The International Philly Fringe: A welcome to far-flung artists

Anyone who says that Philadelphia is provincial hasn’t attended the annual Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Here’s the latest sampling of shows, performances, playwrights, and artists from around the world. Phindie writer Henrik Eger gives a hearty WELCOME to all of them.

Globe, magic

BELGIUM

Welgekomen, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Philadelphia, with our many dance companies, is ready to get challenged by your minimalist abstract feminist Rosas danst Rosas. Your work has even inspired Beyoncé in her “Countdown” music video.

BORNEO

Selamat datang, and Yindī t̂xnrạb khuṇ, Skowmon Hastanan, from Thailand now New York, taking us on your interactive and experimental Borneo Odyssey, following in the footsteps of the Borneo Expeditions by the Penn Museum scientists of 1896-1898, even meeting a talking orangutan.

FRANCE

Bienvenu, Aaron Cromie et Mary Tuomanen avec votre The Body Lautrec about Toulouse Lautrec, the famous painter of the Moulin Rouge, outsider, exhibitionist, and medical object.

Bienvenu, Michael Durkin and your collaborators and co-conspirators at the Renegade Company, reimaging Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame as a mute play, a wordless drama, a silent film on stage.

GERMANY

Willkommen, Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, und Daniel Wetzel und Euer Rimini Protokoll. I can’t wait to hear from 100 real Philadelphians—expert performers acting only as themselves—answering hot button questions, giving everyone a chance to see where we stand.

Willkommen, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Grimm brothers, and the Children’s Opera Box, performing your Hansel and Gretel—a frightfullydelightful musical journey into the woods for children of all ages.

GREECE

Kalós órises, Achilles and Briseis in Jon Lipsky’s Living in Exile: Retelling of the Iliad who, with the help of the Philadelphia Experimental Theatre Ensemble,lets us experience the “war-making rage in us all” and “the horror outside and inside our living rooms.”

Kalós órises, Aesop and the Drexel Players, who promise to make us part of the famed Greek fables by taking us into the “dog-eat-dog corporate world” in AE$OP.

Kalós órises, Sophocles and Van Martin Productions with your comedic musical retelling of the incestuous Greek tragedy Oedipus, not shying away from herpes spreading through Athens.

Kalós órises, Trajal Harell from New York. Your provocative, gender-bending, cat walking version of ancient Greek theatre in Antigone Sr., might upset traditionalists while delighting cutting edge dance aficionados.

IRAN

Khosh amadid. Nassim Soleimanpour. You can’t leave Iran because you refused to do military service, but you sent us your work. Your play, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, is being performed by actors around the world who have never read, let alone rehearsed, it before they take the stage.

ITALY

Benvenuto, Romeo Castellucci e Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio. Last year, you shocked even some of the most avant-garde theatre goers with On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God. Now, I can’t wait to see one of Europe’s most hard hitting directors present another thought provoking piece— Rothko’s rebellious act at The Four Seasons Restaurant.

NAMIBIA

Wayakurua, Jackie Sibblies Drury. Your “dark, funny, and unruly play” about “late 19th century subjugation of the indigenous Herero people by German colonialists” is putting you on the map as a rising playwright. Coming from Germany, I am particularly interested in We Are Proud to Present (a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915), directed by Matt Pfeiffer.

ROMANIA

Bine ai venit, Eugène Ionesco and Tina Brock, director of The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, whose production of Rhinoceros is so lively and entertaining that the audience will laugh almost non-stop and yet—leave deep in thought.

SPAIN

Bienvenidos, Fernando Arrabal y Emily Schuman, the translator, director, and actor of your Fando y Lis. The play lets us follow Fando and his crippled bride through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, searching for the city of Tar, a place where all wishes come true. The film version of this play led to riots in Acapulco in 1968. Film director Alejandro Jodorowsky said, “The spectators took offense, hated me. They wanted to lynch me. I had to escape sunk in the chest of a motorcar.”

THE JEWISH WORLD

Shalom, playwright Martin Sherman, director Fernando Gonzalez, and the cast of Truth Be Told Productions. Your moving Jewish-Gay play Bent, performed in Philadelphia for the first time in 15 years, is bound to make us remember the many people who perished in the concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Shalom, Shechinah, and the team behind your multidimensional, interactive Kabbalah: The Musical! You are not only teaching us about Jewish esoteric traditions, irrespective of our backgrounds, but you are involving the audience with story, song, chant, and meditation.

OUTER SPACE, INNER SPACE

Live long and prosper, Gunnar Montana. Your Resurrection Room allows us not only to live through some of your disappointments and nightmares, but to visit futuristic worlds beyond the norm.

Live long and prosper, Brian Sanders and your team of nude dancers in Suspended, described as “raw, brash, erotic, and extreme” with your trademark “audacious physicality.” In previous years your amazing work has led to sold out productions, which might explain some the most expensive tickets at The Fringe this year, ranging from $30 to $75—a bargain by New York, Las Vegas, or L.A. standards for spectacular events.

Live long and prosper, you many artists of The Institute for Psychogeographic Adventure, covering almost every theatrical art form with your Experiment #39, sending us on a wild tour through Philadelphia’s Old City. Each of your events and happenings are different, impossible to describe, except to say that you asked us to “make an appointment, wear comfortable shoes, and join the adventure on this sneakily guided walking tour.”

A hearty WELCOME to all playwrights, artists, dancers, directors, performers and, above all, the many theatre-goers supporting cutting edge theatre in Philadelphia at the 2014 Fringe Festival.

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About the author

Henrik Eger

HENRIK EGER, editor of Drama Around the Globe. Bilingual playwright, author of Metronome Ticking. Born and raised in Germany. Ph.D. in English, University of Illinois, Chicago. German translator of Martin Luther King, Jr’s Nobel Peace Prize mail. Producer-director: Multilingual Shakespeare, London. Retired professor of English and Communication who taught in six countries on three continents, including four universities and one college in the U.S. Author of four college text books. Longtime Philadelphia theatre correspondent for AAJT, the world’s largest Jewish theatre website. Articles published in Classical Voice, Los Angeles; Kayhan International, Tehran, Iran; Indian Express, Mumbai, India; The Jewish Forward, New York; Philadelphia Jewish Voice, Phindie, and Broad Street Review, Philadelphia; The Mennonite, Tucson; and New Jersey Stage. Contact: HenrikEger@gmail.com