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The B-Side: Artist Talk

Posted September 7th, 2019
September 7 at 3pm
 
Join us at the Fringe Festival Bookstore at Cherry Street Pier for an artist talk with The Wooster Group’s Eric Berryman and Kate Valk, who will discuss their performance of The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” A Record Album Interpretation  with FringeArts’ Raina Searles.
Free, RSVP Suggested

About the Wooster Group 

The Wooster Group, under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte, makes original works for the theater. The company integrates visual media, sound, architectonic design, and text with live performance. Founded in 1975, it has remained at the forefront of experimental theater for decades.

The Group’s major works include: Rumstick Road (1977), Nayatt School (1978), L.S.D. (…Just The High Points…) (1984), Frank Dell’s The Temptation of St. Antony (1988), Brace Up! (1991), The Emperor Jones (1993), The Hairy Ape (1996), House/Lights(1999), To You, The Birdie! (Phèdre) (2002), Poor Theater (2004), Hamlet (2007), the 360º video installation There Is Still Time . . Brother (2007), the opera La Didone (2009), Vieux Carré (2011), Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation (2014), The Room (2016), The Town Hall Affair (2017), and A Pink Chair (In Place of a Fake Antique) (2017).

The Group’s founding members were Spalding Gray (1941–2004), Elizabeth LeCompte, Jim Clayburgh, Ron Vawter (1948–1994), Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk, and Peyton Smith. Elizabeth LeCompte has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished Artists Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater, as well as the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the 2016 Dorothy & Lillian Gish Award. Kate Valk has received the Guggenheim and TCG/Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships, as well as the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Performing Artist Award.


About the Fringe Festival Bookstore 

FringeArts partners with much-loved local bookseller Head House Books to present a pop-up emporium on Cherry Street Pier. Head down to Philadelphia’s newest, most arts-friendly waterfront park (just across Columbus Boulevard from the Festival Bar at FringeArts) to browse books and publications by and about the artists in the 2019 Fringe Festival. Delve deeper into the Curated Fringe Festival shows at a series of intimate conversations and live podcasts with the artists and community partners behind the shows. Learn more here.

The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons”
A Record Album Interpretation

Posted September 5th, 2019
DescriptionAbout the ArtistsContextual ProgrammingFurther ReadingVideo

September 5–8, 2019

The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” A Record Album Interpretation is an original performance by The Wooster Group based on an LP of work songs, spirituals, and toasts recorded in 1964 in Texas’ then-segregated prison farms.

The LP had been in performer Eric Berryman’s personal record collection for many years when, in 2015, he had a chance meeting with Wooster Group associate director Kate Valk. He had just seen the Group’s Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation, which Valk directed. Berryman asked to work with the Group on a record album interpretation of Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons.

In The B-Side, Berryman and fellow performers Jasper McGruder and Philip Moore channel the inmates’ voices from the record via in-ear receivers and transmit the full album live. In between tracks, Berryman reads from the liner notes and provides context from the book Wake Up Dead Man: Hard Labor and Southern Blues by Bruce Jackson, the folklorist who recorded the album. The voices of the live performers blend with and complement the voices on the record, creating a moving and intense performance.

Across its 44-year history, The Wooster Group (The Emperor Jones, 2007 Fringe Festival) has adapted numerous record albums into original theatrical productions: Nayatt School (1978), L.S.D. (…Just the High Points…) (1984), and Early Shaker Spirituals (2014), among others. The B-Side is directed by Valk, with production design by Wooster Group director Elizabeth LeCompte.

Read our interview with Eric Berryman on the FringeArts Blog!

“Performed a cappella, the songs spin tales of mythologically mean prison guards, and loves and lives lost, and the backbreaking purgatory of unendingly repetitive physical tasks…. [The performers] become conduits for the songs of prisoners who were themselves conduits for an oral tradition that stretches back to at least the early days of slavery in this country.” The New York Times

“I wanted to honor these men who were put through brutal conditions and created some really incredible artwork to survive. It only really existed in this form in the prison. The songs kept them alive, but these guys didn’t sing this music when they got free. It reminded them of a time they didn’t want to go back to. But as a piece of culture, particularly for my generation, I want people to play it the same way they play a Bessie Smith record. Put these guys on.” Eric Berryman

$39 general
$15 students/25-and-under
$2 FringeACCESS
Member discounts available
Buy Tickets

65 minutes

Performed by Eric Berryman, Jasper McGruder, Philip Moore Directed by Kate Valk Production Design Elizabeth LeCompte Lighting Design Ryan Seelig Sound Design Eric Sluyter Video Design Robert Wuss Costume Design Enver Chakartash Musical Direction Gareth Hobbs

Based on Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons (Elektra 1965), an LP recorded, edited, and annotated by Bruce Jackson, featuring performances by Johnnie Adams, W.D. “Alec” Alexander, Virgil Asbury, John Bell, Douglas Cannon, James A. Champion, William Evans, John Gibson, James Hampton, James W. Hobbs, Louis “Bacon & Porkchop” Houston, Johnny Jackson, Floyd James, Lemon Jefferson, Jesse “G.I. Jazz” Hendricks, James Johnson, Joseph “Chinaman” Johnson, C.B. “Snuffy” Kimble, Henry Landers, L.Z. Lee, Clem A. Martin, Leroy Martindell, Mack Maze, D.J. Miller, Houston Page, Marshall Phillips, Johnnie H. Robinson, Arthur “Lightning” Sherrod, Albert Spencer, Lee Curtis Tyler, David Walker, Jesse Lee Warren, Venesty Weles, George White, Morgan White, Matt Williams, and Eddie Ray Zachary.

Film footage from Afro-American Worksongs in a Texas Prison, by Pete, Toshi and Dan Seeger, and Bruce Jackson, 1966.

Photos by Bruce Jackson (featured), Teddy Wolff (above), Steven Gunther (below)

 

The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” A Record Album Interpretation has been made possible in part by support from the Independence Foundation.

 

Festival Star Producers Arthur M. Kaplan & R. Duane Perry
Festival Producers Carol & Tom Beam
Festival Co-Producers Chris Deephouse & Donna Hunt; Cat, Annie & Steven Bohnenberger; Lynne & Bert Strieb


Contextual Programming

The B-Side: Artist Talk 

Sept 7 at 3pm at the Fringe Festival Bookstore at Cherry Street Pier.

Eric Berryman and Kate Valk (The Wooster Group) moderated by Raina Searles (FringeArts).


About The Wooster Group

The Wooster Group, under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte, makes original works for the theater. The company integrates visual media, sound, architectonic design, and text with live performance. Founded in 1975, it has remained at the forefront of experimental theater for decades.

The Group’s major works include: Rumstick Road (1977), Nayatt School (1978), L.S.D. (…Just The High Points…) (1984), Frank Dell’s The Temptation of St. Antony (1988), Brace Up! (1991), The Emperor Jones (1993), The Hairy Ape (1996), House/Lights (1999), To You, The Birdie! (Phèdre) (2002), Poor Theater (2004), Hamlet (2007), the 360º video installation There Is Still Time . . Brother (2007), the opera La Didone (2009), Vieux Carré (2011), Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation (2014), The Room (2016), The Town Hall Affair (2017), and A Pink Chair (In Place of a Fake Antique) (2017).

The Group’s founding members were Spalding Gray (1941–2004), Elizabeth LeCompte, Jim Clayburgh, Ron Vawter (1948–1994), Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk, and Peyton Smith. Elizabeth LeCompte has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished Artists Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater, as well as the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the 2016 Dorothy & Lillian Gish Award. Kate Valk has received the Guggenheim and TCG/Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships, as well as the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Performing Artist Award.

For more information, visit TheWoosterGroup.org.


Further reading

Fate Leads Eric Berryman and Kate Valk to Tea Drunk in the East Village for The B-Side by David Gordon in TheaterMania

The stars aligned one night and brought Kate Valk, a cofounder of the famed Wooster Group, into an East Village café called Tea Drunk, where Eric Berryman, a young server determined to pitch her a theater piece, happened to be working.

Berryman had appeared in a touring show called Steel Hammer, a SITI Company production by Julia Wolfe and Kia Corthron that examined the folkloric legend of John Henry, the African-American “steel-driving man.” Berryman, who played John Henry, and his fellow actors, had done a significant amount of research. An avid record collector, Berryman had amassed a collection of music pertaining to the piece, including a 1964 vinyl album recorded by folklorist Bruce Jackson called Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons.

At the same time, he saw a production of the famed Wooster Group called Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation.

Read the full article

Pneumatic Memory: Listening to Listening in The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” a Record Album Interpretation by Julie Beth Napolin in Social Text

In 1964, incarcerated men in a segregated Texas state prison gathered before an ethnographer’s field recorder and sang work songs, toasted, and told tales known intimately to them. Bruce Jackson, a Junior Fellow at Harvard, listened and recorded the various corners of the DOC. The men sounded into an unknown and not-yet constituted public. They had likely never recorded their voices before. In one of many photos taken by Jackson, a group of men stand in the field, looking down, as if listening to something we cannot see. Just out of frame sits a tape recorder that plays back their voices to them. They do not see me, though I listen. They do not see nor imagine the possibility that three performers, Eric Berryman, Jasper McGruder, and Philip Moore, would transmit their songs half a century later as The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” a Record Album Interpretation … In singing, toasting, preaching to the recorder, they were opening a space for the possibility of listening. Two spaces touch.

Read the full article


Video

International Fringe 2018: A Welcome to Artists from Around the World

Posted September 2nd, 2018

The United States government may be pursuing an isolationist policy but the Philadelphia Fringe is doing the opposite: opening its doors not only to the most creative American performers and performances but also to the best and most creative theater artists and their productions from around the world—overcoming the ancient fear of the symbolic Tower of Babel with people not understanding each other.

To show the worldwide scope of the 22nd Philadelphia Fringe Festival, we offer this spotlight on performers from abroad and productions by American artists that present a global perspective.

Theater writer Henrik Eger, editor of Drama Around the Globe and contributor to Phindie and Broad Street Review, among other publications, has lived in six countries on three continents and has visited Africa and Australia as well. He bids everyone a hearty WELCOME to the City of Brotherly Love—this year in 18 different languages: Arabic, Celtic, Chinese, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Latin, Polish, Romanian, and Spanish.

We start this year’s overview with a special welcome to two programs featuring a wide range of global creators:

INTERNATIONAL CREATIVES

  1. le super grandBienvenue & welcome to Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard and Le Super Grand ContinentalLe Grand Continental wowed audiences during its run at the 2012 Fringe Festival and has garnered enthusiastic response across the world. Fully realizing a blissful marriage between the pure delight of line dancing and the fluidity and expressiveness of contemporary dance, the celebratory event enlists hundreds of local people to perform its synchronized choreography in large-scale public performances. The world’s most infectious performance event returns to the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in an even larger spectacle of dance.

More info and tickets here

  1. Bonvenon, willkommen, bienvenido, witamy, bienvenue & welcome to Do You Want A Cookie? from The Bearded Ladies Cabaret—a world premiere with an international cast. Do You Want A Cookie? serves up a delicious romp through cabaret history, with an international cast of artists performing a live revue of cabaret from the Chat Noir to Weimar nightlife to 21st-century drag. The all-star cast comes draws from around the world, including Bridge Markland (Berlin), Malgorzata Kasprzycka (Paris/Warsaw), Dieter Rita Scholl (Berlin), and Tareke Ortiz (Mexico City).

More info and tickets here

REFUGEES and EXILES

  1. ear whispered

    As Far As My Fingertips Take Me. Photo by

    وسهلا اهلا (ahlaan wasahlan) & bienvenu. Welcome to Tania El Khoury who lives in Lebanon and the UK with her multifaceted program ear-whispered. Little is known about Palestinian refugee camps and their communities. El Khoury presents her Fringe work in five parts through interactive performances and installations at Bryn Mawr College:

    1. Gardens Speak, an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
    2. Camp Pause, a video installation that tells the stories of four residents of the Rashidieh Refugee Camp on the coast of Lebanon. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.
    3. As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, an encounter through a gallery wall between a single audience member and a refugee. (Old City & Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.  
    4. Stories of Refuge, an immersive video installation that invites audiences to lay down on metal bunk beds and watch videos shot by Syrian asylum seekers in Munich, Germany. (Old City.) Read more.
    5. Tell Me What I Can Do, a newly commissioned work featuring letters that audiences have written in response to Gardens Speak. (Bryn Mawr College.) Read more.

More info and tickets here

  1. Bienvenido & welcome to the bilingual (Spanish & English) cast of La Fábrica performing Gustave Ott’s Passport. Lost in a foreign country, Eugenia is detained and thrown into a vicious maelstrom of miscommunication. This poetic and immersive Kafkaesque thriller delves into the question of immigration—exposing the mechanics of language and power. Some performances will be presented in English, some in Spanish, and some will be decided at the toss of a coin.

More info and tickets here

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