Out sexual politics front-and-center at LiveArts-Philly Fringe
At the Philadelphia LiveArts-Philly Fringe Festival, sexual politics is a pervasive theme with GLBTQ and straight artists weighing in on the raging culture wars just in time for the fall elections.
What better way to revolt against repression, than staging political theater, loud queer artists being mighty real or most subversive of all- everybody dancing in the streets?
Sex, not war
For classicists there’s Aristophanes’ take no sexual prisoners satire "Lysistrata." What could be more timely, in the era of endless wars, than a comedy where the women of Greece withhold sex until the men stop fighting in wars? Sounds like a strategy more viable than ever. The production, directed by Hannah Tsapatorisis is a modern adaptation by Robert Zaller and is staged in the ethereally dilapidated space The Rotunda.
Meanwhile, three of Philly’s most versatile and accomplished actors-Charlotte Ford, Lee Etzold, and Sarah Sanford perform "BANG," a no-holds barred, sexually explicit, and hilarious exploration of nudity, desire, gender roles, and sexual arousal.
"This is a clown play actually," Ford said, in a cell-phone interview. "I wanted to ask the question: can a woman be funny and sexy at the same time? I was interested in creating a representation of sexuality on stage about what women wanted as opposed to being wanted. We’re not circus clowns, but deeply beautiful, goofy people who arrive in the theater and explore and make contact with the audience, so the play unfolds in real time and is different each performance."
Where is the body?
The power of the female body politic is also the theme of the utopian stage of "UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW," by the Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company. The piece explores sexuality and gender roles by way of theater, dance, cabaret, and burlesque.
Speaking of nudity, Elevator Repair Service, the hot New York theater troupe who produced "Gatz" last year to much acclaim at the Public Theater, is previewing "Arguendo," a dramatization of a famous 1991 First Amendment case brought by a troupe of go-go dancers that argued dancing naked is protected speech, not subject to prosecution. ERS sold out at LiveArts two years ago with their fine adaptation of Hemingway’s "The Sun Also Rises" at the Arts Bank.
The day the music lived to die is resurrected in Madi Distefano’s solo performance "Popsicle’s Departure, 1989" about the day the punk rock scene died in Boston. Madi shares the bill with Jess Conda’s "Eternal Glamnation" a rock cabaret that shows that all does not glitter under the make-up, sequins and outward manifestations of glam.
At the other end of the spectrum is "Stop Kiss" a drama by Kristin Heckler about a lesbian couple on a first date that shares a kiss and becomes victims of a brutal gay bashing.
Over under sideways down
On the dance scene, award winning out choreographer Jumatatu Poe creates "Private Places," a piece that explores sexuality and identity. He mixes dance idioms of black gay clubs and drill team choreography derived from Southern black universities. Jumatatu’s choreography is full of wit and drama as the styles collide against a service industry tableau.
Brian Sanders brings being an out choreographer to new heights with "The Gate Reopened." He does so through the use of a 20-foot apparatus called The Gate, described as "giant jungle gym for the insane," on which members of JUNK (Sanders’ hyper-acrobatic troupe) hover, catapult, dangle, invert, scale and execute unexpected aerials. "Accessible, technically flawless, and thrilling comic dance turns," wrote Dance Magazine about an earlier incarnation of the piece.
The Continental (Grand)
Ben Franklin Parkway is the site where out choreographer Sylvain Emard will orchestrate "Le Grand Continental" - a line dance that will feature 160 Philadelphians with the moves.One of the main qualities of Continental is that for its scale,Emard allows for great expression for the dancers. "You see individuals and you get the force of the ensemble," he said in at the festival center this week, adding that he was inspired by the cultural diversity and dance styles in Philly. "this brings us back to the reason why, maybe, we chose to dance." Philly has a great tradition of line-dancers and dances- Shavu, Wagner walk, Riviera Stroll, Madison, not to mention the line dances at Catacombs (but that’s another story).
And camp never gets campier than at the Rocky Awards,where Philly’s dance creme de la creme celebrates their own, recognizing achievements in dance arts. Last year’s still devastating awardees passing the slipper to this year’s winners. Dito van Reigersberg (aka chanteuse Martha Graham-Cracker) is scheduled to perform. In an email she intimated that there may be a re-enactment of the birth of modern dance via Goddess Martha Graham herself?
2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival + Philly Fringe runs September 7-22, 2012. For a complete listing of shows and events go to 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival + Philly Fringe website.