What my interview was like

This isn’t me. But this is what my office would look like if I had my druthers.

For those of you in the know (and those not), my original play MICROMANIA is popping up on stage this Friday and Saturday – world premier style. The FringeArts blog has published a piece about it and everything.

My very first INTERVIEW. Read it here!!!

(then come see MICROMANIA for realz at the Community Education Center, 3500 Lancaster Ave, this Fri at 7:45 or Sat at 8. PM.)

Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Milan in WE TOUCHED IT at the Remix Festival. Photo by Kathryn Raines, Plate 3 Photography.

Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Milan in WE TOUCHED IT at the Remix Festival. Photo by Kathryn Raines, Plate 3 Photography.

So if you’re in Philly and hungering, just hungering for something to do this weekend – and the concept of the million and one street fairs that happen to be going on doesn’t appeal to you – check out Remix Festival. It’s a pretty amazing format for dance presentation that’s going on at <fidget> in Kensington this weekend.

Based on Susan Rethorst’s concept of “wrecking,” three artists each present a short, 5-15 minute dance piece. Then, after a brief break, three other artists, who’ve had just two days to prepare, present a “wrecked” or “remixed” piece. To learn more about it, go to see it, honestly. It’s just fifteen dollars for six dances and a completely unique experience. Or read my review at Phindie here. The real pleasure is seeing the hand of the composer at work – the same as listening to a really well-done remix of a song that you love, which re-focuses and brings out what was great about that song all along.

But the thing that I hate about street festivals is just how damn many people show up. I don’t go outside to be crushed between people. I go outside to move from point a to point b, or, when the weather’s really nice, to find a relatively clear space of a park or beach to lounge. I don’t like being surrounded by strangers, especially when they’re all spilling their drinks on one-another. I mean, who does?

We the Weeds Story Elicitation event

Original artwork exhibited by community members at the Conestoga Recreation Center in West Philadelphia

Of the many hats I’ve been wearing lately, “freelance administrator” feels like it’s the weirdest.

It’s the latent romanticism of the word “freelance” that seems so out of place next to the grasping boredom inherent in the word “administrator.” I think that if you told dreamy eight year old me that I’d be making most of my paycheck in this way in – what – twenty years? – I’d not only be horrified, I’d be extremely skeptical.

“Administration” is an odd tangle of “in charge” and “subservient.” Obviously, the administrator is there to do things for other people. I kind of like it because of its position in the background; as an administrator, I get to help others, help in the operations of an event. Type A people make plans, and I make sure that there’s follow-through.

I enjoy follow-through. I hate to see a good plan go to waste because no one spent the time – or had the time – to implement it fully. Starting a project and then dropping it is way more disenchanting than never starting it at all.

The “freelancer” idea of course comes from the concept of the mercenary, the “free lance” – someone whose sword is free of commitments to any country or corporation. Don Quixote comes to mind. And goofy as he is, you just can’t see him sitting down and ensuring that the invoices are processed properly. You don’t imagine him with a typewriter nestled against his horse’s neck, as the two of them stand idiosyncratically on the open plain. No, he has a spear.

At Mural Arts, I’m now a four-days-per-week “administrator.” My title is actually “Project Coordinator,” which sounds way sexier. I work with two projects: journey2home (check out the blog, which I’m now running) and Restored Spaces.

I’m getting a chance to work within communities and try to engage people in Mural Arts’ efforts to improve the city. It’s not something I’ve ever focused on before, and it certainly isn’t the direction that my own art points in, but it’s interesting, the people are wonderful, the effects are glorious, and I’m learning a lot. Here’s a taste of the kind of community-based work we do, in my first article on the Mural Arts blog.

I may not have a horse or a spear, but I have a laptop, a bike, and no loyalties. And if you have room in your budget, I’ll administrate your arts business.

FringeArts presents world premiere of Nichole Canuso solo work “Midway Avenue,” May 2-4. Photo by Peggy Woolsey

FringeArts presents world premiere of Nichole Canuso solo work “Midway Avenue,” May 2-4. Photo by Peggy Woolsey

Over the last year, I’ve done quite a few interviews. Sometimes they’re exciting; sometimes they’re fearful; sometimes they’re just work, something I have to do to get the article published. It’s not that the people I’m interviewing aren’t interesting, it’s just that I don’t love interviewing itself. I’m uncomfortable, often intimidated, and generally out of my element.

But sometimes it’s an exciting prospect to sit next to X artist and ask them questions about their work—and just be in their presence. When I realized I was going to interview Nichole Canuso, the creator of Wandering Alice and The Garden, both of which were pretty aesthetically important to me, especially for the place and time that I saw them, I experienced a rare kind of enthusiasm for the interview itself. To me, she’s larger than life.

Well, it turned out that she’s on tour, and that I didn’t get to do the whole sit-down-in-her-presence and chat thing. But I did get an interview, and we had a pretty interesting conversation about her upcoming Midway Avenue via email. Find out what I asked, and what she had to say, here. Or just go ahead and buy tickets for the show (May 2-4) at fringearts.com; you’ll want to be there.

Philly is home to Quirk Publications, who put out the widely read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as well as something about sea monsters and Jane Austen. They also did the Worst Case Scenario series.

Quirk is a good name for them and their work; The Head and the Hand, another Philly-area publisher, goes for personality instead of quirk. Inspired by founder Nic Esposito’s background in farming, this idiosyncratic publishing company has soul.

Check out my article about their chapbook vending machine—and various other arms and initiatives—for ArtAttackPhilly here.

Drunk, sexy, and mean

Tribe of Fools’ Christmas burlesque

Well, it’s been a while since I posted.

To make up for lost time (but not, necessarily, to promise regular content in the future), I regale you with three short stories about what has developed while I was gone. I think it’s safe to say that the holidays are a bit of a nightmare for everyone. Busy, busy, busy. I went off writing in general for a month and a half. It was good timing, because Art Attack took a hiatus and so, basically, did Philadelphia theater. Not completely true! December is a month of children’s shows and burlesque for Philly. If you’re not into that, then you might as well stay home and spend time with your family. The standout was Pig Iron’s Twelfth Night, which I thought was kind of genius. Made it worth seeing that goddamn play one more time (like, the sixth?).

Visualized information is sexy

Here’s a diagram, for people more visual than verbal

Why children’s shows and burlesque? My theory: children’s shows because they’re lighthearted and the kids are home for the holidays. Burlesque because the rest of us are exhausted, broke, miserable, and don’t want to pay attention to anything longer than ten minutes long. And it’s easier to pay attention when there are garters and nipple tassles. I was working on an article about holiday shows which I thought would go up on Art Attack (got nixed because of the timing of their post-Philly.com-breakup hiatus). The idea was to discover exactly WHY theaters do holiday shows. My real goal was to get at the numbers behind the myth – is it true that theaters make a considerable portion of their budget off of their holiday show? How do they choose holiday shows? Etc. For it, I was interviewing people at a number of venues/companies who were, or weren’t, doing holiday shows. In my favorite (read: least favorite) conversation, the representative of one major venue kept insisting that they don’t do “holiday” shows. And it’s true, their December play, a children’s play, is not “holiday” themed or religiously oriented in any way. I don’t know why he kept insisting on this distinction, though. And he didn’t stop. He kept repeating, “But it really isn’t a holiday show.” They do two children’s shows a year, and one of them is always in December. I apologized for misspeaking, and agreed that of course his play isn’t Christmas themed, or Hannukah themed, or etc. But I suppose because I had used the word “holiday” to begin with, he was unable to converse amicably about it, and kept taking issue with my including their programming in my article at all. There’s a reason why you do a show during the holidays that’s family-friendly, isn’t there? I finally asked. Not really, he concluded, bamboozlingly. The conversation failed to move forward in any productive direction. Me = puzzled. ~~ I’m doing the theater editing for Phindie.com now. In fact, I am The Theater Editor. I’m excited, because I’m excited about Phindie. Check out all of the activity that’s been going on there in the last few days: I reviewed GHOSTS, EL ANO EN QUE NACI, CHEROKEE. Some other very talented people reviewed some other stuff (it’s all linked from the main page. Phindie has a theater calendar, too, now. ~~

A handsome roach brooch.I’m working on a play. I’ve written it, edited it, and submitted it to a director (the ingenious Robert Gross). We had our first rehearsal session a few days ago, and I was like, yep, he’s still a genius. MICROMANIA is about roaches. It’s about people who are obsessed with roaches, and who might harbor, in their deepest insides, some roaches.

It is, as Robert told me, about the abject as it operates upon and formulates the self. Or something like that. I’m sure that Ingmar Bergman would agree. I think it’s very good. I’m performing it as a one-man show, which means getting to play a cast of bizarre, deranged characters. The idea is to do it as part of Collage Festival, to which we have submitted the play. We won’t know until February 15. Perhaps if I link to the Collage Festival three times on this blog, it will be more likely to accept me into its 2014 Festival. The Collage Festival, presented in its third iteration this year at the CEC in West Philly, puts a bunch of contributors and artists into one space. The works bleed into one another. Unless you’re in the stage area, which is where I hope to be, and where audiences might be able to hear some sound from outside but otherwise I can torture them with nothing but my own self for forty-five uninterrupted minutes. It’s an adventure, it will be an adventure, and it’s all about roaches. I’m immensely excited.


A snap of the This takes place close by set

New Theater Thursdays at Paperclips215 – here I’ll keep you posted on the coolest theater/music/dance stuff that I know about, with a focus on cheapcheapcheap shows.

There’s a discussion, too, about where “contemporary performance” and “experimental theater/music/dance” can or should go, which I welcome you to chime in on.

Also, at Phindie: a review of thingNY Is Back, the third night of <fidget>’s Fourth Annual Experimental Music Festival. The performers included locals Joo Won Park & Adam Vidiksis – both of whom you should check out. Their websites are fantastically constructed and feature lots of multimedia stuff, videos, music, fun. Don’t let the “experimental” in front of “music” scare you away.

Headliner was thingNY, an experimental music ensemble company who are creating an opera project in residency with New York’s Incubator Arts, from whom I’m always getting emails and whose work I’ve never seen. Their latest work, which they previewed here, is called This takes place close by, and is an “opera” about natural disasters. Really present stuff.

What does “opera” mean? After seeing this, and SVADBA-WEDDING a couple weeks ago, I’m sure I don’t know, but I’m also sure that everything should be opera, now. I curse the fact that I know nothing about music composition. What it seems to mean to me: the vocals are performed in a variety of ways (song, operatic song, deliberate speech, whisper, noise, words turned into noise), and by not simply choosing to talk them, the mode of delivery of each line becomes part of the message (read: the medium is the message).

Also, bought from thingNY a comic book/cd of a previous opera, ADDDDDDDDD. $15, and absolutely insane.

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