The great Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and several other novels, stories and essays has passed away. In this video, Bill Moyers interviews Chinua Achebe for PBS. Read the New York Times obit here.
Since its inception in 2001, DysFUNctional Theater has shone a light on some of the more obscure plays about female experience. While The Vagina Monologues is anything but obscure at this point — being performed every year at thousands of venues and college campuses around the world — it’s still a natural fit for the folks at DysFUNctional. The monologues in question deal with all aspects of having, and owning, that previously un-talked-about body part, whether it be orgasm, sexual abuse, menstruation, or birth. For the 15th anniversary of V-Day, the global anti-violence event of which The Vagina Monologues is only a part, a new campaign called One Billion Rising will ask audience members to rise up and dance in support of the one billion women who will experience violence in their lifetimes.
Sun., March 10, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., $10, The Rotunda at Penn, 4014 Walnut St., 215-573-3234, dysfunctionaltheater.com.
“Let your beauty run wild,” read Philadelphia poet laureate Sonia Sanchez from one of six haikus (followed by a much longer poem assisted by saxophone) she wrote for Wangechi Mutu’s exhibition — the first at the expanded Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at the new URBN building, home of Drexel's art and design programs.
As Dr. Joseph Gregory, chair of the departments of Art and Art History at Drexel and overseer of the gallery, told me that evening, Sanchez was instrumental in bringing Mutu — an Kenya-born artist based in Brooklyn — and her work to Philadelphia. He introduced the two almost a year ago because Sanchez was interested in writing poetry based on Mutu’s work. When he pitched the inaugural exhibition at the Pearlstein to her, “She said yes on the basis of Sonia Sanchez being involved.”
And, as Sanchez said, Mutu’s work does run wild — syncretism being a necessity of her personal history, savage beauty being her aesthetic calling, and collage her primary medium. In that regard, the gallery doesn’t save the best for last, putting the chimeric “Three Huggers” and the even more bizarre series “The Histology of the Different Tumors of the Uterus” right up front. (Glitter will never be the same.)
Also showing are a few of her short films, the most memorable of which is “Eat Cake,” a solo performance (like most of her work) in which the artist squats before a tree in a white (wedding?) dress devouring a chocolate (wedding?) cake. The image reminds one not so much of Marie Antoinette, but of Bertha Mason (née Antoinette Cosway) of Jane Eyre and The Wide Sargasso Sea — precisely the sort of maligned post-colonial female persona that would figure in Mutu’s art.
The exhibition’s centerpiece is “Suspended Playtime” (shown, above), an installation of dozens of improvised trash-bag soccer balls suspended from the ceiling by golden strings. At some point early in the evening a few youngsters decided that it was an obstacle course to be walked through, and not gingerly. The adults soon followed suit, resulting in the coterie of young women who assist Ms. Mutu staying busy throughout the event untangling strings and salvaging dropped balls.
Accompanying the exhibition was the Drexel Dance Ensemble, choreographed by Tania Isaac, whose work clearly shares Mutu’s preoccupations. The dozen or so dancers, outfitted in multicolored and feathered flesh based unitards, entered the gallery from several directions, posing and writhing in pairs until joining together for an extended finale that saw the ensemble divide, subdivide, coalesce, splinter again, recombine, and build its momentum from the slow and eerie to the frenetic. It was an attentive dedication to Mutu’s work, containing within it some of the uncanny mix of violence, provocation, and grotesque seduction that has made the 40-year-old Kenyan so major.
Through March 30.
Every year, Vida, a web site focusing on "women in the literary arts," breaks down the output of several national literary/literary-ish publications — Paris Review, New Yorker, Granta, Harper's — by gender. And every year the results skew male. We're talking writers, authors, book reviewers and more. Dudes all over the place. Emily Guendelsberger took one look at it and said, "I always did wonder why Philip Roth was so acclaimed." Check out Vida's amazing assortment of bar graphs here. Ooh, even better, go here for the extended intro and slideshow.
Deadline: 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 16
Fiction: $5 entry fee per story. Stories should be 3,000 words or less and previously unpublished. No more than three fiction submissions per author.
Poetry: $5 entry fee per five poems. No more than 10 poems per poet.
Prizes: Winners get all the money — minus the judges’ honorariums — and have their work printed in City Paper. Runners up, also chosen by the judges, get posted online. Hopefully there will be a reading, too (but we said that last year).
Eligibility: Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware residents are invited to participate. Employees and regular freelancers for the City Paper are ineligible, obvs.
Submitting: All checks should be made payable to City Paper Writing Contest at the address below or via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stories and poems should be e-mailed to email@example.com or mailed the old-fashioned way to:
City Paper Writing Contest
123 Chestnut St., Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
We'll announce the judges soon. No phone calls please regarding specific entries. Manuscripts will not be returned. We’re okay with genre fiction. We’ll put up with weirdly arranged poetry. And now: I think you know what time it is.
After making copy editors and headline writers groan for years, the artist formerly known as the "Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe" — a moniker that resulted from the arts-festival equivalent of a couple getting married but wanting to keep their last names — just announced that it is cutting nearly 40 characters from its name (even the space!) and will now be known as just FringeArts.
They announced this at the groundbreaking of the (at the moment, very cold) new building that'll serve as a year-round HQ for the organization at Race and Columbus, right next to the Ben Franklin Bridge. (That honestly made us wonder a little — a NJ Transit train rumbled by during one of the speeches, and it was ... loud enough that you couldn't hear the speaker, who had a mic.)
But the space looks like it's going to be pretty great — it's huge, and will have a bar and restaurant, and as part of the city's ongoing efforts to make the waterfront not suck, it'll have bathrooms open to the public year-round.
We got a little flutter at something buried in the middle of the release in the "About the New Space" section describing the 240-seat theater space:
The theater will be designed to embrace a full range of performances, from shows like a reimagined Twelfth Night, or What You Will by Philadelphia's Pig Iron Theatre Company ...
That definitely sounded like one of our favorite festival shows ever was getting a revival. Sadly, when we made inquiries, it sounds more like that was being used as an example of a show that might have been put on there if it had existed in 2011, though Pig Iron willl be putting on stuff year-round. Way to get our hopes up, FringeArts.
You've seen artist Steve "ESPO" Powers' giant love letters around town, and you saw him on the cover of City Paper just last month. And you know Kurt Vile, Philly's constant rock hitmaker and no stranger to our cover, either. Well, as you might have heard, the former did the cover of the latter's latest record. On a wall. This is Matador Records' promo video for all that.
We suspected as much when there was a mysterious lack of picketers outside Suzanne Roberts Theater at Broad and Lombard last night for the first time since The Mountaintop opened two weeks ago, but it's now official: All the drama is finally over. From a PTC press release:
Philadelphia Theatre Company is pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with IATSE Local 8, the union representing the stagehand employees. The agreement needs to be ratified by the union leadership and the Philadelphia Theatre Company board of directors.
“During several lengthy meetings all afternoon and last evening, the union made significant movement to come closer to the terms which, although consistent with what PTC had originally proposed, had previously been rejected by the union,” said PTC’s Producing Artistic Director Sara Garonzik. “We have negotiated a settlement that is reasonable for PTC and appropriate to our size. We want to express our appreciation to our audiences, subscribers and artists for their wonderful support and patience during this challenging period. We are pleased that we can now focus on our mission of producing great theater.”
And now the drama can finally resume. Or, at least, resume in full — up until last night, at least, the MLK-centered play The Mountaintop was been being performed by two costumed actors under a static lighting situation, with a third person person seated on a chair at the side of the stage occasionally piping up with dramatic readings of the stage directions that weren't occurring, like "Blackout!" and "THUNDER ROLLS!"
Keep an eye out next Thursday for a more in-depth piece on the strike.
Marcel Duchamp is one of the most crucial artists of the 20th Century, a spiritual godfather to the Dadaist movement and the Pop Art revolution, an avidly silly man, and an adviser to some of the most important museums, curators and collectors in America before his passing in 1968. That this avant-gardener’s most notorious works reside in a wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art — now dedicated to the heroic Anne d’Harnoncourt our museum’s late great director until 2008 — has forever made this city magnetic north for any experimental artist worth his salt. Pre-Pop painters Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg visited Philly’s Art Museum often throughout the ’50s, intersected with composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham and together formed a perfect union of where the American avant-garde would go. Starting last week and running through January 2013, the exhibition “Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp” celebrates that union.
The art in the Fleisher Art Memorial’s fifth biennial fundraising exhibition feels like it was sent by a pen pal you haven’t met yet. “Dear Fleisher, 4 x 6 Inches of Art” will showcase work by hundreds of regional artists in an array of mediums, but all pieces will be kept within the dimensions of a postcard. All pieces in the show are priced at an affordable $50 and sold on a first-come-first-served basis. The pieces have been donated by a committee of artists including Diane Burko, Giovanni Casadei, Paul Dusold and Michelle Ortiz, but here’s the catch — each piece will be signed on the back, keeping the artist anonymous until after the sale and the spotlight on the power of the art itself.
Sun., Nov. 4, 1 p.m, $5, Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St., 215-922-3456, fleisher.org.
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