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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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Julius Ferraro And His MICROMANIA

Posted May 6th, 2014

mehipsterJulius Ferraro is a little nervous about performing in his first show since graduating from college—six year’s ago. But he is going all in because he is the only performer in the show MICROMANIA, which he also wrote. Directed by Robert Gross, the play “picks into the dark, grisly world of the wierdos at the office.” You can catch the show at this weekend’s Collage Festival at the Meeting House Theatre at the Communicty Education Center (CEC) at 35th and Lancaster in Powelton Village section of West Philly. We caught up with Julius, who also covers the performing arts as a regular contributor and editor at Phindie, to tell us about the new show and jumping back onto the stage.

FringeArts: What’s the show about and how did you come up with it? Was there an initial inspiration?

Julius Ferraro: In the piece, the setting isn’t really mentioned much—only once or twice—but I think it’s where the whole concept sprung from. It’s about three men, Derek, Christian, and Frank, who are at a “TeamWorkShop” at their office. Which is just about the most horrible setting I can imagine. They’re given a completely mundane challenge—to work together to come up with a plan to fix an imaginary cockroach infestation—but then they all start having these over-the-top emotional reactions. I wrote it originally as a story, then, with some encouragement, cut it back and made it into a play.

I’ve worked in a lot of offices, and in some high-stress sales environments. I’ve learned the language of how to talk to people and how to inspire people to work harder. It’s really a language that’s taking over the world, and as helpful as it may be in certain situations, it’s about as mundane a lingo as you can imagine. It’s full of hypocrisy and purposeful ignorance and self-help jargon. It’s codified, like legal language, and it has very strict rules and guidelines. There are certain words you never say. There are certain words you try to say as often as possible. It builds a certain kind of culture, an outward appearance of prosperity and respectability.

Like I say, it can be very helpful, but I find it repulsive, and I know precisely why it offends me. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the cockroach, and there’s no really good reason why it’s so repulsive. They’re not even dangerous, and yet we have these wild emotional reactions when we see them. We’re at the top of the food chain, but when we see a mouse or a roach, some of us freeze, unable even to act.

FringeArts: What made you want to do a solo show? What was your process in developing it?

Julius Ferraro: I didn’t really want to do a solo show. The fact is, I kind of hate the idea of having too much to do with one piece. The reason it’s a solo show, though, is that I really wanted to make it into a reality. And the best way to do that, as an unknown artist, is to go low-tech, no-budget. The SoLow Fest, which I first learned about two years ago, has really been an inspiration to me. The work that Meghann Williams, Amanda Grove and Thomas Choinacky do with that festival, and the people who get involved, is incredible. That, more than anything, has refined the way that I see art over the last few years. Art and artists can be intimidating until you see an incredible low-fi show and realize that it was sort of thrown together at the last minute.

So I wanted to make it happen, but I had no money. I would have loved to have four actors, or even just three, but I’m pretty against the idea of asking someone to act for free, people would have had to offer themselves up. I started hunting around for a director that would take on the project for an exchange-of-services kind of thing, I would maybe write for their company or perform in something of theirs. Then Robert [Gross] told me he’d be willing to do it.

Robert was a director and professor of mine in college, and last year he retired, sold off all his worldly belongings including his home, and has been traveling the world like a gypsy. A real romantic figure. This project would not have happened without him. I’ve always considered him to be a genius, and his presence on the project has made me comfortable with taking some risks.

Since he came on the project a few months ago and we started having rehearsals, we’ve cut the playwright out of the process. I no longer view the play as something I wrote. We’re tackling it like any traditional company would tackle a play they’re performing, not editing lines, and reconsidering every moment not from the perspective of playwright’s intention but from our own needs. He’s the one who’s really made this into a performance.

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Phindie, one year later: Interview with editor Christopher Munden

Posted March 19th, 2014

“It’s pretty easy to create and maintain a basic site of arts journalism, or other small publishing project. There’s no reason why others couldn’t do what I’m doing and do it well. It’s cheap, it’s easy, they should.”

32468_390299683381_2276020_nIt’s been a little over a year that editor Christopher Munden, an avid theater-goer, created Phindie.com in order to provide  arts coverage to the independent theater scene. [You can read our interview with him from last year!] Since then, Phindie.com has become the place to go to read reviews and articles about the plays that are up and the artist who are making them. From a previous staff of one, he now has a number of writers covering the scene, and he is keeping tabs on multidisciplinary work as well as beginning some dance coverage. We caught up with Chris to find out what he’s learned from Year One, and what he’s looking forward to.

FringeArts: What is Phindie, as you see it now?

Munden: It’s a website people can visit to read about performing arts in Philadelphia. Mostly reviews, but also interviews and features. The focus is on “independent theater”—the type of theater which would be at home in the Fringe Festival—but there are articles on dance and other arts and on the city’s bigger budget theatrical performances.

FringeArts: You started Phindie a little over a year ago and since then the site has expanded dramatically in coverage and audience. Take us though a few of the decisions you made that helped grow Phindie.

Munden: Yeah, I soft-launched last March, so it’s been about a year. I had an idea to build audience when I started the site, one I haven’t fully implemented: giving away free theater tickets as a way to build the email list. I thought it was a really good idea, and I told it to my friend’s father, a successful business guy and theater fan. He told me, “Maybe it’s a good idea, but it’s only one idea. You need ten good ideas, because if you just have one it might not work.” So I went home and wrote a list of ten ideas for the site, and I’ve gone down the list picking ones which might make a difference.

A couple of them have really moved the needle in terms of impressions—the key metric for gauging website audiences. The first was the decision to run a “Critics Awards” for Philadelphia theater for the 2012/13 season, in the absence of a Barrymore Awards for that season. The second was my effort to cover as many shows as possible in last year’s Fringe Festival. I recruited a bunch of writers and managed to get reviews of seventy-eight shows, plus a bunch of preview pieces—more coverage of the festival than anywhere else. I think that’s what put the site on the radar for a lot of people, it definitely sparked a big and lasting jump in visits, so thanks Fringe. 

FringeArts: What do you think was the best decision you’ve made editorially?

Munden: My guiding principle is not to worry too much about where the site is going, but to make sure that I’m happy with it at every stage of growth. So it started as a venue for my writing on the arts, with my own independent theater, web-centric editorial focus, and that focus remains. It quickly grew to incorporate other writers, and we are now covering pretty much every theater show in Philadelphia. I have ideas for expansion, mostly into more arts fields, but I want Phindie to be good at whatever it does and not expand just for expansion sake.

One recent decision that has helped me out immensely was hiring a theater editor to take some of the posting and correspondence of my hands: Julius Ferraro, formerly an intern and writer at FringeArts.

FringeArts: What’s been the most difficult part of maintaining Phindie.com?

Munden: It’s time consuming. It’s not seriously time consuming, and I certainly think it’s pretty easy to create and maintain a basic site of arts journalism, or other small publishing project. There’s no reason why others couldn’t do what I’m doing and do it well. It’s cheap, it’s easy, they should. But it does take a several hours a week, every week, and my inbox is now completely overrun with messages from theaters and artists. I can’t, and don’t, reply to and cover everything, and I feel a little bad about that because I know people are emailing me about projects which are important to them.

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Shameless Plug: Phindie

Posted September 18th, 2013

phindie1Hey, I work here, and even I have a hard time keeping up. But this year’s new flood-the-zone coverage of Philly Fringe comes courtesy of our friends at Phindie, which has dispatched an army of reviewers to cover like 70 shows. If you’re looking for some guidance to your last week of the 2013 Fringe Festival, saunter on over. Thanks, Phindie!

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Phindie’s in Town: New Website Covers Philadelphia Independent Theater

Posted April 12th, 2013
Christopher Munden of Phindie, spotted in a crowd.

Christopher Munden of Phindie, spotted in a crowd.

There’s a new place to go for Philadelphia theater coverage: Phindie! Phindie (www.phindie.com) is a website that features reviews, articles, reflections, and the like on theater arts and performing arts more generally. At the helm of Phindie is Christopher Munden who has been covering theater for a number of outlets over the past few years–and been a theatergoer all of his life. He wanted to have a site that coalesced his work, and that of others, and where he could showcase some new projects, like a podcast series with local theater artists. We caught up with the British born, but Philly suburb-raised Christopher to get the scoop on Phindie.

FringeArts: What made you start Phindie?

Christopher Munden: I started Phindie for a few reasons: to get more editorial control over theater and arts writing in the city, to house a new conversational podcast series, and yes: to help address the dearth of coverage of theater and arts in Philadelphia.

The site launched with a backlog of 120 articles by me and other writers, drawn from often-defunct websites, covering theater, dance, writing, and museum exhibits. For now, my focus is on independent theater, with occasional and growing coverage of other arts. I want to bring contemporary and fresh voices to this coverage, writing that acknowledges it is 2013 and it’s the internet.

FringeArts: How has it been going so far? What’s been the reaction?

Christopher Munden: With anything like this, it’s a bit like throwing a snowball into a snowstorm, it’s hard to know what mark it made, if any, but the small reaction I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. I have a slow-burning strategy for the first few months, but I was surprised at the immediate reception. I had a soft launch, posted a few new articles, and told a couple friends, and with a day or two I had PR people contacting me for coverage, theaters putting a Phindie credit in their promotional emails, and over 100 visits a day. Also, I was in a bar after a show and two young actors told me they’d listened to and liked the podcasts. So the snowball is hitting something.

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