Philly ‘happening’ in a 21st century context

“This is my happening and it freaks me out!”

In the 1970 film “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” Z-Man indoctrinates a young rock and roll ingenue into the Los Angeles counterculture by taking her around his “happening,” which was little more than a huge party filled with oddballs dancing to the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

A true happening, as coined by Allan Krapow in 1959, is a staunchly avant-garde artistic practice: performers and audiences improvise together while staying within a framework of specific instructions. Those happenings were inspired, in part, by the improvised sound compositions of John Cage.

Now Benjamin Lloyd, founder of White Pines Productions, will stage a new happening with five groups of artists — the theater companies Dzieci and Found Theater Company, a Tourette syndrome dance troupe called Band of Artists, R&B singer Demetria Joyce Bailey, and installation artist Aaron Rogachevsky — which will interact with each other, and the audience, during an unscripted six-hour party Saturday.

“It had a moment — this idea of a happening — a decade-long moment in the ’60s that was noticed and celebrated at the Philadelphia Art Museum recently with the Cage and Rauschenberg and Cunningham exhibit,” said Lloyd. “So we’re trying to bring that moment back, dust it off, and put it in a 21st century context.”

The 6 p.m. to midnight event will have a rhythm of rush and eddy, with periodically scheduled events every two hours, and dinner service of bread, cheese, and fruit at 8 p.m. Audience members will be invited to complete a personal mission, all the while a collective manifesto will be written.

“It will be chaotic and confusing occasionally,” said Lloyd, who admits he doesn’t know exactly what will happen. “There will be periods in which there are lulls when it doesn’t feel like there very much going on, and then suddenly things will come to life.”

The Happening will take place at the Broad Street Ministry, 315 S. Broad St., in Philadelphia.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.