Philly arts orgs go political for DNC

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"Kennedy Kards" from the 1960s are part of the National Constitution Center's interactive exhibit "Headed to the White House."

I'd like to think the folks attending the Democratic National Convention next week will spend every minute of the day doing intense politicking at the Wells Fargo Center. But I'm willing to bet a few visiting dignitaries, delegates, and volunteers also will strike out to explore the city. My fellow Philadelphians are betting on it, too: Just about every arts and cultural organization in town has an event, exhibit, or performance planned.

Here's a taste of what the city will have to offer.

The airport: Welcome to Philly

Even Philadelphia International Airport has a few fun things going on at several terminals, including video installations showing documentaries about the history of the city, by Sam Katz's History Making Productions. Actors will roam the halls in costume as historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, and Alexander Hamilton. The airport also will feature the historical exhibit "Philadelphia's Presidential Convention History 1849-2016." Smaller exhibits of political bric-a-brac include a huge collection of campaign buttons from the collection of Alfio J. Brindisi.

Information: www.phl.org.

Politics and performance

Plays and stage shows will address national and local issues, such as gun control, gentrification, and the fragmented nature of our political discourse.

Roseburg. The New City Stage Company's production of Ginger Dayle's drama explores gun violence by juxtaposing a 1968 speech by then-presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in Roseburg, Ore., with the October 2015 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College just outside that town.

"Some of the news reports about the shooting featured footage from Bobby Kennedy's speech, [for which] he was heckled," Dayle said. "These two incidents show that when it comes to gun control, not a lot of things have changed in nearly 50 years."

Dayle will set aside one night for delegates and volunteers who wish to attend.

Through July 31 at the Second Stage at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St. Tickets: $15-$45. Information: 215-563-7500, www.NewCityStage.org.

The Trump Card. Isaac Butler directs monologuist Mike Daisey in a FringeArts production that will explore Donald Trump's success amid the political fragmentation that has beset the nation.

"Most people didn't think it would be possible for Trump to go this far," Daisey said in an interview. "The job of the show is to dissect how we got to a place where Trump could win the nomination."

Daisey said he would elicit opinions from the audience. "I'll be talking directly to the people in the room about the relationship to Trump, to try to find out where the roots of his power come from."

Thursday at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd. Tickets: $15-$29. Information: 215-413-1318, www.fringearts.com.

Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope. New Freedom Theatre director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj presents a revival of the Micki Grant musical about the urban African American experience. In this theatrical protest, the production makes Philadelphia the locale, addressing the closing of William Penn High School by Temple University, which bought the site to build a track for its athletic department.

"We are looking at [the original play's] themes of gun violence and gentrification, which continue to plague us today," Maharaj said. "Many people are frustrated by Temple, which is buying up so much land [in North Philadelphia], but which doesn't act as if it's part of the community."

Maharaj added, "This community continues to struggle to hold on to its values and a sense of unity even as so many cultural organizations and schools are closing down because of gentrification."

Without good schools or institutions that instill a sense of belonging, the play argues, kids easily turn to drugs and violence.

Through July 30 at New Freedom Theatre, 1346 N. Broad St. Tickets: $20-$35. Information: 888-802-8998, www.freedomtheatre.org.

Voices of Voting. Commissioned by Philadelphia's Committee of Seventy, David Bradley's new play will have its world premiere on the first full day of the convention, July 25. Targeted at middle and high school students but open to the public, the play attempts to show how youth can become more engaged in the electoral process.

Three showings daily, July 25-27 at the Science Leadership Academy, 55 N. 22nd St. Free, but reservations required. Information: 855-738-3689, www.seventy.org, voicesofvoting@seventy.org.

Truth to Power. Cosponsored by Rock the Vote, the Little Giant creative agency, and several local organizations, this multimedia event will feature an art exhibit (with works by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Shepard Fairey, and Ron English), plus live music and performances as well as panel discussions on issues such as criminal justice reform, immigration rights, climate justice, and the economy. It will take place at a performance space specially built for the event.

Noon to 8 p.m. July 25-28 at 990 Spring Garden St. Information: TruthtoPower.us.

Art exhibits

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will feature "Happiness, Liberty, Life? American Art and Politics," an exhibit focusing on humor, protest, and portraiture in American art and politics from the 18th century to today. It will include massive cardboard figures of George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin from Red Grooms' 1982 Philadelphia Cornucopia installation as well as 25 different representations of George and Martha Washington.

Through Sept. 18 at PAFA, 118-128 N. Broad St. Information: 215-972-7600, www.pafa.org.

The Clay Studio. "Still Divided: Hope Rovelto" features a collection of ceramic drinking cups bearing portraits of every candidate who has vied for a presidential nomination this year, including Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders.

"They are colorful and they're fun," Rovelto said. "That draws people in who see them as party cups. But then they say, 'Oh, wait a minute, this isn't about partying but how to choose a political party.' "

 

Through July 31 at the Clay Studio, 139 N. Second St. Information: 215-925-3453, www.theclaystudio.org.

Carré d'artistes Art Gallery. In "Our Election Collection," Hillary Clinton is featured among a series of oil paintings in an exhibit of works by Carlo Trevisan.

 

104 S. 13th St. Information: 215-735-2800, www.carredartistesphilly.com.

Film festival

Political Moviefest Sponsored by the Center City District, the preconvention fest will feature a series of films this week, including Selma (Wednesday), The Manchurian Candidate (Thursday), The American President (Friday), and All the President's Men (Saturday).

Screenings at 10:30 p.m. at Dilworth Park, 1 S. 15th St., across from City Hall. Information: www.facebook.com/dilworthpark

Historical exhibits

Philadelphia museums and historical organizations will sponsor a dizzying number of exhibits about the history of politics in the city.

The National Constitution Center. The interactive exhibit "Headed to the White House" shows visitors every step candidates must take to run for office.

 

Through Nov. 8 (Election Day) at 525 Arch St. Information: 215-409-6700, constitutioncenter.org.

The Heritage Center of the Union League of Philadelphia. How has Philadelphia figured in elections in the past? "Sweep the Country: Political Conventions in Philadelphia" examines the various conventions held here between 1848 and 2000.

 

Union League, 140 S. Broad St. Information: 215-587-6455, www.ulheritagecenter.org.

Eastern State Penitentiary. "Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration," an exhibit of interactive video installations, engages visitors in the thorny matter of prison reform, a perennial issue in national and state politics.

 

Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave. Information: 215-236-3300, easternstate.org

The Academy of Natural Sciences. Ever wonder what George Washington's hair looked like? You can find out with "Presidential Archives: Letters, Hair, and Fossils."

Through July 29 at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Information: 215-299-1000, ansp.org.

National Liberty Museum. "First Families" displays White House china dating to George Washington, along with first ladies' fashions and first family portraits.

National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut St. Information: 215-925-2800, libertymuseum.org

The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent. How many presidents made campaign stops in Philadelphia? What did they wear when they were here, and what did they talk about? Find out with "Philadelphia & the Presidency."

15 S. Seventh St. Information: 215-685-4830, philadelphiahistory.org.

tirdad@phillynews.com

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