Who to See at First Person Arts Festival 2014: Kathryn Erbe, Marcus Samuelsson, Ira Glass and More

Kathryn Erbe, Marcus Samuelsson, and Ira Glass will appear at the First Person Arts Festival.

Kathryn Erbe, Marcus Samuelsson, and Ira Glass will appear at the First Person Arts Festival.

The First Person Arts Festival marks its 13th year next week, and it features a star-studded lineup. The festival runs Tuesday, November 4th through Saturday, November 15th and includes celebrity chefs, TV stars and a live edition of the First Person Arts podcast.

Kick off the festival by spending the night of Tuesday, November 4th, with Marcus Samuelsson, the star of Top Chef Masters and ABC’s The Taste. Celebri-chef Samuelsson will prepare a meal from his new cookbook Marcus Off Duty with the help of local Top Chef competitor Jen Carroll. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. dinner are $150 and include access to a special book signing.


Giulia Rozzi and Margot Leitman star in “Stripped Stories” | Photo courtesy of Anya Garrett.

If you’ve recently thought, “Wow, I could really go for a sex-themed variety show starring two awesome female comedians,” well, First Person Arts has totally been reading your diary. Comedy Central’s Margot Leitman and MTV and VH1’s Giulia Rozzi will tell their sexiest “Stripped Stories” onstage Saturday, November 8th, at Underground Arts. Doors open at 9 p.m.. Live music will be provided by Philly’s Johnny Showcase, and tickets are just $22.

Storyteller, author, comedian, and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax is bringing her one-woman-show Ruby Wax: Sane New World on tour, stopping at the FPA Fest on Thursday, November 13th. Based on her best-selling book Sane New World: A User’s Guide to the Normal-Crazy Mind (a copy of which is included with your $35 ticket) the 9 p.m. show combines humor with Wax’s Oxford University Masters degree in cognitive therapy.

Attention all Law and Order: Criminal Intent binge-watchers: Detective Alex Eames, a.k.a Kathryn Erbe, will join The Good Wife‘s Zach Grenier and Alex Morf for a one-night-only dramatic reading of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into NightThis semi-autobiographical tale of a family’s struggle with addiction is part of Outside the Wire‘s Addiction Performance Project. The free reading is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 15th, at the Christ Church Sanctuary and features a post-performance discussion of addiction.


Earth Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey | Photo courtesy of the artist.

Let the storytelling continue when Earth Wind & Fire lead singer and eight-time Grammy winner Philip Bailey shares tales from his memoir Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth Wind & Fire. A truly behind-the-scenes look at the legendary group, music icon Bailey will be interviewed by WDAS’ Patty Jackson about his amazing journey. The $40 ticketed event begins Saturday, November 15th, at 8 p.m. at Mother Bethel AME Church.

Also on Saturday, November 15th, the inimitable Ira Glass takes the Merriam Theater stage at 8 p.m. to talk broadcast journalism, what makes a good story, and more. The creator of This American Life will mix stories with pre-taped quotes and music in order to recreate the sound of the show for the live audience. Tickets range from $28-$125.

For ticketing, information about these events and a full calendar of the First Person Arts Festival, visit FirstPersonArts.org.

IN THE WINGS: A Conversation with Detroit Star Geneviève Perrier

Genevieve Perrier HeadshotMy name is … Geneviève Perrier. But if someone says Guinevere, Jean Vive, or Jonbenet, I usually look up.

I am …  an actor in Philadelphia currently playing Mary in Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. I am not related to the Perrier bottled water empire.

I grew up … in Center City until age 11, then Blue Bell until I graduated from high school.

How would you describe Detroit in one sentence? A surprising, poetic dark comedy about change, the American dream, reality, and relationships.

In what way are you most like your character Mary? I too can be scared of change.

How are you different? I am not as controlling as she is.

To get into character for the show I … don’t have any particular ritual. I warm up, get into costume, and remind myself to “invent nothing, deny nothing, and stay in the moment.”

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The Sincerity Project, Candy Volcano and More Comprise FringeArts’ Edgy Fall Lineup

Candy Volcano | FringeArts

Candy Volcano | FringeArts

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.

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The Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center Grand Opening


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.

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FringeArts Review: Azuka Theatre’s Dutch Masters

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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FringeArts Review: Dragon Eye’s A Mystery? at Smith Playhouse

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 »

Yes, You Can Do FringeArts With Kids

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 »

Here Are 10 FringeArts Performers You Need to Know

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.



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.

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