PIFA Returns: A full schedule of the 2016 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts

The third Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts takes place April 8–23, 2016. A 16-day celebration of art, PIFA showcases a breadth of local and international performances and installations curated by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and presented at the Kimmel Center and locations across Philadelphia. Many of the more than 60 events across genres and art forms are free; tickets for others start at just $10. Tickets can be purchased at kimmelcenter.org or 215-893-1999.

article13-910x520PIFA 2016 CALENDAR OF EVENTS 

The Kinetic Tree,  Commonwealth Plaza (Free!)
April 8–23, 2016, live performances at 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
The centerpiece of PIFA 2016 will grow on the Kimmel Center’s Commonwealth Plaza. Designed by 2015 MacArthur Genius Mimi Lien (also responsible for 2011′s Eiffel Tower), with lighting design by Tyler Micoleau, and sound design by Nick Kourtides, the installation will be equal parts interactive spectacle and live performance. The Kinetic Tree will take advantage of the Kimmel Center’s vast vertical space with an enormous installation that will transform twice each evening during the festival. The transformation will be facilitated by a live performance directed by Kimmel Center artistic director Jay Wahl and featuring local performers.

Stand, The Clay Studio, Lobby of the Kimmel Center (Free!)
April 8–23, 2016
The Clay Studio will collaborate with artist Shay Church to create an ambitious, interactive public sculpture that will be on display in the Kimmel Center lobby throughout PIFA 2016. Stand will be an installment in Church’s body of artwork which he refers to as “Wet Clay Installations.” Church and team will use a crowd-sourced approach to build a forest of wood and clay, which visitors will contribute to. The public will be invited to help apply clay to multiple parts of the installation such as trees and a variety of animals to bring the forest to life. The installation will undergo a transformation over the course of the festival: as the wet clay is applied, the moisture of the clay and marks left behind from all of the hands touching the piece breathe life into it. Over time the clay dries, begins to crack, and has an appearance of a dry-river bed. This drying takes the life out of the piece, illustrating the temporary nature of art and the circle of life in things both nature and man-made.

Urban Abstraction: PIFA in Light, Klip Collective
April 8–23, 2016
Hot off their exhibition “Nightscape” at Longwood Gardens, Klip Collective will create original video illuminating ordinary street objects like lampposts and fire hydrants in some of Philadelphia’s most beloved pockets with colorful projections to show how art can transform everyday objects. The final video product will be showcased throughout the city in taxicabs, on Septa trains, and in other very visible and sometimes unexpected locations.

Article 13 (American Premiere), Carabosse Company & Teatro Linea de Sombra, Penn’s Landing (Free)
April 8-10, 2016
Equal parts installation, spectacle, and documentary, Article 13 is a large-scale story made out of small stories in a constant state of evolution, based on current events related to immigration. A collaboration between Compagnie Carabosse (of France) & Teatro Linea de Sombra (of Mexico), Article 13 is a memorial to the thousands of migrants who have disappeared, and at the same time it gives back human face, flesh, and identity to the anonymous ones lost in search of a better world. Visitors interact and wander through the labyrinth of fire and sound in this artistic exploration of borders and exodus that will encompass the equivalent of nearly two football fields.
 
image006Knitting Peace (American Premiere), Cirkus Cirkör, Merriam Theater at the Kimmel Center
April 8–10, 2016
Swedish circus troupe Cirkus Cirkör brings the American Premiere of Knitting Peace to PIFA 2016 in pursuit of an answer to one question: “Is it possible to knit peace?” In this contemporary circus performance, daring trapeze artists soar in graceful poses set to live music as they interact with elaborately woven and strangely entangled knitted structures and props. Audiences share in the experience of five circus artists and one musician, surrounded by a striking set design of white monumental knittings, big tangles, and enormous balls of yarn. Inspired by the craft of knitting, approximately 75% of the set design is made of a thick cotton yarn made from waste product from the tricot fabric industry.
 
String Theory: Exploring The Nature, Craft and Soul of Musical Instruments
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center
April 8, 2016, 6:15 p.m; April 13, 2016, 6:15 p.m.
The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presents a two-part panel discussion which delves into the material culture of music, set on the backdrop of two chamber music concerts at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. String Theory explores the relationship between the things we create and their identity as independent artistic enablers.

Paper Planet (Philadelphia Premiere)
Polyglot Theatre
Hamilton Garden at the Kimmel Center
April 9–23, 2016
Australian-based theater company Polyglot Theatre presents a spectacular forest of tall cardboard trees inviting kids and adults to fill the world with fantastic paper creations. Each of the individual pieces that form the complete work are interactive engagements that draw upon the imagination and action of children and families to play, explore, invent, and encounter through touch, action, and drama. Each experience has at its core the belief that children must be given open-ended opportunities that allow them freedom, agency, and a space to engage imaginatively without mediation. This program is intended for children ages 3 to 8.
 
Rivers of Sound (Philadelphia Premiere)
Amir ElSaffar
Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center
April 9, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
Straight off a standing-room-only premiere at Lincoln Center, Rivers of Sound by Amir El Saffar features a 17-musician ensemble featuring traditional instruments from across North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, including the oud (lute), qanun (plucked zither), santur (hammered-dulcimer), nay (reed flute), as well as Western instruments, such as saxophone, trumpet, drum set, bass, retuned piano, vibraphone, guitar, and vocalists from corresponding traditions. Rivers of Sound consists of composed melodies, forms, and rhythmic formulas, but is performed in an improvisational fashion, fostering variations on the musical material and spontaneous interaction between musicians. The large ensemble’s combination of instruments, each with distinct timbral properties, allows for the emergence of new sonic textures and nuanced interaction between musicians, completely unique to each performance. Individual sounds disappear into the larger sound of the whole ensemble, forming a collective, “human” voice.
 
Vision Song: Our Hearts, Our Voices, Our Future (World Premiere)
Jazz Bridge
SEI Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center
April 9, 2016, 8:00 p.m; April 10, 2016, 2:00 p.m.
Jazz Bridge, in collaboration with Pew Fellow, jazz composer/bandleader/saxophonist Bobby Zankel, will present a new work for Zankel’s band, Warriors of the Wonderful Sound. The work has been inspired by the thoughts, feelings, and dreams of what middle-school-aged children (12-14 year-olds) believe the world will be like — ecologically, technologically, socially — when they are adults. A short film by award-winning videographer Jason Fifield will be presented as part of the musical performance, which will incorporate storyboards created by students at Philadelphia’s Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, and jazz musician and middle school music teacher, Wendy Simon, will conduct the student performance section of the work.

image034Attack Point (World Premiere)
Curtis Institute of Music featuring Gallim Dance and Choral Arts Philadelphia
Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center
April 10, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
Choreographer: Andrea Miller, Gallim Dance
Music Director: Alan Morrison, Curtis Institute of Music
Organists: Bryan Dunnewald, Clara Gerdes, and Joseph Russell, Curtis Institute of Music
Choir: Choral Arts Philadelphia under the direction of Matthew Glandorf
Music and dance meet in non-traditional fashion in this unusual presentation. The Curtis Institute of Music and Brooklyn-based contemporary dance company Gallim Dance come together for a night of dance-listening and organ-watching. Organ soloists perform works written for dance to an empty stage, allowing the audience to imagine the movement it was created for — dancing for the ears. By contrast, the dancers will perform to an organ and choral work not made for dance, exuding the sounds and breath of the majestic instrument from their bodies —organ for the eyes. The moment at which the pipe begins to speak, when the key is pressed, is the attack point.

Architecture in Motion (Philadelphia Premiere)
Diavolo
Merriam Theater at the Kimmel Center
April 14, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
Architecture in Motion, is comprised of two individual works, Fluid Infinities and Cubicle. Fluid Infinities is set on an abstract dome structure sitting on a reflection of itself. The performers explore metaphors of infinite space, continuous movement, and our voyage into the unknown future. The dome’s organic patterns evoke the craters of the moon, a honeycomb of bees, a shifting brain, or an undiscovered starship. Set in an abstract corporate America, Cubicle explores the human condition under cramped control and a monotonous reality, exposing an underlying counterbalance between freedom and anarchy in the workplace.

The Wong Street Journal (East Coast Premiere)
Written and Performed by Kristina Wong
SEI Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center
April 14–16, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
A sharply hilarious solo performance written and performedby comedian Kristina Wong, illuminates the overwhelming issues of global poverty through the combination of self-skewering personal narrative and the theatric reimagining of dense economic theory. On a charmingly crude, hand-sewn set made from the finest discount felt, the incisive L.A. performer, social media phenom breaks down complex issues using uneasy-to-read charts, live hashtag wars, and riveting hand-crafted slideshows. Wong parallels the journey of being a self-taught/self-absorbed hack economist, with the desire for self-importance as nurtured by third world tourism. She tackles serious socio-economic issues through jazzercise, explores economic theaters which inspire her own brand of “Wongonomics,” NGOs (non-Governmental Organizations), “Missionary Efforts,” and other modes of first world engagement with the developing world and how these structures risk both alleviating and sustaining poverty.

Global Artistry (World Premiere)
PHILADANCO (PIFA Partner)
Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center
April 15–17, 2016
This new work speaks to PHILADANCO’s legacy of breaking barriers and building bridges across cultural divides, featuring original choreography by Than Dao (Vietnam), Francisco Gella (Philippines), David Brown (Jamaica) and Ray Mercer (USA).
 
image007Concerto in Sea Major (American Premiere)
Aquacoustique
Outdoor public fountains
April 15, 2016, 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. at Magnolia Garden Fountain (Locust b/t 4th and 5th)
April 16, 2016, 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. at the Rodin Museum Fountain
April 17, 2016, 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. at the Penn Museum’s Stoner Courtyard Fountain
Concerto in Sea Major is the first concert to be performed in the water, as performed by French group Aquacoustique. The group’s three musicians, Jean-Philippe Carde, Florent Lalet, and Stephane Gratteau, use found and recycled objects to create aqua-instruments for this whimsical and free-to-the-public performance taking place in some of Philadelphia’s best fountains. Performing belly-deep in water, Aquacoustique transforms snorkels into flutes and watering cans into saxophones, among other ingenious creations — including using water itself as a musical and rhythmic instrument — helping audiences to discover another side of the precious element.

My Soul’s Shadow
Manual Cinema
The Barnes Foundation
April 15, 2016, 7:00 p.m.; April 16, 2016, 7:00 p.m.
Manual Cinema’s My Soul’s Shadow is a cinematic shadow puppet installation based on the poetry of Federico García Lorca. The shadow projections are created using six overhead projectors, five puppeteers, two screens, and dozens of handmade paper shadow puppets. Original music by Kyle Vegter is performed live by a chamber ensemble. The installation includes the text of the poems that are turned into moving images in the performance. My Soul’s Shadow loosely adapts imagery, themes, and characters from Lorca’s poetry, dividing his body of work into three acts. The performance of My Soul’s Shadow is bookended by the character of Lorca himself and is based on biographical details of his life, including his ultimate imprisonment and assassination at the hands of Nationalist militia in the early days of the Spanish Civil War.
These performances coincide with the Barnes Foundation’s major exhibition, Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change, on view from February 21 through May 9, 2016.

Sneaker Suites (East Coast Premiere)
Antics
Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center
April 20, 2016, 12:00 p.m. (student matinee) and 7:30 p.m.
hrough a multi-layered performance encompassing dance, poetry, voiceover, and theater, audiences will discover the iconic importance of sneakers in hip-hop culture and unravel the complexities of its roots in materialism. Los Angeles-based hip-hop dance troupe, Antics, ask attendees to bring a pair of gently worn sneakers or shoes. All shoes collected will be donated to Soles4Souls, a non-profit organization that collects new and used shoes and redistributes them to people in need (soles4souls.org).

Mi Voca Su Voca (World Premiere)
Written and Performed by Edwin Torres
SEI Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center
April 20–22, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
Celebrated poet and self-proclaimed “lingualisualist”, Edwin Torres, integrates autobiographical poems alongside avant garde ones in a theatrical poetry slam that crosses borders between language and sound. With themes ranging from growing up Boricua in New York City to fatherhood, this one-man performance captures the transformative power of poetry inside language in a fascinating way.
 
Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project (Philadelphia Premiere)
Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd
Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center
April 22, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
The latest astonishing multi-disciplinary project to emerge from the longtime collaboration of Grammy-nominated pianist-composer (and MacArthur Fellow) Vijay Iyer and poet-performer-librettist-emcee Mike Ladd. Three years in the making, the new work focuses on veterans of color from the last decade’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The creators have collaborated with Warrior Writers to collect stories from Philadelphia veterans to be featured in the performance. Many of the stories will be written and distributed on paper made through the Combat Paper Project, which provides papermaking workshops for veterans to turn their uniforms into paper.
 
street-fair910x520PIFA STREET FAIR
Broad Street, Philadelphia
April 23, 2016
PIFA concludes with the celebrated PIFA Street Fair on Broad Street: six blocks of art, food, entertainment, and vendors that will take place all day Saturday, April 23, between Chestnut and South Streets.

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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.