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Events 17c


Big Dance Theater

Sept 7–9

Runtime TBA

$15 – $29


Wheelchair Accessible

DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviewsFurther Reading

“I have always dragged the past into the present, as one cannot exist without the other.” Annie-B Parson of Big Dance Theater

“They consistently make contemporary magic from classical material. Brilliantly entertaining. They never fail to fascinate.” The New York Times

This ensemble work of dance, theater, and music is built around the 17th century diaries of Samuel Pepys, a man who sang, strummed, shopped, strove, bullied, and groped—and recorded all of it in his diary. A startling precursor to today’s social media culture, Pepys possessed a compulsion to assign an almost constant real-time meaning to his daily existence. From his bunions to his infidelities to his perversions to his meetings with the King, he obsessively put his daily life on paper, or he felt lost.

17c dismantles this unchallenged historical figure, using the copiously prolific diaries, Margaret Cavendish’s 17th century radical feminist play The Convent of Pleasure, three centuries of marginalia, and the ongoing annotations of web-based devotees of Pepys. Elastic and poetic, the performance jumps about in time and place and point of view—and embodies the women’s voices conspicuously omitted from Pepys’s account, revealing the making and unmaking of our subjective past.


Thu Sep 7 at 7pm: 21st Annual Fringe Festival Opening Night!
Fri Sep 8 at 8pm
Sat Sep 9 at 2pm + 8pm

*21st Annual Fringe Festival Opening Night
Following the world premiere of 17c by Big Dance Theater, President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio, Executive Chef Peter Woolsey, and Big Dance Theater collaborate to create a memorable evening of food, drink, and performance with Festival friends and family.

Fringe Festival Opening Night tickets are $75 and include:
7:00-8:30pm World Premiere of 17c by Big Dance Theater
8:30-10:00pm Artist reception with Big Dance Theater and FringeArts President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio, including open bar and hors d’oeuvres.

Co-Directed and Conceived by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar Choreography Annie-B Parson
 Sound Tei Blow
 Visual Design Joanne Howard Video Jeff Larson Lighting by Joe Levasseur Costumes Oana Botez Performers Elizabeth DeMent, Cynthia Hopkins, Paul Lazar, Aaron Mattocks, Kourtney Rutherford

$29 general / $20.30 member (Click here to join and save 30% on tickets to all shows!)
$15 student + 25-and-under

Get Tickets
17c is produced by Big Dance Theater and co-commissioned by Carolina Performing Arts/UNC Chapel Hill, Brooklyn Academy of Music, FringeArts Philadelphia, the Old Vic/London, The Yard (Chilmark, MA), Diane and Adam E. Max, Virginia and Timothy Millhiser, the Starry Night Fund, Helen and Peter Haje, and the Heimbinder Family Foundation.
17c is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and was developed in part in creative development residencies hosted by the MacDowell Colony and Abrons Arts Center. 


Festival Producers Gene Bishop & Andrew Stone Festival Co-Producers Alex Alexander & Kathryn Doyle, Eva & Michael Leeds, Jane G. Pepper, Lee Swiacki


Photos: Liz Lynch (banner); Ian Douglas (above and below); Jeff Larson (bottom)

About Big Dance Theater

Founded in 1991, Big Dance Theater is known for its inspired use of dance, music, text, and visual design. The company often works with wildly incongruent source material, weaving and braiding disparate strands into multi-dimensional performance. Led by co-artistic directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, Big Dance has delved into the literary work of such authors as Twain, Tanizaki, Wellman, Euripides, and Flaubert, and dance is used as both frame and metaphor to theatricalize these writings. Big Dance Theater generates each piece over months of collaboration with its associate artists, a long-standing, ever-evolving group of actors, dancers, composers and designers.

Interview with Annie-B Parson

FringeArts: What drew you to Pepys as material that might work for the stage?

Annie–B Parson: As someone who is hyper-generative, I am always drawn to others who are also can’t stop making things. Pepys had to write, he was miserable when he missed a day, and this act of getting it down, of recording every little boil on his body, every encounter and feeling around the encounter, made me feel a kinship with him. And, it was amazing when first encountering these diaries, that 350 years ago, dance and theater were so valued. Eureka! I felt vindication in this figure who found dance a worthy daily practice, who valued the dance in theater, and who felt dance would better his standing. And, I loved that this person was so enamored of theater that he would need to quit it from time to time, much like he would quit drinking! I was also drawn to how contemporary he seemed, how trendy, so involved with his clothing, fretting about each outfit—when to wear a new coat, in what situation his new sleeves would have the best effect, etc. This was my first reading of the diaries about ten years ago.

But in the last few years, what has become important is the uncensored rendering of his bullying, his shame around his behavior and yet his complete lack of awareness of the violence of his actions. The absence of the voice of his wife Bess disturbed me more and more, and I began to suspect that he had burned her diaries, thereby silencing her to history. I searched for a female theatrical voice from that time to balance and testify to a feminism that was occurring then, but has been lost. This led me to the obscure radical feminist writer, Margaret Cavendish. To my delight, Pepys had encountered her a few times on the street, as she was a bit of a bad-girl celeb.

FringeArts: What made the other source materials you brought into the show—namely Margaret Cavendish’s play—work for you?

Annie–B Parson: I have always dragged the past into the present, as one cannot exist without the other. David White called the work of Big Dance “historically promiscuous”—and it’s true. I am not interested in linear reality as such, but in a relational reality, one that is elastic and poetic. I read quite a few women’s plays from that time, hoping to stage a play within a play. Margaret Cavendish’s work leapt out at me for its directness and its politics. Cavenidish’s writing was underground at the time, her plays were “closet plays” meaning there was no intention for them to be produced; as a woman, this was an impossibility. But she sustained a prolific writing life and her work speaks to her radical feminist stance. I feel she is owed many, many productions of her work to right the inequality of exposure, and our rendering is part of that re-balancing. It’s not that different today by the way. We are now seeing a few women playwrights on Broadway, and personally, though my work is produced, I am erased in subtle but systemic ways. I feel a kinship with Cavendish for sure.

FringeArts: How did the Book Nerds characters come about?

Annie–B Parson: I was researching the diary and came upon this vast on line community of Pepys fans who read the diary entry for the day and then comment on it online. I immediately heard the voice of one of our performers, Kourtney Rutherford, saying these words in my head and sent her the daily diarylink to see her response. These online comments are not just historical details that add context to the entries, but they get quite personal and strange. And these people come to know each other well. It was a goldmine of text for us. I also commissioned a funny and brainy astrologist blogger to read the diaries and blog about them. This provided additional text.

Further Reading


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