Faces of the Fringe: Nightmarish Clowns, Killer Bears, and Wild Acrobatics

FringeArts Festival 2018 talents (clockwise from top left): Lee Minora (photo by Aaron Lenhardt); Sarah Knittel (photo by Gianna Liberatore); Ben Grinberg (photo provided); Arden Blair (photo provided); Bastion Carboni (photo provided); Magdalene San Millan (photo by Kate Raines).

The 2018 Philadelphia FringeArts Festival has officially begun. The performers and creators from the “curated” part of FringeArts, meaning those handpicked and paid by FringeArts to be there, get plenty of press. So we wanted to reach out to the local talent involved in the “independently produced” portion of FringeArts, meaning those who are putting it all on the line to be a part of it.

Here, they tell us what you’re in for this year:

Lee Minora, 30, South Philly

FringeArts Festival performer, Lee Minora.


Show:White Feminist

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Gender and privilege collide: will good intentions be enough?”

Shows you’re most hoping to see: “If I were forced to pick three, I would pick three solo shows: Chris Davis’s The Presented, Sarah Knittel’s Nightmare Fuel, and Magdaline San Millan’s Feral Wild Girl Child. All three of these artists are BAMFs who make hilarious work and never pull a punch.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “When I’m not making work or performing I’m a teaching artist. And I really like talking on the phone, more than the average person.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “You can afford to create work here, you have a community of other incredible artists to collaborate with, and tons of hot new work to see. I think Philadelphia is the hub for devised and original work.”

Magdalene San Millan, 30, West Passyunk

FringeArts Festival performer, Magdalene Sam Millian. | Photo: Kate Raines


Show:Feral Wild Girl Child

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Death, mess, pediatric oncology, intimate, installation, impish, intense, talking.”

Three shows you’re most hoping to see: “I’m not seeing any shows. Between performing 16 times and working, I’m undone.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I work with pre-schoolers at the Children’s Community School. I am a pre-school teacher who shows up with paint in her hair.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Because the cost of living is affordable, I can make art and work without grinding myself into a pulp. I can afford to be selective and moderate with my time.”

Paul Harlan, 30, South Philly

FringeArts Festival performer, Paul Tiel.


Show:Songs for Monsters

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Dueling identity crises in purgatory.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:Do You Want a Cookie?, White Feminist, and A Vacation.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I am a barista at the Lucky Goat coffeehouse in Brewerytown. I am a singer/songwriter and cabaret artist.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Philly is a great place to make art because it is a progressive, loud, messy, angry, and extremely curious city.”

Jennifer Blaine, 48, Graduate Hospital

FringeArts Festival performer, Jennifer Blaine.


Show:Ridiculous

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Blaine deconstructs the patriarchy, motherhood, and bestiality with absurd humor.”

Three shows you’re most hoping to see: “I will attend Paprika Plains because my daughter will dance and be body-painted in it! I also want to see Do You Want a Cookie? and The F Word.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I am a transformational life coach and I work with people all over the world.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Philly has the best audiences.”

Hamutal Posklinsky, 30, Center City

FringeArts Festival performer, Hamutal Posklinsky.


Show:Almost Pregnant

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Full of stories, tragic and funny, physical and audience evolving.”

Three shows you’re most hoping to see:SPIES! A Tech-Immersive Comedy. Seems like a lot of fun. Carry Me. I love dance. This seems like a self discovery, deep in intention modern dance. Do You See What I Hear? Poetry and music. Such a natural empowering combination.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “Theater is pretty much my life. If I’m not reading a play/seeing one/making one, I will probably be in the kitchen. I love cooking and making up recipes. It’s my relaxing space.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “I moved to Philly from Israel only for 14 months, and glad to say that I’ve discovered a city full of creativity. Open-minded people, evolving street life, and plenty of art of all kinds to see. It is an inspiring city that gives me the feeling I can create endlessly and be supported by the surroundings.”

Kate Banford, 28, Center City

FringeArts Festival performer, Kate Banford.


Show:Darlings: Kill Us Please and An Unauthorized, Unofficial Tour of Love Park

Describe it in 10 words or less:Darlings: More comedy than you can fit in your fist. An Unauthorized, Unofficial Tour of Love Park: A deluded tour of Love Park.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see: “I’m most excited to see Lee Minora’s White Feminist and The Accountant.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I’m usually booking and running comedy shows at Good Good Comedy Theatre. If I have spare time, I’m reading books from cool artists or graphic novelists I love, out dancing like an uncaged ferret, or watching good ‘ol fashioned comedy.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Philly is great for comedy because there are so many talented and funny people to collaborate with. It’s also one of the best places to do and see cool, innovative, and weird stuff.”

Ben Grinberg, 28, Fishtown

FringeArts Festival performer, Ben Grinberg.


Show:Jeanne/Jean/John/Jawn

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Acrobatics, absurdism, left-turns, sincerity, and irony in equal measure.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:Feral Girl Wild Child: The layers of sincerity and humor she creates reverberate around you like a warm bath during performance. Humans by Circa because, well, it’s world class large ensemble contemporary circus. And then Metal & Kind’s Indestructible Flowers and The Undergird. Just to name a few.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I’m the Artistic Coordinator and Physical Theatre Instructor at Circadium and I teach acrobatics and a handful of other random things at the Pig Iron School. And I like cooking and eating delicious vegetarian food.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Philly is cheap and livable with ample space and a vibrant arts community/network of people who get what it means to be making work and are always willing to lend a hand or a costume or a light. My experience is that Philly audiences are ready for anything, no matter how weird and unpolished, something that in my experience isn’t true in other places.”

Bastion Carboni, 34, Fairmount

FringeArts Festival performer, Bastion Carboni. (Photo by Chris Koontz)


Show:A Vacation

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Travel vlogger goes to Purgatory. Everything’s cool. Everything’s totally cool.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:Nightmare Fuel is the most fun play about shitty boyfriends I’ve ever seen. Songs For Monsters is finally the showcase Paul Harlan’s pop-for-funerals deserves. Wolfcrush because drinking is encouraged and when I read it I was like, ‘OK, but how the ever-living hell is that gonna be staged?'”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I’m a waiter and I run a monthly political performance showcase at Franky Bradley’s called AGITATED! as my drag alias, Pilar Salt.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “My first year here I was gobsmacked by how adventurous and hungry and loyal Philadelphia audiences are. Art consumption is a huge part of the culture and I treasure that.”

Fred Brown, 34, Fishtown

FringeArts Festival performer, Fred Brown.


Show:A PRACTICAL DEMONSTRATION of the EFFECTS of KINESTHETIC OCULAR NEURO-PSYCHOLOGY and its POTENTIAL as an AID in the DISCOVERY of SELF

Describe it in 10 words or less: “I play a psychologist. It’s actually a synth rock opera.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:Pestilence: Wow! because it’s a medieval clown, bubonic clown play. Nightmare Fuel, because Sarah Knittel has just returned from a successful run at Edinburgh Fringe. And then I’m also looking forward to seeing Almanac’s Jeanne/Jean/John/Jawn, because I love some acrobatic storytelling.

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I’m usually either tutoring students in Latin or teaching improv comedy.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “There are so many different spaces for performance here.”

Sarah Knittel, 31, West Philly

FringeArts Festival performer, Sarah Knittel. | Photo: Emilie Krause


Show:Nightmare Fuel

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Hilarious naughty slumber party about demons and stupid ex-boyfriends.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see: Bon Iver Fights A Bear. I am a huge fan of everyone involved in the show. Also, I’m a huge fan of bears. Pestilence: WOW! … Savannah Reich rolled up to Philly like a BAMF with a show that looks hilarious and biting. Can’t wait for this. Do You Want a Cookie.? … A selection of the most exciting cabaret performers working today. And, The Presented and White Feminist.

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “When you’re working on a solo show, you don’t have time for much else, but I do enjoy Harlots on Hulu and disco naps.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “It’s relatively affordable to put on original solo work in Philly. Compared to my experience in New York, it’s also easier to meet your peers and feel like you’re a part of the community.”

Mike Durkin, 33, Pennsport

FringeArts Festival performer, Mike Durkin.


Show:(Kensington) Streetplay

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Reclaiming Kensington narrative through performances of past, present, and future.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:August in The City by Iron Age Theatre. In The Forest by Tangle Movement Arts. Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd.

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “Sometimes I deliver groceries in the suburbs. Sometimes I schedule rehearsals at a dance Studio in Brooklyn. I watch the Yankees, Phillies. Sometimes I travel to different small towns to listen to people and try new foods.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Philly has many unique, diverse, and isolated neighborhoods. I’m interested in finding the bonds and connective tissue within these neighborhoods by exploring common themes. Plus, I am able to work part time, do my artwork, and live comfortably while in Philadelphia.”

Terry Brennan, 42, South Philly

FringeArts performer, Terry Brennan.

Show: Fly Eagles Fly

Describe it in 10 words or less: “The tension between hardcore and casual sports fans.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:Close Your Legs Honey: I personally know Hannah Parke and she explained the concept to me two years ago when we were doing a tour together. I’m fascinated/horrified with pageant culture and its culturally accepted sexualization of little girls. And The Accountant and The Graveyard Shift.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I teach at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. I coach their youth performance troupe. And I do a lot of hand balancing as a hobby. I’m currently working on my one-arm handstand.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Philly is affordable enough for artists to live, it has a robust arts infrastructure (grants, funding, audiences who actually go to plays, museums, etc.), and it’s close enough to New York if you need to showcase or audition in a larger market.”

Arden Blair, 55, Castor Gardens

FringArts Festival performer, Arden Blair.


Show:For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow was Enuf

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Passion, Fear, Strength, Struggle, Black Girl Magic, Beauty, Healing Power!”

Shows you’re most hoping to see: “I’m going to see Lay Me Down Softly by Billy Roche — I like boxing and theatre, so to have them combined in one play … hooray for me! Day of Absence by Douglas Turner Ward — a classic piece, love the story idea! Phaedra’s Love just the title — yyyaaasss!”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “My day job is associate professor of English and Theatre at Community College of Philadelphia. My hobbies are numerous: composing music, creating hand-painted clothing, sewing, swimming, cooking (love to cook), gardening, reading, and writing.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “Philadelphia is a working-class city that appreciates the beauty of the struggle and the hustle — a good underdog story. I consider myself Rocky-like in the theatre scene because I’ve had to struggle and fight for everything. Let me tell you that as an African American woman coming from working-class roots, art is expensive to produce — and it can be a struggle and fight to tell the stories that need to be told.”

Megan Bridge, 39, Kensington

FringeArts Festival performer, Megan Bridge. | Photo: Julia Fisher


Show:The Backyard

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Improvised, intimate, embodied: created with Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:Stifters Dinge by Heiner Goebbels: I am super interested in his work. I am taking a workshop with him this week, and I’m curious how he shapes the dramaturgy of a work that happens over time but without the ‘live’ element of performers. And Meg Foley’s The Undergird and Variations on Themes form Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd.

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “Three things: I’m a graduate fellow at Temple, pursuing my MFA in dance; I teach Pilates; and, I try to spend any free time that I have with my family … my husband, and I have two kids, Tristan (11) and Freya (7).”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “I love Philly! I have deep roots here, and I’ve been working as a professional dancer/choreographer here for 18 years. So part of it is inertia. But more importantly, the experimental dance and theater scene here is really rich.”

Douglas Williams, 30, Cedar Park

FringeArts Festival performer, Douglas Williams.


Show:Bon Iver Fights a Bear

Describe it in 10 words or less: “Bon Iver fights a bear. In a basement in West Philly.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see:Kill Move Paradise by James Ijames. I keep thinking James is at the peak of his powers as a playwright and then he writes another play and I’m like Shit, how does this guy keep getting better and better? He’s gonna win a Pulitzer in the next few years. Nightmare Fuel: I’m sort of deathly afraid of audience participation but I’m willing to fight that fear to see Sarah’s dark and demented clown show.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “I write for a beer magazine when I’m not doing theatre stuff. Being a playwright is easier than being an actor or director because I can do the 40 hours a week thing and stop by rehearsal on my way home or on the weekends. It’s a good balance for me, plus I get to write my plays on the sly at work. Hopefully my boss doesn’t read Philly Mag.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “As a playwright, Philly is where I make my work because I can spend years writing a play, have it go through all different levels of development and then have a theatre like Azuka put it up and give it a proper production. But I can also get together a rag-tag group of actors and designers, write a play in six weeks, and put it up myself in someone’s house for Fringe – and there’s still an audience that is daring and willing to come out and see that show. When I was living in New York I was having a hard time getting people to come to readings, let alone basement shows with talking bears. Philly theaters and audiences are willing to take that risk.”

Savannah Reich, 33, West Philly

FringeArts Festival performer, Savannah Reich.


Show:Pestilence: WOW!

Describe it in 10 words or less: “1348 Bubonic Plague electro-punk clown show.”

Shows you’re most hoping to see: “I am teaming up this year with Donna Oblongata, Chris Davis, and Sarah Knittel to present a curated mini-Fringe at Panorama Arts Space. Donna is an incredibly unique artist that I’ve known and admired for a long time, and I am just getting to know Chris and Sarah though the Festival, which has been awesome. All of these shows share a dark and wild vibe and an underground aesthetic that I think will make them pair really well together. I’ve been hearing about these shows but haven’t gotten to see them all yet, and I can’t wait to watch a double or triple feature at Panorama.”

What you’re doing when not you’re not doing this: “When I’m not writing and producing, I’m a scenic painter for theater and film. I worked on some Broadway sets for Proof Productions this year, and taught kids to paint at Upper Darby Summer Stage this summer.”

Why Philly is a good place to be an artist: “I’m still new here, but it seems to me that that the Philadelphia theater scene has a unique combination of warm hearted investment in community and true openness to experimental and challenging work. I’ve been traveling around a lot for the past few years since I graduated from Carnegie Mellon with my MFA in playwriting, doing plays and checking out different theater towns, and I haven’t seen any other place that functions quite like Philly. It’s very cool.”

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