Fringe Arts

FringeArts Blog

The Sincerity Project Photo Diary: Ben seeks and imparts vital knowledge

Posted August 26th, 2016

In 2014, an ensemble of seven intrepid Philadelphia performers gathered at FringeArts to present the first of what will be 13 iterations of the same structured performance. The Sincerity Project is a radical experiment in bringing honesty to a space familiar with artifice, a theatrical anti-play ritual from Team Sunshine Performance Corporation that will be recreated biennially for 24 years. FringeArts is proud to present the second iteration of this ambitious endeavor as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Each cast member has shared a collection of photographs from the last two years of their lives, and in anticipation of the premiere we will be presenting a selection of them over the course of the next few weeks.


2015-08-02 15.10.42

Just wanted to see what they tasted like. — Benjamin Camp


2015-07-09 17.35.18

Discovering selfies. — Benjamin Camp

Belonging and not wanting to: An interview with Reggie Wilson

Posted August 26th, 2016

Reggie Wilson creates choreography drawing from the spiritual and mundane traditions of Africa and its Diaspora. His company, Fist and Heel Performance Group—described on it’s website as “Not your mama’s post-modern dance company”—derives its name from practices of enslaved Africans in the Americas who reinvented their spiritual traditions into a deep, soulful art form dismissed by overseers as “fist and heel worshipping.” He has lectured, taught, conducted workshops, community projects, and has had his work presented nationally and internationally. He returns to the Fringe Festival this September, premiering his latest work, CITIZENas part of our opening night celebration. Reggie spoke with FringeArts earlier this summer about finding inspiration in the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston, his family history, and his travels as well as the evolution of the piece.

IMG_6801FringeArts: What was the initial inspiration for CITIZEN?

Reggie Wilson: Things were probably brewing before my visit to Paris in January 2014. But that’s when the questioning became more evident. I started thinking there was something to this recurring idea and that I wanted to pursue it. I continue to always be inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, her life and her works. The fact that Zora always came back to America, made her life and work here, even though friends and other artists went to other countries, many to Paris, because they couldn’t, didn’t want to deal with an America that was telling them that they were not wanted, that they were less than.

Around that same time Memphis Ballet asked me to create a work for their “I AM” Project.  I was invited to work with the theme I AM A MAN. Ideas began to percolate and as I began to do research for this commission.  More and more questions about what it means to be a citizen in America, over history to-date started to saturate my thoughts.  So as exotic as Paris was to say that it was the initial place of inspiration, I feel that it was Memphis and the Mississippi Delta that was really the confirmation point-of-inspiration for my new work CITIZEN. More research and inspirations were made as I worked on an 18 month long project called Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia with the Painted Bride in Philly.

CITIZEN by Reggie Wilson Fist & Heel Performance Group-1-Raja Kelly picturedFA: What have you been observing to draw from for the movement of your dancers?

RW: I have kept it no secret that one of my main focuses has been migrations of the folks of the African Diaspora. This may stem from searches to know my own family’s branches and migrations up north from the Mississippi Delta to Milwaukee, where I was born. My interest in various migrations has expanded and has influenced many aspects of my work. I travel quite a bit, so that I can culturally experience much of the Diaspora from the inside.  But as much as I’m let in, in so many places I remain and will be an outsider in various ways. Nevertheless, what I see, experience, smell, taste, enjoy, get traumatized by… causes much stirring inside me and is processed, filtered and comes out in the movement and performances. It’s good, tough, challenging work but I wouldn’t have it another way. So, traveling is my best source material. I think it has to do with destabilizing myself enough so that I can see/experience differently, question my own perceptions, eliminate ‘judginess’ so that I can see motional ideas within cultures and be stimulated by everydayness and humanity.

Recently, I was able to revisit South Africa and Zimbabwe on holiday and was also able to return to Senegal to do some work with young choreographers. Going to these places often changes/affects me so I expect that there will be some ‘additions’, tweaks that will bubble through as we continue to develop and prepare CITIZEN for its premiere.

Clement mensahFA: What have you been discussing with your dancers?

RW: The Rhythm. The rhythms. And also the clarity of the individual movements and phrases are really important to me. Their weight and rootedness in their pelvis are especially significant; their directions, facings. We talk about resilience, determination and how it emerges out of the repetition. Anonymity vs. a sense of community and civic duties; co-existence of contradictions, irony, dignity, freedom, the past, the present… what does it means to them personally. This stuff gets woven into the texture of the choreography and exudes implicitly and explicitly. The performers have a lot to contend with and think about; I think it’s their rigor and use of their immense skills and stamina that are making the work into a powerful dialogue.

FA: You are investigating these two ideas simultaneously: “What does it mean to belong” and “What does it mean to NOT want to belong.” What brought about this second idea joining the first?

RW: I believe it comes out of a general belief of accepting “both/and.” That’s a long story…  However related to black folks (as well as many many others I am sure), the contradictory feeling of belonging somewhere or to some group then because of maltreatment also having the feeling of not wanting to belong.  Why should someone want to belong where they are not wanted?


Well… I will refer back to an initial point-of-research, Zora Neale Hurston… what was it? What was the struggle, the internal and external dialogue that she must have gone through?  Always coming back home.  How much did she feel appreciated and yet struggle with her civic duties? And she’s not the only one. There are many artists of the Harlem Renaissance and other periods of American and world history… it’s still going on today. These are questions that many immigrants face in regards to their own homelands, not just in America. Sometimes it’s in the mind and sometimes it’s very real practical conditions that distort the mind, heart, and perceptions.

FA: Can you discuss how the work has evolved from initial idea to current rehearsals?

RW: In the studio I started by thinking about creating the movement and phrases, putting that in place before focusing on the technical production elements. Movement phrases were worked on and continue evolving to-date. This is the solid base on which other ideas can be examined and layered. I have never previously wanted to experiment with film footage/video projection in my work. Currently, I have been concerned about how to maintain the power and communication in the movement vs. the visual pull of the video. Motion seems to be a common link and theme between the two disciplines.  This is in addition to balancing the core points/questions “What does it mean to belong” and “What does it mean to NOT want to belong.” My challenge is how to balance and not balance the movement and footage to make a provocative work.anna schon

CITIZEN recently completed a full production residency where we worked on figuring out how the lights, including shadows and silhouettes, work with the projected video footage (as a lighting source itself, scaling of the images, placement(s) in the space, use of multiple angles, use of the floor and corners of space as projection surfaces) layered on top of the movement. Interesting things are emerging but of course as much as we find out, the more questions we find that we have ponder/solve.

It’s very difficult to talk in practical/direct terms about how work goes from questioning, to research to studio movement, back to ideas, to editing, to fleshing out, to performance… this is some of the beauty and possibility of the Dance.

FA: What are the aspects that you see yourself most fine tuning in CITIZEN? What do you find yourself repeating to your dancers?

RW: Use your weight; What direction is your pelvis? Think about the articulation of your???… Think about the ‘motion-ality’ and rhythm… What do you think you are doing?

Fringe Festival 2016 Roundup: Messing with Shakespeare

Posted August 25th, 2016

Drawing inspiration from the immortal works of the Bard of Avon, these shows provide fresh interpretations for the well trodden material. If you’re looking for unique perspectives on some of Shakespeare’s classics, be sure to check them out!


(photo by Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez)

Bedlam: Shakespeare in Rehab @ St. John the Baptist Church
Manayunk Theatre Company

Bedlam: Shakespeare in Rehab takes everything you know about classic theater and turns it on its head. Shakespearean Heroines are ripped out of their respective stories and thrown into a haunting, run down institution. Characters and audience alike are immersed in a world of mental health. More info and tickets here.

omeletto body

(photo by Oreste Montebello)

Omeletto: Like Hamlet, Only Scrambled @ Liberty Lands Park

Ombelico Mask Ensemble

Told through the lens of commedia dell’rte, the story of Hamlet gets a deconstructed re-imagining that only Ombelico Mask Ensemble can deliver. Come and see your favorite commedia characters’ (Arlecchino, Pantelone, Capitano, and the rest) take on the Bard. Performed in English, Italian, and French. More info and tickets here.

ophelia fringe


Drowning Ophelia @ The Iron Factory

Ensemble Atria and EagerRisk Theater

Jane doesn’t know what to do with the literary character who has taken up residence in her bathtub. She doesn’t want Ophelia interrupting the obsessive order of her life with obnoxious songs. Ophelia doesn’t care about what Jane wants, only what she needs. But, how do you move on when reconciliation is not an option? More info and tickets here.



(photo by Luca Del Pia)

Julius Caesar. Spared Parts @ The Navy Yard, Building 694

Romeo Castellucci / Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio

Famed Italian director Romeo Castellucci re-envisions his groundbreaking 1997 production Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) as a series of “fragments” rearranged and positioned against each other—a clash between the ethereal and the obscure, the power of rhetoric and language stripped to its source. A Julius Caesar who “speaks” only through gestures—an old Caesar, no longer possessing power, his gestures move the air and produce a sound. Mark Anthony’s funeral oration delivered by a man without vocal chords, whose voice is produced solely from his stomach and esophagus. A third actor delivers a dialogue on the state of Rome, an endoscope inserted through his nostrils so the audience can see his vocal chords vibrating in real time. In life, in theater, what do words hide, where does their power emerge from? More info and tickets here.

King John


King John @ Hawthorne Park

Revolution Shakespeare

Intrigue. Murder. War. This King John is set in a future after the collapse of civilization. A corrupt ruling class, after seizing power, finds itself embroiled in a vicious struggle for total dominance. With political relevancy that mirrors our own time, King John asks “Where do you stand?” More info and tickets here.


MACBETH (Owen Metsileng) and LADY MACBETH (Nobulumko Mngxekeza) - photo by BRETT BAILEY & MORNE VAN ZYL

(photo by Brett Bailey & Morne Van Zyl)

Macbeth @ Prince Theater

Third World Bunfight

In a country of multinational double-dealings, ethnic conflict, ruthless militia, blood minerals, and glittering Chinese imports, a warlord, General Macbeth, and his ambitious wife murder the king and unleash atrocities on the crumbling province that they seize. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Macbeth uses the Verdi opera (condensed to 100 minutes and infused with African rhythms) to bring themes of greed, tyranny, and corruption in postcolonial Africa to the stage. More info and tickets here.

Fringe at 20 Profile: Shelli Pentimall Bookler

Posted August 24th, 2016
Headshot Full 2016

Shelli Pentimall Bookler, photo by Chorus Photography

Name: Shelli Pentimall Bookler

Type of Artist: Producer, director, actor, playwright

Company: Underbite Theatre Company

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Snyder v Phelps, the Musical, 2014 – Director
Salesmanship for Life and Limb, Tall Grass Productions, 2012 – Performer
Alchemy of Desire, 2008 – Performer

First Fringe I participated inAlchemy of Desire. I was so excited to see us covered on a local television news broadcast!

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: My musical, Snyder v Phelps is based on the controversial 2011 Supreme Court decision for the Westboro Baptist Church. On our opening night, Al Snyder, father of the marine who was killed in Iraq, who sued Fred Phelps and the WBC after they protested his funeral with signs reading “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” attended the performance and met the cast afterwards.


(L to R) Brittany Adams Recupero, Katie Romano McGrier, Marty Sherman, Maria Leonetti, Marquis Wilson in Snyder v Phelps (photo by Kevin Monko)

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experiencedSalesmanship of Life and Limb was a wonderfully absurd comedy where a group of sales folk bought into the theory that is we amputated our limbs, the blood flow would be more confined to our brains and we would be more brilliant and creative. The end of the play had us all hobbling around with our missing limbs and featured our mentor with just his head on a podium, proud and still promoting his theory.

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: A few years ago I saw an opera of stories by Edgar Allen Poe. The music was brilliant the stories true to the text and there was a lot of creativity in the staging and lighting and was a great way to connect contemporary audiences to a classic genre.

The Sincerity Project Photo Diary: Jenna in VT

Posted August 24th, 2016

In 2014, an ensemble of seven intrepid Philadelphia performers gathered at FringeArts to present the first of what will be 13 iterations of the same structured performance. The Sincerity Project is a radical experiment in bringing honesty to a space familiar with artifice, a theatrical anti-play ritual from Team Sunshine Performance Corporation that will be recreated biennially for 24 years. FringeArts is proud to present the second iteration of this ambitious endeavor as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Each cast member has shared a collection of photographs from the last two years of their lives, and in anticipation of the premiere we will be presenting a selection of them over the course of the next few weeks.


Tuce Yasak covering me in clay in an installation up at the Shakleton’s in Woodstock, VT — Jenna Horton


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Drying off and warming up after nearly going into shock from getting hosed off post being covered in clay for an hour. VT, July 2015 — Jenna Horton

Fringe Festival 2016 Roundup: Shows Exploring LGBTQ+ Identity

Posted August 23rd, 2016

Check out this eclectic mix of independent Fringe shows from the artists of the LGBTQ+ community!

an obviously foggot

(Image by Geoffrey Douglas)

An Obviously Foggot @ iCandy

Poison Apple Initiative

“So you’ve got a group of people who fetishize masculinity, who’re emasculated their whole lives, and you stick them in this place with all this booze and drugs and hierarchy. What’d you think was gonna happen?” A collision of found text, broken pop, and dance parties confronting internalized homophobia in gay bars. More info and tickets here.



Photo by Monique Baron

(Photo by Monique Baron)

BIG CRUNCH @ Vox Populi

TOLVA/Sam Congdon

The world has gone rigid. Gender roles are strictly enforced by a ruthless government. There is a queer rage bubbling up through one cyborg’s circuitry, but can a single robot bring it all down? A queer sci-fi odyssey of self-discovery and rebellion blending solo performance, experimental electronic music, and video. More info and tickets here.



Photo by Steve Belkowitz

(Photo by Steve Belkowitz)

Carried Away @ JUNK Studio

Brian Sanders’ JUNK

I end up here, shame under pride, head on locker, denim near denim, skin against satin, disco within punk, leather around wrists, fist off canvas, lips about nape, hand for hand, looking back in time. I was carried away. More info and tickets here.



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FringeArts’ beer is on its way…

Posted August 23rd, 2016

Saint Benjamin Brewing Company is cooking up the Fringe Festival beer, Fringe Benefit. Check out these recent pictures of the hardworking team adding heather to the brew, and be sure to stay tuned to the blog to find out where to get yourself a pint!

IMG_20160729_130453635_HDR                                   IMG_20160729_132331342

Fringe at 20 Profile Rundown, Pt. 1

Posted August 19th, 2016

If you haven’t been keeping up with us here at the indispensable FringeArts blog, shame on you. Where’s our bookmark? Just kidding, we love you dear reader, please don’t X us out. We get it, there’s a lot of great content out there to scroll. There’s even more not so great content, but it’s flashy and has some excellent gifs and sometimes that’s what really counts.

So in case you haven’t checked in lately we thought we’d let you know we’ve been posting some truly wonderful profiles of repeat Festival participants—veterans and newcomers alike—that you’re not going to want to miss. Learn about all the triumphs and travails of your favorite local artists, get acquainted with some new ones, and discover what goes into making the Fringe Festival the flurry of fearless creativity that it is.

Below you’ll find all the profiles that have been published thus far, but be sure to stay tuned because there’s plenty more where that came from. We’ll be posting even more of these fantastic reminiscences as we count down the days to the 20th Fringe Festival.


Fringe Festival 2016 Roundup: Philadelphia Museums in the Fringe

Posted August 17th, 2016

Museums come to life in these upcoming Fringe shows! Be sure to catch them all before the exhibits run away.

The Eumenides @ The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology


White Box Theater, directed by Marcia Ferguson

Third in Aeschylus’ classic Oresteia trilogy, performed amidst extraordinary ancient artifacts in Penn’s Museum. A story about mother-murder, the foundations of our juried justice system, and shifts in world order—gorgeous, and elegant, a substantial work. More info and tickets here.

Colored Girls Museum Presents A Good Nights Sleep_The Colored Girls MuseumThe Colored Girls Museum Presents: A Good Nights Sleep

The Colored Girls Museum

The Colored Girls Museum is an apostate arts colony, headquartered in the backwoods of Germantown. Settled by a collective of nomadic travelers, the Colored Girls Museum (CGM) re-imagines the museum as an imaginative & restorative temple that nurtures and celebrates the “Ordinary, Extraordinary Colored Girl.” More info and tickets here.


Room 21 @ the Barnes Foundation


Jace Clayton

This site-specific performance is an inspired musical response to the artworks of Room 21 at the Barnes Foundation and Albert Barnes’ extensive record collection. The actual Room 21 displays an eclectic mix of Pennsylvania German furniture, Modigliani’s painting Reclining Nude from the Back, African masks, religious works, and paintings by Barnes students. Composer Jace Clayton (also known as DJ /rupture) plays on ideas of adjacency between vastly different artists and cultures. Carefully choreographed, Clayton’s concert rewards roaming through the performance, much like visitors roam through the art collection. More info and tickets here.

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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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