Recently my roommate and I decided to take a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP.) Neither of us had ever been, and I assume it was a fairly standard visit. But after the obligatory let’s-make-this-look-scarier-than-it-really-is Instagram shots, I realized we were both thinking about the same thing—our recent binge-watching sessions of the second season of Orange is the New Black (OITNB).
Yesterday we shared photos from this weekend’s 20th annual Bastille Day celebration at Eastern State Penitentiary, but The New York Times showed us up by putting together a whole video of the day. Check out the video below to see NYT’s interpretation of our “spirited and unconventional re-enactment.” Lots of local folks show up, including ESP’s Sean Kelley, Bearded Ladies Cabaret‘s John Jarboe, and London Grill‘s Terry McNally, who donned a powdery wig and pink silk dress to portray Marie Antoinette.
On Saturday Fairmount celebrated the 20th Annual Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary. The event commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on the 14 July 1789. The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Company performed an artistic interpretation of the story, with founder John Jarboe playing French cabaret great Edith Piaf. Terry McNally, co-owner of the nearby London Grill reprised her role as Marie Antoinette, telling the citizens from the roof of the “Bastille,” “Let them eat Tastykake!”
This year I wanted to do something a little different and photograph the event from the performance stage as well as from behind the scenes, which my partner Mike Toub photographed. Check out our shots below to find out why Marie Antoinette’s head was spared at this year’s celebration.
14 Things To Do In Philly This Weekend: Bastille Day, Blobfest, Blueberry-Infused Bluegrass, and More
Philly The Roots rapper Karl “Dice Raw” Jenkins is coming to town next week to host a free talk and performance at Eastern State Penitentiary.
Dice Raw will discuss his new solo album, Jimmy’s Back. The work is inspired by Dr. Michelle Alexander’s New York Times bestseller The New Jim Crow, and focuses on America’s black male incarceration epidemic. According to a press release from ESP, “black men are overrepresented in America’s criminal justice system, incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of White men. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison in his lifetime.”
The popular event is back this year, featuring a dish that most likely won’t end up having you beg for the recipe. This Saturday and Sunday, June 14th and 15th, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern State Penitentiary is hosting Prison Food Weekend. And on the menu this year is the controversial Nutraloaf, an item that is served as a punishment for many American prisoners today. The event is giving participants a sample of Nutraloaf that was made using the official recipes from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Maryland. Visitors will also be able to check out sample menus, prison reports and more.
Nutraloaf is generally accepted in prisons as a form of punishment, though the issue does remain controversial. After you’ve sampled the product, you can write your thoughts on a taste card and decide for yourself whether or not it is cruel punishment. So while it may not be the tastiest event we’ve ever written about, you’ll get a sample of something you’ve wanted to know about, but hoped you’d never have to.
Prison Food Weekend [Official]
Our daily roundup of what’s happening today in Philly. This go round, we’ve got three of the city’s best MLK Day Celebrations.
Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) wraps up its weekend-long Martin Luther King celebrations with an afternoon of readings, MLK-centric prison tours and a chance to create some art. Today at, 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. professional actors will present a live reading of King’s famous Letter From Birmingham Jail followed by a Q&A with a civil rights scholar. If you’re bringing kids along, or if you’re in a particularly crafty mood, Art Sanctuary will set up stations for guests to create works in response to the text. There will also be guided tours of the museum, with an emphasis on how the civil rights movement affected inmates at ESP, and how they reacted when they heard the news of MLK’s assassination. 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., readings are free but reservations are required, $10-$14 for tours, Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave., easternstate.org.
Philadelphia FIGHT‘s Institute for Community Justice — which works “to reduce not only the number of people in prison living with HIV, but also the lasting effects of mass imprisonment on communities most affected” — is teaming with Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) for its annual toy drive benefitting children of incarcerated or recently released parents. Now through Dec. 15, any visitor to ESP who donates a new toy or children’s book that’s still in its original package will receive a second admission free of charge. Don’t feel like a stroll through the prison? Folks can make donations during regular business hours even if they don’t plan on taking the tour.
If you’ve been to Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind the Walls haunted house in years past, you’ll find that things are a little bit different this time around.
There’s now a touching option, meaning you can elect to have the zombies, ghouls and murderous fiends that lurk inside the decaying den of horror reach out and touch you, probably at precisely the moment you don’t want to be touched. And there’s also going to be more blood and guts, says Eastern State’s Director of Operations Brett Bertolino, who is also on the board of the national Haunted Attraction Association. Yes, such a thing exists.
Below, Bertolino tells me what it takes to put together a massive spectacle like the one at Eastern State and answers the all-important question: Do people actually pee themselves? Read more »
It’s bad enough when your little brother snags the jalepeno pepper you’ve been saving to eat at the end of your Greek salad, right? So imagine how paranoid and pissed prisoners must get when the cellblock bully saunters over to snatch the moldy piece of bread off their plate. And on the weekend of June 8-9 you can recreate something akin to this scene at Eastern State Penitentiary, the site of Prison Food Weekend.