100% PHILADELPHIA (Rimini Protokoll): Fringe Review 79

  • 100-philadelphia69% of Philadelphians were born in Philadelphia
  • 12% were born outside the United States
  • 49% of Philadelphians are unmarried; 8% are widowed
  • one in six doctors in the United States receive medical training in Philadelphia
  • 80% of pretzels in the country are manufactured in Pennsylvania.

Such statistics, given to us in Rimini Protokoll’s Fringearts-presented 100% PHILADELPHIA, tell us about our city, but the story is fragmentary and incomplete. To fill out the picture, the German performance group recruited 105 real Philadelphians (well, mostly civic- or artistic-minded Philadelphians, but “real” nonetheless) to represent the city’s diverse demographics, mirroring the age, race, neighborhood, marital status, and gender breakdowns of Philadelphia’s population.

Philadelphia map theaters

4% of Philadelphians live in Center City.

This representative pool contains some characters, seven-year-old Brent Brown, who brought a camping chair with him “because I like sitting”; Jessica Kalup, who has a tattoo-sleeve of Philadelphia icons (liberty bell, Wawa symbol “I went twice today”, the LOVE symbol); fiercely-proud Egyptian-born Wadeed Tewfik. The group are asked questions, and divide themselves into mostly yes-or-no groups by a variety of means: moving across stage, flashing lights, color boards. A few question series throw up intriguing results: “Did you serve in Vietnam?” (4 people); “Did you support the Iraq War after 9/11?” (two of the vets leave, about a dozen join the “yes” group); “Do you support President Obama’s decision to attack ISIS in Iraq and Syria?” (some of the yeses leave, but the group more than doubles in size). Generally, though, the representational Philly audience applauds loudly for conventionally liberal opinions (pro-education, pro-gay marriage, the very existence of Native Americans) and there isn’t too much to surprise in the 100%’s answers. Still, it’s nice to see a snapshot of Philadelphia onstage, in a block party of unity, dancing to music by the fun-minded TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb. [Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N Broad Street] September 19-21, 2014; fringearts.com/100-philadelphia.

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.