BOLDFACE: A hyperlocal look at Philly’s social scene

Karen Ladd

By this point, I’m neither the first nor the last person that will say that Mayor Kenney should resign if he doesn’t have the spirit to lead this city — whether through celebration or crisis. My question has always been that, though, when it comes to Kenney: has he ever really wanted this job? After his initial campaigning, a time when he genuinely seemed sparked by the issues that make-and-or-plague this city, Kenney’s actual election seemed to bring him nothing but pain, annoyance and boredom. I understand getting into situations of which you no longer want to be a part, but this is a city, a living organism, that needs tending, 24/7. Anger aside at making us hold our breath for so many years, but, if he has a doubt or a question of conscience about that ability to lead, Kenney should quit.

In other Philly news, Comcast is doing something brave and bold in the wake of SCOTUS’ Roe V Wade decision: they’re paying out of pocket to cover costs for employees who need to travel in order to get abortions. Bravo. Now, the bigger question for the Philly corporate cable/streaming giant – after just losing out on buying 21st Century Fox and WarnerMedia’s entertainment assets – will Brian Roberts and its NBC-Universal make Netflix its next corporate raid? Especially since Netflix’s stock slid $185 billion in value, even with ‘Stranger Things season 4’ and all that Kate Bush.

Another streaming giant, Apple TV, has been around town this week and last – inside the Miller Theater on Broad Street, utilizing newly-constructed spaces in Fairmount Park – for the filming of a series based on author James Swanson’s ‘Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer’. One of my favorite dark subjects as a kid (’40 Days’, the first historic examination of the Lincoln assassination was my bedtime reading, no joke), ‘Manhunt’ stars Anthony Boyle as killer John Wilkes Booth (his brother, fellow thespian Edwin Booth, acted on the stages of Philly’s Walnut Street Theatre), Hamish Linklatter as Abe Lincoln, Tobias Menzies as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, along with Patton Oswalt and Lily Taylor. I haven’t run into any of the actors yet, but here’s hoping.

That said, here’s a celebrity sighting that you don’t want: Philadelphia Flyers goalie hopeful Ivan Fedotov, was picked up by law enforcement in Russia right before his planned move to the U.S., and is currently at what’s reported as a remote military base in Northern Russia.

So, if bucolic FDR Park in South Philly, the recent home to two years-worth of the Philadelphia Flower Show, winds up as a real contender for the World Cup 2026 and its training camp facility, what does the park’s jewel, the Swedish Museum, get used for? Rub downs? Aramark meals? I want answers.

Unmasked Philly: Karen Ladd

You still have several days – until July 9 – in which to be thrilled by the Trenton Circus Squad at Cooper’s Poynt Park (801 Delaware Ave, Camden, NJ) for its fifth Big Top Tour and performances from its Youth Squad members, all working out a schedule of dazzling acrobatics, high-wire walking, and unicycle stunts. But what do its mental acrobats such as Program Manager Karen Ladd do when they’re not flipping and flying?

“My mom inspired my love of cooking and, luckily, my circus training gives me a healthy appetite,” says Philly resident Ladd, who also does her best to connect with nature via love hikes with her dog in the Wissahickon and biking the Schuylkill River Trail. “I love trees and am raising a collection of 40 native Pennsylvania saplings in pots with the hope that, someday, I’ll build a circus sanctuary in PA’s Endless Mountains where I can give them a permanent home.”

Ladd brings up building a healthy vinyl collection with Radiohead, Vampire Weekend, The Black Keys, Gorillaz and Car Seat Headrest (“all of which I’ve gotten to see in Philly”) as essential LPs. And though she loves reading the fiction of Ann Patchett, currently Ladd is enthralled with audiobooks.

“The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is a powerful tool for addressing my own trauma, but Dr JJ Kelly’s Holy Sh*t series is my go-to resource for working with circus students, and Ibram X Kendi opened my eyes to so much with How to Be an Antiracist, and Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give gave me a new perspective on the challenges my students face.”

Interestingly, when you ask Ladd that of which she is proudest, she ducks back to her youth so to move forward with her work with the Trenton Circus Squad and all aspects of “dreaming big.”

“I could climb before I could walk, so I was a lot to handle as a kid,” said Ladd of her Berks County youth. “My mom found affordable gymnastic programs that ran out of the Boys & Girls Club of Reading. My heart broke each time I saw less privileged peers peeking through the window, barred from participating because they couldn’t afford to play. After college I coached gymnastics, but that world is problematic. I was looked down upon by my colleagues because I put my effort into coaching the whole person, rather than coaching for the win.

“When I came to Philly and found circus, I was able to take all my gymnastic skill and put it into an artform that values teamwork and artistic expression. But, like many sports, circus is expensive. When I discovered the Trenton Circus Squad, I knew I was home. Our program is free for all participants, which levels the playing field and allows a highly diverse group of kids to function as a family. I have the freedom to center my coaching around emotional well-being and I can provide them with the safety and freedom to be whoever they want to be.”

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