The Best of the Fests
There are still a few days left in the 2009 Philadelphia Live Arts/Fringe Festival, but what with the Jewish new year and other obligations, including the start of the regular theater season, I've had to cash out early. Good news is, this year--the festival's lucky 13th--paid out a jackpot. Bad news is, the house is in big trouble.
So first, about the good news. Of the 18 shows I viewed and/or reviewed, there was nary a pair of snake eyes in the bunch. Even better, though not for me, it sounds like I missed or am about to miss roughly 10 more don't-miss events. Even better than that, some of the world premieres--and not just the bussed-in ones, but shows by Philly-based companies--received national and international attention. My own experiences varied from being friended by a number of Facebook chimeras, then fed some sort of pill by one of my chimerical "friends" during the show (which, btw, turned out to be a Sweettart; Danh Marks, I want my money back) to being led, blindfolded and barefoot, onto the floor where I was ultimately buried alive while listening to Samuel Beckett, to getting dumped in public. It was a very good year.
Both of the festival's arms, comissioned (Live Arts) and indie (Fringe), stepped up, as did audiences who sold out performances in droves. Additionally, patrons at the Festival Bar (which, due to dueling official/unofficial cabaret entertainments was a source of contention in past years) seem to have forgiven and forgotten; last year's echo chamber became this year's throng. Most encouraging, however, was that the place was packed with all those young audiences the big houses so desperately seek. One Philly expat, in town with his show, looked around awestruck and declared, "This is a very, very sexy bar." Damn right it was, and made more so by the fact that it was composed entirely of theater and dance patrons and performers discussing the day's festival menu.
[Above left, playwright/performer Greg Giovanni and I help bring sexy back. Well, he does anyway. That's an awful picture of me.]
No more excuses brick and mortar companies, I hope you did your shopping and found some inspiration or talent worthy of development. The butts are there; make them want to fill your seats.
And so we've arrived at the bad news. Due to Philadelphia's budget crisis, the Mayor's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is in danger of closing on October 2. Philly's creative economy is one of the city's few success stories these days, and for it to continue to flourish it needs the mayor's full, organized support. Let Pennsylvania's officials know that closing this office is not only counterproductive--considering all the money and tax dollars brought in by the arts and their audiences--but downright self-destructive. Go here to state your case.
Finally, in case you were wondering, yes, I was working. The results (and my reviews of Live/Arts Fringe shows) are here, here, here, here, and here.