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You Can See The One, The Other One, & The Many

Posted June 3rd, 2015

Choreographer Katherine Stark  presents a work-in-progress showing of The One, The Other One, & The Many by her company The Naked Stark on June 3 at 6pm at Mascher Space Cooperative. Pay what you can! Suggested donation $10. We caught up with Katharine Stark for a couple questions about the new dance.

The OneFringeArts: Can you tell us what you’re showing?
Katharine Stark: This piece first began over the summer when I was watching Ender’s Game and became fascinated with both the obvious formula for the rise to leadership narrative and the movement of the camera around the main character.

FringeArts:
This is an “in-progress” showing. What are you most interested in discovering?

Katharine Stark:
I’m at a pure research stage in my movement investigation; I’m staying away from developing a narrative or making any large structural choices. I’m sharing explorations in leading and following, using cinematic devices to create narratives/characters, and ways to create cinematic effects in movement. I’m curious to learn how the audience sees the material. Are the devices and effects we’re exploring readable?
The research for this project also includes interviews with people about their relationships with leaders and heroes and leadership and recognition both fictional and from actual experiences. The interviews along with audience participation–concerning leading and following experiences–at the showing, along with audience feedback, are part of shaping the next phase of the work.

FringeArts
: Can you give us a couple hints about the “cinematographic” approach to choreography?

Katharine Stark
: One of the effects we have been exploring in rehearsal is shifting back and forth between two locations/times/scenes etc. We created two duets to establish the two scenes; I broke them into three chunks and cut back and forth between the chunks through having the dancers pop in and out of the floor and in and out of a wall. The intent is a clear division between scenes and for the audience to be able to follow each scene even though they are broken up. We’ll see!

Thanks Katharine, looking forward to it!

The One, The Other One, & The Many
The Naked Stark
Wednesday June 3 at 6pm
Mascher Space Cooperative
155 Cecil B Moore (Kensington)

Olive Prince Dance shows new work this weekend

Posted April 28th, 2015
Olive Prince, leader of Olive Prince Dance, is showing an in-progess version of her new full length dance, Of our remnants, Thursday April 30–Saturday May 2 this weekend at the Iron Factory (118 Fountain Street, Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia).
 Olive Prince Dance-photo-by-kaitlin-chow

Olive spent three months as a resident artist at The Iron Factory building this new dance, which was inspired by a passage in Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “When I choreograph, I often start with very specific visual images, objects, set pieces, or costuming and create ways to reconfigure their meaning throughout the choreography,” Olive explains. To get ready for the showing, the company is “presently installing a set including empty frames, a lamp collage, and visual art that will become the backdrop for our movement explorations.”

An excerpt from Of our remnants was performed last month at the Nice and Fresh series at Cliveden, and it was spectacular, so make sure you go! (I believe there will be beverages to enjoy as well!)

Of our remnants

Olive Prince Dance / Choreography By Olive Prince / Made in collaboration with visual artist–writer Carrie Powell and design artist Kaitlin Chow / Dancers: Evalina Carbonell, Brandi Ou, Caroline O’Brein, Emily Reynolds, Grace Stern, Ann-Marie Grover, and Lindsay Browning / 60 minutes.
Thursday April 30th, Friday May 1st, and Saturday May 2nd at 7:30 pm.  $15/www.theironfactory.org
The Iron Factory
118 Fountain Street, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA, 19122
Photo: Kaitlin Chow

IT BEGINS

Posted September 5th, 2014

FringeInquirerCover

Interview with Ellen Schultz, WetLand Collaborator from Fairmount Water Works

Posted August 8th, 2014
The Fairmount Water Works Center

Fairmount Water Works

The WetLand project, a collaboration between FringeArts and the artist Mary Mattingly, is set to open on August 15th. In addition to providing a living space for Mattingly and a rotating cast of artists-in-residence, and in addition to the system of gardens, solar panels, chickens, and bees, the WetLand barge will serve as a performance and community space for a wide range of events over the next six weeks.
As part of this event cycle, Fairmount Water Works will be hosting a series of family-friendly workshops about water management. Each Monday, the workshops will focus on a different water-related lesson, including water filtration, purification, and water use with plants.
Ellen Schultz, the Education and Outreach Coordinator at Fairmount Water Works, answers a few questions below about the intersections between nature and the city.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the workshops that the Fairmount Water Works will be leading on WetLand?

My first hope is that people come away with a new understanding (appreciation) for their good, safe clean reliable tap water and all that goes into delivering that potable glass of water.

How do you see the values of WetLand interacting with those of Fairmount Water Works?

At the Fairmount Water Works, as the watershed education center of the Philadelphia Water Deparment, we want all who visit us to understand the history of the water supply system, the present challenges facing our watershed, and the future solutions to keeping our source water clean.

Why are you passionate about water and land use? What is the most meaningful to you about this work?

I think this is the fundamental point of connection between people – we need water to live, we enjoy clean water as a big part of our leisure time, and it provides a certain kind of well-being to all our lives.  How we behave on the land is inextricably linked to insuring the quality of our waterways and the safety of our drinking water supply

What do you hope WetLand and the Fairmount Water Works will accomplish?

Stop and make people think about water as a finite resource and what we can do as individuals and collectively to play a role in protecting that resource.

If you could construct a natural space in an urban setting, much like WetLand, what would it look like?

I would love to see more green space like rain gardens explained (or interpreted). Perhaps, too, one day we can show how the Water Works functioned as an industrial site by recreating the forebay from the river to the building.

Do you feel that there is a tension between nature and the city? How can we navigate that tension?

I don’t think I would describe it as tension (except when nature runs wild), but more like a symbiotic relationship – both feed each other and enhance our quality of life.

Thanks Ellen!

The Fairmount Water Works Center workshops on WetLand will take place on August 18th, August 25th, September 8th, and September 15th from 3 PM to 5 PM. Workshops will be approximately 20 minutes long and will start at 3pm, 3:30pm, 4pm, and 4:30pm.

WetLand
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 South Columbus Blvd (at Dock St)
Aug 15­–Sept 21, 10:00am–5:00pm (ongoing)
More information: fringearts.com

– Abby Holtzman

Interview with Karla Stingerstein, WetLand Contributing Artist

Posted July 31st, 2014

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Artist, gallery director/curator, and adjunct professor Karla Stingerstein is taking her fascination with objects and collaborative creativity to WetLand, the floating barge and self-sustaining ecosystem that will debut on August 15th as part of the 2014 Fringe Festival. Read below about her work with building garden beds, her favorite photo album, and her thoughts about art as connection.

What aspects of WetLand are you involved with during the planning and production process?

WetLand is the vision and work of Mary Mattingly, and part of her vision is to have collaborating artists involved with different aspects of the work’s creation. As a collaborating artist I am focused primarily on the creation of the wetland area which surround the vessel. This includes researching aspects of riverine ecosystems, brainstorming and sketching designs for a variety of wetland beds which include emergent to upper marsh areas, cultivating relationships with local nurseries and businesses to procure plants and building materials, and ultimately creating floating aquatic beds.

Close-up of a floating garden bed constructed by Karla Stingerstein.

Close-up of a floating garden bed constructed by Karla Stingerstein.

Why do you think it is important to look closely at the objects that make up our lives? How does this relate to the environment?

Lots of species, like some birds and crabs, collect objects.  Humans in general have the same impulse, so our  urge to surround ourselves with things is natural. Objects can be repositories of human histories, often forgotten ones, and when these objects are no longer relevant to their owners, they are discarded.  This act of discarding is often done without thought, and the planet is drowning in dispossessed stories. I think it is important to look closely at objects and how we engage with them so that we can steward those objects into new, environmentally healthy narratives.

What objects that you have encountered in your life are the most meaningful to you? What are their stories?

I am drawn to photo albums because they tell stories of meaningful moments.  You get fragments of other people’s lives as well as a vantage point from that image. Through a photo, you share another’s eyes for moment.

There is this one photo album I have.  It is not of my own family but one that seems to have belonged to a nurse from the 1950’s stationed abroad with the army. I bought it when I was in my early 20’s at a flea market in Lambertville, New Jersey.  I keep going back to the album, flipping through it, hoping to piece together more bits of her life. The one narrative that keeps emerging from the album is a friendship she has with a colonel. They seem to care for one another but I always sense some distance between them. I think she is from the Jersey shore because I recognize the houses in some of her home photos, but I cannot be certain. I have always wished there was a way to know enough to bring this album to the people in it.

Why do you make art?

Making art is a choice I make and a method I use to connect and communicate with people.

How does your background inform the work you are doing with WetLand?

The process by which I am finding sustainable solutions to the complex problems associated with my area of WetLand is being informed by my background in art and arts administration. For instance, my art practice includes the scavenging of material found on the streets. I collect detritus in order to restore “use” to the object.  This drive helps me explore ways to create floating garden beds that are sturdy, economical, and environmentally friendly as well as buoyant.  For example, one way to clean the river  its surroundings is to collect found water bottles. Fastening them onto the aquatic frame insures buoyancy.  The solution is free. These acts steward the environment by gathering the refuse and at the same time transform waste into something useful.

Some of the floating garden beds constructed by Karla Stingerstein.

More floating garden beds!

Also, my former administrative experiences are helping to figure out additional matters associated with Mary’s project.   I was the director of development for the Hunterdon Art Museum Museum in New Jersey as well as the gallery director for the Student Union Art Gallery at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. So I have experience in grant writing and in-kind donations. In other words, I connect patrons to public projects in order to create beneficial circumstances for both sides.  Because my skill set includes the making of creative works as well as the orchestrating philanthropic activities, I have found a way to make art by procuring in-kind donations for Mary’s project. Fusing these areas to benefit one another feels natural.  I can say I am now an “In-Kind” Artist.

What values or aspects of WetLand do you see as particularly significant to you personally?

There are so many, but one aspect of Wetland that is particularly significant is cooperative art-making. Making this project come to life is very complex, and even though I am entering it only at this later stage, there so many pieces that need coordination and creation all at once.  While the domicile is being constructed, the collection of plants needs to be managed, aspects of the hen house and the bees need to be organized while the docks need to be built, the boat’s interior needs to be renovated, and so on.  Alone, it might take Mary a very long time to realize her vision. A historic model of the “artist” is of a solitary practitioner in a studio.  In a world of ever-increasing connectedness, this model is changing. For me, Mary’s project illustrates this evolution.

What drew you to the process?

Mary is creating a work in which collaboration is fundamental to its operation. What makes this particular scenario so interesting is “how” Mary has involved everyone in WetLand. The result of her  collaborative paradigm is one in which space for individual vision is fostered.  Like systems in a body, we are all performing our separate functions but we are breathing together.  Ultimately, I see this kind of endeavor as one that provides me with hope – through mindful, community-sourced, and integrated art-making we can engender real, sustainable solutions.

What do you hope to learn from this process? What do you think will challenge you?

I hope to keep finding ways to apply these skills towards future projects by bringing bring people together to reshape our perceptions and actions as members of a community.  There will always be challenges, logistical, inter-personal, financial, environmental, etc. but I believe that the continued development and successful application of a holistic paradigm has the potential to overcome them.

Thank you, Karla!

WetLand
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 South Columbus Blvd (at Dock St)
Aug 15­–Sept 21, 10:00am–5:00pm (ongoing)
More information: fringearts.com

 

– Abby Holtzman

Newly-Abled Bodies: Interview with Neighborhood Fringe artist Laurencio Ruiz

Posted July 29th, 2014

“Puppetry allows me to socialize people—it seems to me that we are no longer able to touch, to talk, and to listen to each other.”

Laurencio Ruiz in 2011. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Laurencio Ruiz in 2011. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Why do so many of us avert our eyes from people physically different from ourselves? Why are so many of us uncomfortable with differences in ability? In his 2014 Fringe Festival puppet show, Incongruous, Laurencio Ruiz raises these questions and challenges us to reevaluate our definitions of ability and disability. Laurencio refers to the puppets in his show not as disabled, but as newly-abled. As the lines between puppet and human and between abled and disabled blur, Laurencio reminds the audience of its shared humanity and connection. Incongruous runs Sept 5­–21 at Studio X (1340 S 13th St.). We talked to Laurencio to find out more about his production and his experience with puppetry.

FringeArts: What drew you to puppetry?

Laurencio Ruiz: Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by puppetry, thanks to the wisdom of Sesame Street, which became the landmark and universal point of reference. I learned about what puppets can do for us. At the age of ten, using two Sesame Street hand puppets borrowed from my best friend, I performed several small shows in my front yard charging 25 cents.

Back in Mexico, my home country, during college, I got involved in designing and building puppets seriously for theater productions, a national television show, and commercials. I collaborated with a couple of talented visual artists in their studios. This collaborative and challenging period was very rewarding personally and professionally. During that time, I was also involved in performance art—designing and performing objects as “puppets” for several performance art events and venues, as well as creating art installations for diverse art galleries, museums, and trade shows.

The beginning of my development as a puppeteer began during my last year of graduate school here in the U.S. After the events of September 11, 2001, as an artist I was in need of creating a piece of performance art to exteriorize my rage, compassion, love, understanding, courage, and forgiveness in my own terms and language. I came to the realization that puppetry would be able to help me heal and share my experiences; it was the right artistic medium.

But most importantly, puppetry allows me to socialize people—it seems to me that we are no longer able to touch, to talk, and to listen to each other. Sometimes we are afraid of the “different” (based on gender, ethnicity, race, cultural background, appearance, body image, accent, manner of dress, sexual orientation).  Puppetry allows us to do that again—to socialize and interact with each other without guilt, fear, or embarrassment, because puppetry involves cooperation and trust. It makes us conscious of our own bodies and the bodies of others, as well as allowing us to appreciate our capacities. Things that we take for granted, our daily routine, are acts that puppetry reminds us to appreciate, because puppetry transcends cultures and language, because at its core is our humanity. Just as puppets are used as a part of medical healing, they can bridge seemingly insurmountable gaps between people.

Laurencio Ruiz in performance. Photo by Michele Corbman.

Laurencio Ruiz in performance. Photo by Michele Corbman.

FringeArts: What inspired you to create Incongruous?

Laurencio Ruiz: The first idea was inspired by a very good friend of mine, Ana Vaquera. She was the greatest single mother I know, and had a single leg. One day I saw her standing with her crutch when her baby crawled over to her. She put the crutch to the side and, in an amazing balancing act, she lifted her baby son from the floor. This was such a beautiful moment of love without limits; I was so moved that eventually I asked her if she would allow me to make a puppet based on her.

From there I didn’t know how to make concrete, to materialize, my idea of working with physical disabilities, until a couple weeks later I found an interview in Esquire Magazine in 2007.  I was again so moved by the story of an Iraq veteran, Brian Anderson, that I couldn’t stop thinking about experiences and challenges each of them faced every day. This moment was my epiphany, and the starting point for my project.

FringeArts: Can you describe the process of creating a puppet show?

Laurencio Ruiz: In my case, the creative process for a puppet show comes in a variety of ways. Sometimes it starts with an image, something from an article in the newspaper, or from people I meet. The script is the last part of the process. I start with the structure or the main idea of the show, then develop the characters (gender, physical appearance, personality, size) and decide how many puppets I will need. During this time I start planning the plot and possible story lines.

FringeArts: Do you create new puppets for every piece that you write?

Laurencio Ruiz: Yes, I do, because every project is very different. Many times, in each project I make a new generation of puppets, improved and with new tricks, with different mechanisms and effects.

FringeArts: What makes a successful puppet?

Laurencio Ruiz: When the puppet is able to reach audiences and stimulate their curiosity. When I hear the audience being mesmerized and see them captivated by the puppets, I know I have been successful. When they come up after the performance and show that their interest goes beyond just superficial entertainment.

Often, I work to create artistic visual narratives that, at some point during the show, invite the audience members to be part of the performance as puppeteers. I invite them to literally “give me a hand.” That is, I ask an audience member to be the puppet’s right hand. We complete actions together, so the audience has the opportunity to see and practice both sides of puppetry.

Photo by Michele Corbman.

Photo by Michele Corbman.

FringeArts: What were the challenges in making Incongruous?

Laurencio Ruiz: The challenge was how to present these stories as one, because this show is not a play with a logical plot development.

From my point of view as puppeteer, since the puppet has fewer body parts for me to move, I am challenged on how to allow him or her to express him or herself. So the challenge is to build or create capacity while breaking the normalizing gaze of the audience members.

FringeArts: Has creating this production affected your understanding of physical disability and ability?

Laurencio Ruiz: Creating this production confirmed for me that we—not the puppets—are the disabled, because we are the ones who no longer talk or touch or see or listen to each other. This incapacity/disability results from our lack of physical contact and communication with each other, and is not based on the missing limb. Even though we can, we don’t.

This “newly-abled” puppet show bares all to generate a safe playground for the audience to become less prejudiced and more friendly to the “different,” to explore new realms of the eerie, the weird, and the odd. The more we are exposed to people with physical disabilities, the more we normalize our perception of what they really are—people, like you and me.

When we look at nude Greek sculptures, even when they are mutilated or missing limbs, we don’t get scared or avoid looking at them or see them as odd. Instead, we still encounter their presence and appreciate their bodies’ beauty. So why are we not doing the same with the physically disabled?

That’s why this “newly-abled” puppet show invites you to look at their bodies without fear and without seeing them as odd. They don’t want to be objectified; instead, they want to inspire reflection about our own bodies.

Thank you, Laurencio. We can’t wait!

All Fringe Festival tickets are on sale online. Tickets to Incongruous are available here.

Incongruous
$10 / 45 minutes
Studio X
1340 South 13th Street
Wheelchair accessible

Sept 5­–7 at 6pm + 7pm
Sept 12 at 4pm + 11:30pm
Sept 13 at 2:30pm + 9:30pm
Sept 19 at 4pm + 11:30pm
Sept 20 at 2:30pm + 9:30pm
Sept 21 at 5:30pm + 6:30pm

—Miriam Hwang-Carlos

Absurdity and Chaos: Interview with Neighborhood Fringe artist Emily Schuman

Posted July 28th, 2014

“We are wired to seek solace and meaning even in the most absurd of worlds.”

Fando y Lis in the 2014 Fringe Festival.

Fando y Lis in the 2014 Fringe Festival.

Fando y Lis, an absurdist play by Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal, is coming to this year’s Neighborhood Fringe Festival. The play tells the story of two lovers, Fando and Lis, journeying through a barren nowhere-land while Fando pushes Lis, paralyzed from the waist down, in a cart. Director Emily Schuman translated the play into English, and has adapted her production to focus on the complexity of Lis’s story. Fando y Lis will run Sept 20–22 at the Shubin Theatre. We caught up with Emily to find out more.

FringeArts: How did you decide to work with Fernando Arrabal’s Fando y Lis?

Emily Schuman: I first read Fando y Lis as part of a summer research project I did at Denison University. I was really into absurd Spanish theatre at the time. Though we read so many of those plays in my Spanish literature classes, we never touched them in my theater classes. This project was my excuse to delve into Spanish theater and find a way to share it with English-speaking audiences. I found this amazing Spanish theater library when I was home in New York called the Jorge Luis Borges Library at the Instituto Cervantes, a Spanish cultural center. I was there for hours, reading play after play until I picked out Fando y Lis. I had never heard of Fernando Arrabal, but the first line of the play caught my attention and I couldn’t stop reading it. It was also the first time that I had read something in Spanish that I instantly understood without having to translate to English while I read.

I was drawn to Fando y Lis because it is a play that exists in complete absurdity and chaos, and yet these real, tangible issues, like relationships, love, identity and self-worth, are able to seep through the cracks and affect its viewers. That is why I find theater like this so powerful, because we are wired to seek solace and meaning even in the most absurd of worlds.

FringeArts: How has your production evolved from Arrabal’s play?

Emily Schuman: My production has evolved from the original play in our further exploration of the character of Lis, who is very complicated and enigmatic. She is paralyzed in her legs, which makes her extremely dependent on her lover Fando, who pushes her in a cart. I wanted to find interesting ways to shed light on her character and make this Lis’s story. I wrote a monologue for her that I believe gives her character depth, grounds her, and makes her more accessible to the audience. I also incorporated movement sequences that take us further into their absurd world and give variety to the tone of the piece both musically and visually.

The biggest development from Arrabal’s original play is that I decided to incorporate a burlap-covered mannequin that is used to represent Lis’s body. Lis experiences a lot of violence throughout the play both mentally and physically and I wanted to find a creative and effective way of conveying that violence to my audience without using stage combat. I might be alone in this theory, but I feel that when we see physical violence on stage, we say one of two things: “That punch looked so fake!” or, “I hope that actress is okay.” Either way, we are in our own heads, distracted from what is really happening to these characters. The incorporation of the mannequin into Fando y Lis is my way of exploring a symbolic and creative method of stage violence that viscerally affects my audience while keeping them in the story of the play.

As soon as we started using the mannequin in rehearsal to represent her body during these violent scenes, we started to see a whole new layer to the play that didn’t exist before. It is a layer that allows us to see this story through Lis’s eyes, a layer that gives new perspective to Arrabal’s vision.

FringeArts: What process did you go through to translate Fando y Lis?

Emily Schuman: I spent the first two weeks of my research directly translating the text of Fando y Lis into English, and then spent the rest of the summer adapting the language, choosing the right words, and incorporating my own concepts into the play. The process helped me to grow as a theater artist because it forced me to approach the work from new angles. I would not have been able to accomplish this project without the aid of professors Dosinda Alvite and Dr. Mark Evans Bryan, who guided me through the process and supported me the entire way.

FringeArts: Can you give us a little background on Fernando Arrabal and his work?

Emily Schuman: Fernando Arrabal is a playwright, poet, essayist, and novelist who is often associated with writers like Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett. He was heavily influenced by avant-garde, surrealist artists of the 20th century, and is known for joining forces with filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1962 to create the Panic Movement. It is a theatrical form that was inspired by Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and designed to shock its audiences with surreal imagery and chaotic performance art. The Panic Movement was their response to surrealism turning mundane and audiences becoming passive participants in theatre. Even though he wrote Fando y Lis before the Panic Movement, the play definitely carries the values of that movement. His characters actively engage their viewers by surprising us with their sudden switch to chaos and absurdity.

Arrabal currently lives in Paris, and seems like such an eccentric character. He has an interesting blog called Ceci n’est pas un blog (French for This Is Not A Blog), where he posts interviews, photos, and upcoming productions of his plays. When I wrote to him to ask his permission to perform Fando y Lis, he wrote back giving me his blessing, and posted my play’s information to the blog!

Thank you, Emily! We can’t wait!

Tickets for all Fringe shows are on sale now online. Get tickets for Fando y Lis here.

Fando y Lis by Fernando Arrabal
Shubin Theatre
407 Bainbridge Street
$10 / 65 minutes
Sept 20 at 2pm, 5pm + 8pm
Sept 21 at 4pm + 7pm
Sept 22 at 7pm

—Miriam Hwang-Carlos

I Smell Philly: Observations from 100% Philadelphia

Posted July 25th, 2014
Participants speak in 100% Brussels. Photo by TMitchell.

Participants speak in 100% Brussels. Photo by TMitchell.

This summer, I’ve been the Festival Guide management intern here at FringeArts. Since the guide went to print last week (hooray, come to our party!), I’ve been editing interviews with participants in 100% Philadelphia by the German artist collective Rimini Protokoll. The show stars one hundred Philadelphians­ chosen according to the city’s census data. These non-actors—who are statistically representative of varying races, genders, ages, and neighborhoods—will share their views on current issues and tell their stories onstage, exploring what it means to live in this diverse yet fragmented city of cheesesteak. We are currently compiling interviews with all one hundred participants for a booklet to accompany the performance.

From the first twenty-three interviews, I already feel privy to a unique peephole into the life of the city. Since we all have to wait until September 19th for the real show, I’ll share a few observations, using the entirely scientific whatever-sticks-out-in-my-memory method:

When asked what smell they associate with the city of brotherly love, participants tend to respond with one of three answers: Cheesesteak, pretzels, or garbage. As some participants salivated over Philadelphia’s abundant pretzel supply, others waxed poetic about the heat-induced summertime stench of trash, punctuated by the watery aromas of the Schuylkill and Delaware.

Education is one of the most popular causes that Philadelphians would demonstrate for. Multiple teachers spoke of their love for their students, and many parents and grandparents watched children outside their window with concern. In general, these Philadelphians seem to agree that the way to a better future, for their own children and for the city as a whole, is increasing access to fairer education.

In a similar vein, many participants expressed great belief in community. Many identified the reason they stayed in Philadelphia as the desire to strengthen their communities, inspired by the mentors that helped them or that they wished had been present.

Philadelphians love their music. When asked what sounds they associate with Philly, many participants responded with music genres or particular songs. Or SEPTA noises, which I suppose could be a music of its own, if we’re being generous. On that note, I’ll leave you with this Philly classic:

To encourage the entire city to participate, tickets to 100% Philadelphia are pay what you wish. Get your tickets online here.

100% Philadelphia
Temple Performing Arts Center
1837 N Broad St
(between Montgomery Ave and Norris St)
Wheelchair accessible
Sept 19 + 20 at 7pm
Sept 21 at 3pm

—Miriam Hwang-Carlos

Fighting Back: Interview with Neighborhood Fringe artist Colie McClellan

Posted July 24th, 2014

“It’s infuriating to realize the enormity of intimate partner violence, the prevalence it has in our society—I couldn’t not do something about that.”

Colie McClellan in They Call Me Arethusa

Colie McClellan in They Call Me Arethusa

Stories of abuse and sexual violence against women run throughout Ancient Greek mythology. Actor and writer Colie McClellan came across these stories countless times while majoring in classics at the College of Charleston. In her one-woman play, They Call Me Arethusa, Colie weaves Greek mythology with stories of real, modern women who have experienced partner violence. They Call Me Arethusa runs throughout the 2014 Fringe Festival (September 5–20 at Pig Iron School Studio One). We caught up with Colie to find out more.

FringeArts: What inspired the creation of They Call Me Arethusa?

Colie McClellan: Once you’ve experienced dating violence, it’s like you enter a club. This club is made up of women who all have their own experience to relate. Sometimes these are small instances. Others extend over the course of a lifetime, recurring again and again. Women share with you the secrets they don’t share with anyone else, because once you’ve experienced it, you understand. What I’m seeking to do is bring these stories to light, for the world to see. It’s infuriating to realize the enormity of intimate partner violence, the prevalence it has in our society. I couldn’t not do something about that.

I didn’t know what the piece would look like when I started talking to women, started doing research. I just knew that I wanted to record and honor their stories. At first I envisioned a piece that used a lot of different forms of expression from the women: poems, stories, songs. I also had the idea to bring in themes from pop culture to represent the pressure we place on women to perform a certain way. Those things didn’t make the cut. The creative team and I felt that it drew too much away from our mission of focusing on the survivors, their stories, and how often we diminish or romanticize abuse.

FringeArts: What makes theater the right artistic medium to explore these issues?

Colie McClellan: Theater is the right artistic medium for me to explore these issues because it’s my artistic medium. Theater is about sharing stories and reflecting on human experiences. And I’ve been doing theater since I was a kid. It all makes perfect sense for me, and, again, I couldn’t not do it this way.

FringeArts: Has creating this play made you think differently about partner violence?

Colie McClellan: There are a few things that creating and performing this play have made me think about differently: A. Oh yeah, people don’t talk about intimate partner violence. This sounds obvious, because it’s the reason I wanted to do the thing, but I can be so steeped in the telling of these stories that I forget that other people aren’t talking about this. When certain audience members are stunned or shocked, it sometimes still surprises me. You can feel it from them while the piece is happening. I’ve built in soothing moments, moments of reprieve to help with that sting, but it is a lot to take in, and I don’t let anyone off the hook.

B. Everyone has a story. Every single time I’ve performed this piece, at least one person from the audience has approached me and said that they, or their sister, or their girlfriend, or their mom, or their grandmother, or their friend is a survivor of intimate partner violence. Some of the women who experienced it firsthand would leave right after the show and send me messages later. Their messages kept—and keep—me doing this. I’m doing this for them.

C. Some people won’t ever get it. They also get upset with me for sharing these stories, like I’m making them confront issues that they wish they could keep ignoring. I could write a whole essay about this. I’ll keep it short and simple: I don’t like it either! But ignoring things doesn’t make them go away.

FringeArts: Why did you decide to include Greek mythology?

Colie McClellan: I was a classics major in undergrad. The stories of the women who are chased and attacked and abused, they are all over the place. I wanted to frame the testimonials with something universal—these myths that reflect the way we diminish abuse today.

I like that the stories are a bit removed from the audience. It gives them a chance to breathe between these heavy, hefty testimonials. I also like that the mythological storytelling lulls them into a sense of security, so you can draw them back in a little before continuing to the next heavy hitting piece.

FringeArts: Is there anything you would like the audience to know before your show?

Colie McClellan: I’d like for the audience to come with open minds and ready hearts. I’m not out to prove anything; I’m just seeking to share and hopefully empower.

Thank you, Colie!

Fringe Festival tickets are already on sale! Tickets for They Call Me Arethusa available online.

They Call Me Arethusa
55 minutes
Opening night $10
All other performances $20

Pig Iron School Studio One
1417 North 2nd St
Wheelchair accessible

Sept 5 at 10:30pm
Sept 6 + 7 at 3pm
Sept 10 + 11 at 8pm
Sept 12 at 10pm
Sept 13 at 2pm + 6:30pm
Sept 14 at 5:30pm
Sept 15 at 9pm
Sept 17 + 18 at 6:30pm
Sept 19 at 8pm
Sept 20 at 2pm + 8pm

—Miriam Hwang-Carlos

A Couple Airwaves Removed from Reality: Interview with writer and director Tina Satter

Posted July 22nd, 2014

“It’s a slightly abstracted, theatricalized space, because it’s theater and I’m always interested in theater taking me beyond the edges of reality.”

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

Coming to this year’s Fringe Festival, In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL, brings an all female and genderqueer cast of football players, coaches, and cheerleaders on stage as part of the Presented Fringe. The play by Half Straddle combines the iconic imagery of football with the linguistic particularity of high school girls, all backed by a live brass band. Half Straddle is a New York City-based company that produces plays, performances, videos, and music written and directed by Tina Satter. We caught up with Tina to find out more about her In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL, which will be in the Festival Sept 17–19.

FringeArts: Why is the show title In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL?

Tina Satter: I was calling the show just “FOOTBALL” for a while because it was about football and that worked for me. Then I was trying to work more on the script and push further into it and I was struggling. Jess Barbagallo, who plays the quarterback in the show, told me that they had overheard these young cool-looking girls having this awesome conversation where they referenced something being “downstairs in the pony palace…” Neither of us knew what that meant at all, but the concept of girls discussing a “pony palace” totally opened up the conceptual premise of the show to capture this more intangible special athlete-girl world of the play that I wanted to feel slightly off to the side of real life.

I made “pony palace” the name of their locker room in the play as well. I was able to then create the script and overall concept I was looking for. And then it seemed really important that the wonderful, weird phrase/idea of “Pony Palace” was actually reflected in the title of the show

FringeArts: How did your experience with sports in high school and college inform this play?

Tina Satter: My main sport I played all throughout high school and at Bowdoin College on a Division III team was field hockey. I totally drew from my experience of working really hard with, laughing with, riding buses with, losing with and feeling utterly devastated, and then winning with these groups of girls with whom I had been on these teams all these years. The coded language you have. This incredible sense of effort and honor towards something that, at the end of it all, you know is just a sport, a game, but that really signifies a kind of personal integrity and group effort and belief in something bigger than yourself that, even at that time, and definitely after, I found very inspiring.

So I took all the feelings, memories, and dynamics of playing field hockey and put them onto this idea of a team playing football instead of field hockey. There was something about the larger iconic significance of football that seemed to be what I wanted to use as opposed to field hockey, which is much more obscure in the U.S. I also wanted to use the idea of girls just totally playing without comment in this sport that, the vast majority of the time, only males are allowed to play on a competitive level.

FringeArts: How did the work evolve from your writing of it to your directing of it?

Tina Satter: I don’t think of the plays I am making as just scripts that can be filled out by someone else in a directorial capacity. They are these whole conceptual worlds and feelings that I am just as invested in as I am in the characters and narratives. There is almost not a difference between the writing and directing, because I ultimately have this idea of how every molecule of it should feel, especially the overall rhythm. Of course I’m constantly taking advice, ideas, and in-the-moment inspiration in the rehearsal room from my incredible performers and design collaborators, and adjusting my ideas.

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL. Photo by Hunter Canning.

FringeArts: What is the setting of this piece and how does it appeal to your imagination and artistic sensibilities?

Tina Satter: The setting is a high school football team that exists a couple airwaves removed from reality. It’s a slightly abstracted, theatricalized space, because it’s theater and I’m always interested in theater taking me beyond the edges of reality into a liminal and exciting space in subtle unexpected ways. I want it to feel like something we’ve never quite seen or felt before. To me, that’s a huge part of making something.

So in this case it’s an all-female high school football team that plays football with all the recognizable signifiers—the football uniforms, the sports language, the athletic posturing—but then all edged-out with this kind of made-up, tweaked valley girl speak and poeticized sense of what athletics and the team mean. In the play we see a snapshot of their season as they play several games and have interactions on and off the field that are related to football, to their adolescent sense of the banal, and to bigger things in the act of self-discovery.

FringeArts: Why football?

Tina Satter: It’s the iconic, totally American, very, very male sport that feels universal, but that’s also something only men can play. That’s totally weird when you actually think about it. This thing that just men play, that mostly men watch—not entirely, but primarily—so it’s really this highly segmented gender thing. I wanted to play with that.

But to me, initially it was not a political act to make the play at all, because my first draw was the awesome uniforms and the language and the toughness to the sport and getting to poeticize all that in my world and with the performers I work with. I wanted to make a kind of sports play. That was my main driving factor—an artistic interest in the framework of this particularly iconic tough sport and the aesthetics and language it allowed me to play with. But the fact that it does then become political is great by me. 

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