Philly Fringe 2015

Los Angeles Philharmonic Association - Available Light Dress Rehearsal  Photo by: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

Los Angeles Philharmonic Association – Available Light Dress Rehearsal
Photo by: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

Philadelphia is gearing up for a million or more visitors arriving for pope Francis’ appearance on the Parkway in late September, meanwhile artists, musicians, actors, dancers, poets, singers will occupy the city as the 2015 Fringe Festival launches this week.

The festival’s new waterfront home — The FringeArts Theater-La Peg-Haas Beergarten has emerged as a prime arts venue all year round and is the festival’s hub. The building is in the shadow of the Walt Whitman Bridge and houses a 332 seat amphitheater and state of the art technical accoutrement.

Fringe director Nick Stuccio assures that the theater doesn’t replace the festival’s reach to neighborhoods all over the city, which even extends to the suburbs this year and beyond via ‘Digital Fringe’ world wide with new web apps. Stuccio said it is modeled on festival sites around the world that foster a non-commercial theater driven arts community and a nexus where audiences and artists will hang out.

“We do envision a future where there is unlimited amount of artists (who) can present their work…all over the city,” Stuccio said at the festival press conference.
Below is a sampling of the shows getting the most pre-festival buzz.

The Norway based Jo Stromgren Kompani presents a trio of shows in repertory at the FringeArts Theater. Founder Jo Stromgren mixes elements of physical theater, vaudeville and political satire in his dance-theater work ‘There’ about a troupe of theatrical dissidents stranded on a journey between east and west. ‘The Border’ a caustic exploration of a male-female couple. And the premiere production of Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ with American actors in a surreal morphing doll house installed in the theater.

“Strongren’s work is intensely physical. He looks at humans in isolation,” Stuccio observed.

Ivo van Hove’s Toneelgroep Amsterdam presents “After the Rehearsal/Persona” stage adaptations of Ingmar Bergman’s film scripts. ‘Rehearsal, explores ugly relationships of theater artists and Persona explores the implications of an actress who refuses to speak. Bergman was one of the world’s greatest filmmakers, but he was equally revered as a theater artist Stuccio said these two works is meditations about “the place and necessity of art in the contemporary world.“

“Underground Railroad Game” a new play by Philadelphia-based writer-actors Jenn Kidwell and Scott Sheppard, and directed by Sarah Sanford. It is inspired by Sheppard’s actual experience in the 5th grade in a lesson where half the school played confederate soldiers and half the union soldiers, with re-enactments of the Underground Railroad in which teachers hid black dolls as their visual aids.

“Jenn and Scott are two of the bright lights of the next wave of theater artists in Philly,” Stuccio said. “They have been working on this piece about race, all the taboos all the things we don’t talk about.”

Former Philadelphia actor-writer-director Thaddeus Phillip’s has presented many hits at Fringe over the years, including premiering his Obie- award winning “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” about Edgar Allen Poe’s final days on a train to New York. Phillips now lives in Columbia and has been on a TV series about the exploits of American pilot Barry Seal, alleged drug lord, informant and Iran-Contra deal broker. He has made a stage work about the experience called ‘Alias Ellis MacKenzie’ and is joined onstage by some of the TV cast. Stuccio observes “Thaddeus theatricalizes his experience being in this show playing this crazy character,” Stuccio said, adding that Phillips is “one of the most inventive stage artists I’ve ever met.”

“Still Standing You” is a scabrous, macho and otherwise homoerotic pas de deux conceived by Belgium artist Pieter Ampe in a duet with Portuguese artist Guilherme Garrido. “It is about masculinity, about all the crazy ways men relate to each other. Pieter is emerging internationally as a force in contemporary performance,” Stuccio said.

One of the most highly anticipated events is the full restoration of the dance piece “Available Light” choreographed by Lucinda Childs in collaboration with composer John Adams and architect Frank Gehry.

“This is a seminal work of art by one of most important American choreographers. Her work is rarely seen in the US. “Available Light” premiered in San Francisco in 1983 and its elaborate reconstruction will be will be performed at the 33th St. Armory on the campus of Drexel University.

“Soul Project” is Venezuela-Netherlands choreographer David Zambrano’s international assemblage of virtuoso independent dancers from different cultures. Their indigenous dance vernacular is perfumed in a series of solos set to music by soul singer superstars such as Aretha Franklin and James Brown. The audience is up close and personal and Zambrano devises ritualized, sensual dance communion.
“Zambrano is a dance teacher highly sought after for his improvisational structure. He’s also a great choreographer who gets the most out of his dancers,” Stuccio said. for a complete listing of performances and events.