FringeArts Blog

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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What Was Said

Posted June 19th, 2016

This Monday, June 20, FringeArts and the Ars Nova Workshop present a rare North American performance—and the first in Philadelphia—from esteemed Norwegian jazz musician and composer Tord Gustavsen, accompanied by his long-standing drummer Jarle Vespestad and vocalist Simin Tander. The trio recently released their debut, What Was Said, on the venerable ECM Records to much acclaim, with one critic from The Guardian noting, “The mixture of the instrumentalists’ distilled reflections with Tander’s palette of hummed tones, sighing note-bends and pristine inflections represents a beguiling new Gustavsen collaboration “

While Gustavsen and Vespestad’s well established musical rapport has been widely lauded, perhaps the greatest revelations to be found on What Was Said are in the spellbinding vocal stylings of Simin Tander. Regarded as one of European jazz’s brightest young voices, the German-Afghan singer previously released two albums with her quartet—2011’s Wagma and 2014’s Where Water Travels Home—that established her as a polyglot whose tireless creativity is matched only by her stunning voice. While her debut found her singing in English, Spanish, and her own improvised language, she expanded her repertoire to include Pashto on her follow up, describing the album as “a journey – to myself, through the world of my emotions and thoughts and to my Afghan roots.” Doing so not only expanded her vocal palette, but helped to spark the collaboration that would eventually become What Was Said.

Around the time of Where Water Travels Home’s release, Gustavsen was exploring Sufi poetry for a project with Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat. When Tander’s album came to his attention he was instantly drawn to her singular voice and Pashto singing, and a collaboration was soon arranged. Though there was initially no defined direction for the project, it wasn’t long before the two began drawing from the poetry of Sufi mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi and Norwegian hymns of Gustavsen’s childhood as source material for the album’s lyrics. The hymns were translated to English, reinterpreted and amended to better fit Tander’s personal aesthetics, and then translated to Pashto by Afghan poet B. Hamsaaya. “We wanted someone not only who can translate the lyrics but who also has a sensitivity for poetry, especially Pashto, which is a different universe when you translate,” Tander told All About Jazz, adding, “You cannot just translate word for word—you have to get the context.”

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Todd Cardin

Posted June 17th, 2016

Name: Todd Cardintodd cardin headshot

Type of Artist: Writer, actor.

Company: ETC Theater

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: 1WG (2005), Dramamine High (2007), Like, So Totally 80’s (2008), Destination Summer (2009), The Angel, The Devil and Greg Brady (2010), Getting The Knack (2011), The Has Beens (2013), By The Slice (2013), # (2014), Man on The Moon (2015).

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: I haven’t written it yet. I better get cracking.

First Fringe I attended: Jerry Perna did a one man show at the Shubin in 2005.  The title escapes me, but it was brilliant.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: For our first show, we did 1WG, a one woman musical based on the life of Melissa Gilbert.  We were served papers from her legal team, forcing us to alter the show.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: Dirty Diamond at the Triangle Theatre . . . Genius.etc theater

Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: Denise Shubin, Bill McKinlay and Katherine Filer.

The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish I had done or to one day do: I’d like to do a show about a very untalented theater company from the suburbs who gets regularly skewered by The City Paper every year at The Fringe.  But, 10 years later, they’re still doing the Fringe and the City Paper is no more.


La Peg Fundraiser for PMBL Treasure Beach Basketball Camp

Posted June 15th, 2016

This Friday 5-8pm La Peg Brasserie at Fringe Arts, on the corner of Race Street and Columbus Boulevard, is hosting a happy hour fundraiser to benefit the Fourth Annual Philadelphia Mans Basketball League (PMBL) camp in Treasure Beach, camp

Four years ago Jake Kind was at a 76ers game when he was offered the opportunity to start a basketball camp in Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica. PMBL was able to raise money not only for basketballs and jerseys, but for solar lighting and irrigation for the rural communities of Saint Elizabeth. Four years later, Kind remarks that the camp has expanded, the kids who attended the camp in its first year come back happier, more confident, and new campers come in excited to learn. “I’m always amazed by the energy and enthusiasm of the kids,” says Kind.

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Fringe at 20: Tina Brock

Posted June 15th, 2016

Name: Tina Brock

Madwoman of Chaillot (2010)

Madwoman of Chaillot (2010)

Type of Artist: Producing artistic director, absurdist theater company

Company:  The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Tales of a White Hoe, solo show, 2004 – performer, director, sound design
The White Hoe Returns, solo show, 2005 – performer, director, sound design
Catastrophe, director’s female assistant, 2006 – performer, director, sound design
Come & Go, Flo, 2007 – performer, director, sound design
For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, Amanda, 2007 – performer, director, sound design
Desire, Desire, Desire, Blanche, 2008 – performer, director, sound design
The Chairs, old woman, 2009 – performer, director, sound design
Madwoman of Chaillot, Countess Aurelia, 2010 – performer, director, sound design
Ivona, courtier, 2012 – performer, director, sound design
The Castle, innkeeper, 2013 – performer, director, sound design
Rhinoceros, 2014 – director, sound design
Exit the King, 2015 – director, sound design

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs, old woman – director, sound design.

First Fringe I attended: Not sure. . . perhaps 1998? Beckett’s Endgame, directed by Mark Lord, and starring Pierce Bunting and Maggie Siff is the show that sticks as the starting point.

First Fringe I participated in: Tales of a White Hoe in 2004. The most memorable moment was getting through a solo show without dying, as a solo performer.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: Three One Acts: Works by Beckett, Ionesco and Durang in 2006. In the middle of one of the long silences during Beckett’s Catastophe, the blender whirring, whipping up frozen margaritas at L’Etage Cabaret was a highlight.

Tina Brock and Bob Schmidt, The Chairs (2009)

Tina Brock and Bob Schmidt, The Chairs (2009)

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: So many.
Carmen Funebre, Teatr Biuro Podrozy (2002), beautiful, disturbing street theater; Beckett’s Endgame, Mark Lord, Pierce Bunting/Maggie Siff (1998); Cynthia Hopkins’ Accidental Tourist (2005); The Wooster Group, The Emperor Jones (2007); The Cherry Orchard, Hungary’s Moving House (2001).

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For A Good Time Call SoLow Fest

Posted June 15th, 2016

mike durkin 2Have you ever feared being the only one who shows up? To a party, a performance, a meeting? Mike Durkin wants you to be the only audience member. His latest work, For A Good Time Call, which debuts at SoLow Fest, has no time or location. June 16–24, you can call Mike at any time, you are given a task, and you meet up. “This is not a passive audience experience, this is an immersive, active and engaging experience from the moment you call in, through the physical meeting up, and the moment afterwards,” Durkin explains.

The weekend the Pope visited Philadelphia Mike Durkin was on a date with a person who proposed that Mike do a performance piece where people call him up and he answers questions, even offering that it should be called For A Good Time Call. “I responded, ‘That’s a stupid idea,’” Durkin remarks. “Needless to say the date didn’t go so well.” Months later, the idea still alive in his brain, Durkin did a workshop version of For A Good Time Call in the winter where he explored various neighborhoods in the city and sculpted “performances” in them. “I was interested in observing every inch of the neighborhood: its architecture, the people the live/work/play there, the conversations, the history, the development, the past-present-future of these locations,” says Durkin. And the title, For A Good Time Call, a play on the iconic bathroom stall graffiti soliciting sexual acts, grew on Durkin. He thought about creating intimate experiences about having a good time and exploring the city.mike durkin

Durkin walks the line between art and the mundane by questioning what performance is when you have an audience of one. “Does eating some water ice in Bella Vista while coloring in a coloring book and chatting about gentrification count as performance?” he muses. What constitutes a sign of life more than interaction with another person? Durkin gives his audience members the chance to learn about another person, themselves and their communities through these guided interactions while maintaining the intimacy of a one-on-one conversation.

Mike’s phone number is 267-343-2009.


For A Good Time Call at SoLow Fest
Mike Durkin
June 16–24

2016 Shows

—Emily Dombrovskaya

Fringe at 20: Eric Balchunas

Posted June 10th, 2016

Name: Eric Balchunas

credit: Shari Lewis

Credit: Shari Lewis

Type of Artist: Theater (comedy)

Company: IdRatherBeHere

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Wawapalooza (2008), Wawapalooza 2: Get Shorti (2009), Wawapalooza 3: The Dark Roast (2010), Wawapalooza 4: Damaged Goods (2011), Wawapalooza 5: Under Destruction (2012), Wawapalooza 6: The Great Almost (2013).

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: 2008. The highlight was having a sold out show during our first year. I honestly thought the audience would be my mom and a few of the cast members’ friends.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: The Red Room at Society Hill Playhouse right off South Street. We did our show there five out of the six years, and to me it is perfect Fringe space because it is sort of half comedy club, half theater space with tiny, shared dressing rooms. Plus, the audience gets a free beer or wine with every ticket, which helps make any Fringe show better.

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Layers of Onion Dances at SoLow Fest

Posted June 10th, 2016

“After slicing bags of onions, I still hadn’t cried. For most this would be a good thing, but for me, it was disappointment.”—Talia Mason

In preparation for her SoLow Fest performance, Onion Dances, Talia Mason chopped onions, attempting to cry while talking about family memories and associations with onions. “I was interested in it because of how onions make people cry and allow for vulnerability,” Mason explains.talia mason poster

Mason’s piece draws inspiration from a Headlong Performance Institute (HPI) exercise, a constellation, in which students create a work based on collections of objects that interest them. The unpeeled whole onion which Mason chose for her constellation became the starting point for a semester of intense performance making the result of which debuts at Headlong Dance Studios June 17th, 18th and 26th. Similar to the structure of an onion, the use of onions has multiple layers in Mason’s work. “They are central in my research but they also live on the periphery as part of the landscape of the piece,” she describes.

In the spirit of the SoLow Fest theme Signs of Life, Talia says, “Onion Dances is about my family stories and our family’s collective memory of history.” The piece is as much about childhood as it is about adolescence, adulthood, and the universal experience of learning and coming to terms with understanding death. In Onion Dances Mason incorporates play, dance, song, and storytelling.

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