Posts Tagged ‘Adrienne Mackey’

Fringe at 20 Profile: Adrienne Mackey

Posted July 11th, 2016

Name: Adrienne Mackey

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Type of Artist: Theater and lately interdisciplinary

Company: Swim Pony Performing Arts

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

Also a past LAB fellow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted March 18th, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Adrienne Mackey on Fear and Pleasure in Performance Life

Posted September 4th, 2015

stars surviveWe’ve been running a number of pieces on the artistic life lately, in the context of After the Rehearsal/Persona. To wrap them up, we reached out to Philadelphia’s own Adrienne Mackey, who’s been involved with all sorts of wonderful, adventurous, collaborative and indeed critical work on her own and with her company, Swim Pony. She wrote movingly for us about life as a theater artist and how theater forms and informs the lives of those who create it:

By Adrienne Mackey

There’s a common stereotype of theater artists as loud, brassy, attention-loving people. This image that those who would associate themselves with the stage must be naturally larger than life, filtered down from Broadway’s multimillion-dollar enterprise all the way through the nooks and crannies of high school musical theater, is a false one, I think. I think this size and showiness is a put-on. I think it hides a deeper layer, one that is common in a great number of theater makers, of uncertainty and fear.

For a lot of us who actually go on to make a career in the arts, theater begins as a kind of training ground for being human.

In middle school I was shy and intensely quiet. My mother likes to point out how all the pictures I drew of myself in this phase of childhood show a figure with massive eyes that take up half of my face and a tiny and tight little mouth. I was a thinker, an over-feeler, a not-quite-sure-how-to-connect-with-the-world-around-me-er. I was fundamentally uncomfortable in my own skin, uncertain about how to express the person I felt myself to be, afraid of showing too much lest I do it wrong.

After the jump, theater and transformation:

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

Posted August 9th, 2013

“There is a beautiful stillness that is oppressive.”

Joe Hill. (The original.)

Joe Hill. (The original.)

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

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

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

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

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

Adrienne Mackey directs! Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou.

Adrienne Mackey directs! Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou.

FringeArts: How did you stumble upon his story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Weekender: Shakespeare alfresco, art at large mosaics, and the drama of a minute

Posted July 26th, 2013

Catharine Slusar in The Tempest

Shakespeare in Clark Park is back to monologueing and soliloquizing in its eighth production that kicked off this past Wednesday, July 24th at 7pm and runs through Sunday, July 28th at you guessed it, Clark Park, 43rd Street and Chester Avenue (although the rain location will be at St. Francis De Sales School). This year’s free, alfresco Shakepearean endeavor will feature The Tempest, directed by Swim Pony Performing Arts’s Adrienne Mackey, designed by Brat Productions’s Bradley Wrenn, and starring Barrymore Award winning actress Catharine Slusar as Prospero.  Don’t forget to bring your preference of chair or blanket for optimum comfort and a flashlight for a bit of audience participation.

2013 Fringe Festival artists COSACOSA art at large, Inc. invite you to join them in the in merriment of mosaic making at an open studio event in their Healing Garden, Venango and Marvine Streets from noon to 3pm on Saturday, July 27th. COSACOSA art at large, Inc. creates public art catering to specific Philadelphia neighborhoods in the aim of fostering long-term community beautification under the principals of equitable relationships, transparency, creativity, and inclusivity. Bring your mind blossoming with uplifting designs and go wild!


White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart

The Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 South 36th Street (at Sansom) has three free not-to-miss exhibitions ending this Sunday, July 28th!  Hurry up, then slow down a little, then engage in the inquisition of adornment with White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart, mull over the existential quandaries surrounding repetitive action with Each One As She May: Ligon, Reich, & De Keersmaeker, and marvel at the enormity of the everyday in an amorphous sculpture exhibit by Karla Black.

If you’re over 21, EAT IT! for $10 on Saturday, July 27th at 9pm or Sunday, July 28th at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill Street. With cabaret giant Cleo Phatra heading the bill and “ready to blow your asses away,” enjoy a rip roarin’ Saturday night or tranquil Sunday afternoon with the most talented drag queens, burlesque girls, and opera stars in Philly. Come hungry! (TIX)

The One-Minute Play Festival

The One-Minute Play Festival

Do you have a minute? You’ve got time to see a play. Each minute will be passing a little more bitterly this upcoming week if you’re not at the The Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival, presented by InterAct Theatre Company and New York company The One-Minute Play Festival. At 8pm from Monday, July 29th through Wednesday, July 31, the festival will absorb audiences in a drama-filled pageant of 60-second performances by nearly 50 Philadelphia playwrights at The Interact Theatre, 2030 Sansom Street. Tickets go for $20 and proceeds benefit the Philadelphia New Play Initiative, a program dedicated to supporting the voices of local playwrights. Get some insight on the event by reading Jim Christy’s reflections on being a Philadelphia playwright in the festival here. (TIX)

–Maya Beale