It’s Still Happening at White Pines Productions

There’s a lot going on at White Pines Productions. Following a protracted legal battle between the Land Conservancy of Elkins Park and the Sisters of St. Catherine de’ Ricci, White Pines lost its headquarters of 2009–12 at the historic Elstowe Manor of Elkins Estate. But the displaced company, under the effulgent leadership of Benjamin Lloyd, has continued its programming this summer with a series of artists’ residencies and a pair of HAPPENINGS—the latter inspired by the multimedia events begun in 1958 by artist Allan Kaprow and popularized by Fluxus and the Warhol Factory in the 1960s.

Kim Almquist and Aaron Draper of Banana Peel Dance in a promotional image for White Pines Productions’ HAPPENING 2 (Photo credit: Courtesy of White Pines Productions)

Kim Almquist and Aaron Draper of Banana Peel Dance in a promotional image for White Pines Productions’ HAPPENING 2 (Photo credit: Courtesy of White Pines Productions)

HAPPENING 1, which took place at the Broad Street Ministry on June 8, used the entire historic space in a continuous six-hour flow of scheduled and spontaneous events throughout the building. It recreated the unconventional spirit of a mid-20th-century Happening, and even offered a communal meal shared by the artists and attendees. Jazz vocalist Demetria Joyce Bailey, experimental theater ensembles Dzieci and Found, multi-dimensional dance troupe Band of Artists, and interactive sound-and-light installation artist Aaron Rogachevsky were among the performers, whose works ranged from fully formed and well rehearsed to raw and experimental. Found Theater Company will present the finished piece that it developed with White Pines, THIS IS THE TWILIGHT KINGDOM, in next month’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

Sunday, August 18, White Pines staged HAPPENING 2 at Underground Arts at the Wolf as a fundraiser for its 2014 Ensemble Residency Program—a centerpiece of its mission. For the past three years, White Pines has selected three non-profit organizations from a pool of nationwide applicants, for consecutive one-week retreats to work on new ensemble-generated creative projects. This year’s residents comprised two multi-disciplinary groups based outside of Philadelphia (New Orleans’ NEW NOISE and New York’s Banana Peel Dance), along with Philly’s own acclaimed New Paradise Laboratories.

Alison Mae Hoban in a pre-production photo for Found Theater Company’s THIS IS THE TWILIGHT KINGDOM, developed in part at White Pines’ HAPPENING (Photo credit: Harish Pathak)

Alison Mae Hoban in a pre-production photo for Found Theater Company’s THIS IS THE TWILIGHT KINGDOM, developed in part at White Pines’ HAPPENING (Photo credit: Harish Pathak)

Sunday’s short, on-stage performances, in varying stages of development, were the results of their respective weeks in retreat at the Delaware Water Gap’s Mohican Outdoor Center in Blairstown, New Jersey. RUNNIN’ DOWN THE MOUNTAIN by NEW NOISE was a condensed road version of the company’s full-length show in the 2012 New Orleans Fringe, employing original and traditional Appalachian music, visual and verbal storytelling, lamplights, live looping and soundscape to tell the heart-wrenching tale of a brother and sister living together in the isolation of the Great Smoky Mountains. Banana Peel Dance, a collective of dancers, choreographers, actors, comedians, and musicians, presented a video created at the Mohican Center’s glacial lake, along with a series of brief performances from its signature POST-APOCALYPTIC DINNER PARTY, using unexpected props, humor, movement, and audience interaction to express the concerns of their 30-something generation. And New Paradise Laboratories gave a glimpse into their work-in-progress for the 2014 Philadelphia FringeArts Festival, THE ADULTS, evoking the voyeuristic “Bad Boy” paintings of Eric Fischl and questioning what constitutes an adult relationship through a self-devised physical vocabulary.

In addition to its summer programs, White Pines is rehearsing two original plays by local playwrights—THE MUSIC YOU REMEMBER by Jerry Perna and LUCKIEST KID by Martha Kemper—which will have their world premieres on the Second Stage at the Adrienne in October. Lloyd affirms that his company’s “commitment to our community—both in Cheltenham Township and the region as a whole—is undiminished. We will continue to bring our long-standing programs to the communities, as well as some exciting surprises . . .” For more information about the White Pines Ensemble Residency Program and its upcoming events, visit whitepinesproductions.org.

Read Deb Miller’s update to this story here.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.