Fringe Arts

FringeArts Blog

Seeing Philly through Rockstar Eyes

Posted July 25th, 2016

catgif“Hi, I’m Ryan, and I am a human being,” Sonia Petruse says as she begins any performance of Sonia as Ryan, Ryan as Drag. Ryan is Ryan Adams, the prolific singer-songwriter and 90s heartthrob, or as Sonia affectionately refers to him, DRA (his full initials, David Ryan Adams). For the past year Sonia has been singing, blogging, taking photos and surrounding herself with domestic objects posing as Adams—inspired by a Halloween costume she created seven years ago. This fall she brings Adams to the Digital Fringe in a video created with Laura Storck. She fondly recalls specific teenage memories associated with every DRA record, “before listening to Ryan and his other bands like Whiskeytown and Sad Dracula, I could never turn to one artist for so many different emotions,” Sonia recalls.

“I look back to times I was sheltered by his albums: Love is Hell through college, Jacksonville City Nights through the loss of my childhood home, Cardinology when I was lost in LA, III/IV after a breakup and Cold Roses forever.”

Sonia confesses that she finds most forms of fandom horrifying. Why? “We are in a strange part of human history, where celebrities are treated like gods,” she muses. While Sonia is undoubtedly a fan of Ryan Adams and performs drag as admiration, she wants to honor him as a human and an artist rather than a deity, saying “I’m a big supporter of Ryan, just like I’m a big supporter of my friends and peers within art.”

Ryan in front of 7-11

Sonia as Ryan in front of 7-11, his favorite store

Sonia reconstructs elements of Adams’ life masterfully, with impeccable attention to detail. She performs with what she refers to as “Ryan props”: stuffed cats, a peace flag, a crocheted blanket and boxes of Cheez-Its. Sonia isn’t just emulating Ryan, she says “[it’s] one of my missions with this performance, to mesh dialogue of my own with Ryan’s, because I find similarities in our personal memoirs.” In conversation, Sonia affectionately uses the plural “we” to describe herself and Adams, almost as old friends. 

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Animal Farm to Table: a new kind of dinner theater

Posted July 19th, 2016

 

“Food is an engine for conversation as well as understanding a culture that is unlike our own.”

What is a food utopia? Writer and Artistic Director of the Renegade Company, Mike Durkin, admits that he doesn’t know what this ideal would look like. However, through Renegade’s new production, Animal Farm to Table, he hopes performers and audience members can put their heads together to understand what a food utopia might be and how it may be reached. Durkin believes that “food is an engine for conversation as well as understanding a culture that is unlike our own.”

An 3Animal Farm to Table is not a traditional theater experience. There isn’t a fourth wall to be broken because there are no walls. Described as one part performance, one part town-hall style discussion, and one part meal, Animal Farm to Table follows in the footsteps of previous Renegade shows. The Renegade Company partners with local artisans and community organizations to present familiar stories in new ways, reimagining and applying them to life in Philadelphia. They have presented shows in the Fringe Festival for the past four years, including productions such as Bathtub Moby-Dick and The Hunchback of Notre Dame . . . A Mute Play, with titles telling of their experimental nature.

In Animal Farm to Table George Orwell’s allegorical, dystopian novella, Animal Farm, emerges at the Urban Creators’ Farm in North Philly where the audience will forage for food in preparation for the meal communally prepared at the end of the show. In Orwell’s novella the shortage of food, and the animals’ inability to access food without the farmer motivate their revolt. Although food is Orwell’s use, his tale demonstrates the power of sustenance to affect human interactions. For Renegade’s audience the food will be literal. “A key to this production is to come in with an open mind and open stomach,” Durkin advises.

Mike Durkin worked at a branch of the Free Library adjacent to the Urban Creators’ Farm in Nicetown when he became interested in food culture in Philadelphia. He observed the food culture of the farm, noted what his students ate, as a result the idea for Animal Farm to Table arose. Together with community partner, Farm to City, Renegade began working on Animal Farm to Table by distributing surveys related to food purchases at the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market. Renegade wanted to find out how Philadelphians feel about access to sustainable foods, food hierarchy, and ethical consumption. Many of the answers Renegade received dealt with the question of quality rather than access, but Durkin doesn’t despair. In the coming weeks he’s conducting further surveys at the Port Richmond Farmer’s Market.

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Invisible River Celebrates Our Waterways

Posted July 12th, 2016

Invisible River presents two exciting events in their July festival that will make you rethink your relationship with the Schuylkill River. The festival kicks off July 15th with Beck Epoch, a two-night aerial dance performance above the Schuylkill River. The festivities continue on Saturday, July 16th with Schuylkill River Arts Day (SRAD), a day-long celebration of the Schuylkill River through performing arts and water activities. Events are free to the public and feature live performances by local Philadelphia artists including the African Diaspora Artist Collective, Almanac Dance Circus Theater, Positive Movement Drum Line, and others.

BECK EPOCH art

The Schuylkill River and riverside trail are well known as popular destinations for recreation, but for Invisible River director Alie Vidich and her team of water visionaries, the Schuylkill is much more than that. The Schuylkill (a name which derives from the Dutch for “hidden” and “creek”) is the birthplace of Philadelphia, a continual natural resource, and a source of creative energy. Invisible River’s aim is to build community around a shared sense of place through the arts and to encourage stewardship for Philadelphia waterways.

The artists performing in SRAD explore how movement-based practices can transform our understanding of Philadelphia’s rivers. Festival artist Anna Kroll, performer and co-creator of River Mermaids, describes the festival as an event designed to bring “more attention to bodies of water so that people care.” Part of this is “spending more time looking” at the water through artistic engagement and “forcing yourself to notice something that is prominent, but taken for granted.” For Kroll, being on the water in a boat is a meditative experience, when time seems to slow as the current moves past.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Adrienne Mackey

Posted July 11th, 2016

Name: Adrienne Mackey

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Type of Artist: Theater and lately interdisciplinary

Company: Swim Pony Performing Arts

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
A Portrait of Dora as a Young Man, Stolen Chair Theatre Co, 2003 – actor
Hell Meets Henry Halfway, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2004 – assistant director, sound operator
Like Ink and Paper, 2004 – director
Bardo, Leah Stein Dance Company, 2005 – production manager and vocalist
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2006 – director
recitatif, 2007 – director
Echo, Tribe of Fools, 2007 – director
The Giant Squid, The Berserker Residents, 2008 – director
Purr, Pull, Reign, Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret, 2009 – director
Lady M, 2011 – director
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013 – director
It’s So Learning, The Berserker Residents, 2015 – outside eye – fringe

Also a past LAB fellow.

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Possibly working with Mary McCool on her in-progress piece. Still not definite . . .

First Fringe I attended: My initial experience with Fringe was in 2000 as a first semester freshman in college. I was only weeks into school, living away from home for the first time and so excited to see what Philly’s arts scene had to offer. I remember taking the train into Philly with some guy on my hall named Dima who I barely knew. We picked a show at random—all I remember about it was that it was a middle-aged woman in a tutu who took off all her clothes halfway through the show. I had no idea what was happening and I remember feeling both overwhelmed and extremely cool to be doing something so weird. Later that same festival I saw a play in a karate dojo in which actors were trapped in a scene with their own feelings portrayed by other actors wearing black and white mime makeup. Sort of Marcel Marceau meets No Exit by way of Pirandello. I remember thinking, “I could do that.” Two years later I was in my first fringe show.

First Fringe I participated in: While I was still a junior in college I acted in a show called Portrait of Dora as a Young Man that explored Freud’s famous case of Dora, one of the few women who ever rebelled against his analytic theories. We rehearsed an entire summer together at Swarthmore College—a mix of folks who had just graduated and a bunch of us still in school. We lived together and worked together in this commune-style experiment in creative collaboration. I played Herr K, a neighbor to the young troubled girl, I think, it’s all a blur now and designated this mostly using an old fedora and trying to talk in a low voice.

 The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

What a gorgeous mess! I broke up with my boyfriend, the director, near the end of the process and half of us ended up furious with each other because we would rehearse all day and then have to go home and sleep 10 people in a tiny house with no room to get away from each other. I remember taking the train into Philly from Swarthmore and setting up a dress form mannequin in the courtyard of the old National Museum of American Jewish History (behind the bank on 5th and Market). I did an entire scene puppetting that inanimate mannequin while playing a German man named Herr K. Dear god, we had no idea what we were doing—all the actors wore khaki pants and either a forest green or maroon long sleeved shirt and did vocal warm ups outside the museum’s entrance as homeless people passed by looking at us in mild horror.

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Fringe at 20: John Schultz

Posted July 6th, 2016

Name: John SchultzJohn Schultz Headshot-003

Type of Artist: Actor/Director

Company: Bright Invention

Fringe shows I’ve participated:
Missed Connections, 2009 – actor
The Heart of the Revolution, 2013 – actor
Till Birnam Wood . . . , 2014 – director, producer, actor

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016: This year I’ll be directing and producing my second immersive rendering of Shakespeare, Let’s Fuck Around With Hamlet.  The piece will be running in the Power Plant basement, and will be a show for anyone who hates Shakespeare and anyone who loves Shakespeare just little too much.

First Fringe I attended: I don’t remember the first Fringe show that I saw, but the first Fringe show to really leave its mark was Gunnar Montana’s Resurrection Room. I had never experienced that kind of work in Philly before. It was incredible.

First Fringe I participated in: My first Fringe show was in 2009, Missed Connections. It was a piece based entirely on found Craigslist postings. I believe it was among the first shows in West Philly, we ran at Curio Theatre, and at one point I delivered a monologue dressed as a giant cock. A penis, not a rooster. There is a picture out there somewhere.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Bruce Walsh

Posted June 29th, 2016

Name: Bruce Walsh

Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969 (2012) (l - r) Rob Weatherington (Chomsky) and Bruce Walsh

Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969 (2012)
(l – r) Rob Weatherington (Chomsky) and Bruce Walsh

Type of Artist: Playwright

Companies: Kaibutsu. And I did a show with Chris Davis, Douglas Williams, and Sarah Mantel.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
The Wounded Body, 2002 – playwright
Dasein, 2002 – playwright
The Guided Tour, 2004 – playwright, director
Northern Liberty, 2005 – playwright
The Guided Tour, reprise, 2006 – playwright
Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969, 2012 – playwright, director
Holly’s Dead Soldiers, 2013 – co-playwright, co-director

First Fringe I attended: 1998. I was a sophomore at Temple University. I saw the opening performance of Brat Productions’ A 24-Hour The Bald Soprano, directed by Madi Distefano. It remains one of the highlights of my theater-going life. I was pretty much right out of high school. I think the edgiest thing I had seen to that point was Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July. I had no idea theater could be so bizarre, ridiculous, hilarious, lugubrious, et cetera, et cetera. At about 2 a.m. that night, I hailed a cab and watched three more performances. In one of them, the Maid stepped off the stage, sat in my lap, and gave her monologue while tussling my hair.

First Fringe I participated in: 2000. My friend Chanel Benz—now a novelist in Mississippi (long story)—produced and directed two of my very greenest, decidedly experimental short plays. It was on the third floor of Christ Church, and it was something like 104 degrees up there. Just before the show started, the ushers turned off the fans so the audience could hear every single word clearly! There was this very loud collective moan, and . . . lights up! I wanted to run screaming. Chanel and the actors did a wonderful job, though.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Meghann Williams

Posted June 27th, 2016

Name: Meghann Williams

credit: Lauren Schwarz

credit: Lauren Schwarz

Type of Artist: director, burlesquer, writer, props maker, teller of dirty jokes

Companies: I am one-half of Chlamydia dell’Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque (with Gigi Naglak) and was a co-founder of Flashpoint Theatre Company (RIP)

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Fatboy, Brat Productions, 2007 – assistant director, stage manager
Chlamydia dell’Arte: ASex-Ed Burlesque, 2009 – creator, performer
Chlamydia dell’Arte: MORE Sex-Ed, 2013 – creator, performer
Zombies…With Guns, Tribe of Fools, 2015 – guest zombie

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: None this year, looking forward to seeing some of my favorite companies and performers and hopefully discovering some new weirdos to love.

First Fringe I attended: Corinna Burns mentioned my first Fringe show in her interview – Tiny Macbeth. It was 2002 or 2003, back when everything happened in Old City and everyone wanted to hang out at the Fringe bar every night to see what was up. I was so excited to see something so small and so smart and as bizarre as Macbeth performed by one man, a desk lamp, and a legion of toys. I wish I could remember the performer or company name.

First Fringe I participated in: I worked at the Fringe before I participated as a performer. I was the Volunteer Coordinator in 2004, the year the name changed to Live Arts and people were just losing their minds about it for some reason. On my first day of work the entire staff went out to see a workshop showing of Pig Iron’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway. I fell pretty deeply in love with every person in that cast and had the distinct feeling that perhaps I wasn’t actually cool enough to work for this organization. Beyond that memorable first day, working with the Fringe in 2004 was how I met some of my absolute favorite people and I’ll forever feel like it was a charmed time.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: Gigi Naglak and I premiered the original Chlamydia dell’Arte show at the 2009 Fringe. CDA is a vaudeville-style burlesque (skits and scenes and fan dancing and strip tease and songs) where every section deals with different elements of sexual education in a fun, engaging way. There is a recurring CDA sketch called Cooking with Wine, which is basically a couple of boozy morning show hosts demonstrating different techniques (oral sex techniques in the 2009 iteration of the show). My incredibly supportive parents came to the show and I was a little nervous about how they’d like Cooking With Wine. When I asked my dad what he thought of it he paused for a moment and then said, “You know, Meg . . . you put a dildo in a room with that many people and someone’s gonna suck it.” Words to live by.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Megan Bridge

Posted June 24th, 2016

Name: Megan Bridge

Megan Bridge and Meredith Magoon. Photo: JJ Tiziou

Megan and Meredith Magoon. Photo: JJ Tiziou

Type of Artist: Dance, performance

Company: <fidget>

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: In the early 2000’s I co-produced, choreographed, and performed in several shows in the curated Fringe which at that point was application based. I was matched up by the festival with other choreographers and we shared double and triple bills. My wedding was a Fringe show in 2003. When the structure changed in 2004 I was curated into the festival one last time, and then my work wasn’t produced again by the Fringe until 2015, with Dust (and this was not part of the festival). More recently I’ve been involved with Fringe Festival shows as a venue manager of <fidget> space.

First Fringe I attended: 1997 was my first Fringe, I remember nothing except that the cabaret was at a place called Helena’s. The Late Nite Cabaret was always a highlight but I also remember some amazing outdoor theater in the Quarry Street alley, right next to what was then The Quarry Street Café.

First Fringe I participated in: I first participated in the Fringe in 2000, right out of college. I performed two solos, one choreographed by Rennie Harris and one by me. I think the show was just called Triple Bill . . . I was placed on a shared bill with Fleur Frascella, a bellydancer, and Rodney Mason, who was doing a solo show (he was then a Rennie Harris Puremovement dancer, and has gone on to do a lot of great acting stuff including playing Tony Sinclair, the Tanqueray gin guy). The most memorable part of that show was that Rodney, Fleur and I, total strangers to each other till that week, took all our completely different works and wove them together in a seamless program where we cross-faded all our pieces, sharing entrances and exits. That was my first “professional” gig and we got a great review by Merilyn Jackson in the Philly Inky, which called our show the Fringe’s sleeper hit!

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Looking for Greater Possibilities: Derek Bailey’s “Ping”

Posted June 23rd, 2016

This weekend the Ars Nova Workshop presents hcmf//anw, a British Contemporary Music Festival, featuring the US premieres of compositions from free improvisation luminaries Derek Bailey and Paul Rutherford, as well as a performance from renowned contemporary improviser John Butcher. The series of performances are presented in conjunction with the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the UK’s largest international festival of new and experimental music, and will bring together key members of the British improvisation scene with some of Philadelphia’s most accomplished and versatile musicians to realize these remarkable works. The festival kicks off on Friday June 24th here at FringeArts with an evening of Bailey and Rutherford’s compositions, including a piece by Bailey based on Samuel Beckett’s short story Ping, and continues through Saturday with two events at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, one of which is free. Click here for tickets (Fri. and Sat.) and more info about the festival.

Samuel Beckett’s short story Ping is a challenging one. In fact, some may even contest its distinction as a story. Considering its lack of any discernible storytelling elements readers are trained to look for, defending its categorization is an uphill battle. Still, it’s hard to deny the presence of a deft craft that propels the reader through this dense, surreal, yet impossibly transformative work of art.

Derek-BaileyThough there are various speculations regarding the subject matter of Ping, to dive in with the hope of discerning what it’s “about” can prove maddening. There’s a room, there’s a body, there’s largely an absence of color, there’s a memory . . . maybe. Without clear contextual markers we are left with nothing but a series of impressionistic images, yet they are pointedly wielded. Beckett attempts to represent consciousness as it is experienced by subtracting any sense of omniscience. He relies on an incredibly limited vocabulary and in turn a great deal of rhetorical repetition to achieve this goal. As such, each slight tweak to a particular image or phrase becomes all the more significant. This cycle of repetition and rework has a cumulative effect and by the end there’s a strong sense of finality and change, even if the particulars of that change remain obscured. Though Ping is challenging, heady material to draw inspiration from, it makes some sense that free improvisation pioneer Derek Bailey decided to compose a piece of music around it at the time that he did.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Mel Krodman

Posted June 21st, 2016

Name: Mel Krodman

Type of Artist: Performer, creator

Companies: I make and perform work with various ensembles including the Philadelphia-based companies Pig Iron Theatre Company, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, and No Face Performance Group. And since 2010 I’ve worked in collaborative partnership with New Orleans-based choreographer Kelly Bond.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Elephant, 2010, with Kelly Bond – performer, creator
Colony, 2012, with Kelly Bond – performer, co-choreogrpaher
Swamp Is On, 2015, with Pig Iron Theatre Company and Dr. Dog – performer, creatorIMG_4776

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Sincerity Project with Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (performer, creator).
Also in November my show JEAN & TERRY: Your Guides Through Dark, Light, and Nebulous will premiere at FringeArts.

First Fringe I attended: The first time I came to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival was with Kelly Bond when we were producing Elephant in 2010.  We were both still living in DC and drove into town in pouring down rain, rushing to make it to the Kimmel on time to see Jérôme Bel’s piece Cédric Andrieux. I was absolutely blown away by this work—instantly impacted, forever changed. As soon as the show was over we jumped back into the car and were rushing (possibly even more than before) to make it to Brian Sanders’ JUNK. It was a truly jam packed evening of dance work at two ends of a spectrum: Bell’s stripped down and Brian’s spectacle. From then on I was in love with Philly and totally hooked on the festival.

First Fringe I participated in: I was a co-creator and performer, along with Lillian Cho, in Kelly’s piece Elephant. Kelly had found a venue that was an artists’ collective—FLUX space—in North Kensington up near Allegheny and Front streets. Our piece was performed entirely in the nude, which was kind of hilarious in this raw space with fine sawdust everywhere. And it was hot out and we were sweating. So you can imagine. But that kind of artists’ space was so inspiring to see. It was my introduction to the badass DIY Philly art scene that I love. It was during this run of Elephant that we met the magnificent Megan Bridge of <fidget> space. She invited us to come back and perform Elephant at <fidget> the following spring. In 2014-15 Kelly and I were yearlong artists in residence with <fidget>, so we have Fringe to thank for launching a significant creative relationship and friendship.

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