Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Thursday, February 21, 2013, 8:53 PM
Kathleen English, Christie Honigman, Teresa Nino (co-chair of the Young Friends of the Academy Ball, Vasiliki Tsiouris, co-owner of Opa Philadelphia, HughE Dillon, Maria Papadakis, Philly.com, Marisa Magnatta, WMMR Preston & Steve Show and Kristyn Aldrich, Focused Studios. (HughE Dillon/Philly.com)

The Philly DoGooder Awards, held tonight at the University of the Arts to fete the best in non-profit video storytelling, announced that they would be doling out awards to Philly.com's own Leah Kauffman for Innovation in Storytelling and City Representative Desiree Peterkin-Bell for Innovation in Urban Mechanics. But the third award, for Innovation in Community Building, went unannounced.

Drumroll, please...

The award goes to HughE Dillon, the proprietor of PhillyChitChat.com and society photographer for Philly.com and the Philly Post, was handed the award by Mayor Michael Nutter, who said that Dillon created a new platform for sharing stories behind the community, through the lens of his camera and the words on his blog.

POSTED: Friday, January 18, 2013, 2:29 PM

[BYLINE]By Wendy Rosenfield
[/BYLINE][BYCREDIT]FOR THE INQUIRER
[/BYCREDIT]When last we saw Phileas Fogg traveling [ITALIC]Around the World in 80 Days[/ITALIC], he landed in Delaware Theatre Company’s big, spare, delightfully imaginative, Barrymore Award-winning mainstage show. Now, a few seasons later, he’s back visiting the Walnut Street Theatre’s tiny Studio 3 in an equally delightful, up-close version of that same Mark Brown adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel. 
Where the earlier production used the power of suggestion to evoke Fogg’s global adventures, here director Bill Van Horn and set designer Andrew Thompson present his journey from within and all around a Victorian cabinet of curiosities: a wood-paneled wall whose recesses pop out, slide or swivel open to reveal a ship’s captain, angry Indian priests, or a dryer vent-cum-elephant’s trunk. 
This cast, which includes Van Horn, John Zak, Damon Bonetti and Sarah Gliko in multiple roles, embraces Van Horn’s madcap pace. Whether it’s Zak rolling Marty Feldman eyes as hapless Fogg-chasing Detective Fix or Bonetti’s Inspector Clouseau-style verbal contortions as Fogg’s valet Passepartout, compressed in this space, with everyone occasionally hopping aboard a shape-shifting platform hand truck, the fun multiplies.
But adapter Brown’s tale has a bit more heart than Verne’s, and Anthony Lawton’s stoic Fogg, (almost) never cracking a smile, keeps it beating at a steady pace. Fogg accepted the wager on a round-the-world challenge with the assumption that “the unforseen does not exist,” and Lawton keeps Fogg’s travels and demeanor as tight as Studio 3, until his world begins to open up in ways that are, yes, unforseen. 
Among many gems in this small wonder, Mary Folino’s costumes lend the whole endeavor both a lightness — along with some steampunkish flourishes, vests and cravats are embroidered with whimsical cursive lettering and charts — and gravity. Gliko’s ruffled, corseted, embroidered gowns, the men’s stripes, plaids, checks, jacquards, foulards, and everyone’s felted, flowered chapeaux, parade past like gifts from a global bazaar. 
Jules Verne once wrote, “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” This production also proves that imagination adapts to however much room it’s given, and under the right conditions, a cabinet can be just as thrilling as a wide-open stage.
By Wendy Rosenfield

FOR THE INQUIRER

When last we saw Phileas Fogg traveling Around the World in 80 Days, he landed in Delaware Theatre Company’s big, spare, delightfully imaginative, Barrymore Award-winning mainstage show. Now, a few seasons later, he’s back visiting the Walnut Street Theatre’s tiny Studio 3 in an equally delightful, up-close version of that same Mark Brown adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel. 

POSTED: Thursday, January 3, 2013, 1:12 PM

By David Patrick Stearns

INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC

Like a grand diva who can’t get enough farewell tours, Les Misérables — the stage musical version — is again on a tour stop in Philadelphia against many odds. This time it arrives amid formidable competition from the current film version that faithfully follows the musical about oppressed masses and idealistic up-risings in post-revolutionary France. By now, the touring stage shows have a fraction of the scenery seen in the Broadway original. The film is lavishly produced with major stars and has a smaller admission fee.

POSTED: Monday, December 17, 2012, 1:49 PM

Stage adaptations of It's a Wonderful Life have been proliferating, and though no one version dominates, Joe Landry's at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope feels more viable than many: It rightly emerges as a fanfare for the common man, even if it's lighter than lightweight.

Subtitled A Live Radio Play, the Landry script doesn't try to stage the original small-town setting. It's set at a 1940s radio studio, where the story is being acted out for microphones, the six-member cast playing a variety of roles that, through the considerable power of suggestion, make the stage feel far more populated than it is. In 1940s radio style, the actors give highly inflected line readings, supported by a sound effects.

Anyone who feels shortchanged won't for long. The elements that made radio drama work in the 1940s have retained their power. Soon, you no longer feel the characters are outside you. They're all but in your head, having a subtle dialogue with your own holiday history.

POSTED: Thursday, November 8, 2012, 1:51 PM

[/BYCREDIT][DROP3]W[KERN-0]ednesday night’s BalletX season opener at the Wilma Theater began as dark and stormy onstage as it was outside. But the program grew progressively lighter and more serene, and ended with its loveliest and most upbeat work, the Philadelphia premiere of [/KERN-0][/DROP3][ITALIC]Switch Phase[/ITALIC], by BalletX<NO1>cq<NO> co-artistic director Matthew Neenan. 
The evening also featured world premieres by two guest choreographers. Mauro Astolfi’s [ITALIC]Instant God[/ITALIC], for the full company, posits that people would like to have a personal “god” to fix everything in life — in a snap. He expressed this through confrontation, tensions, movement phrases frustrated by awkward endings, all underpinned by Notfromearth’s<NO1>cq<NO> soundscape of rain and dissonant noise. 
The women were all in Martha Chamberlain’s little dark sheaths, the men in street clothes, and all wore socks, the better to slide when pushed along by another dancer. Struggling entanglements of small to large groups and oppositional moves filled much of the dance. Astolfi’s sensuous, offbeat use of musicality and William Cannon’s solo — all about off-center backward falls and lunges — were the spine of this dance.
Philadelphian Kate Watson-Wallace, known for small site-specific works, made [ITALIC]I Was at a Party and My Mind Wandered Off. …[/ITALIC] In the second work of hers for the stage I’ve reviewed in two years, she once again created a scene, this one a party winding down. Colby Damon and Jared Brunson lean into each other like boxers in the ring in the 10th round. [KERN-1]Three women in white, their hair hanging over their eyes, rotate their shoulders. And all harmonize a song as they circle into and out of the larger group, ending with a wild last dance. 
[/KERN-1]Neenan’s [ITALIC]Switch Phase[/ITALIC] was the most accomplished piece on the program, but the company had had time to absorb it fully since premiering it last summer in Vail. To music recorded by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, the dancers oscillate around each other like celestial bodies moving through space. Allison Walsh straddles Cannon’s prone body as he snaps his torso up to her. <NO1>Neenan’s choreography leaves no detail undone.<NO>When Walsh later slices her arm up the side of Cannon’s neck, he grasps her hand before she can pull it away. 
[KERN+3]The most poignant section was a tango with newcomer Richard Villaverde and retiring Tara Keating. If you’ve loved watching this adorable vamp-next-door dancer over the last 15 years, first at Pennsylvania Ballet and then with BalletX, you’ll be as sad to see her leave the stage as I am.[/KERN+3]
[SHIRTTAIL][10PTLEAD]Additional performances:[/10PTLEAD] 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. Tickets: $22-$35. 215-546-7824 or tickets@wilmatheater.org[/SHIRTTAIL].

By Merilyn Jackson

FOR THE INQUIRER

POSTED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 12:43 AM

The names of the company and the show tell you nothing, but 7 Fingers' Sequence 8 is fantastic, one of the most memorable Live Arts/Fringe performances I've seen over the years.

The show, which had its U.S. premiere Tuesday night at the Merriam Theater, seamlessly blends circus arts with modern dance and hip-hop in a family-friendly array of acrobatic feats reminiscent of Olympic gymnastics. All eight performers are clowns at times, but no one is creepy or annoying.

Set to music ranging from Tosca to the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Sequence 8 includes group dance sections with a heavy dose of aerial acrobatics; a Russian bar routine that's a cross between trampoline and balance beam; and performers who defy gravity juggling cigar boxes, on a trapeze, or by dashing up a Chinese pole.

POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012, 2:18 PM

[/SUBHED18_2][AGATE_LG]Shows: 8 p.m. Tuesday<NO1>9/18<NO>-Thursday<NO1>9/20<NO>, 10 p.m. Friday<NO1>9/21<NO> and Saturday<NO1>9/22<NO>. Tickets: $28-35. Information: 215-413-1318<NO1>cq<NO> or www.livearts-fringe.org<NO1>cq<NO>
[/AGATE_LG]<EM>
A huge, hexagonal, cagelike structure that reached to the ceiling commanded the space inside Pier 9 on Friday night for the premiere of Brian Sanders’ [ITALIC]The Gate Reopened[/ITALIC]. Surrounding it was a packed audience. As Sanders’ eight muscular performers — six men and two women — emerged, fleetly circling the Gate’s base to the wild cheers of the crowd, I couldn’t help but see them as gladiators. 
Instead of fighting each other, they fought height and gravity, calculating risk as they swung on bungees or launched themselves like simians against the chain-link fencing, which they gripped only by their fingertips and the J-hooks on their boots. 
[KERN-3]Sanders’ work is always thrilling, inventive, daring, even ingenious and very witty. It was gratifying to see him have a free hand with a good budget for the set and the Pedro Silva/Conrad Bender lighting design. The men — Connor Senning, Gunnar Clark, Teddy Fatscher, John Luna, Billy Robinson, and Tommy Schimmel and the women — Jerrica Blankenship and Tamar Gutherz — were all topless, so the low lighting was perhaps to cast them in shadow.
[/KERN-3][KERN-3]Blankenship and Gutherz performed daredevil feats on a swinging ladder. Robinson took a big leap from the top into a watery canvas, only to be caught up in a sheet of plastic and then writhe his way out again. A mist sprayed them all in the final moments, catching the light magically and casting a mystical cloud over the scene. This was one of those performances where the line between dancer and athlete was blurred, if not obliterated. Indeed, the crowd strolled out into the fine evening in high spirits, as if we’d just been to a sporting event.
[/KERN-3][SIGNATURE]<QM>— Merilyn Jackson

A huge, hexagonal, cagelike structure that reached to the ceiling commanded the space inside Pier 9 on Friday night for the premiere of The Gate Reopened by choreographer Brian Sanders' company, Junk. Surrounding it was a packed audience.

As Sanders’ eight muscular performers — six men and two women — emerged, fleetly circling the Gate’s base to the wild cheers of the crowd, I couldn’t help but see them as gladiators. Instead of fighting each other, they fought height and gravity, calculating risk as they swung on bungees or launched themselves like simians against the chain-link fencing, which they gripped only by their fingertips and the J-hooks on their boots.

POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012, 2:05 PM

[TEXT]Nudity or near-nudity has been featured in almost every Live Arts/Fringe event I’ve attended — and I’m only halfway through the festival. Since I haven’t  heard anyone yell “Let’s get naked!” I’ve kept my clothes on so far. I can’t say the same for the performers in <NO1>Swarthmore and UArts dance instructor<NO> Jumatatu Poe’s [/TEXT][ITALIC]Private Places[/ITALIC] — members of Poe’s company, idiosynCrazy — which opened Saturday at the Live Arts studio. 
In the lobby we checked our bags, then were divided into four alphabetized groups and herded in as meekly as airline passengers. Some were seated in aisles and some around the periphery of the black-and-white space. 
Imagine your flight attendant breaking into J-Sette, a mix of southern black marching band moves stylized by gay men — often in competitions — or into mad cackling abruptly terminated when another dancer bops them on the head. Their silvery gray and black strappings by Katie Coble come off in pieces by evening’s end, leaving scanty purple and chartreuse underwear that eventually is shed for the final 15 minutes of the 75-minute show. 
Until then the dancers squirm zombie-like into suitcases and bully each other into bullying audience members into standing up, sitting down, changing seats, and rearranging the space until the center is cleared for the frontal nudity, the plastic sheeting, the oil bath, the towel down. 
Leanne Grieger, Gregory Holt, Shannon Murphy, Gabrielle Revlock, Samantha Speis, Zornitsa Stoyanova, Michele Tantoco and Poe performed it all with stoic intensity. Murphy brutalized the others, feverishly shouting orders as the senior, what, captain?
I didn’t think I could be bored looking at beautifully built dancers in the buff, but absent a single touch of irony or comic relief throughout, I was. If Poe’s intention was to annoy and bore his audience, he succeeded mightily; many of us left rolling our eyes and muttering under our breaths about having been held captive on the runway so long, waiting for the piece  to take off.
[SIGNATURE]<QM>— Merilyn Jackson
Nudity or near-nudity has been featured in almost every Live Arts/Fringe event I’ve attended — and I’m only halfway through the festival. Since I haven’t  heard anyone yell “Let’s get naked!” I’ve kept my clothes on so far. I can’t say the same for the performers in Jumatatu Poe’s Private Places — members of Poe’s company, idiosynCrazy — which opened Saturday at the Live Arts studio.

In the lobby we checked our bags, then were divided into four alphabetized groups and herded in as meekly as airline passengers. Some were seated in aisles and some around the periphery of the black-and-white space. 

Imagine your flight attendant breaking into J-Sette, a mix of southern black marching band moves stylized by gay men — often in competitions — or into mad cackling abruptly terminated when another dancer bops them on the head. Their silvery gray and black strappings by Katie Coble come off in pieces by evening’s end, leaving scanty purple and chartreuse underwear that eventually is shed for the final 15 minutes of the 75-minute show. 

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