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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.

Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk with Nora Litz and Rev. Danny Cortés

Posted November 28th, 2018

“I’ve been working with immigrant populations for 10 years now, and they are so ready to talk about it. It doesn’t matter what age group you belong to. It’s like being invisible most of the time, yet you have a story–a very important story–to say, to talk about. So once you open that door, it comes right out.”
–Nora Litz

FringeArts has had the opportunity to meet and hear about the amazing work that many different people and organizations in Philadelphia are doing to support their neighbors. On the latest Happy Hour on the Fringe, our hosts sit down with members of two organizations dedicated to improving the lives of Latinx men, women, and children living in Philadelphia.

Nora Litz with a young artist

Located in South Philly, Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that promotes the health and wellness of Philadelphia’s rapidly growing Latino immigrant population through a wide variety of programs. Their services range from providing high-quality and culturally competent healthcare, innovative educational programs that support young children through adults, legal support and community building, and the organization supports community members regardless of immigration status, race, and class. Nora Litz, as Director of Arts and Culture, guides children, adolescents, and adults as they use mixed media to recount their own personal immigration stories. The artists’ work has culminated in projects such as Las ligas que nos unen (“The Ties that Bind Us), which tells the stories of children from Puebla, San Lucas Atzala, San Andrés Calpan, and San Mateo Ozolco whose parents left them in order to find work in the U.S. and El viaje de los niños (“The Children’s Journey”), which was brought to FringeArts this November and tells the stories of Mexican immigrant children who have crossed the border to come live in Philadelphia. Although, Nora does not consider her work “art therapy,” it’s undeniable the overwhelmingly powerful effect telling their own stories through art have had on the participants. She lets us in on the process behind Salud de Puentes’ beautiful and meaningful projects.

On the other side of the city in Hunting Park, Esperanza, a faith-based nonprofit organization driven by the biblical mandate to “serve the least of these,” strengthens Hispanic communities through a large variety of educational, economic development, and advocacy programs and services. Their specific programs range from seemingly simple yet impactful programs such as distributing trees to community members to running the exceptional Esperanza Academy and Esperanza College (in partnership with Eastern College) to Esperanza’s latest project, the opening of a state-of-the-art theater in December. Rev. Danny Cortés, with his older brother Louis, sits at the forefront of this 30-year-old organization devoted to improving the barrio for the here and now and fortifying it for the future. For the second half of the episode, Raina and podcast producer, Sabrina, sit down with Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff of Esperanza, Reverend Danny Cortés, in the organization’s beautiful headquarters. He gives us a picture of how the organization got started and where it is going next.

                                 Dany Cortés

Listen to the episode to learn more about Puentes de Salud and Esperanza’s work and how you can support them.

Show notes
Learn more about Puentes de Salud: https://bit.ly/2hen25G

Learn more about other projects Nora Litz has led at Puentes de Salud:

Al Diahttps://bit.ly/2HwpQW5

Buzzfeedhttps://bzfd.it/2rLLBuO

NBC Newshttps://nbcnews.to/2FJRDH5

Learn more about Esperanza – https://bit.ly/2Q2fSVG

If You Don’t Want to be Embarrassed at Your Next Ball, Start Here

Posted November 16th, 2018

“They see it [the LGBTQ community] as entertainment and forget that the entertainers you see go home at the end of the day. They don’t go home as this person. They’ve had coming out stories. Some of them have been homeless. Some of them have been in hiding. Some of them look for acceptance. Everybody. All of us look for acceptance because it’s not always given…They have to go other places to find acceptance. That’s exactly where this scene that everybody loves so much, that everybody is so interested in comes from.” – Torri Gillis

 

 

Dating back to the early 1900s, balls and ball culture came to prominence between the 1960s and 1980s as largely Black and Latino LGBT youth in New York used it as a place and way to express their creativity and build community and family. The culture remains alive and well in its birthplace of course, but has spread to cities across the country including Philadelphia and world. With the popularity of documentaries like Paris is Burning (1990) and television shows such as My House and Pose, more and more people have fallen in love with the art of voguing and ballroom.

Tori Gillis, assistant director of Legendary and accomplished voguer in the Philadelphia Ballroom Scene, stops by Happy Hour on the Fringe and gives us an insider look into the the world of ballroom: The dos and don’ts of ball culture, the difference between a ‘dip’ and a ‘shwack,’ and the voguers that you need to know. She also reminds us that although balls are fun, we cannot forget about the real people with real struggles who are behind the fabulous outfits, the jaw-dropping hair and make-up, the boldest walks, and baddest voguing.

Photo courtesy of Johanna Austin

 

Required Reading/Watching
Paris is Burning (1990)
My House
Pose
How Do I Look (2006)
Voguers such as Ashley Icon, Kemar Jewel, Destiny West, and Allison Prodigy
This week’s episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe.

 

First Person Arts Festival is Back!

Posted November 7th, 2018

Everybody has a story, and First Person Arts Festival is back with a line up of personal stories that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect as well as workshops to empower you to tell your own. Jamie J. Brunson stopped by our podcast, Happy Hour on the Fringe, to give us a preview of this year’s Festival and an inside look into what the Festival seeks to represent.  FringeArts is excited to be partnering with First Person Arts to bring several shows to our own stage including:

Felonious Monk

Wed, Nov 7 to Fri, Nov 9

You may have seen Felonious Munk as the “resident blegghead” on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show, but now Felonious Munk has updated his smash-hit Second City performance and is bringing it to the First Person Arts stage. This is a hilarious yet harrowing first-person story of how one black man went from six years in a state prison to a six-figure job in corporate America. Felonious then transitions to a new life as an activist and satirist in his one-man show debuting at the First Person Arts Festival.

Pa'lante feature image

Pa’lante

Sun, Nov 11 to Mon, Nov 12

Gabriela Sanchez, Founder and Executive Producer of Power Street Theatre Company, joined the First Person Arts creative team this year, but you might remember Sanchez and her work from Power Street Theatre’s past productions, Shelter in Place and Morir Sonyando, which appeared in the 2015 and 2014 Fringe Festivals respectively.

Gabriela is masterful at creating devised theater that is passionate and pushes for social change. Her Festival directorial debut Pa’lante is no different. This devised work asks a diverse representation of the Latinx community to share their stories of living the Latinx experience in these United States of America. Influenced by the five senses, cultural roots, and resilience, each storyteller explores traditions and legacies.

For this run of Pa’lante, we are proud to partner with Puentes de Salud, a health clinic serving the Latinx immigrant communities of Philadelphia by bringing Puentes de Salud’s El Viaje de los Niños, a visual project which tells the stories of Mexican immigrant children who have crossed the border to come to Philadelphia, to FringeArts. We invite you to explore “El Viaje de los Niños, developed by Puentes Director of Art and Culture Nora Litz, before and/or after the performances of Pa’lante.Legendary photo by Johanna Austin

 

Legendary

Wed, Nov 14 to Fri, Nov 16

Voguing did not begin with Madonna by any means. Largely Black and Latino LGBT youth created the dance style during the 1980s Ballroom Scene in New York City. Kemar Jewel and the Xcel Dance Crew pay homage to the style and era with their hit show Legendary, which premiered in the 2017 First Person Arts Festival. The one-night-only performance was so fabulous, Legendary is back for a three-night run at this year’s festival.

Stay after Thursday, Nov 15’s performance for a talkback with Kemar Jewel and the Xcel Dance Crew. On Friday, Nov 16, we have a very special evening in store. A *legendary* Vogue Showcase Ball will follow the performance. The night continues with our November Get Pegged Cabaret featuring Justin Sayre’s Storytime Pajama Party.

GrandSlam Triumph main photo

 

GrandSlam: Swept Away

Sat, Nov 17

The First Person Arts Festival closes out with the GrandSlam. The culmination of First Person Art’s monthly StorySlam series, the GrandSlam brings togeter all the StorySlam winners from the past year to go head to head and see who will take home the title of “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia.”

Sometimes amusing, sometimes heartbreaking but always relevant and moving, First Person Arts Festival is a chance to sit back and listen – something so many of us do too little of today.

To hear more about what the festival has in store, check out our interview with executive director of First Person Arts, Jamie Brunson on Happy Hour on the Fringe here.

Get your tickets at FringeArts.com and see the full line-up visit firstpersonarts.org. Follow FringeArts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We’d love to hear what First Person Arts shows you’re seeing.

 

FringeArts creates new Accessibility Guide

Posted October 30th, 2018

One woman gives another woman a token after checking in for her ticket at the FringeArts Box Office.FringeArts believes in the inherent value of diverse communities, and the importance of learning, being open, and listening. From our ticket-buying process to arriving at our building, the performances themselves to our post-show experiences, we are working hard to continuously improve our accessibility. We’re excited to share our new Accessibility Guide, where you can find a description of what to expect when you come to any performances at FringeArts, including relaxed performances which are adapted to reduce anxiety and for audience members with sensory needs. We hope this new initiative creates an even greater sense of inclusiveness at FringeArts. You can find the guide under the Accessibility tab on our website, or directly here.

In addition to these efforts, we also provide Audio Descriptions, Open Captioning, and ASL Interpretation for any performance with one month notice. We always have Hearing Assistance Headsets available at the box office upon request.

FringeAccess Members, for those holding a Pennsylvania Access Card, can receive up to four $2 to any performance at FringeArts per year. Tickets may be purchased through the FringeAccess Membership login, by calling 215.413.1318, or at the box office before a show.

More detailed accessibility information can be found on our Know Before You Go sheet, or by contacting Patron Services at patronservies@fringearts.com or 215.413.1318.

Many thanks to Roger Ideishi, Occupational Therapy Program Director and professor at Temple University, and his graduate student team (Remy Binder, Vivian Hin, Christina Neroni, and Johanna Reed) for their help putting together the Accessibility Guide!

Where to Find Philly’s Digital Arts Community

Posted October 17th, 2018

Within the last twenty years, technology has changed every facet of our lives, and art has not been immune to the technological revolution. The computer and internet have given rise to an entirely new medium with which artists, whether they self-identify as one or not, can experiment and play.


In Philadelphia, the digital art community may still be a bit “underground”—some people may say non-existent multimedia artist and founder of CRUXspace Andrew Zahn notes, but they would be mistaken. The community of people using technology creatively is growing, and three very different institutions are at the center of that growth: CRUXspace, FringeArts, and Philly Game Mechanics.

Many galleries, like Philly’s Vox Populi, show digital and multimedia art, but few are dedicated solely to the medium. Bitforms in Manhattan comes to mind, but a comparable space does not exist in Philadelphia. Enter Andrew Cameron Zahn. Zahn, who started experimenting with online art and design applications like Photoshop and Quark as a kid, sought to fill that void with his new media art gallery CRUXspace in 2014. Growing out of art exhibitions for “hackers” that he organized as a student at the University of the Arts, CRUXspace found its first home at 7th and Master in Ludlow. Andrew and lead curator Kim Brickley have collaborated with the likes of Mural Arts, University of the Arts and FringeArts and have presented artists such as G. H. Hovagimyan and Molly Soda. Earlier this year CRUXspace moved out of its original location and found a new home at the WeWork in Northern Liberties, but its purpose, to provide a space for creators experimenting with technology in art and design has moved with it. In its new space, CRUXspace will be presenting a new exhibition featuring the digital media artists Swoon, who makes use of stop-motion animation, installation, and video techniques and Eric Westray, who employs cutting-edge 3D modeling techniques to bring to life impossible humans and environments. The Swoon/Westray exhibition opens October 26.


Past CRUXspace collaborator FringeArts seeks to provide digital artists with a platform of their own as well but in a very different way. FringeArts has maintained a mission “to present world-class, contemporary performing arts that challenge convention and inspire new ways of thinking” for decades. In 2015, the organization’s Fringe Festival was already 19 years old, but the team recognized that much of the art that aligned so perfectly with their mission was being created digitally but not presented nor seen. With about 15 digital art pieces, FringeArts launched its first Digital Fringe, a platform that allows audience members to experience the work of digital and multimedia artists for free, as part of the annual festival.  Three years later, Digital Fringe has grown to 26 pieces with an additional two digital works, R&J and SPIES!, featured in the traditional Fringe Festival. Digital Fringe artists provide a URL or another method (app, text message, etc.) to access their technologic creation on the FringeArts website and in the Festival Guide. This year, you were able to cook with drag queens, outsmart the undead, and escape-the-room (chatroom that is). 


Whereas Fringe and CRUXspace work with people who think of themselves as artists, that is not necessarily the case for FringeArts’ Digital Fringe partner, Philly Game Mechanics. Philly Game Mechanics is a charitable organization focused on supporting game development and indie game enthusiasts in Philadelphia, PA. PGM members take game development classes, create relationships and share their work with other gamers, creators, and makers through different talks and their indie arcade cabinet, the Philly-Tron (currently being housed at the Franklin Institute.) Through partnerships and relationships with other organizations such as The Franklin Institute and Drexel Game Program, Jake O’Brien from PGM points out, members further develop their skills and expand their perspectives. Recognizing the benefits of such partnerships herself, Jenny Kessler, a FringeArts intern brought her supervisor, Jarrod Markman, and PGM together to partner. Jake posed the question “What is digital art?” to the PGM community, and eventually, several Digital Fringe pieces were developed by members. On September 12, many of those pieces were shown at Philly Game Mechanic’s Digital Art Showcase at Harrisburg University’s Philadelphia Campus.

Although we may not be ready to distinguish digital art as its own distinct branch of art yet, CRUXspace, FringeArts and Philly Game Mechanics are filling the void and bringing the digital creative community to the surface. Once other institutions begin bridging the disconnect between themselves and the hackers, gamers, and artists utilizing technology in creative ways, these three groups will likely be cornerstones to the digital art community in Philadelphia. In a lot of ways, they already are.

 

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Circa Contemporary Circus’ Libby McDonnell & Nathan Boyle

Posted October 11th, 2018

Libby McDonnell and Nathan Boyle from Circa Contemporary Circus stop by Happy Hour on the Fringe to chat about their breathtaking show Humans.

Photo courtesy of Mark Garvin

Circa Contemporary Circus, one of the world’s leading performance companies at the forefront of the new wave of contemporary Australian circus, has been wowing audiences around the world since 2004. The company is known to use extreme physicality to create breathtaking performances that straddle the worlds of circus, dance, and physical theatre. Last month, Circa traveled all the way from Brisbane to close the 2018 Fringe Festival with a dynamic exploration of what it means to be human. Before wowing Fringe Festival audiences with their performances of Humans, Circa’s associate director, Libby McDonnell, and senior acrobat, Nathan Boyle, sat down with host of Happy Hour on the Fringe Zach Blackwood at the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. They gave him a peek into the creation of Humans and their current tour of the piece.   To learn more about Circa Contemporary Circus visit circa.org.au. Let us know you think of podcast, and check back next week for a new episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe.

Goodnight Sweet Fringe

Posted September 23rd, 2018

And flights of angels sing thee to your rest.

See you next year.

Fancy a Tipple? Whiskey Bonanza for Fringe Fans

Posted September 16th, 2018

Founded by actors and theater fans, Twisted Tail supports Fringe fans this month with a discount off the headline event of its Bourbon Heritage Month.

The fifth annual Whisky Bonanza on hursday, September 20, features over 70 whiskeys, a pig roast, bartender competitions, and tasty blues music.

The Whiskey Bonanza runs 7–10pm with a VIP Hour at 6pm with tastings of specialty and rare whiskeys that will not be available during the main event. Tickets start at $60, but Fringe fans get a discounted ticket using code FRINGE at eventbrite.com/e/2018-whiskey-bonanza-tickets-47300906284?discount=FRINGE.

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Building Trust with Darcy Lyons

Posted September 5th, 2018

“Security is both a reality and a feeling and they’re not the same thing… The foundation of security is trust, both personal trust and global trust.” —Security specialist Bruce Schneier, an inspiration for 2018 Fringe Festival piece Proceed with Caution

Fear. Insecurity. Trust. Security.

The topics broached in Lyons and Tigers’s Proceed with Caution (September 7-9 at The Iron Factory in Kensington) are relevant on a personal, political, and geopolitical level. This new full-length dance theater work explores security in a time of global violence, the Trump presidency, police brutality, mass shootings, and the #MeToo movement. Through dance, the show asks, “How do humans build trust?”

Creator Darcy Lyons spoke to FringeArts about her timely show.

FringeArts: What was the inspiration for Proceed with Caution?

Darcy Lyons: In 2012, I created a short version of this piece that was about rational and irrational fear. I have always wanted to return to the piece and this year felt like the right time. The initial inclination came from my own struggles with anxiety. The concepts around fear and trust are important to me to continue to explore, especially in the uproar of the Trump administration.

FringeArts: Can we ever really trust anyone about anything ever?

Darcy Lyons: Yes. Trust has a lot of layers of meaning. We are constantly working with trust in our everyday lives.

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Why Wait? Fringe Festival Performances Begin Today!!!

Posted September 4th, 2018

The long wait is over!

Philadelphia’s 2018 Fringe Festival officially launches this Thursday, September 6, kicking off 17 days of world-class performing arts. But anyone who has looked at the Fringe Guide Day-By-Day knows that the excitement isn’t contained within the strict Festival dates. Some shows (FIGMAGO, Lay Me Down Softly) had performances this past weekend; many works in the Digital Fringe are already live and available for enjoyment, and tonight has a full schedule of preview performances for some of the Fringe’s hottest shows:

Do You Want A Cookie?

6:30pm
Kill Move Paradise, The Wilma Theater

7:30pm
Do You Want A Cookie?, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret
Tennessee Williams: Eccentricities of a Nightingale, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium

9pm
Unhinged, Matter Movement Group

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Taking A Vacation with Bastion Carboni

Posted August 31st, 2018

The curator of monthly politically-minded cabaret Agitated!, Bastion Carboni has quickly established his Poison Apple Initiative as a Fringe Festival instution since moving to Philadelphia from Texas four years ago. Critiquing 2015’s Sometimes Callie and Jonas Die, the erstwhile City Paper wrote “This is what many people miss about the Fringe’s early years… holy fuck, this shit is real.” Phindie called it “a raw and shit-kicking show,” and described 2016’s An Obviously Foggot “the explosive, vibrant queer play we’ve been waiting for”.

Poison Apple Initiative’s marks something of a departure for Carboni, with his first solo piece, A Vacation. He spoke to FringeArts about this dark travel comedy about manifesting and destiny.  

FringeArts: What was the last vacation you took?

Bastion Carboni: I’m really bad at vacation. Like I’ll go places to see theatre and try to pick up gigs while I’m there, but sitting in some sand reading trash and drinking light beer makes me fidgety and feeling like I should be productive. I went to the beach for like two days last year and was so itching to get back to work.

FringeArts: What inspired A Vacation?

I had been in Philadelphia less than a year (September marks year four). I was in a pretty dark place; I’m generally in a dark place when I conceive of plays. As for the actual impetus, I never really recall where my plays come from. The base idea is always a sort of culmination of feelings and ideas, and I don’t actually end up WRITING the thing until a few years after it’s conceived.

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Scenes from a Life: Ishmael Houston-Jones on John Bernd and Contemporary Dance

Posted June 26th, 2018

Ishmael Houston-Jones has lived dance history. Now a New York-based choreographer, performer, and teacher, Houston-Jones was a staple in the East Village experimental dance community in the 1980s, having moved to the city from Philadelphia in 1979. One of his collaborators during this period of innovation was John Bernd, the interdisciplinary artist whose work forms the core of Houston-Jones’ upcoming Fringe show Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd.

Drawing on his own experience dancing in Bernd’s Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life, as well as the reality of losing an entire generation of artists to the AIDS epidemic, Houston-Jones teamed up with Miguel Gutierrez to create a new work that mashes up seven of Bernd’s pieces. This entirely new performance displays Bernd’s lasting influence on contemporary dance and imagines what his work might have looked like today. We asked Houston-Jones about the inspiration behind the show and about his experience working with the influential choreographer.

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John Jarboe Gets Nostalgic with an Exploration of Mister Rogers

Posted June 19th, 2018

John Jarboe and the Bearded Ladies Cabaret will provide a highlight of the 2018 Fringe Festival with Do You Want A Cookie?, which uses live performance to trace the long history of cabaret, from Weimar Germany to 21st-century drag shows.

Before taking a bite from the poison cookie, don’t miss Jarboe performing as Mx. Rogers, an updated version of the friendly face you remember seeing on your childhood television set. You Can Never Go Down The Drain is a show that honors Rogers’s prolific songwriting career and presents the lessons in these songs—some that stuck with us and others we have long forgotten—in a new format for a grown-up audience. The show, which opens this Wednesday at the Wilma Theater, is a chance for adults to come to terms with their beliefs when confronted by life’s realities.

“Like so many of Bearded Ladies shows, You Can Never Go Down The Drain is a poison cookie of sorts,” says Jarboe, artistic director of the Bearded Ladies. “It uses that nostalgia and power of Mr. Rogers, sing-a-long, and enormous costumes to seduce the performers and the audience into some hard questions about being human.”

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Making Art in 2017: Nate Barnett and Nick Schwasman on Wedgwood on the Green

Posted September 11th, 2017

Image by Jordan Schellinkhout.

Name: Nate Barnett and Nick Schwasman

Company: Drip Symphony

Show in 2017 Festival: Wedgwood on the Green

Role: Co-Directors, Performers

Past Festival Shows: Millennia, Damn Dirty Apes, Pay Up!

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Nick SchwasmanWedgwood started as poetic memoir that Nick wrote in 2014. We mounted it in the 2015 Solow Festival as a live radio play. Now we’re collaborating with a variety of artists to create a fully visual show. The story deals with a group of young men who are discovering dark truths about their supposed masculinity as they approach the threshold of adulthood. We tell the story in and out of the round: the audience is seated in a circle of swivel chairs. A narrator sits in the middle, but all around is the world of Wedgwood. They choose what they do and do not see.

FringeArtsHow have your interests in or approach to art-making changed in the last year? 

Courtney Cooke and Devin Preston. Photo by Nate Barnett.

Nick Schwasman: I think the two of us are feeling like we are coming out of a part of our life where we were holding tight to our training and technique. We spent quite a few years admiring the complexities of artistic traditions, studying in discipline and reverence, the music of Leonard Bernstein, poems of WB Yeats, artists whose work have become sturdy pillars by now. I think lately, we’re less interested in the classic stuff, we’ve become obsessed with experimental techniques. For us, the clearest way forward to making new and better art is by bringing an almost scientific attitude towards its creation—testing new ideas rigorously, imagining future possibilities based on experience. It’s the artists that have done this whom we most admire, and how we intend to move forward.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Free Fringe

Posted September 9th, 2017

Seeing groundbreaking performance art doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out these free or pay-what-you-want shows at this year’s Fringe Festival.

 

Borderlands @ Studio 34
Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed

“To survive the Borderlands you must live sin fronteras be a crossroads.” — Gloria Anzaldúa. Come break the fourth wall as Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed explores the personal journeys of immigration & homecoming from prison. Devised & performed by formerly incarcerated Philly women who have reentered society. More info and tickets here.

 

 

Monarch @ Fleisher Art Memorial
Christine Doidge, Amanda Holston, James Miller

Monarch is one woman’s retelling of the story of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. Fleisher Art Memorial’s beautiful sanctuary sets the stage for past to become present. Fill in the blanks of history (with an irreverent dose of fiction) as a centuries old rivalry comes to a head. Queens will rage. Crowns will fall. Heads will roll. More info and tickets here.

 

 

Perspectives @ The Galleries at Moore
AIM Academy Drama

“You look at me. What do you see? You don’t know who I am.” Young writers share their perspectives on body shaming, gender identity, anxiety, online personas, loss, and ADHD and invite the audience to join them as they confront preconceived ideas, assumptions, and judgments. More info and tickets here.

 

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Destruction, Renewal, and Creation: A Conversation with Tania Isaac

Posted April 24th, 2017

“I started to imagine all of these natural cycles of pressure and release that have created incredible phenomenon and the fact that natural forces woke in cycles of destruction, renewal and creation.”

Once called a “one-woman powerhouse of dance fusion,” Tania Isaac is bringing her fresh solo movement drama crazy beautiful to FringeArts for the first time. We got to have a quick conversation about her work and her process.

FringeArts: What made you think up the title crazy beautiful? Do you remember where you were?

Tania Isaac: I don’t remember where I was, but I had noticed one of those emoticon charts where you move the magnetic frame to the mood you’re in. I was trying to imagine creating a grid of moods using objects, then began to wonder why we spent so much time trying to be in the “right” mood all the time. I’m always plunging down a rabbit hole of questions about why everything exists as it does. I call it my eternal toddler. I started to be more curious about how anger and frustration and confusion and sadness became things we avoided and tried to fix rather than experience fully. Some time later I was in my kitchen watching my four-year-old old have a compete meltdown and was so envious for a moment that she got to feel all fully into it with every fiber of her being—and remembered that she laughed the same way.  Everything she was feeling she was fully experiencing viscerally. So while I’m not advocating adult tantrums, I wondered what happened to all of that sensation and power as we got older. And if it didn’t go away, what did we do with it when we learned to behave? Who decided what was appropriate and when and how it was best to express it? THEN I started thinking about volcanoes—which I’ve loved since I was twelve—and the pressure and nature of eruptions. I started to imagine all of these natural cycles of pressure and release that have created incredible phenomenon and the fact that natural forces woke in cycles of destruction, renewal and creation. Balance—of a kind? Could we do it? So I started to imagine what it might be like.

FringeArts: Can you describe the open notebook process you’re created?

Tania Isaac: The open notebook has been my way of sharing the questions I try to answer (that eternal toddler). The questions are usually about how we choose to respond to something within our society. I am curious about how others see the world and wanted to create a space we could step into that would allow us to be immersed in what we were thinking about and reading and how that might become translated into movement, action, imagination, and performance. I tried to create a space that could explain to my family what I did, how I did it, and why I insisted it was important. And it was about the space for exchange, expression, and conversation. I wanted to give the people interested in my work or simply curious and questioning about the world, a chance to play with this platform. I wanted an immersive world where ideas could float in space and on a paper and be available to everyone—where we could respond and could be archived. So the notebook is a room divided and created by hanging paper walls, with notes and ideas collected in rooms. It shows videos and photos and asks questions and invites you to write and record and respond. It’s a small maze and a place to indulge and sink into your thoughts.

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A Ride on the Irish Valentine

Posted February 14th, 2017

So we’re not exactly mushy-gushy here at FringeArts.  Don’t get us wrong, we love love, and all the wonderful beautiful forms in which it comes, but we’re not ones to, say, spend Valentine’s Day watching 27 Dresses and weeping into our prom outfits.  That’s for another Tuesday.

Maybe that’s exactly why A Ride on the Irish Cream is the perfect Valentine’s Day show for us.  It’s beautiful, musical, strange, rejects hetero-normativity, and most importantly, involves horses.  So in the spirit of all-encompassing love, we made some Cream-themed Valentines that you can share with all the sweeties in your life to your heart’s content.  Plus, they’re free!  Because who needs another reason to spend money on Valentine’s Day?

 

 

Valentines by Patricia Wakelee.  Click here for tickets/more info to A Ride on the Irish Cream.

All or Sans Everything?

Posted February 1st, 2017

Lightning Rod Special is no stranger to innovation—their most recent work Underground Railroad Game just wrapped a wildly successful stint in New York after two sold-out runs here in Philadelphia.  Founding company members Alice Yorke and Scott Sheppard were kind enough to sit down to chat about the genesis of their new world premiere,  Sans Everything – a collaboration with Strange Attractorrunning at FringeArts February 9-11.

FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration and where did that take place for Sans Everything? And what was the moment that you realized this could be made into a full-length show?

ALICE: A few years ago Aram Aghazarian (of Strange Attractor Theatre Co.) visited Pig Iron’s Dan Rothenberg while Dan was in New York City working on a production of As You Like It in New York. The studio was in a crazy high-rise building and the rehearsal room was tense–everyone was angry at each other but still working, still doing As You Like It. Aram talks about looking out the window at the vast sky and while listening to AYLI. The absurd thought struck him, “As You Like It in space.” Not setting AYLI in space, but doing it in space–more to the point, a big, outside force compelling a group of people to do it. That maybe there was some voice forcing you to do something frivolous as if it was serious. Though it would be easy to make this prompt a high-camp romp, the show has taken on real themes of life and death, due in no small part to the fact that we took a year-long hiatus from the piece when Rebecca Noon (of SATC) was diagnosed with cancer. When we returned to the piece last year, we wanted to make a show that didn’t acknowledge that directly but that explored questions Rebecca had been asking herself– why do we artists DO this? Why do we make new work and, even more so, why do we return to centuries old work when we have boundless creativity available to us? For us in Lightning Rod Special, those questions were just the kind of juicy, investigative line of thinking we love sinking our teeth into.

SCOTT: On a legendary day in Alaska, when Strange Attractor Theatre Co. was dreaming up ideas for future shows, Aram Aghazarian, resident provocateur, proffered a mystifying dare: “What about, As You Like It…in space?” As absurd as this idea sounded, over the past few years Strange Attractor Theatre Co. and Lightning Rod Special stirred this mad dramaturgical cocktail until an alluring logic began to form. As the groups obsessed over 1970’s sci-fi films, the singularity, and the themes of As You Like It, we began to dream up a world. As it does for so many readers, Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage” soliloquy compelled us, and we began to imagine it as a sometimes brilliant, sometimes faulty guidebook for non-human life to understand humanity. This made us wonder, what if in the future, disembodied artificial intelligence decided to return to the relative simplicity of the human form. What would surprise “them” about experiencing life at such a slow place from a fixed and carnal point of view? What if they unabashedly fell in love with the nostalgia of humanity? What if they fell in love with theatre? With Shakespeare? When we peer into the future, we are always, inevitably, examining something from our past.

FringeArts: Tell us about the world of Sans Everything. What do you  find compelling about this world?

SCOTT: The world of Sans Everything is alien, stark, and working desperately to be human. The timbre is that of a thriller, but it wavers with tense fragility between the comedic and the uncanny. We witness all the things that make us human: rage, fear, passion, love, and art, but they are enacted by beings who do not fully understand human life. The characters’ struggle is both deeply empathic and terrifyingly unfamiliar.

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Nowhere Fast: Woman Crush Wednes(every)day

Posted November 16th, 2016

What more is there to love about a production that is scored by a live set of gritty, guitar-fueled rock n’ roll? Perhaps that it features an all-female, all-Philly cast of dance-theater badasses.

To properly welcome the ladies that will take over the La Peg stage for one more show in November, here are a couple things you need to know about them (or watch out for) as told by their supporting characters.

Kit Loupez

“Kit kit kitty kit kit. Georgia’s ruthless right hand. I encountered her once and I hope never to see her shade of red ever again. Don’t tempt her with a good time, because that night will be your last.”

– Michelle Flynn

Winona Cross

Winona Cross, aye? I never met a more slim-slicking canary with such a lust for a thrill. She’s willing to slide herself into any tight spot, so long as there’s some green cush waiting to catch her fall.

— Georgia St. Regis

Maxine Malloy

Oh, my dear dear Max. Maxine. She’s my number one gal, the most loyal woman I’ve ever met. Sometimes that means she’s an absolute doormat, a real kitten in a lion’s den. But boy oh boy, can that broad hold a crowd when she’s got a hot mic.

— Winona Cross

Georgia St. Regis

Georgia will either pull you out of the gutter, or toss you in it. She’s the mother I never had and the sister I never wanted. She’s mean. She’s my queen. 

— Kit Loupež

Michelle Flynn

That’s one hard boiled broad at the bar. What’s she doing here? She ain’t no pigeon cabaret audience member, that’s certain. I’ve seen that look before–that’s a woman on a mission. Or a Case. Or both. 

— Max Malloy

 

Photos by Chris Koontz

Blurbs provided by the lovely ladies of BRAT Productions and Sam Tower + Ensemble.

BRAT Productions and Sam Tower + Ensemble present Nowhere Fast; November 11+17, 10:30pm.  Click here for more information and to buy tickets!