Posts Tagged ‘Presented Fringe’

HPFS: A Commitment to Philadelphia

Posted February 25th, 2019

With the opening show in the new High Pressure Fire Service series kicking off this weekend, FringeArts Artistic Producers Zach Blackwood and Katy Dammers share what HPFS really stands for and why we’re pumped about the next few months of programming at FringeArts.


HPFS philadelphia

Photo by Robby Virus

In 1903, he FringeArts building at the intersection of Columbus and Race Streets opened as the nation’s first High Pressure Fire Service system, its name carved on the east and west façades. Water was pumped from the Delaware River via a six-foot diameter pipe into the brick edifice and then funneled out to more than 900 fire hydrants from Girard Avenue to South Street. This innovative system allowed firefighters to shoot a two-inch stream of water 230 feet in the air and led to a significant decline in fire-related deaths and damages. With this reassurance, insurance companies subsequently dropped additional charges on tall buildings, and Philadelphia’s downtown area entered a renewed period of urban growth and architectural advancement. Though the pipeline from the Delaware has long since been capped and decommissioned, a spidering pathway of pipeworks still connects our building to a huge swath of the city: to cafés and community centers, taverns and libraries, and inevitably several cheesesteak spots.

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Artist Talks: Tina Satter and Annie-B Parson in conversation

Posted September 9th, 2017

Annie-B Parson co-founded Big Dance Theater in 1991. Image result for annie-b parsonTina Satter has been making performance works under the mantle of Half Straddle since 2008.

Join the creators of Ghost Rings and 17c for an intimate and candid conversation about their work.


A Watery, Sinking Future: Interview with Mary Mattingly, creator of WetLand

Posted July 31st, 2014
WetLand. Image by Mary Mattingly.

WetLand. Image by Mary Mattingly.

If you’ve ever wished you could live at the Fringe Festival, you should meet Mary Mattingly. The Presented Fringe artist will live on WetLand, a boat-based ecosystem moored on the Delaware River, for the entirety of the Festival. WetLand captures the uncertainties of city-based living in an age of global warming, and proposes a hopeful alternative. In addition to housing Mary and other artists, WetLand will also host concerts, workshops, skill shares, and a few performances by Neighborhood Fringe artists. WetLand will be free and open daily Aug 15–Sept 21.

FringeArts: Why is the title WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: I’m concerned about the slow erasure of wetlands around the world, as they are important ecosystems that breed aquatic and terrestrial life, protect the mainland from storms, and naturally clean the air and waterways. They are often drained for large building projects and result in areas that flood, destructing homes and infrastructure in a loss that is for some unrecoverable. The largest loss is ecosystem diversity, which has tremendous reverberating effects throughout the natural world, and in the end makes the planet a worse place for us all to live.

I wanted to bring more attention to the necessity of wetlands, and pair it with a sinking house to describe causation through a symbolic artwork. I was also thinking about the combination in a very literal way: wet and land, to describe a watery, sinking future.

FringeArts: What’s the process of creation in such a work?

Mary Mattingly: In this piece I began considering the natural zone between the river and urban space. In many cities, it’s a space that is either overlooked or that undergoes a process of quick development. It’s a place where we must consider nature, because we are so close to it and dependent on it. Reconnecting the water with a row house puts many of us in the place of the inhabitant.

I was spending a lot of time thinking about how we live in a social system that allows us an illusion of disconnect from nature. We expect our food to be in the grocery store, we are accustomed to clean water coming from the tap, but those are expectations most of the world doesn’t have, and they are things that we can’t always be dependent on. Marrying nature to the city directly describes these food, water, and energy systems we depend on.

FringeArts: How do habitat, water, and art connect for you?

Mary Mattingly: These things are all necessities for me, and I need one as much as the other. As artists we often work with our own needs, and sometimes those are universal. Water has always been a particular concern for me. I grew up in an area that continually flooded, and where the drinking water contained dangerously high levels of agricultural runoff, having long-term effects on the area. I watched bottled water become a popular commodity, and learned about Bechtel and the World Bank’s privatization of water in Bolivia, which was eventually reversed through long protests.

FringeArts: Why is it important to live on WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: Living on WetLand is an essential part of an experiment that needs to be played out in real time. Like a form of performance art, it’s an exploration through endurance, and we also keep the living systems running. It’s an act of creating an ecosystem from which three people will eat, drink, shower, work, sleep, learn, and share.

FringeArts: How do you see this relationship between the solitary artist and the need to construct a community?

Mary Mattingly: Like many people, I thrive on both solitude and solidarity. I believe we need to make more time and physical spaces to be together, to strengthen the ties we have found in the virtual space and regain those that have been lost because of those separations. We need to make a better world to live in, and when we are confined to inside spaces it’s easy to forget about the larger world around us, and how something we do here affects someone across the world.

FringeArts: Why the clearly human-made aesthetic of WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: It’s important for me to distinguish this work from doing something in a “back to land” context. Many times people leave cities because they want to be closer to land, and because they can. But many people cannot. Leaving the city in most cases is a luxury that allows for a different perspective. I want to have more chances for some of that perspective here in our cities, and bringing nature and natural living systems to a city’s periphery is a way I’ve thought to do that.

Living in a city is such an asset. There are always people around we can turn to, learn from, and work with. I believe that our urban centers will need to be the future sites that produce our daily necessities (especially food, energy, and water) and we need to strengthen citywide projects that focus on that production, on small scales with our neighbors, and on larger scales with our entire city. When we are solely dependent on a large supply chains for our daily needs, then we are beholden to it and it’s virtually impossible to see the larger picture of how these systems exploit the environment and human labor.

Thank you, Mary.

WetLand event information available here. Events are free, but may require an RSVP. Tickets and more information about Fringe Festival shows here.

Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 S Columbus Boulevard (at Dock Street)
Aug 15–Sept 21, ongoing daily 10am–5pm

I Smell Philly: Observations from 100% Philadelphia

Posted July 25th, 2014
Participants speak in 100% Brussels. Photo by TMitchell.

Participants speak in 100% Brussels. Photo by TMitchell.

This summer, I’ve been the Festival Guide management intern here at FringeArts. Since the guide went to print last week (hooray, come to our party!), I’ve been editing interviews with participants in 100% Philadelphia by the German artist collective Rimini Protokoll. The show stars one hundred Philadelphians­ chosen according to the city’s census data. These non-actors—who are statistically representative of varying races, genders, ages, and neighborhoods—will share their views on current issues and tell their stories onstage, exploring what it means to live in this diverse yet fragmented city of cheesesteak. We are currently compiling interviews with all one hundred participants for a booklet to accompany the performance.

From the first twenty-three interviews, I already feel privy to a unique peephole into the life of the city. Since we all have to wait until September 19th for the real show, I’ll share a few observations, using the entirely scientific whatever-sticks-out-in-my-memory method:

When asked what smell they associate with the city of brotherly love, participants tend to respond with one of three answers: Cheesesteak, pretzels, or garbage. As some participants salivated over Philadelphia’s abundant pretzel supply, others waxed poetic about the heat-induced summertime stench of trash, punctuated by the watery aromas of the Schuylkill and Delaware.

Education is one of the most popular causes that Philadelphians would demonstrate for. Multiple teachers spoke of their love for their students, and many parents and grandparents watched children outside their window with concern. In general, these Philadelphians seem to agree that the way to a better future, for their own children and for the city as a whole, is increasing access to fairer education.

In a similar vein, many participants expressed great belief in community. Many identified the reason they stayed in Philadelphia as the desire to strengthen their communities, inspired by the mentors that helped them or that they wished had been present.

Philadelphians love their music. When asked what sounds they associate with Philly, many participants responded with music genres or particular songs. Or SEPTA noises, which I suppose could be a music of its own, if we’re being generous. On that note, I’ll leave you with this Philly classic:

To encourage the entire city to participate, tickets to 100% Philadelphia are pay what you wish. Get your tickets online here.

100% Philadelphia
Temple Performing Arts Center
1837 N Broad St
(between Montgomery Ave and Norris St)
Wheelchair accessible
Sept 19 + 20 at 7pm
Sept 21 at 3pm

—Miriam Hwang-Carlos

A Couple Airwaves Removed from Reality: Interview with writer and director Tina Satter

Posted July 22nd, 2014

“It’s a slightly abstracted, theatricalized space, because it’s theater and I’m always interested in theater taking me beyond the edges of reality.”

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

Coming to this year’s Fringe Festival, In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL, brings an all female and genderqueer cast of football players, coaches, and cheerleaders on stage as part of the Presented Fringe. The play by Half Straddle combines the iconic imagery of football with the linguistic particularity of high school girls, all backed by a live brass band. Half Straddle is a New York City-based company that produces plays, performances, videos, and music written and directed by Tina Satter. We caught up with Tina to find out more about her In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL, which will be in the Festival Sept 17–19.

FringeArts: Why is the show title In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL?

Tina Satter: I was calling the show just “FOOTBALL” for a while because it was about football and that worked for me. Then I was trying to work more on the script and push further into it and I was struggling. Jess Barbagallo, who plays the quarterback in the show, told me that they had overheard these young cool-looking girls having this awesome conversation where they referenced something being “downstairs in the pony palace…” Neither of us knew what that meant at all, but the concept of girls discussing a “pony palace” totally opened up the conceptual premise of the show to capture this more intangible special athlete-girl world of the play that I wanted to feel slightly off to the side of real life.

I made “pony palace” the name of their locker room in the play as well. I was able to then create the script and overall concept I was looking for. And then it seemed really important that the wonderful, weird phrase/idea of “Pony Palace” was actually reflected in the title of the show

FringeArts: How did your experience with sports in high school and college inform this play?

Tina Satter: My main sport I played all throughout high school and at Bowdoin College on a Division III team was field hockey. I totally drew from my experience of working really hard with, laughing with, riding buses with, losing with and feeling utterly devastated, and then winning with these groups of girls with whom I had been on these teams all these years. The coded language you have. This incredible sense of effort and honor towards something that, at the end of it all, you know is just a sport, a game, but that really signifies a kind of personal integrity and group effort and belief in something bigger than yourself that, even at that time, and definitely after, I found very inspiring.

So I took all the feelings, memories, and dynamics of playing field hockey and put them onto this idea of a team playing football instead of field hockey. There was something about the larger iconic significance of football that seemed to be what I wanted to use as opposed to field hockey, which is much more obscure in the U.S. I also wanted to use the idea of girls just totally playing without comment in this sport that, the vast majority of the time, only males are allowed to play on a competitive level.

FringeArts: How did the work evolve from your writing of it to your directing of it?

Tina Satter: I don’t think of the plays I am making as just scripts that can be filled out by someone else in a directorial capacity. They are these whole conceptual worlds and feelings that I am just as invested in as I am in the characters and narratives. There is almost not a difference between the writing and directing, because I ultimately have this idea of how every molecule of it should feel, especially the overall rhythm. Of course I’m constantly taking advice, ideas, and in-the-moment inspiration in the rehearsal room from my incredible performers and design collaborators, and adjusting my ideas.

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

FringeArts: What is the setting of this piece and how does it appeal to your imagination and artistic sensibilities?

Tina Satter: The setting is a high school football team that exists a couple airwaves removed from reality. It’s a slightly abstracted, theatricalized space, because it’s theater and I’m always interested in theater taking me beyond the edges of reality into a liminal and exciting space in subtle unexpected ways. I want it to feel like something we’ve never quite seen or felt before. To me, that’s a huge part of making something.

So in this case it’s an all-female high school football team that plays football with all the recognizable signifiers—the football uniforms, the sports language, the athletic posturing—but then all edged-out with this kind of made-up, tweaked valley girl speak and poeticized sense of what athletics and the team mean. In the play we see a snapshot of their season as they play several games and have interactions on and off the field that are related to football, to their adolescent sense of the banal, and to bigger things in the act of self-discovery.

FringeArts: Why football?

Tina Satter: It’s the iconic, totally American, very, very male sport that feels universal, but that’s also something only men can play. That’s totally weird when you actually think about it. This thing that just men play, that mostly men watch—not entirely, but primarily—so it’s really this highly segmented gender thing. I wanted to play with that.

But to me, initially it was not a political act to make the play at all, because my first draw was the awesome uniforms and the language and the toughness to the sport and getting to poeticize all that in my world and with the performers I work with. I wanted to make a kind of sports play. That was my main driving factor—an artistic interest in the framework of this particularly iconic tough sport and the aesthetics and language it allowed me to play with. But the fact that it does then become political is great by me. 

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Data of the Everyday: Interview with Brian House, WetLand resident artist

Posted July 15th, 2014

“As painful as it sometimes is, I think waking up is the most beautiful part—those few moments where everything is a little unfamiliar.”

Brian House. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Brian House. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Starting on August 15th, Mary Mattingly‘s WetLand, a floating, self-sustaining ecosystem on the Delaware River, will open to the public as part of the 2014 Fringe Festival. WetLand will include living and performance spaces, gardens, a water filtration system, and potentially a beehive and chickens. In addition to hosting dozens of artistic and environmental events, WetLand will be home to a rotating cast of resident artists who will work and live on the barge.

One of these residents, Brian House, is a media artist who manipulates data to look deeply at our unique patterns of living. His recent projects include Forty-Eight to Sixteen, in which the logistics of a bike ride are transformed into music, and Tanglr, a Google Chrome extension that virtually connects two anonymous browsers. House currently teaches at the Digital + Media program at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Below, he discusses his plans for his residency and how WetLand‘s ethos will interact with his own.

FringeArts: What do you plan to work on during your residency at WetLand?

Brian House: I’m not entirely sure at this point, but it will likely involve music composition. Mary’s previous project, Flock House, inspired me to make some sensors for her structures that measured the rhythms of activity inside. I’m interested in perhaps doing something similar, but this time through purely low-tech methods of observation, and I think that could feed in to the composition process. When I say ‘rhythms’ it could really be anything—the daily life cycles of the inhabitants, the weather, visitors, city noise, etc.

FringeArts: Has the tension between public and private space has been a subject of your work in the past?

Brian House: Yes, definitely this has come up with many of my projects. These terms sound simple at first, but are actually very difficult to pin down. What constitutes a ‘public’? What are the boundaries of the ‘private’? In a world where it’s not unreasonable to expect Google satellites to look into your backyard, seeds and DNA are patentable, and we walk down the street immersed in our own cellphone worlds, these things are shifty, and I’d almost rather avoid definitions. In the past, I’ve used text messaging to change the context of your surroundings (Hundekopf), built simple appliances that eavesdrop (Conversnitch), and made secure platforms for sharing data (OpenPaths). As far as living in ‘public’ space, as on WetLand, however, that is new territory. 

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The Madness: Interview with Theodoros Terzopoulos of Greece’s Attis Theatre

Posted July 27th, 2013

“Madness is the core of Ajax.

Theodoros Terzopolous, photo by Johanna Weber.

Theodoros Terzopoulos, photo by Johanna Weber.

Theodoros Terzopoulos is a highly acclaimed director specializing in ancient tragedy and he is bringing AJAX, the madness to the 2013 Fringe Festival (thanks to the show’s co-presenters The Wilma Theater and its artistic director Blanka Zizka). Theodoros was born in the village of Makrygialos in northern Greece, the mythical birthplace of Euripides—so right away he had old school thespian cred. In 1982, he founded Attis Theatre in Athens, one of the most original experimental theater companies in Greece. AJAX, the madness takes on the mania of the Ancient Greek hero at the center of Ajax (or Aias) by Sophocles, and is performed by three actors trained in the intensely physical and immersive style of Attis Theatre. This correspondence interview was conducted in May of 2013.

FringeArts: Why is the show title AJAX, the madness? And what made you choose this story to explore?

Theodoros Terzopoulos: The performance focuses at that incident of the tragedy when Ajax, in a state of divine madness, slaughters the flocks [sheep, cattle, etc.] of the army, believing that he is killing instead his enemies that did injustice to him. The narration of that incident concentrates the issue of rage, of “mania,” which is a kernel and fundamental issue in Ancient Greek tragedy. Nevertheless, Attis Theatre and me personally are mainly interested in working deeply in the core of each tragedy. Madness is the core of Ajax, like bacchaeia (the trance) is the core of Bacchae and lament is the core of Perses. I am mainly interested in the kernel condition, the state, than in the personae of each tragedy.

From AJAX, the madness, photo by Johana Weber.

From AJAX, the madness, photo by Johanna Weber.

FringeArts: What’s the process of creation in such a work?

Theodoros Terzopoulos: The performance has many elements of a visual art performance. It literally embarks on the set installation that I designed. We could say that it is a spoken installation. The main idea was to use the classic kothornoi, the shoes, that the actors were standing on in Ancient Greek theater, also as troughs (the pots where the animals eat), as coffins, etc. Kothornoi have many symbolisms and change [into] many forms in this performance.

We did not start working on the performance with free improvisations, but with a very particular idea, based on a triptych. The first actor performs the monologue bearing the pathos and the “mania,” through the rules of tragedy. The second actor interprets rage through the elements of a satiric drama. And the third one interprets it through the norms of comedy.

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