Notes on Words

for Writers, Readers, Logophiles and Logorrhetics

Interviewd! — May 6, 2014


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.)

Festivals — May 3, 2014


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?

Freelance administration and community engagement — April 29, 2014

Freelance administration and community engagement

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.

Nichole Canuso — April 27, 2014

Nichole Canuso

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; you’ll want to be there.

The Head and the Hand —

The Head and the Hand

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.

2014 — January 20, 2014


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 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 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.

Opera, Kiddie Pool, natural disaster(s) — November 14, 2013

Opera, Kiddie Pool, natural disaster(s)

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.

Today in the Arts — November 10, 2013

Today in the Arts


Recent articles:

Another to-do for PaperClips215 last Thursday, including this, which I’m attending tonight. Also including a link to Ellie Brown’s indiegogo, at which she’s raising $7,000 to put her SoLow show on stage. Anyone who doesn’t get how even a low budget production costs a fortune will be interested to read what she has to say there. And to give a few bucks.

I saw THE GARDEN Thursday night, Nichole Canuso’s latest show. Really delightful. Review here.

Also, an article for the latest incarnation of Art Attack, on how David Patrick Stearns is not putting forth competent work in his new job as staff theater critic.

A bit nervous about this one, because it’s the second time I’m criticizing a critic publicly. The first time, it spurred conflict with the critic I came out against. Poor Stearns is a classical music critic, why would they transfer him to theater? I’m mostly speaking against the ridiculously desperate tactics of the Inquirer. Thing is, they’re a respected news source; if they quarter-ass their theater coverage, people will still believe them. Air Bud could be their staff writer, and he’d still get hits.

Actually that’s a really good idea.

Mini Books and Mini Souls — November 5, 2013

Mini Books and Mini Souls

Ignore what I said before about art attack being done. They’re not done, they’re just moving. Watch It’ll be up in a couple of weeks.

Did anyone see my paperclips post last week? In it I suggested people check out InterAct’s We Are Proud to Present and SmokeyScout’s Nice and Fresh, among others.

One of those others was a one-time special event, a kind of mashup of 11 performance and visual artists around The Mural and The Mint’s Race Street Pier soundwalk, ANIMINA (the soundwalk you can preview here and which is always available for $0.99).

I was furious to miss it. I was at Nice and Fresh (you can see my review here), which was awesome. But a shame to miss such a weird and neat event. Thus far I see no reviews online . . . if I find something, I’ll share it.

Two cool things coming up. Tonight you can check in at the PMA between 5:30 and 8 o’clock to curate your own exhibit . . . don’t worry, you don’t have to bring materials or paint or anything. Check it out.

Also, make a minibook. I know I will.

A new venue — October 31, 2013

A new venue

Gentle readers,

PaperClips215 is a new portal for info on Philly’s creative culture. It looks like for now I’m their main theater guy, and am going to be publishing there once/wk, directing people to the best local shows. This is important, because many of these amazing shows are under-financed, under-publicized, and under the radar.

I’m focusing on experimental and cheap. The gems you otherwise won’t hear about. The pay-what-you-can weird shit you’ll brag to your friends about and they’ll moan about how they would see more theater if they knew it could do THAT. Like a choose-your-own-adventure dance in the basement of a power plant in Old City. Or devised theater cabaret about genocide. Or a play about crystal meth play performed in someone’s living room.

For me, it’s nice to have Paperclips turn up around the same time that Art Attack vanished. That venue has closed down, unfortunately. But writing for Phindie and Paperclips is so much fun because they’re all such scrappy chaps. Even if they don’t pay me.

Check out my first post for info on what to do with your weekend.



PS: Also, going along with the theme of new venues, a number of articles have popped up about the new FringeArts space – and more specifically, their $60 tickets. Most writers contribute to the moaning (which is valid enough) or remain neutral, but Amy Freeman has written a thought-provoking and fact-filled op-ed for the USA Herald. She even offers a solution, mad as that may sound.

PPS: Help me out. I want to represent the BEST and WEIRDEST of Philly’s underground experimental performance scene. If you hear about anything really awesome you think I might not catch wind of for any reason, let me know. I need to be in all the loops. There are so many loops in this city that just when you think you’re in the loop you find another smaller loop somewhere.

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