t weigh itself down with the history of black enslavement in this country. It’s there, but it is not the focus. It was the first piece that I read that spoke to the conditions of black women with an attitude that I understood. The characters experience every emotion and courageously invites the audience to join them in this communal catharsis, and I love that.

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Happy Hour on the Fringe with Trey Lyford

Posted August 28th, 2018

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

accountant

The Accountant. Photo by Jenna Spitz.

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

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

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

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NIGHTMARE FUEL Impresses Edinburgh Fringe Audiences Before Its Philly Fringe Premiere

Posted August 27th, 2018

“dark and demented…. what the Fringe is all about.”
—The Wee Review
“enough energetic idosyncrasy to become a cult hit.” ★★★★
—The London Student

Several entries into Philadelphia’s 2018 Fringe Festival got a full tryout at the mother of Fringes in Edinburgh, Scotland, which concludes today. Chris Davis treated Scottish audiences to his 2012 play Drunk Lion before his world premiere of The Presented this September. Lee Minora received plaudits for White Feminist, part of this year’s Festival in Philadelphia. The pair shared an apartment in Edinburgh with Sarah Knittel, whose NIGHTMARE FUEL is taking #EdFringe Twitter by storm.

“I didn’t expect people to be so on board with the show,” says Knittel. “I thought I would be heckled or hated for being American or saying ‘pussy’ 100x in the show. At first, the audience would respond with super UK-polite smiles and muffled laughs, but, by the end, people are shocking themselves with how much they are willing to play along.”

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Meg and Dana Are Troilus and Cressida in RevShakes Non-traditional Fringe Casting

Posted August 27th, 2018

Revolution Shakespeare’s outdoor performances in Bella Vista’s Hawthorne Park have become staple of FREE Fringe offerings. For their fifth Festival production, the company continues its tradition of producing fiercely modern takes on lesser-known Shakespeare works with Troilus and Cressida.

(l-r) Meg, Dana, and Sol Madariaga star in Troilus and Cressida.

Directed by star Philadelphia director Brenna Geffers, the staging of the Bard’s intriguing piece on star-crossed lovers in the Trojan War sees a gender-defying non-traditional casting, headlined by Meg Rumsey-Lasersohn and Dana Kreitz as the titular characters. FringeArts spoke to the pair about the play, their roles, and the importance of RevShakes’ unconventional casting.

FringeArts: What appealed to you about Troilus and Cressida?

Meg Rumsey-Lasersohn: I think I first read Troilus and Cressida in college, with a professor who LOVED it. And I remember being totally baffled the first time through—like, what IS this? It’s almost historical fanfiction. I was obsessed with Greek mythology and the Trojan war as a kid, so that has appealed to me for a long time, but  honestly, nothing appealed to me about Troilus. I thought he was an absolute jerk. That’s part of why I am excited to play the role—to find what I love in him, what I empathize with.

Dana Kreitz: The play was appealing to me in the way that it dealt with these iconic, fabled characters and Cressida was, and is, so wonderful for me to explore because she’s a woman doing her best with the cards she’s dealt. And she continuously gets some pretty shitty cards. And through it all, she keeps her wit. And she keeps her strength. And Shakespeare treats her with some kindness and mercy, I think, in his portrayal of her struggles and choices, and doesn’t simply write her off as the faithless lover that she’s known as being. She gets to be human.

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