It's a Fringe world after all

Jo Strømgren Kompani's "The Society," a racially charged movement study from Norway, features Bartek Kaminski, John Brungot, Trond Fausa Aurvag. In the work the radicalism of one man's choice of tea in a world of coffee drinkers symbolizes the clash of civilizations. Exposure to a wealth of international productions, Strømgren says, "gives you a cultural overview. You start detecting each country's peculiarities."
Jo Strømgren Kompani's "The Society," a racially charged movement study from Norway, features Bartek Kaminski, John Brungot, Trond Fausa Aurvag. In the work the radicalism of one man's choice of tea in a world of coffee drinkers symbolizes the clash of civilizations. Exposure to a wealth of international productions, Strømgren says, "gives you a cultural overview. You start detecting each country's peculiarities."
Posted: September 07, 2013

The first thing Nick Stuccio wants you to know about the 2013 Fringe Festival - the cutting-edge performance binge formerly known as the Live Arts Festival - is that Philadelphia is ready for a serious dialogue with the global art scene.

"We're changing our festival's usual balance and showing off what the international artist has to say," says Stuccio, director of the sponsoring FringeArts organization.

Since the festival began 17 years ago, Stuccio has traveled worldwide to find the most daring performances in theater, dance, and video. This year he has brought back more than ever for the curated, or "presented," portion of the sprawling 18-day event, with imports from Thailand, Canada, England, Greece, Norway and Italy.

"The U.S.A. has seen 10 of my productions already," says Norway's Jo Strømgren, whose racially charged movement study The Society will be given three performances this weekend. Exposure to a wealth of international productions, he says, "gives you a cultural overview. You start detecting each country's peculiarities."

From Manhattan to Missoula, any good Fringe is a snapshot of worldwide culture, and if audiences in other American cities care what goes on in the art world, says Stuccio, Philadelphians should too.

"It's an opportunity to witness other countries' aesthetics, side by side. FringeArts 2013, as well as our year-round program," launching this fall at its new venue on Columbus Boulevard, "will reflect that. That's the direction we're heading."

This doesn't mean Stuccio has given up on America - Nature Theater of Oklahoma is represented, as are Brooklyn-based So Percussion, videographer Liz Magic Laser, and Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group. Nor has the curated festival abandoned its local profile.

"Philadelphia artists have been and will be a big part of this conversation," says Stuccio, noting 2013 shows by longtime Fringe faves Brian Sanders' JUNK, Pig Iron Theatre, and Geoff Sobelle.

"Nick believes in good work, local or otherwise," says Philadelphia physical comic Sobelle, whose past successes include 2005's all wear bowlers and 2011's Elephant Room. "We've been in collaboration - my stuff with Pig Iron, solos - since 2001. I'm always bringing new work to Nick, rather than existing pieces. Everything's a premiere. I wouldn't get such faith at other festivals."

For the scores of local artists represented in the uncurated Neighborhood Fringe, it's an annual opportunity to try things out, form temporary alliances that may become permanent, and most of all, take chances. Theater, dance, improv, spoken word, happenings, interdisciplinary pieces, film, cabaret - all take place in venues from South Philly to Manayunk to suburban Wayne and even Allentown.

"That's the soul of the impulsive international Fringe movement," says Stuccio - "that anyone gets an opportunity to perform, that culture can be found anywhere."

Here's are some highlights of the presented Fringe Festival:

Jo Strømgren Kompani, "The Society." Norway's premier movement theater company uses the radicalism of one man's choice of tea in a world of coffee drinkers to portray the clash of civilizations. "It's a way to scrutinize matters symbolically," says Strømgren. "Tea and coffee could refer to many things. In Society, they represent the Oriental and Occidental world, but all clashes have similar ingredients so I believe every conflict can, with an imaginative mind, be related to a highly fictional setting such as ours. That's what art is about, referring to something concrete by being slightly more abstract." Friday through Sunday.

Geoff Sobelle, "The Object Lesson." Sobelle's physical comedy about the inner life of storage rooms concerns his relationship with stuff. "Two quotes influenced me. French writer George Perros said 'objects are the residue of history.' Then there's another George, Carlin, who had a line about how one's house is but a container for flotsam. . . . I love props, so they became the dramaturgical way into Object Lesson, though it's probably an excuse to bury myself in things." Thursday-Sept. 21.

 Pig Iron Theatre Company with the University of the Arts, "Pay Up." In this redo of 2005's popular Pay Up, half its simultaneously running miniplays are newly written and available for audience members to buy. They're cheap ($1) and short, so shop with ease. Through Sept. 22.

Ant Hampton/Tim Etchells, "The Quiet Volume." Individuals are led to private spaces within the Parkway's Free Library, given headphones, and made to listen to this British duo's whispered thoughts while reading specifically chosen books designed to titillate. The Dewey Decimal System was never so eerily thrilling (or interactive). Saturday through Sept. 22.

Navin Rawanchaikul, "This Is Not a Theater." Thailand's king of site-specific, collaborative work that focuses on team spirit hosts a world-premiere art event in which actors, directors, and crew from Plays & Players Theatre tell stories of their time there, which Rawanchaikul had turned into a huge painting, a comic book, and videos. Presented with The Living Newspaper: On Location (Wednesday and Thursday) or All the Sex I've Ever Had (Friday and Saturday).

Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, "Moses(es)." The Brooklyn choreographer and his ensemble premiere a dramatic tale of fate asking who must boldly lead and who must dutifully follow. Sept. 19-21.

Societas Raffaello Sanzio, "On the Concept of the Face Regarding the Son of God." Italy's theatrical enfant terrible author/director Romeo Castellucci on the degradation of the aging process and the role of Jesus in such matters.


All About the Fringe

Find information about performance schedules, venues, ticket prices, and run dates for all the Fringe Festival and Neighborhood Fringe events at www.fringearts.com. The box office is open noon to 8 p.m. at 215-413-1318.

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