THE LOVE SONG OF R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER (FringeArts): Fringe’s First First Friday

Buckminster Fuller before his geode dome at Montreal's World Fair.

R. Buckminster Fuller before his geode dome at Montreal’s World Fair.

Walk into the new FringeArts building and you’ll feel the creative energy. This old world, former water pump plant, now houses a 240-seat black box theater, with a multi-level restaurant and outdoor plaza slated to open fall 2014. After 18 years of migration, the creators of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival are angling to provide a year-round immersive theater experience in their new permanent home. Among the first presentations in this exciting space, THE LOVE SONG OF R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER, shows First Friday, April 4th, at 7 and 9pm. This part theater, part musical, part film is dubbed a “live documentary.” Acclaimed filmmaker Sam Green narrates, accompanied by an original score played by Yo La Tengo. Together they create the movie experience in front of the audience in real time. Nick Stuccio, president and producing artistic director of FringeArts, sat down to chat about this unique offering, as well as the developments with the new space and Fringe Festival.

Nicole Forrester: How did Sam Green create THE LOVE SONG OF R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER?

Nick Stuccio: Well, Sam tells this story in the show. He was invited into the Buckminster Fuller archive at Stanford University, which is apparently a treasure trove, housing all his manuscripts, his models, all of his work. Through his research he fell in love with Fuller, and man, you will too. While we all generally know who he his, this is a great piece that gains great insight into this guy, this really incredible mind, who was way ahead of his time. Literally in 100 years we will still be catching up to him.

NF: This concept of a “live movie” with narration and a band, all over a film sounds very interesting, but how does it come together? It seems in the wrong hands it could be distracting.

NS: Oh come on. People have 15 tabs open at any given moment! But its subtle, Yo La Tengo is over to the side, and they play while he talks over the film. It all works beautifully. Sam is a really intriguing guy, really sort of disarming and just tells the story. Fuller was this great utopic thinker, about housing for all, food for all, care for the world. What sticks in my mind in this film is a clip of him sitting in a park in San Francisco in the 60’s, surrounded by hippies, who are on their knees. He’s probably in his late 70’s or 80’s in this black suit and gray hair just laying his theories on these crazy hippies who were so anti-establishment. He looked like this square old dude but they look at him like . . . “Wow.” The clip was Fuller talking to them, and them basically going “You are god.”

NF: He does seem to have a lot of romance around him. There aren’t a lot of scientists that would inspire the title “The Love Song” of such and such.

NS: Our culture has recently revived his ideas. He was an old dude that thought about these things back in the 40s and 50s. You might say we are kind of a neo-enlightened era, thinking about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the environment, trying to take care of people who need help.

NF: Definitely segments of the population, for sure.

NS: Half of the country—the other half of the country could give a shit.  Mainly those movements are around urban areas—he was also an urbanist like mad.  Believed in, really great ideas about modular housing and things like that, that we’re doing now. That’s why this is very timely. And hipsters love this.

NF: He did have pretty sweet glasses. I found out that you have a degree in Biology, as well as this huge stake in the arts. There’s the same symmetry with Buckminster Fuller, being involved in both the arts and sciences.

FringeArts presents The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (photo credit: Ed Dittenhoefer of Ithaca Times 2012)

Sam Green and Yo La Tengo in THE LOVE SONG OF R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER (photo credit: Ed Dittenhoefer of Ithaca Times 2012)

NS: I do! It’s a good point, I never thought of that, but I love science. He was a scientist, but he was more of an engineer. I’m more drawn to his ideas; he’s my kind of guy. He’s everybody’s kind of guy. Really forward thinker, thought centuries ahead. He was a benevolent guy, he wanted to help the masses. Through science and engineering he saw a way to solve people’s problems on a grand scale. And you look at them and you’re like, of course, that’s brilliant, why aren’t we doing that? That’s why you’re drawn to him.

NF: How did the collaboration with Sam Green come about?

NS: I saw the show, and it came as-is. We didn’t put this together. We have this new year-round self that we’re building: this new iteration of this organization that’s been around for 18 years, and done nothing but this festival.  And we still have a great festival planned, but now we’re in the year round presenting business as well. One of the things that we want to do is music—we haven’t done a lot of music, but we want to. This town is very rich in music and music tradition. So we’re trying to figure out what we would enter into it. This is a perfect example of the kind of thing we want to do: have music based events that are interdisciplinary and include an unusual artistic element, with high art influence. This is perfect. We want to marry them with being here in Old City, and with First Friday, establishing regular monthly First Friday offerings. This is our First Friday debut.

NF: Are there other genre-bending performances in the works?

NS: You betcha. We’ve got a ton. We’re talking to all kinds of interesting artists who are based in music but do a multi-genre platform for that music.

NF: Sam Greene is well known, Oscar nominated. Are you planning on bringing in local artists?

NS: Absolutely. We’re talking to some local artists as well. These things are multi-faceted. There will be some local, some not. We’re trying to find good stuff, the best work out there. It’ll be a mixture of both I think.

NF: And far as the building goes, with this restaurant that’s coming out, will it be open all the time or just after performances?

NS: Yes, all of the time. But we’re still in the process of figuring things out with this vendor and lease deal. It’s a world of possibilities.

NF: How will FringeArts change now that you have this space? 

FringeArts presents The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller 2 (photo by Ed Dittenhoefer of Ithaca Times_2012).jpg

Yo La Tengo in THE LOVE SONG OF R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER. Photo by Ed Dittenhoefer of Ithaca Times

NS: The festival will still look like every other festival previous, meaning that it’s city wide and we’ll do shows all over the place—south Broad Street, found sites, cool locations, adventures all over the place. But what’s new is that the heartbeat of the whole thing, festival central, will be here.

NF: Will the festival bar be here?

NS: Hell yeah—that’s one of the key motivations for this thing. Festival bar. It’s important to have that heartbeat, the social center. It links everything together, the lynchpin to make it a great festival. To know that it’s an urgent two and a half week event that you have to come out to every night. Tuesday night, stay out, drink ‘til it closes. We’re gonna not only have this fun place, we’re gonna have a lot of cool shows: cabaret, late night performances. That’s a big change, an awesome hub of activity right here. Social outdoor, drinking, eating, and everything in between.

NF: This is supposed to be ready, the outdoor plaza and everything, for the festival that’s upcoming? 

NS: Yes, we are breaking ground imminently!

Don’t miss THE LOVE SONG OF R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER [FringeArts, 140 N Columbus Blvd.] April 4, 2014. www.fringearts.com.

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About the author

Nicole Forrester

Nicole Forrester grew up memorizing Shakespeare’s sonnets for allowance money, and for years has rigorously attended FringeArts and Philadelphia theater offerings in general. Among activities including aerial acrobatics, event planning, and sketch comedy, she still considers theater, and now review, her favorite method of adventure.