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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Sheppard’

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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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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If You Don’t Know Now You Know: Mini Artist Profiles at Philly Post

Posted September 3rd, 2013

sobelle-the-object-lesson-2Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo runs down 10 notable FringeArts performers worth checking out this year.

It’s a pretty good quick guide to some awesome shows this year, actually: Martha Stuckey of Pay Up, Gunnar Montana of Basement, McKenzie Maula of A Doll’s House, James Michael Baker of Ballad of Joe Hill, Geoff Sobelle of The Object Lesson, Jess Conda of Eternal Glamnation and Pay Up, Scott Sheppard of Go Long Big Softie, Mary Tuomanen of St. Joan, Betrayed, Kevin Glaccum of Dutch Masters, and Brian Sanders of Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak.

If you’re looking for somebody to pick some especially adventurous shows for you, you couldn’t do much better than Victor’s list.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Photo of Geoff Sobelle by Lars Jan.

Jumpstart, A Recap of our Artist Interviews

Posted May 13th, 2013

Jumpstart, a showcase that identifies new and emerging talent, rocked the Painted Bride on Monday and Tuesday nights. We at FringeArts Blog had the pleasure of interviewing each of the lead artists who created and are performing short works. Here’s a quick run down of the artists and shows with some choice quotes and links to the full interviews.

Alyesha Wise. Photo: SP Photography.

Photo: SP Photography.

A Denzel Theory by Ms. Wise

Alyesha Wise: A Denzel Theory is named after my kid brother, Denzel. Growing up in my hometown didn’t necessarily pave an easy road to success. Denzel made it look quite the opposite, remaining focused, engaging in sports and academics, then getting a full scholarship to college. This piece is about how our old city eventually swayed him in the opposite direction. This piece is about how this happens to many youth in environments like ours. This poem is a cry. And it’s a theory. Not sure when it came to me; but it’s one of the fastest poems I’ve ever written. READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW

Higher Art by Seth Lapore

Seth Lapore: I started [doing one-man shows] in college. I like being all the characters in a play that I’ve developed, being able to just switch it up all of a sudden and be someone else fully. I enjoy being in a studio and just talking something out, getting to know a character and letting them lead the lines and then furiously writing them down. READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW

Hello Etna Mounting!

Mounting, Etna by Jenna Horton

Jenna Horton: The title is intentionally multivalent, as is a lot of the poetry in the show. For starters, there’s the physical action of mounting, as in mounting Etna as if she were a horse—your horse—or a person—your person [as in belonging to you]. Or you could be mounting her on your wall like you would a painting. Or maybe she’s doing that to you. Mind you, I’m also mounting the show of Etna. Not to mention, there’s a volcano on the east coast of Sicily named Mount Etna that’s very active and provides for the fertile soils surrounding the area. My parents also live in Etna, New Hampshire; but that’s more of a coincidence. READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW

Scott and JennThe Living History Project by the Groundswell Players

Scott Sheppard: On one level, the piece is a story about a failed pedagogy that glorifies reenactment as a way of understanding historical events more intimately. On another level the piece is about two performers trying to process their relationship to history, to race, to acting, and to each other. One question I’ve been asking myself is, “aren’t we engaged in the very same project of re-living history that our piece seeks to critique?” I think so, and that puts us in the driver’s seat to say something powerful. READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW

THe name of this artists is Marina Libel. Photo: Joshua Simpson.

Photo: Joshua Simpson.

The Supervisors by Marina Libel

Marina Libel: In The Supervisors, we had to embody the machine we’re in—the helicopter—and actually be in it. And express who the characters are and how they function as people. We needed both movement and text to do that, there is no other way. It often goes like that for me. I don’t necessarily start out saying I have to have gesture, dialogue, and choreography but I usually end up with some combination of the three. If you think of a gesture as a word or of a dialogue as a movement phrase, the performance can open up new possibilities and very often reveal something very real about human beings that would never be revealed in an ordinary interaction. READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW

 

Photo by David Brick.

Photo by David Brick.

Rooster and Snowball by Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Millan

Chelsea Murphy: It’s a great collage of many forms that we’ve both been exposed to. There’s modern dance in there, and the critique of modern dance. We both went to the American Dance Festival this past summer and HATED it. But that’s another conversation. There is clowning and more performance presence stuff, which is important to us—the level of awareness we bring to the performance of each moment, and playing with that level of energy.READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW

JUMPSTART
Monday May 13 + Tuesday May 14 at 7pm
Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
$18 / $12 Students + 25 and under
BUY NOW

Jumpstart Profiles: Meet Justin Rose Of The Brothers Beffa

Posted May 21st, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, The Brothers Beffa! Photo by Martha Stuckley.

This spring (May 31–June 2), at the Live Arts Studio, we are launching our new performing arts program, Jumpstart, which showcases the work of six emerging artists from the region. The Brothers Beffa, a clown-based theatrical troupe, brings their performance of Lessons for the Lobotomized. Inspired by the words of Argentine fiction writer Julio Cortazar, Lessons follows the story of Phineaus Gage, who survived a large iron rod being driven completely through his head, as he is re-acclimated to society by a pedantic, abusive psychologist and his Pavlovian methods.

The piece is created and performed by Justin Rose, a former cofounder and artistic director of the Montana-based theater company The Candidatos, and Scott Sheppard, who is the artistic director of the Philly-based experimental theater company, The Groundswell Players. Both are currently students at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training. We caught up with Justin to get some info on the show and his work.

Live Arts: Why is your show title Lessons for the Lobotomized?

Justin Rose: At the time this piece was first conceived, I was living in Missoula, Montana and co-running a theater company called The Candidatos.  We were tasked with creating material for two very different festivals: The Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman, Montana, where we‘d be performing on the children’s stage, and the Lincoln Center Outdoor Festival in New York, where we’d be performing between dance numbers by the Streb Dance Company. We wanted to create one piece that was capable of satisfying both venues. A friend had given me a book of short stories by Julio Cortazar, the great Argentinean writer, and I fell in love with the “Instruction Manual” section. The tone of these stories was great–weird and absurdist and rich with possibility! So my first thought was, what if someone tried to follow these absolutely absurd instructions? As we proceeded to explore the stories on their feet we tossed the idea of behaviorism in—Pavlov’s dog’s positive reinforcement for the task performed well, negative for failure. The final piece to come into play was the story of Phineaus Gage, the railroad worker who survived a steel spike exploding through his head. Gage was effectively lobotomized by the spike, thus . . . Lessons for the Lobotomized.

LA: Where did each of grow up and what was growing up there like?

JR: I grew up in Ankeny, Iowa, which I guess you could call a suburb of Des Moines now, but when I lived there, there were six miles of cornfield separating the two. Now it’s just like any other Midwest suburban sprawling city full of box stores. Growing up, though, it was quaint. I have fond memories of Iowa. Now, it’s kind of a scary place.

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