Jess Conda’s Shameless Plugs and Top Picks for the 2015 Fringe Festival

If one Philly creator/performer embodies Fringe, it’s Jess Conda. The artistic director of BRAT productions, Jess has been a stalwart of the fringiest elements of the Fringe Festival for several years now. As a graduate of Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training and consistent producer of independent theater, she is ideally situated to pick out the best of the Festival. She gives Phindie her 10 picks for this year’s Fringe, starting with some shameless plugs of stuff she’s working on:

(l-r) Jess Conda, Ali Wadsworth and Pat Finnerty, co-producers of THE LID. (Photo Credit: Thom Lessner)
(l-r) Jess Conda, Ali Wadsworth and Pat Finnerty, co-producers of THE LID. (Photo Credit: Thom Lessner)

1. The Lid (Pat Finnerty/BRAT Productions): This is BRAT straight up old school at our fringiest, and brattiest. The Lid is a Brit rock inspired concept album about looking for Fun when life is especially Unfun most of the time. It’s written by Pat Finnerty, who might be the most hilarious and tallest person alive. I met Pat while he was playing songs from The Lid at a house party and fell in art love with him. He told me he always wanted to perform the album as a theatrical piece and the rest is history. Expect indie rockers behaving like theater kids to create the silliest rock concert you’ve ever been to.

2. Purgatory (Gunnar Montana): Gunnar Montana is an institution in and of himself. He is visceral, visual, and fantastical. He called me a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted to do a small role in the show. When Gunnar Montana knocks at your door, it’s a no brainer: you say Yes. We went to church together recently and I got us in trouble because they didn’t see me eat the host and thought I might have been stealing it. We thought it was a good sign for the piece.

3. Late Nite Cabaret: I’m hosting the LNC on September 6th and singing vocals with Joshua Ramey’s project, The Extravagant Bastard. This is whiskey drinking music, dark ballads with bite. But really, every night of LNC is a not to be missed carnival of the odd and the fabulous. If you miss the wild times of “back in the day” festival partying, know that the LNC is keeping that spirit alive for YOU and also for FREE every night of the Fest. Go there for the after party, to see the performance community taking risks and wiling out.

4. Spank Rock and McRad (At FringeArts) ‘Nuf said. These guys rule.

Scott Sheppard and Jenn Kidwell in Underground Railroad Game. Photo by Tamara Rodriguez Raichberg.

5. Underground Railroad Game (Jenn Kidwell and Scott Sheppard with Lightening Rod Special): The absolute Must See of the Curated Fringe in my opinion. Jenn and Scott are master makers who create rich characters asking real questions. I think they are approaching the conversation about race in today’s society from a grounded, multi-dimensional place. Expect to be challenged, to be shocked and to laugh at the stupidity of humanity. fringearts.comunderground-railroad.

6. She is A Problem (Problem Collective): Raw beauty and gutsy questions about femininity asked point blank through the lens of our fascination with the beauty of tortured female artists. Literally every woman on this project is a “must watch cos they’re bout to blow up” talent monster. The question of “Why is the death of a female artist romantic?” is in really great hands here.

7. 901 Nowhere Street (Sam Tower and Emsemble): Film Noir inspired sassiness and sweetness. Another A-list, all-female roster. Sam Tower’s a true dynamo and is bound to create a world that is loyal to the Noir form while simultaneously shattering and redefining it.

8. Sometimes Callie and Jonas Die (Poison Apple Initiative): These Austin transplants are the Business, and they’ve relocated here to school us hard. Expect hard talking dark comedy from art punk badasses.

9. Me First: An Autobiographical Play About Dying (Cursed Church Artist Collective). Jason Rosenberg is dying. Jason Rosenberg’s writing can make you forget if you’re crying because you’re laughing or laughing because you’re crying. Jason Rosenberg’s poetic voice demands to be listened to.

10. Slaughter/ette (Butter and Serve Theatre Company): As a member of Pig Iron’s Class of 2013, I am so curious to see what my cousins from the APT Class of 2015 are making right out of the post-graduation gate. From reading their description “tears, glitter, wine, heartbreak, drama, and often sloppy declarations of love,” it seems like they’re up to something good.

Also, my band Red 40 and the Last Groovement is playing opening night at FringeArts, and sadly I can’t join them. It’s the first Red 40 show I’ve ever missed. Regardless, that show is going to be massively huge and dance-tastic, a celebration of our year as FringeArt’s First Friday band in residence. I’ll be sending my funk family all of the love—hit those high notes, flap those fake eyelashes and bump that grind babies, I’ll be back into your arms in October!

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