Fringe Festival continues with must-see performances

Fringe Festival
Jennifer Harrison Newman in ‘Black Lodge.’
Provided

The 2022 Philadelphia Fringe Festival is now in full swing, and with so many shows to choose from in almost every artistic category, it can be hard to pick just what to experience. Luckily, we’re here to highlight standouts to make your viewing experience that much easier. 

‘The Path of Pins or The Path of Needles’

From Josephine Decker (who some may recognize as a writer/filmmaker) and Pig Iron Theater Company, ‘The Path’ is described as a dark fairy tale about the terrors, joys, and deep uncertainties of pregnancy. Decker, who recently came out with films such as ‘Shirley’ and ‘Madeline’s Madeline’ was inspired by Maria Tatar’s research on the history of fairy tales for this particular production. 

During this immersive experience, each audience member becomes “The Pregnant Dreamer,” seeking to evade a curse on their unborn child by choosing their own path through Rigby Mansion and its grounds. As a release states, this enveloping performance dreamscape explores the complex decisions that mothers, fictional and real, must make about their children’s lives. This new work brings Decker’s singular vision into conversation with Pig Iron’s 20-year investigation with site-specific and immersive theater.

This World Premiere will play from Sept. 16 to Oct. 2nd at the Rigby Mansion (523 East Church Lane.) 

Fringe Festival
Courtney Henry and Jessica Almasy in The Path of Pins or The Path of Needles. Jauhien Sasnou

‘SELL ME: I Am From North Korea’

Another unique work premiering this weekend is a show written and performed by Sora Baek. ‘SELL ME: I Am From North Korea’, as a release states, is inspired by the true stories of North Korean defectors who risk everything to escape one of Earth’s most repressive regimes. The synopsis reads: “On her 15th birthday, Jisun makes the heart-wrenching decision to sell herself to an old Chinese man to make money for her dying mother’s medications.”

In this show, Sora strives to deliver a brutally honest performance—and that mission succeeds as the production is filled with vulnerability, humor, and energy. Through ‘SELL ME’, Sora explores the nature of a few different viewpoints involving diversity, social justice, human rights, and the struggles of the oppressed.

This 55-minute digital show will play Sept. 8 to Oct. 2 and can be viewed online. 

‘Black Lodge’

Using dance, industrial rock, a classical string quartet, and opera, ‘Black Lodge’ takes viewers through a Lynchian psychological escape room. With the story and screenplay by Michael Joseph McQuilken, music by David T. Little and Libretto by Anne Waldmen, this world premiere was inspired by the mythologies of the surrealist writer, William S. Burroughs. 

As a release states, set in a nightmarish Bardo, a place between death and rebirth, a tormented writer faces down demons of his own making. Forced to confront the darkest moment in his life, he mines fractured and repressed memories for a way out, while a woman is at the center of all the writer’s afterlife encounters. She is the subject of his life’s greatest regret, and she materializes everywhere in this Otherworld. The writer cannot detach any thoughts of his life from her. 

Performing along with glam opera band Timur & the Dime Museum, plus musicians from the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, ‘Black Lodge’ will play at the Philadelphia Film Center (1412 Chestnut St.) on Oct. 1 and 2 as also part of Festival 022.

Jérôme Bel

According to a release, French choreographer Jérôme Bel continues his renowned portrait series, this time examining himself. Through a combination of lecture, archival video excerpts, and live dance, Bel constructs a genealogy of the driving forces behind his work — what he calls an “auto-bio-choreo-graphy.”

Bel will reflect on the doubts, commitments, failures, and questions present throughout his career and creative process in his performance. By utilizing contemporary performance and postmodern dance, the personal becomes entangled with the artistic and the political in this show. 

Bel’s show relied on a collaboration with Philadelphia dancer Megan Bridge (Fidget), since for ecological reasons, Bel and his company stopped traveling by plane in 2019. As a release states Bridge serves as director and translator, in addition to portraying Bel on stage. She embodies Bel’s honesty and vulnerability, holding tension between humanism and formalism.

The U.S. premiere of this show will be at FringeArts (140 N. Columbus Blvd.) from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. 

Fringe Festival
Jerome BelHerman Sorgeloos

‘Spokaoke’

Another highlight comes from writer and director Annie Dorsen. ‘Spokaoke‘ brings the atmosphere of a karaoke bar, and turns it into a format for audience members to perform speeches. Those who want to participate will be able to sift through what Dorsen calls “spoken artifacts” with over a hundred texts available on the karaoke system and arranged in a catalog that audience members can peruse.

As a release states, some texts are familiar to the point of iconic status (“I have a dream,” “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”), while others are lesser-known. Texts come from a wide variety of sources and eras — Socrates’ trial speech, Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman,” Colonel Qaddafi at the United Nations and more, and all texts are in English. 

‘Spokaoke’ will take place on Sept. 16, at La Peg at FringeArts, (140 N. Columbus Blvd.)

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