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Posts Tagged ‘Lightning Rod Special’

Lightning Rod Special: Live?

Posted March 30th, 2018

Hi there. Welcome to the waiting room. Make yourself comfortable. Before we get started, we are required by law to provide you with some highly factual information about tonight’s procedure…

“Lightning Rod Special: Live?” is an all-ages musical experience (not appropriate for children under 16).

Photo by Johanna Austin

“Lightning Rod Special: Live?” features songs from UNFORMED CONSENT, Lightning Rod Special’s upcoming musical about the joys of birth and birthing (and the hypocrisy, absurdity, and misogyny of the abortion debate).

After viewing “Lightning Rod Special: Live?” you may experience some of the following side effects: dizziness, cramping, light spotting, desire to drink alcohol, increased rage at the state of our world, and in some rare cases, viewers have been known to seek out ways to get more involved. Please call a member of our team if any of these side effects lasts longer than two days.

And finally, know that “Lightning Rod Special: Live?” is an act of pure entertainment with no mental or emotional engagement required that will leave you feeling full of joy and light (this dangerously satiric cabaret demands a reexamination of your deeply internalized participation in a patriarchal culture).

The doctor is ready for you.


About Lightning Rod Special

Lightning Rod Special is a raucous and contemplative original theatre company based in Philadelphia tackling society’s lightning rod issues. Like scientists, we begin each project with a hypothesis and, following artistic investigations, find our way to completed pieces of theatre that twist the ordinary into the alien, provoke debate, and stir what lies dormant in the corners of an audience’s mind. LRS projects include SANS EVERYTHING (FringeArts 2016), a science fiction thriller where AI become dangerously obsessed with Shakespeare, and UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME (FringeArts 2015, Ars Nova 2016, Obie Award for Best New American Theaterwork), a time-traveling fever dream about sex, power, and race. UNFORMED CONSENT, a darkly satiric musical about the hypocrisy, absurdity, and misogyny of the American abortion debate, will premiere at FringeArts in March of 2019.

Exploding complex questions with precision and play, Lightning Rod Special makes live performance from the ground up.

 

Photos: Johanna Austin, austinart.org

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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Fringe at 20 Profile: Scott Sheppard

Posted August 15th, 2016
Above Photo: (L to R) Jesse Paulsen, Jack Meaney, Sheppard, and Alison King in Speed of Surprise (photo by Pete English)

 

Name: Scott Sheppard

Pictured: Scott Sheppard Credit: Pete English

Scott Sheppard in Speed of Surprise (photo by Pete English)

Type of Artist: Theater Artist

Companies: Lightning Rod Special, Groundswell Theater Company, Pig Iron Theatre Co.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
How to Solve a Bear, 2010 – played Connie LaPire, co-creator
Speed of Surprise, 2011 – played Bernie, co-creator
Hackles, 2012 – played Greg, co-creator
Go Long Big Softie, 2013 – played Derek, co-creator
99 Breakups, 2014 – played guy in bed, co-creator
Underground Railroad Game, 2015 – played Stuart, co-creator

First Fringe I attended: I’m not sure if it was the first Fringe I attended, but I remember watching Untitled Project #213 in 2010 and then sitting outside of Caribou Cafe for a few hours talking about the show, deciding that I wanted to make theater for the rest of my life.

First Fringe I participated in: I played Harry Truman in a rock opera one year about a political campaign for an invented position. The most memorable moment was when I was caught doing steroids but sang a song about how I did it because I loved Philadelphia so much. Everyone cheered.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: How to Solve a Bear, 2010. My favorite moment was getting pulled out of the ranger station by the hairy arms of the bear (our co-writer and Assistant Stage Manager Alex Cohen), getting pulled back and forth, clinging to a trash can for dear life until finally, Sandy, my sweetheart in the play, lit a stick of dynamite (cardboard tubing with a sparkler adhered) and stuck it in my hand, so that when the bear tried to eat me we would explode together in one fiery ball of martyrdom and chaos.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: I may have to say Go Long Big Softie, which we made in an old South Philly boxing gym, 7up bottling plant, Vietnamese Cultural Center. We literally made that show amidst 5-15 hippy, burner artists who were living in the space at the same time as we made the show. One night two of them got married on the roof of the space during our performance and we had to really implore them to stay on the roof until the show ended. It was one of those, “it’s fine if you guys want to have your wedding up there right now, but just make sure everyone goes to the bathroom, because when the show starts you’re trapped up there,” kind of situations.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Jennifer Kidwell

Posted July 29th, 2016

Name: Jennifer Kidwell

Pictured: Jenn Kidwell in The Underground Railroad Games Credit: Johanna Austin

Pictured: Jenn Kidwell in Underground Railroad Games Credit: Johanna Austin

Type of Artist: theater-maker, performer

Company: Lightning Rod Special

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Gayze: the Miniseries, 2013 – performer
The Object Lesson, 2013 – “assistant director”
99 Break-ups, 2014 – creator, performer
Underground Railroad Game, 2015 – creator, performer

First Fringe I attended: 2012’s Untitled Feminist Show (I’m a big Young Jean Lee fan)

First Fringe I participated in: 2013. The highlight was getting to watch people watch The Object Lesson.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: Underground Railroad Game – it was amazing walking into Christ Church the first day our set was actually in there.

Credit: Kate Raines

Credit: Kate Raines

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: sight-free Macbeth? Or, maybe Go Long, Big Softie in a soon to be demolished boxing gym?

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Bang! – Made me want to go as far as possible

An artist I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: I met Steven Dufala while working on The Object Lesson in 2013 and we’re still collaborating and now working together on two projects.

The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish I had done or to one day do: Drag version of Drunk History stumbling tour/bar crawl/pageant of/through Olde Philadelphia.

We Don’t Study History, We Just Keep Reenacting It: A Conversation with Jenn Kidwell

Posted May 9th, 2016

It’s not easy to get a hold of Jenn Kidwell. The wildly accomplished performing artist, co-founder of JACK in Brooklyn, and co-founder/co-artistic director of Lightning Rod Special keeps a busy schedule these days. Prepping her and co-creator Scott Sheppard’s show Underground Railroad Game (tickets/info) for a remount here at FringeArts is just one thing crowding her plate, but with tech week fast approaching Kidwell still managed to find time to generously chat with me one rainy afternoon about her process, the show’s evolution, and the aspects of our country’s troubling relationship with its past, which the show seeks to interrogate. “Making everyone participate in the same way when what we’re participating in does not treat people the same way is problematic,” Kidwell said, adding, “There’s no way for us to actually learn and change what we’re doing, it just reifies systems of the past.”

“We don’t study history, we just keep reenacting it.”

It’s that culture of reenactment that frames Underground Railroad Game, and Kidwell and Sheppard take it to task as questions of race, sexuality, dominance, privilege, and pedagogy all become inextricably tangled in their characters’ misguided attempts to educate. Based on experiences from Sheppard’s schooling, the show follows two teachers—a black woman and a white man—as they lead their middle school class (i.e. the audience) through an immersive, interactive unit on the Civil War by day and engage in a taboo-defying, sex-forward relationship by night. The 2015 Fringe Festival breakout hit—which critic Howard Shapiro called, “Hands-down the best piece I’ve seen in the Fringe Festival this year and in many years”—returns this week after months of tireless re-tuning.

When I asked Kidwell if anything had surprised her throughout the show’s development she chuckled and claimed the fact that she and Sheppard have been able to make it together at all has been one of the biggest surprises. She attributed this to their very different processes and viewpoints, but as she further explained their working dynamic it seemed as though this creative friction was crucial in developing the show and tackling such contentious subject matter. “There’s a way you can shut off your listening if you’re dealing with somebody who you know thinks the same way you do, but that’s not in this room,” she explained. “Here, it’s this constant state of being open in order to try and understand what the other person is saying or where they’re coming from.”

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Homegrown Art Is in Bloom: Spring at FringeArts, Pt.1

Posted March 24th, 2016

Ah, spring has sprung once again! Or is about to. Or already did. Oh, you didn’t get the memo? It’s winter again! Wait, never mind, it is spring. But maybe don’t get too comfortable in those jorts. Even though we can’t seem to rely on nature to be on schedule these days, you can rest assured that FringeArts will be. We’ve got an incredible spring season packed with some of Philadelphia’s most lauded, boundary-pushing artists, as well as notable guests from out of town. Here’s what’s going down at our waterfront headquarters from April to June.

Coming April 9 is a show for all the talkers, drunk debaters, sidewalk weather reporters, water cooler pundits, backseat philosophers, pseudo intellectuals, haters, hype-men, chatter boxes, gossips, and even the silent types. The Society of Civil Discourse, a co-production between Team Sunshine Performance Corp and The Philly Pigeon/Jacob Winterstein, is looking for new members and thinks you’d be a perfect candidate, whoever you are (info/tickets).

SCD-183The evening plays out in three phases. During phase one the proceedings and rules of participation are laid out and all attendees are inducted into the Society. Phase two asks Society members to voice their opinions at three designated stations: a “hater” station, an “appreciation” station, and a “mini-debate” station. Once everyone’s oratorical muscles are warmed up we enter phase three. Participants become audience for The Great Debate, where two teams—made up of professionals and a few recruited audience members—debate on an audience-selected topic. If you’re someone who enjoys passionately debating pointless topics you don’t understand or care about, you’re going to want to grab a ticket quick for this “celebration of truth-stretchers, fabricators and pseudo-intellectuals in all their misinformed glory,” as a writer for City Paper so aptly summed it up.

luisgaray.hotglue.meNext up is Maneries, our first international offering of the season from Colombian-born Argentina-based choreographer Luis Garay. A solo created specifically for and in collaboration with dancer Florencia Vecino, the show positions the body as a cipher of linguistic material. Working with iconic symbols, Vecino takes on the difficult task of embodying a universal catalogue of gestures, pictures, poses, and sculptures, utilizing her body to represent all bodies, a vessel for all manner of possible meanings, perceptions, and experiences. Garay equates her performance, the manner in which she mixes these images live, to that of a DJ, asserting, “The structure of the piece is very rigid, but at the same time it allows [the performance] to be changed every time. Maneries is also about imagination and the bodily production of imagination.”

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“Underground Railroad Game” on Radio Times Today!

Posted September 8th, 2015

Underground RR Game DypticheditedshirtTop of the morning to you! Underground Railroad Game has been in the works for a while, and premiered in its full glory here at the 2015 Fringe Festival. It’s also a “huge hit,” and wildly interesting, according to just about everybody.

Fresh off their audio diaries for WHYY’s Morning Edition, Jenn Kidwell and Scott Sheppard are slated to talk Underground Railroad Game on Radio Times today, live, in hour 2 (11:00 am). If you miss it, audio usually goes up in the afternoon. But you won’t miss it, right? Right.