The second-annual Philly Theatre Week boasts 80 organizations producing over 100 shows. Impressively, local actor Jenna Kuerzi will be involved in ALMOST all of them. Well, four of them, including a full-length play with Hella Fresh Theater and her own creative collaboration about Johnny Depp. We asked Jenna about these shows, what the 10-day festival is all about, and what she thinks we should see.
Phindie: What is Philly Theatre Week?
Jenna Kuerzi: A DIY experience outside of the Fringe. Huzzah!
Phindie: Oh. Theatre Philadelphia describes it as “a 10-day celebration of artists, organizations, and audiences that have made Greater Philadelphia one of the most vibrant theatre [sic] regions in the nation.” What does that mean to you?
Jenna Kuerzi: It’s a great opportunity to throw some shit at the wall as a scrappy idiot who sometimes makes theater and mostly acts in scrappy theater people want me to be a part of. I hope Theatre Week is a way for people to support small theater, risk free, not just in fringe season.
Phindie: How did you get involved in all your different Theatre Week projects?
Jenna Kuerzi:I’m doing four:
- Val Dunn and I have been trying to do something together for a while. We are friends who also happen to be fans of each other and Theatre Week seemed like a great deadline to throw something together, hence Johnny Depp: a Retrospective on Late Stage Capitalism. .
- John Rosenberg and I had just finished doing a one person show called And Then One Feels Great Anxiety for a weekend in November, and planned to never speak again, but then he asked me to be part of Cana of Galilee and here we are.
- I’m reading some botnik plays for Simpatico’s Robot Overlords comedy fundraiser. I was a bully on twitter to get booked on that.
- I’ll also be Actor 2 in An Oak Tree at Theatre Exile on February 15th, which is extremely exciting for me because I moved to this town to work at Exile and haven’t done it yet.
Phindie: We like John Rosenberg here at Phindie. What do you like about him and about Cana of Galilee?
Jenna Kuerzi: John is one of the strangest, and smartest, people I’ve ever met. What I like about Cana of Galilee is the natural rhythm of the conversation. It sounds like actual people talking and not just people in a play who are written to sound like how people talk, but never do. These are “real” people having complicated conversations about nothing and everything. His plays say a lot without being a concept or idea or anti-problematic whatever stupid shit theater companies are trying to do these days.
Phindie: Agreed. Speaking of stupid shit… what inspired Johnny Depp: A Retrospective on Late Stage Capitalism?
Jenna Kuerzi: I was sitting at my house and Val had sent a “let’s do a play!” brainstorming email that mentioned something offhandedly about Johnny Depp. It immediately struck me because I’m a pop culture and movie junkie and we used to be such big fans of Johnny Depp until he outed himself as the worst.
We gathered over cheese and tea one evening and discovered both of us had dressed up as Johnny Depp for Halloween as teenagers. Val was interested in writing a scene where I sing Janis Joplin’s “Get it While you Can” while dancing around and burning a pile of stuff to show the decline of capitalism and I’m always looking for ways to blend my love of movies and pop culture into theater that is stupid and fun and cool. I’ve also never written a script before and Val only sometimes acts, so we split duties for both. From there this symposium of sorts was born. We’re testing the waters for Theatre Week and will probably revise or do a sequel for SoLow fest in June. Depends on the state of capitalism.
Phindie: What will surprise audiences about these shows?
Jenna Kuerzi: Cana of Galilee is a surprisingly simple play. Not much happens, but so much sings. It’s frustrating, but calming. It’s funny and heartbreaking, so much like life and the grief at the center of the script. I hear something new every time we do it.
Johnny Depp: A Retrospective on Late Stage Capitalism (JD:AROLSC, for short) isn’t particularly interested in being “high art.” We’re trying to have a good time and if people happen to think about their own fandom during the course of it, even better. There’s also a significant amount of audience participation because Johnny Depp is a spotlight whore. And my Jack Sparrow impression is so bad, it may be good?
Phindie: Any other picks for Philly Theatre Week?
Jenna Kuerzi: I don’t know if I’ll be able to see anything else, buuuuut
Other one person shows: Chris Davis’ The Presented. Josh Hitchen’s The Confession of Jeffrey Dahmer. Richard Bradford and John Doyle’s To My Unborn Child and Hannah Van Sciver’s Bicycle Face at Passage Theatre. And as far as big, in town, theater presentations are concerned I’m very interested in 74 Seconds…To Judgement at the Arden and An Oak Tree at Exile after I’m in it.
Phindie: Sounds like a good list. Thanks Jenna!
See theatrephiladelphia.org for a complete listing of Philly Theatre Week shows.