Here Are 10 FringeArts Performers You Need to Know

Inside the heads of Philly’s most talented.

The annual Philadelphia Live Arts Festival/Philly Fringe is now (thankfully) known as FringeArts and runs September 5th to 22nd. Here, some of the brightest local talents that you’ll see in this year’s festival. Buy your tickets now.

MARTHA STUCKEY

Your FringeArts Show: Pay Up by Pig Iron Theatre Company.
Describe It: It’s like a geeky, ambulatory choose-your-own adventure.
Your Role: I’m somewhat of a cog in the machine, kind of like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I’m in a pretty killer scene with Dito van Reigersberg [aka drag queen Martha Graham Cracker], but you might not get to see it. There are eight scenes, and each audience member only sees up to six.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: I’ve been hearing amazing things about the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Everybody should go see the Castellucci piece. And I’m super-excited for Geoff Sobelle.
What You Do When Not This: I sing in the band Red 40 and the Last Groovement, and we’re performing at the Late Nite Cabaret on September 8th. And I work at Cheu Noodle Bar. And watch RuPaul’s Drag Race.

 

GUNNAR MONTANA*

Your FringeArts Show: Basement.
Describe It: It’s pretty complex. It’s based on a recent breakup I had in January taken to the artistic extreme and set in a beautifully twisted serial killer-esque way. There will be blood.
Your Role: I’m the director, producer, choreographer and performer. Costume designer. Set designer. The only thing I don’t do is the lighting.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: I’m always interested in Brian Sanders’ work; I was part of that company, and he was a big influence on what I’m producing now. Usually, I don’t have time to see much, to be perfectly honest. And I’m a pretty hard critic.
What You Do When Not This: Working your average restaurant job. I’ve been working at Morgan’s Pier but just gave my two weeks. I’ve worked at pretty much every restaurant in the city. And I do a lot of conditioning of my body, a lot of time at the gym, rock climbing. Being from Montana, I try to be outdoors as much as possible.
* Gunnar Montana is an alias, and he won’t divulge his real name.


MACKENZIE MAULA

Your FringeArts Show: A Doll’s House.
Describe It : It’s based on Ibsen’s classic Doll’s House, but instead of having multiple characters, it’s just me portraying the parts through dolls. It’s very cool, very interesting. Some parts are funny. Some parts are sad. It goes between it all.
Your Role : I play a girl who is playing with the dolls, and sometimes I transform into that doll.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: The Joe Hill project and Opera Macabre.
What You Do When Not This: Well, I’m 14, so I just started the 9th grade. [In fact, she is missing the first week of high school to do the show.] So I’ll be busy for a while. Singing and acting is what I do for fun. I don’t really do anything but that.

 

JAMES MICHAEL BAKER

Your FringeArts Show: Swim Pony’s Ballad of Joe Hill.
Describe It : It’s about the life and death and ideas of Joe Hill, who was a union organizer and songwriter for the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies. It’s at Eastern State Penitentiary, so there are lots of ghosts floating around.
Your Role : I’m the connection between the modern world and the audience and the world of the play. I basically share the tradition of the music of Joe Hill. I’ll be playing guitar and harmonica and singing, and basically rallying the crowd to be a part of the IWW.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: Definitely Pay Up. I know there’s a lot going on, but I’m moving right now and haven’t had the chance to look.
What You Do When Not This: Play music in the Spinning Leaves and in Johnny Showcase. I also run a lip balm company called U Bee Well, which I started about a year ago. And I paint houses on the side sometimes as well. There’s a painting company of musicians which I organized, and it’s called Handsome Painting Company.

 

GEOFF SOBELLE

Your FringeArts Show: Object Lesson.
Describe It: It’s a solo installation performance. It’s not a play. It’s very absurd, a little bit ritualistic, a little bit funny, a little sad, a little bit about them stuff, about them and their things.
Your Role: I’m just myself. I’m one of “them” and myself. I don’t have a character.
FringeArts Show You’re Excited About: Hoping to see Swim Pony, The Society — saw it a few years ago, favorite thing ever — Nichole Canuso’s work-in-progress, and Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells’ library thing.
What You Do When Not This: This is all I do.
[Photo of Sobelle at top of page: Jauhien Sasnou]

 

JESS CONDA

Your FringeArts Show: Eternal Glamnation*.
Describe It: It’s a rock concert meets a drag show meets a kickass tribute night. We’re doing covers of great classic glam songs but with a draggy theatrical twist. And if you watch closely, you might get a story out of it.
Your Role: I’m the lead artist. I conceived it. And I’m the producer, and everything. I’m the street team, too. I’m out flyering as we speak.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: My short list is Object Lesson, Go Long Big Softie and Enlightenment On E Floor North, which is by a brand new company called Strange Attractor. I’m pissed that I won’t be able to see old people talking about sex.
What You Do When Not This: I’m the new artistic director of Brat Productions, so my day job is producing cool theater. And I bartend at Fergie’s Pub on Tuesdays and Saturdays. And I’ll be performing with the Peekaboo Revue this year. I like to get down with everybody a little bit. You can quote me on that.
* She is also performing in Pig Iron’s Pay Up.
[Photo: Plate 3 Photography]

 

SCOTT SHEPPARD

Your FringeArts Show: Groundswell Players’ Go Long Big Softie.
Describe It: We’re exploring a defunct masculinity movement, the mythopoetic men’s movement of the 1980s, when men were having a difficult time finding a place in the world during the second wave of feminism. Finding your inner warrior and your king and your magician, finding the inner wild man. We’re making a piece that walks the line of being absurdly funny and hilarious but at the same time moving, and a place of great vulnerability and sensitivity.
Your Role: I’m the artistic director of Groundswell. I put everyone in the room together to work on the project. In addition, I’m one of two actors — the other is Mason Rosenthal.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: Oh, man. So many. Pay Up. Object Lesson. Nature Theater. Ajax. Berserker Residents. And the Strange Attractor show. That’s going to be really great.
What You Do When Not This: I’m a server at Morimoto.

 

MARY TUOMANEN

Your FringeArts Show: St. Joan, Betrayed.
Describe It: I’m doing a solo show about Joan of Arc, made in conjunction with my partner, Aaron Cromie. Before my show, he’s doing a short story about the saints that Joan heard: St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine. That will serve as an amuse bouche to my play. The whole thing has a line of whimsy and innocence while dealing with serious subject matter.
Your Role: I’m performing and writing it. Aaron and I are creating it together. There will be puppetry and masks, designed by Aaron and built by the two of us. We’re finding ways for me to portray a lot of characters well. When I’m in bare face, I’m Joan, and I speak English when I’m Joan, while all of the other characters are male and speak English. Everyone is understandable and familiar, so Joan seems more insane. It’s complex.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: Nature Theater of Oklahoma. I can’t wait. It’s so ambitious. And the Drexel kids are doing the backstage of a show, creating an imagined show and you see what happens behind the show.
What You Do When Not This: I’m teaching at the Attic Youth Center. And I bike around Philadelphia and sit by the Schuylkill and read the New Yorker.
[Photo: Plate 3 Photography]

 

KEVIN GLACCUM

Your FringeArts Show: Azuka’s Dutch Masters.
Describe It: It’s New York in 1992. A young black man and white man run into each other in a subway and strike up a conversation. I don’t want to say more, because it has significant twists. It has a lot to say about race and class in the U.S. When I read the play, it made me anxious. It has a sort of edge-of-your-seat quality to it.
Your Role: I’m directing it. This is my third show directing in the Fringe.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: Always curious to see Pig Iron. Then the show with the gigantic painting of Jesus. The Norwegian director bringing something to town. And Joe Hill is absolutely on my list.
What You Do When Not This: When I’m not being the artistic director of Azuka, I tend bar at Woody’s on Friday and Saturday nights and teach at Arcadia University.
[Photo: Johanna Austin]

 

BRIAN SANDERS

Your FringeArts Show: Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak.
Describe It: It’s about nursery rhymes and how they play out in the bedroom. Nursery rhymes were introduced to us before we were cognizant of language. These rhymes, like “Rock-a-bye Baby” and “You Are My Sunshine” have these cryptic messages about life, and yet they’re sung to us before we understand language. I tried to tap into that, and what I wound up with is a highly sexual piece to begin with that devolves into a primordial ooze of navigating a bog and then hopefully coming out the other side of the bog into sunshine and fresh air. It’s as meditative as I can get, which is pretty hyperactive. There is a giant 50 ton pile of sand, a 25 foot oak tree, and the most masculine pair of high heels (seen below) I could create.
Your Role: I get to watch this year, thank goodness. I just had my hip replaced. I’m the artistic director, and it was conceived and created by me with some collaborators.
FringeArts Shows You’re Excited About: Geoff Sobelle’s piece. I think that’s all I have had a chance to get a flavor of. I really wait until I’m done creating before I look at the catalog, and I’ll be creating until opening night.
What You Do When Not This: I’m pretty busy with this on a full time scale. And I teach at University of the Arts full time, but this is my last year there.

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