If you’re looking for cutting-edge live arts and experiences this fall, look no further than FringeArts. Its autumn lineup comes on the heels of a record-breaking 2014 Fringe Festival and includes performances at La Peg, the on-site restaurant and beer garden serving as a the cultural center of the Delaware waterfront.
This week marks the opening of the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center in Manayunk. An event 10 years in the making, this massive project was a collaboration between the town’s community, the Philadelphia Water Department, and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. Located at 1 Vector Street, the Venice Island development reconstructed the former facilities between the Schuylkill River and the Manayunk Canal into a public space now filled with a performing arts theater, an outdoor amphitheater, a playground, basketball courts, and a spray park.
Ah, 1992. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Everyone who was anyone was down with O.P.P. (best), George H.W. Bush was president (worst), and LA was erupting in riots over the Rodney King verdict (Sublime). Against this backdrop, playwright Greg Keller throws us into a subway car careening toward the Bronx in Mayor David N. Dinkins’ New York City. From there, the hope and reality of racial progress converge, leaving the play’s protagonists wondering just where that leaves them. And, in some sense, the audience is left with the same feeling.
Running as part of this year’s FringeArts festival (and just extended), Azuka Theatre’s production of Dutch Masters—the Philadelphia premiere—could not have come along at a more fraught time. In a sociopolitical climate shaken by the death of Trayvon Martin and the never-ending stop-and-frisk debate, and locally by the furor around “Being White in Philly” and Riley Cooper’s racially charged aggression, Azuka chose a banner year to take on the topic of race. Based on Saturday night’s performance, Azuka’s two-man show at the Off-Broad Street Theater is more than worth checking out.
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Oh dear… Oh dear… Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
It’s all I could think to myself on Friday night as I was walking out of the Playground at the Adrienne, where I had just seen EgoPo’s FringeArts production A Doll’s House, starring 14-year-old Mackenzie Maula. Read more »
On Friday night — the first official day of the FringeArts festival — I made it to three shows. The first one of the night was The Renegade Company’s Bathtub Moby-Dick. Read more »
On Saturday morning, I took my two kids — ages 6 and 7 — to see Dragon Eye Theatre’s FringeArts production A Mystery? at East Fairmount Park’s adorable Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse.
The 45-minute play takes place indoors on the second floor of the playhouse. Kids sit on a large area rug while parents can opt for more comfortable bench and chair seating behind the tots, but don’t think that you’re not going to be part of the show. Grownups are encouraged to participate, and all did at Saturday’s 10 a.m. showing. Read more »
Philadelphia’s annual FringeArts Festival is now underway, with some ridiculous number of dance and theater shows and events that fall under the oft-maligned “performance art” heading. While most of the FringeArts programming isn’t exactly family friendly (I’m looking at you, Gunnar Montana), there are some shows suitable for younger audiences. Read more »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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]
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.
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]
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]
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.
KYW Newsradio reports on Philadelphia Dance Day, coming on July 27:
It’s happening on July 27, and all of the workshops before 5:30 p.m. are free to the public. And there are plenty — from ballet and modern dance to salsa and co-ed pole dancing (yes, really).
Organizers say the non-profit fest was organized as a way to unite people through dance, “apowerful platform for creative expression and physical activity.”
The Philadelphia Dance Day website adds:
All dance enthusiasts – regardless of experience or even coordination – are invited to take part in the fun on July 27, 2013. There will be something for everyone, from ballet for kids to hip-hop for all ages. Participants will tour studios around the city to sample free workshops during the afternoon, then come together in the evening for the main event at the historical Ethical Society Building on Rittenhouse Square. Festivities kick off there with a huge Zumba party, followed by more lessons and open social dancing. Volunteer instructors and well-respected dance groups in the city will also put on a performance showcase.
On Monday night, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the 43 local winners of over $2 million in grants as part of the 2013 Knight Arts Challenge. Drawn from 1,200 applicants, the winners include everything from Pig Iron Theatre Company and Philadelphia band Dr. Dog (pictured), who will collaborate on a rock opera, to Reading Terminal Market, which will receive $60,000 for a performing arts series there. Below, the winners in alphabetical order.
Recipient: Ars Nova Workshop
To honor Philadelphia’s rich jazz legacy by producing a month-long festival in venues across the city during Jazz History Month
Recipient: Art Sphere
To enrich Philadelphia’s youth by providing free access to arts education resources and hands-on instruction to organizations with limited resources.
Recipient: Artists U
To increase professional development opportunities for local performance artists by expanding a pilot project that allows artists to seek targeted advice and counsel
Recipient: Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia
To strengthen the next generation by establishing an institute where emerging arts leaders can gain a deeper understanding of management and leadership
To further the careers of young dancers by both teaching them the art of dance instruction and having them instruct in local schools
Recipient: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
To create more public art and enliven city streets by hosting a competition for artists to design new bike racks
Recipient: Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
To deepen amateur musicians’ engagement with classical music by offering adults opportunities to perform alongside the orchestra’s professionals
Recipient: BlackStar Film Festival
To support global black cinema through a film festival that will also feature a short screenplay contest
Recipient: Breadboard at the University City Science Center
To bring the city’s art and tech communities together through a new alliance and facility that will provide hands-on programming, plus a civic prototyping lab addressing community issues
To promote collaboration in the visual arts by enabling more than 20 collectives to produce a multivenue, one-month exhibit
Recipient: Pennsylvania Girlchoir
To empower girls through music by launching a large-scale choral event for seventh- to 12th-grade girls, featuring female conductors and composers
Recipient: Dance/USA Philadelphia
To raise the visibility of live dance by creating a pop-up studio in a highly visible public space where passers-by can witness the usually private rehearsal process
Recipient: David Guinn
To engage Philadelphians with art by bringing artist-created temporary outdoor wall-painting installations to Center City
Recipient: Dolce Suono Ensemble
To bring more music to Philadelphia’s Latino communities by working with organizations to develop a new outreach initiative bridging classical and Latin music
Recipient: Drexel ExCITe Center
To engage and develop new audiences for music with a series of live concerts enhanced with audio-driven media technologies
Recipient: Ernest Stuart
To increase audiences for jazz by expanding the Center City Jazz Festival to include additional events and venues
To ignite imaginations around the future of environmental conservation by creating a large and visually stunning art installation along the Delaware River complete with solar panels, gardens and more
To bring bold, highly theatrical performances by dancer/choreographers Eiko & Koma to two unique public outdoor spaces, the Reading Viaduct and PAFA’s Lenfest Plaza
Recipient: Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble
To invite audiences to participate in master classes, rehearse and perform a new work blending traditional African dance with hip-hop, funk and soul
Recipient: Lee Ann Etzold
To foster a greater sense of community between two geographically close but culturally diverse neighborhoods by producing a theatrical performance written and performed by its residents
Recipient: Opera Philadelphia
To offer a more immersive opera experience by launching a series of 50-minute operas, the first of which, about a Serbian wedding, will be followed by an authentic Balkan wedding feast
Recipient: Pasion y Arte Flamenco
To celebrate the contributions of Flamenco dance by producing a two-week festival including an educational symposium and performances by groundbreaking Flamenco artists
Recipient: Philadelphia Film Society
To provide students and local filmmakers the opportunity to share their cinematic work on the big screen by holding monthly community screenings at the Theater at the Roxy
Recipient: Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s Performing Arts Office
To offer after-school art programming for children by placing art teachers in each of the eight city districts to give instruction in singing, acting and dancing
Recipient: Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
To cultivate new audiences for contemporary photography by organizing innovative exhibitions featuring digitally printed photographic murals, nontraditional approaches to portraiture and auxiliary programming
Recipient: Philadelphia Theatre Company
To engage Philadelphia in a dialogue about young people being shuttled from school into the criminal justice system by supporting a two-year residency of actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith.
Recipient: Philadelphia Young Playwrights
To help students gain a deeper understanding of how to leverage theater for social change by expanding a festival, in collaboration with InterAct Theatre Company, featuring professional productions of high school students’ monologues.
Recipient: Pig Iron Theatre Company, with Dr. Dog
To merge two indie-arts genres by translating the music of rock band Dr. Dog into a theatrical spectacle.
Recipient: Play On, Philly!
To cultivate students’ music skills by coordinating a multifaceted creative initiative that will teach music production and technology, composition, jazz and more.
Recipient: Reading Terminal Market
To weave the arts into people’s everyday lives by curating a formalized performing arts series at Reading Terminal Market
Recipient: Shakespeare in Clark Park
To engage audiences in new ways with an interactive event around Shakespeare’s Henry IV, enabling attendees to participate in a battle scene
Recipient: South Street Headhouse District
To bring cultural vibrancy to the South Street neighborhood by organizing a series of pop-up and street events featuring music, theater and visual arts
Recipient: Sruti, The India Music and Dance Society
To celebrate Indian music and introduce it to a young and urban audience by offering a concert series with rotating ensembles of professional musicians
Recipient: Stacey Wilson
To explore the connection between music and art by offering an aural experience for patrons that pairs individual works of visual art with a unique music mix
Recipient: Swim Pony Performing Arts
To push the boundaries for audiences by curating a series of cross-disciplinary events that feature unexpected collaborations
Recipient: Taller Puertorriqueño
To engage more audiences in the city’s Latino arts scene by organizing gallery exhibits, including mixed-media installations and music performances
Recipient: The Philly Pigeon
To bring poetry to a wider audience and support the development of more performance poets by expanding The Pigeon Presents: The Philadelphia Poetry Slam.
Recipient: The Rotunda
To challenge musicians to turn a 100-year-old Beaux Arts sanctuary into a musical instrument using their voices and other sound experiments
Recipient: The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
To address the city’s environmental issues by hosting artists who will collaborate with scientists to create public environmental artworks and educational programs
Recipient: The Village of Arts and Humanities
To offer a home to emerging and mid-career artists seeking an urban environment by creating a year-long artist residency program
Recipient: Theresa Rose
To create connections between neighborhood restaurateurs and artists by commissioning dinners featuring art projects from across neighborhoods
Recipient: Tyler School of Art, Temple University
To celebrate one of the community’s most beloved African-American artists, Charles Searles, by inviting art students from three universities to collaborate on paired exhibitions and events inspired by the artist’s legacy
To share the talents of established and emerging musicians with the community by recording, then broadcasting, individual and ensemble performances from a state-of-the-art studio
PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons