FringeArts Blog

Glossary of Heroes

Posted January 20th, 2017

by Hallie Martenson

In Hello! Sadness! (running January 26-28 at FringeArts), Mary Tuomanen mines the history of social justice activism to bolster herself in the ongoing fight against injustice and tyranny.  I did a little research to prepare you for this piece of theatrical activism.  Doing this research on inauguration day was both difficult and heartening, a reminder that humanity has unlimited power to resist.  I hope you find comfort in the memory of these incredible people and movements from our shared history.

Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton was an American activist and revolutionary active in in the 1960’s.  By the tender age of 21, he was the Illinois chapter chairman of the Black Panther Party, and deputy chairman of the national BPP.  But I’m 30 and can’t figure out how to pay my Verizon Fios bill … so there’s that.

Hampton was murdered in his home in 1969 while he was sleeping by the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Despite the FBI’s claims that Hampton was killed in a shoot-out instigated by the Black Panther Party members present, all physical evidence pointed toward a targeted assassination.  In 1970, a civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of Hampton’s family and survivors present at the shooting.  After a series of trials and appeals, the federal government agreed to a settlement of $1.85 million.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc is considered a “heroine of France” for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War. She supported Charles VII and was a key player in paving the way for a French victory against English domination. She claimed to have received visions of the Archangel Michael and Saint Catherine of Alexandria to protect Charles VII and to liberate France.  She presented as gender-ambiguous, and dressed exclusively in military garb.  Though the extent of her participation in military campaigns is under debate, the French military was extraordinary successful during her tenure with them.

In 1430, she was captured by the Burgundian faction (an ally to the Brits) and later put on trial for heresy by the English. She continued to dress in traditionally masculine clothing in prison, to protect herself against rape, an offense that was later added to her heresy charges.  She was eventually found guilty and burned at the stake in 1431. She remains a cultural icon for many, and was canonized in 1920 as Saint Joan.  She is one of the nine secondary patron saints of France.

Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg was an American film actress.  Her first role was the titular character in Saint Joan ­– she was chosen from 18,000 young women by director Otto Preminger.  She was also a known supporter of the Black Panther Party and an advocate for racial justice. She financially supported many civil rights groups (Black Panthers, NAACP, Native American school groups) during her life, which resulted in the FBI using the COINTELPRO program to harass, intimidate, and discredit her. The COINTELPRO program was a series of projects used by the FBI to infiltrate and disrupt domestic political organizations. One of the tactics the FBI used to hurt Seberg was spreading a story that her child was fathered by a member of the Black Panther Party instead of her husband.

In 1979, Seberg disappeared and was found nine days later decomposing in her car. Her death was ruled a probable suicide, but charges were filed against an anonymous party for “non-assistance of a person in danger.”  Her second husband later publicly blamed the FBI’s campaign against her for her deteriorating mental health.

François Sagan

François Sagan was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter known for writing strong romances involving wealthy and disillusioned characters. Her best-known work is Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness), which she wrote as a teenager in 1954. Her work was seen as an icon for disillusioned teenagers and her narrative often displayed existential undertones. She was an avid drug user and was arrested for cocaine possession in the 1990s. She died of a pulmonary embolism in 2004.

French New Wave Cinema

New Wave is a blanket term for a group of French filmmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  New Wave filmmakers weren’t an organized movement, but they are bound together by their rejection of the popularity of literary period pieces.  They were eager to document social issues that were more current, and their style was characterized by using portable equipment, giving rise to documentary-style filmmaking.  Some prominent French New Wave figures are François Truffaut, Èric Rohmer, and Chris Marker.

Tahrir Square

Tahrir Square, also known as ‘Martyr Square’, is a public square in Cairo, Egypt.  In 2011, it was a focal point of the Egyptian revolution.  On January 25th, 50,000 protesters occupied the square demanding that the then-President Hosni Mubarak step down from his office.  By the 31st of January, Al Jazeera estimated that the numbers had swelled to over 300,000 people.  When Mubarak was finally removed from power in February, the protests erupted into a night-long celebration.  The next day, hundreds of Cairen residents came to clean up the square, removing eighteen days’ worth of trash and graffiti.  In the summer of 2013, millions of Egyptians again converged in Tahrir Square to demonstrate against President Mohamed Morsi.  Over the following days, the numbers swelled, and there were reported demonstrations in 18 locations across Cairo.  Many researchers claim that it is the largest revolution in modern-day history.  In July, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi announced the removal of President Mohamed Morsi.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement that campaigns against the systematic racism and violence toward black people.  The movement began on social media as a hashtag following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.  In the years since, BLM has become a highly organized movement, demonstrating regularly against police killings of black people, racial profiling, police brutality, and the racial inequity in the United States criminal justice system.

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street is a protest movement that begain in September of 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York’s Wall Street financial district.  The main issue raised by the movement is the social and economic inequality woven deep into the fabric of the United States.  The Occupy Wall Street slogan “We are the 99%” refers to the income inequality between the wealthiest 1% of the country and the rest of the population.  Occupy protests popped up in nearly every major city in the country.  In 2012, Naomi Wolf of The Guardian released documents which revealed that the FBI had monitored OWS through its Joint Terrorism Task Force, despite the fact that it was a peaceful movement.

Standing Rock Sioux Water Protectors

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is located in North Dakota and South Dakota and is occupied by ethnic Hunkpapa Lakota, Sihasapa Lakota, and Yanktonai Dakota.  It is the fifth-largest Native American reservation in the country.  In early 2016, construction was approved for the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline that was projected to run from the Bakken oil fields to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers as well as part of Lake Oahe.  The Standing Rock tribe consider the pipeline a direct threat to the region’s clean water and ancient burial grounds.  In April of 2016, Standing Rock Sioux elder established a camp as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline.  Over the summer, thousands of people traveled to the camp to lend their support in the protest.  Security workers, soldiers, and police have attempted to end protests using violent means, such as attack dogs, water cannons (often in subzero temperatures), and tear gas.  On December 4th, 2016, President Obama denied an easement for the construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River.  Many protesters continue to camp on the site, fearful that a Drumpf administration will immediately overturn that easement denial.

Gezi Park Protests

In 2013, a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Turkey began, initially to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Gezi Park.  This initial sit-in sparked protests and strikes across Turkey, protesting a wide range or concerns at the core of which were issues of freedom of the press, of expression, assembly, and the government’s encroachment on Turkey’s secularism.  3.5 million people are estimated to have taken an active part in almost 5,000 demonstrations across Turkey connected to the original Gezi Park protest.  Excessive use of force on the part of police resulted in eleven people killed and more than 8,000 injuries.

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist protest punk rock band based in Moscow.  They gained notoriety in 2011 through their unauthorized guerilla performances, which were later turned into music videos.  Their music and videos advocate for feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, and opposition to Vladimir Putin.  In February of 2012, two alleged members of the band (they wear balaclavas as masks during their public performances), were arrested for entering an Orthodox church and performing on the altar.  They were escorted out of the building after less than a minute, but it was long enough to anger the Kremlin. In March, another woman was arrested and charged.  In August, all three were convicted by the judge and sentenced to two years in a penal colony.  The judge stated that they had “crudely undermined the social order” with their protest.  At appeal, the conviction for one woman was overturned.  The two others were imprisoned, and engaged in numerous hunger strikes in protest.  Protests were held across the world after the sentence was announced.  They were released in December of 2013, and continue to be active both artistically and politically.

Hello! Sadness! runs at FringeArts January 26-28.  Click here for tickets/more information.

Annie and the Bastard

Posted November 30th, 2016

Annie Wilson (and her Bastard persona) were kind enough to answer a few questions about the origins and inspiration for At Home with the Humorless Bastard.  Enjoy her (their) responses below!

 

FA:  Do you remember where you were when you came up with the title, At home with the Humorless Bastard? Was there a particular inspiration?

ANNIE:  I don’t.

I came up with the title three years ago, so I don’t know or care what the initial inspiration was, haha. For me the title is in relationship now to a certain aspect of myself that comes out in dire moments. But it is also in relationship to a sense of security, danger, seriousness.

Actually, that’s probably not true. I set out to make a piece that wasn’t funny. My relationship to humor is fundamental, and I wanted to see what I would make if I put a simple but powerful restriction on my choreography. So far I’ve failed every time, but it’s still a generative question.

THE BASTARD:  Who cares where titles come from they’re almost always the worst part of a piece of art

 

FA:  What do you see as your main source material for this show? And how has that bent its way into the performance?

ANNIE: Water, waterfalls, wombs, grief, gravity, glitter, charles manson, chaos, the olympics, natural disasters, encephalopathy, ambition, guilt, shame, violence, relational aesthetics, the politics of mental illness, heroin, brain swelling, cell death, menstruation, banshees, scotland, keening, booze, magic, money, the eagles, tribalism, erica’s sports bar, gentrification, hopelessness, despair, “sexy nihilism”, spatial anything, reproduction, representation, poststructuralism, the cuisine in hospitals, and Death: The Musical.

I am putting all of that together and mashing them through the spaghetti strainer of my body. Then I’m taking the mashed-out result and laying it out in time and space, with and through an audience.

THE BASTARD: In short, imagine all the stupid shit a white middle class woman would get insomnia over, and that’s what the piece is. Imagine an angsty 16 year old who really loves Rachmaninoff because his music is so maudlin. Now imagine that 16 year old is 30, she is terrified of her body wearing down, and people around her keep dying and she can’t control any of it and has feelings about it. That’s basically the piece.

 

FA: What will the performance consist of?  

ANNIE: There is a dynamic set that gets constructed and torn apart throughout the course of the piece. There is a short video element, but no projections. There is glitter every goddamn where.

I am the only performer, but audience members will certainly become set pieces and stand ins for extra performers.

THE BASTARD: Imagine how you would furnish a darker corner of your heart. Imagine how you would furnish a room for someone that has brain damage and will never even be able to comprehend décor ever again; but you have to visit them on a regular basis so put a painting of a flower up, goddammit, we can’t have things be so glum in here, what are we just going to wallow in our feelings? I’m the only performer but I’ll be joined, as always, by the army of dead people that I love.

 

FA:  As a performer, what does the audience become for you when you are onstage? Do they take on a role for the show?

ANNIE: I generally hate pieces that involve audience participation, and yet I always literally include the audience when I’m making a solo. Partially that’s because I can’t be interesting for an entire evening. Part of it is that I get to turn a mirror on the audience. I think solos are the place where I get to rewrite social rules, just a little. To hopefully encounter each other and ourselves in a slightly different way.

That said, I tend to use folks as set design. So the most that I ask an audience to do is walk somewhere on stage, stand somewhere on stage, and look at something onstage. And maybe participate in a guided meditation through your darker self. So it’s not like, “hey we’re all gonna get up and do something embarrassing.” It’s more like, I’m doing the embarrassing stuff, you’re watching me from the upstage left corner of the stage. That said, we might all sing together.

THE BASTARD: I wrote a song one time and the only lyrics are: “I’m just a middle class white person, talking about middle class white problems, making art for middle class white people, so they can come and go ‘huh.’” I would say that’s about how I can describe my relationship to the audience. It’ll be a big circle jerk where we get to feel “deep” for 60 minutes, either in the appreciation of the piece or in our ability to rip it apart critically, which won’t be difficult to do. So the piece will really boost everyone’s egos by making them feel smart for being able to rip it apart. It’s my little gift to Fringe audiences who like to think they are in any way edgy or experimental or thoughtful.

 

FA: What do you anticipate that you will be fine-tuning for this show—or what are the things that you feel are most important to work out between now and the performances?

THE BASTARD: I hope to destroy the piece moments before the premiere.

 

Thanks Annie!  You too, Bastard.

 

At Home with the Humorless Bastard runs at FringeArts December 1-3.  Tickets and more information here.

Nowhere Fast: Woman Crush Wednes(every)day

Posted November 16th, 2016

What more is there to love about a production that is scored by a live set of gritty, guitar-fueled rock n’ roll? Perhaps that it features an all-female, all-Philly cast of dance-theater badasses.

To properly welcome the ladies that will take over the La Peg stage for one more show in November, here are a couple things you need to know about them (or watch out for) as told by their supporting characters.

Kit Loupez

“Kit kit kitty kit kit. Georgia’s ruthless right hand. I encountered her once and I hope never to see her shade of red ever again. Don’t tempt her with a good time, because that night will be your last.”

– Michelle Flynn

Winona Cross

Winona Cross, aye? I never met a more slim-slicking canary with such a lust for a thrill. She’s willing to slide herself into any tight spot, so long as there’s some green cush waiting to catch her fall.

— Georgia St. Regis

Maxine Malloy

Oh, my dear dear Max. Maxine. She’s my number one gal, the most loyal woman I’ve ever met. Sometimes that means she’s an absolute doormat, a real kitten in a lion’s den. But boy oh boy, can that broad hold a crowd when she’s got a hot mic.

— Winona Cross

Georgia St. Regis

Georgia will either pull you out of the gutter, or toss you in it. She’s the mother I never had and the sister I never wanted. She’s mean. She’s my queen. 

— Kit Loupež

Michelle Flynn

That’s one hard boiled broad at the bar. What’s she doing here? She ain’t no pigeon cabaret audience member, that’s certain. I’ve seen that look before–that’s a woman on a mission. Or a Case. Or both. 

— Max Malloy

 

Photos by Chris Koontz

Blurbs provided by the lovely ladies of BRAT Productions and Sam Tower + Ensemble.

BRAT Productions and Sam Tower + Ensemble present Nowhere Fast; November 11+17, 10:30pm.  Click here for more information and to buy tickets!

FEASTIVAL is almost here

Posted September 24th, 2016

The 2016 Fringe Festival is approaching its end, and while it’s tragic that our lives can’t always feature such a bevy of thrilling and thought-provoking performance, I’m sure everyone is ready to return to their normal routines that include things like sleep. But before you settle back into that same old, there’s still a bit of celebratory fun to be had here at FringeArts. The 2016 Audi FEASTIVAL, FringeArts’ annual fundraiser, is coming to the waterfront Thursday, September 29 and bringing some of Philadelphia’s best restaurants and performers in tow.

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(photo by Neal Santos)

For the first time in FEASTIVAL history, co-host Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Abe Fisher, Federal Donuts) will curate a live gastronomic performance, taking advantage of the event’s Fringe Fire Pit and PECO Ice Station to prepare some divine dishes that will be served directly to guests. Chefs Solomonov, Nick Macri (La Divisa Meats), and Brad Spence (representing Alla Spina and the Vetri Family of restaurants) will heat things up, manning two rotisseries and a grill, while Chefs Greg Vernick (Vernick Food + Drink) and Peter Serpico (Serpico) will keep it cool over at the ice station.

Food won’t be the only thing there to grab your attention though. After all, this is FringeArts. Circadium, the nation’s only school of contemporary circus, will astound you throughout the evening with stilt walkers, jugglers, contortionists, and aerialists providing quite the spectacle. Returning for their second FEASTIVAL, FringeArts favorites Red 40 & The Last Groovement will be bringing their raucous clown funk party back to their old stomping grounds with an LED video stage provided by Tait Towers. Inside FringeArts at the Audi Artist Lounge muralist Juan Dimida will live paint a 2017 Audi A4 over the course of the evening, utilizing a mix of traditional painting styles and cutting-edge digital art to achieve his innovative vision. Meanwhile in the lounge, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, a consistent Festival favorite, will be showcasing their wildly imaginative and daring brand of physical theater.

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#AllYourMarketing All Day, Every Day

Posted September 24th, 2016

Since the 2016 Fringe Festival opened on September 9, our indomitable marketing department hasn’t just been getting all the words out about it, they’ve been participating in it. #AllYourMarketingpart of Digital Fringe, found the audacious trio of Dan Comly, Anna Kroll, and Hallie Martenson live-streaming themselves at their desk throughout each long, arduous Festival work day. Every crisis, every triumph, every sandwich was on display for all the world to see. Sadly, just as the Festival must come to an end, so must this bold exercise in transparency. The stream will be going offline after today, but if you missed any of the excitement check out some highlights below.

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THINGS ARE HAPPENING. Happy Festival. — Hallie

listening-to-hold-music-featuring-nick-anna

Listening to hold music [featuring Nick Stuccio]. — Anna

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Lonely Saturday in the office. Keep me company? — Hallie

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Dito van Reigersberg

Posted September 23rd, 2016
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Dito Van Reigersberg in Zero Cost House (photo by JJ Tiziou)

Name: Dito van Reigersberg, sometimes Martha Graham Cracker

Type of Artist: Actor/Cabaret Performer

CompanyPig Iron Theatre Company, Co-Founder

This is a partial list of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Cafeteria, Pig Iron, 1997 (First Fringe!) – Charlotte the cafeteria lady
The Lorca Cycle, Pig Iron, 1999 – Federico
Shut Eye, Pig Iron, 2001 – Clark
Hell Meets Henry Halfway, Pig Iron, 2004 – Henry
Isabella, Pig Iron, 2007 – Angelo
Welcome to Yuba City, Pig Iron, 2009 – Tom White/Joaquin
Takes, Nichole Canuso Dance Company, 2010
Oedipus at FDR Park, 2010, – Messenger
Twelfth Night or What You Will, Pig Iron, 2011 – Orsino
Zero Cost House, Pig Iron, 2012 – Present Okada
Pay Up, Pig Iron, 2013 – Scene 21

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016: I’m mostly watching this year but then closing the festival with a Martha Graham Cracker show at FringeArts on the 24th of September, with some special guests I’m very excited about. I’ll also be doing sprints to prepare for scaling the steep seating risers of the FringeArts theatre. I have lovingly dubbed those FringeArts stairs “the K2 of alternative theatre.”

First Fringe I attended and highlight: I moved to Philly just in time for the first Festival in 1997.  During that first Fringe I remember meeting the incredible members of Headlong Dance Theater and New Paradise Labs, who by now have become lifelong friends (I think Whit McLaughlin let us Pig Ironers watch a dress rehearsal of Gold Russian Finger Love, a sort of James Bond fantasia which was deliciously odd and unforgettably beautiful); I guess that was the moment I realized that, as the Talking Heads might say, “this must be the place.”

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from Cafeteria (photo by JJ Tiziou)

First Fringe I participated in: So when we arrived in Philly in 1997, we had rehearsed all summer at Swarthmore College to make a wordless piece about the American life-cycle called Cafeteria. The piece is set in junior high, a corporate and then a retirement home cafeteria, and all the dramatic action in the show is told in movement. We had no audience in Philly, no sense of what kind of reach the Fringe might have, and also we had this new, weird, hard-to-categorize piece to try to sell. Thankfully we were veterans of the Edinburgh Fringe, so we shamelessly flyered for the show all over town like mad people and hoped for the best.

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Inhabiting habitus

Posted September 23rd, 2016

There’s something special happening across the street from FringeArts. habitus, organized by the Fabric Workshop and Museum and part of the 2016 Fringe Festival, is on view now at Municipal Pier 9 until October 10, free and open to the public during scheduled hours. Visitors have found themselves enraptured by the dreamlike beauty of this interactive interior landscape. Here are just some of the recent posts showing off the serene spectacle of this must visit installation.

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Horsin’ Around at the Navy Yard

Posted September 22nd, 2016

Tonight Julius Caesar. Spared Parts will have its Philadelphia premiere as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival, but yesterday there was some important, neigh vital, preparation to tend to for this play from revered Italian theater artist Romeo Castellucci. You see, this provocative and surreal meditation on power and our collective reliance on a societal scapegoat requires a little nonhuman assistance to fully realize.

No, a goat would be too on the nose, c’mon. We’re talking horses. I even did the “neigh” thing back there. You thought it was just a typo. Nope. Clumsily placed horse pun. I’ll do my best to restrain myself from here on out.

But yes, a horse. Turns out Gala wasn’t the only Festival show that required some local casting. Meet Pete, the horse (and Shane the person). img_4919

As our intrepid production crew was preparing the set inside Building 694 of the Navy Yard, Pete swung by to see if he had what it took to land the role of a lifetime. A vast, mostly empty warehouse previously used as a food sorting space for the navy way back when, Building 694 is just a short stroll away from the Navy Yard’s main entrance, past a fleet of decommissioned navy destroyers. It’s also the perfect space to amplify the sounds of the subtle, but essential movements at play within the show. That, and the click clack of hooves.

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Ah yes, the familiar sights of the theater.

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The exterior of Building 694…

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An International Message for World Theatre Day from Brett Bailey

Posted September 22nd, 2016

untitledCreated in 1961, World Theatre Day, is celebrated annually on March 27 by International Theatre Institute Centers around the world and the international theatre community. Each year, a renowned theatre artist of world stature is invited to craft an International Message to mark the global occasion. In 2014 Brett Bailey, acclaimed South African theater artist and creator/director of Macbeth, shared this message, a rallying cry for performing artists everywhere to truly embrace the power of their platform and wield it for the greater good. Find more info on World Theatre Day as well as messages from years past here.


Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests.

Under trees in tiny villages, and on high tech stages in global metropolis; in school halls and in fields and in temples; in slums, in urban plazas, community centres and inner-city basements, people are drawn together to commune in the ephemeral theatrical worlds that we create to express our human complexity, our diversity, our vulnerability, in living flesh, and breath, and voice.

We gather to weep and to remember; to laugh and to contemplate; to learn and to affirm and to imagine. To wonder at technical dexterity, and to incarnate gods. To catch our collective breath at our capacity for beauty and compassion and monstrosity. We come to be energized, and to be empowered. To celebrate the wealth of our various cultures, and to dissolve the boundaries that divide us.

Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests. Born of community, it wears the masks and the costumes of our varied traditions. It harnesses our languages and rhythms and gestures, and clears a space in our midst.

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Memories of Dance: An Interview with Faustin Linyekula

Posted September 21st, 2016

Faustin Linyekula is a renowned Congolese dancer and choreographer, and the founder of Studios Kabako, based in Kisangani. Le Cargo, Linyekula’s first and only solo dance piece,  finds him adopting the roles of storyteller and dancer in tandem as he leads his audience on an arresting and deeply personal journey to his homeland—a country marked by decades of violence and unrest that persists to this day—in search of a dance from his childhood that has since been erased. FringeArts recently spoke with Linyekula about the origins of the piece and the role of the storyteller in performance.


FringeArts: What is the origin of the title Le Cargo

Faustin Linyekula: Le Cargo was initially the title of a carte blanche given to me by the Centre National de la Danse in France in 2003. We proposed, over 4 days, a cargo full of artists and artistic proposals from the African continent. I wanted to call it “Cargo nègre” but it was too polemical for a public institution. I kept this title for the solo. It refers to the idea of (shameful?) trade, (easy?) exoticism, travel, and to this journey into my oldest memories of dance.

Le Cargo, ChorÈgraphie et interprÈtation : Faustin Linyekula Studios Kabako - crÈation 2011 - Centre national de la danse

Faustin Linyekula in Le Cargo (photo by Agathe Poupeney)

FA: Can you discuss some of the background of the piece?

Faustin Linyekula: I have never made any solo. Until today, I have only created this very solo simply because I believed and I still believe that the whole point of making work is not to be alone. It’s actually to try and find a place where you share something with people. You doubt together. You dream together.

So it was only in 2011 that I created my first solo. This was my way of celebrating the tenth anniversary of our company, the Studios Kabako, in the Congo. So it was a way of asking myself, “What’s next?”

FA: How did you transform so much personal and national memory and history into art? 

Faustin Linyekula: I don’t have so much imagination, so I take what is around me, what life gives to me.

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