Every year, the Fringe Festival brings audiences to unusual spaces all around Philadelphia. But the theater festival extends beyond the city limits too. This year, shows are planned in Media and Jenkintown. And a big survey of artist Tania El Khoury’s work is on display at Bryn Mawr.
ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury
September 6 – 23
Bryn Mawr and Old City
Tania El Khoury, who has five works in this year’s Fringe Festival, describes herself as a “live artist.”
“Mainly, I work with interactivity. I do performances and installations that use the audience as collaborator,” she said. “It’s not really about being passive to the stories you’re listening to, or rationally understanding them, but about putting yourself in those stories. It’s about you imagining yourself in that particular situation and seeing how this affects your body and mind.”
Based in Beirut, London, and “anywhere” — “I live on a plane,” she told me — many of her works deal with borders, migration, and oral history, particularly of Syrian refugees. For the Fringe Festival, Bryn Mawr College’s performing arts coordinator Lisa Kraus has curated five of her works into a survey called “ear-whispered,” which takes place in spaces at Bryn Mawr and in Old City. All of them involve the audience as co-creators of the work.
In the immersive sound installation “Gardens Speak,” perhaps El Khoury’s best-known work, the audience listens to the oral histories of 10 Syrians who were killed in the early days of the country’s civil war and buried in gardens because it was unsafe to bury them elsewhere. To hear their stories, compiled through interviews with friends and family, the audience must literally press their ears to the ground.
The piece, now at Bryn Mawr, has traveled to more than two dozen cities; in each, El Khoury has asked the audience to respond in letters. For “ear-whispered,” Bryn Mawr has commissioned a new work exhibiting these letters for the first time. The title, “Tell Me What I Can Do,” reflects a common thread in the letters, said El Khoury. “They’re almost speaking to the dead: ‘Tell me what I can do.’ They’re asking the dead about our living.”
Bryn Mawr is also hosting the video installation “Camp Pause”, which tells the stories of four people living in a camp for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The camp borders the sea, but it is still essentially an open-air prison, a contradiction that El Khoury explores through the individuals’ narratives.
“As Far As My Fingertips Take Me,” taking place both at Bryn Mawr and in Old City’s Pii Gallery, is a one-on-one encounter involving a single audience member and a Syrian refugee. He shares his story through an original song and story, and by marking his tale on the audience’s skin.
“Stories of Refuge” is another immersive video installation shot by Syrian asylum seekers in Germany telling their own stories. To experience it, audience members lie in metal bunk beds at Twelve Gates Arts in Old City.
No, We Won’t Shut Up! (Suburban Fringe)
Sept. 14-16, 7 p.m.
Rose Valley Storytelling House, 3 Rose Valley Road, Media, Pennsylvania
This show takes on the femme-led activism of the times, tackling white privilege, wage theft, gentrification, and more through personal storytelling.
home (Suburban Fringe)
York Studios, 459 Old York Road, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania
Born from the choreographer’s experience of losing her home to a fire, “home” is about physical spaces and temporary homes, and what they can hold.
By The Water
South Camden Theatre Company, 400 Jasper St., Camden
Tickets: $20, $5 for Camden residents with ID
Not a part of Fringe, the strong theatrical offering — extremely relevant as Hurricane Florence makes landfall this week — by Sharyn Rothstein tells the story of the disastrous impact of Superstorm Sandy on a middle-class couple already struggling to keep their heads above water.
Recipes from the Paw Paw Patch
Sept. 13, 6-8:30 p.m.
Free Library of Philadelphia Culinary Literacy Center, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia
It’s pawpaw season! Also known as the Asimina triloba or papaya, this delicate, fragrant, mango-sized fruit is native to North America, but its native habitat is disappearing. Chef Ari Miller and the Philadelphia Orchard Project will demonstrate recipes that involve the pawpaw’s unique, creamy, custard-like flesh. Tastings galore.
Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll
Sept. 13, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Baltimore Avenue, 43rd to 52nd streets, West Philadelphia
Free; treats $1
Restaurants, shops, and bars all along Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia will be offering up $1 treats Thursday night. That includes a 7-ounce beer at Dock Street Brewery; a small scoop at Little Baby’s Ice Cream; a veggie injera roll at Queen of Sheba; and many other goodies.
Black Women’s Art Festival
Sept. 15-16, 1-9 p.m.
The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St., West Philadelphia
The Black Women’s Art Festival returns to the Rotunda for two days of performance, yoga, music, poetry and film. The schedule features a belly dancing class by Rising Phoenix; an African fashion show; a wide variety of musical performances; multiple screenings of the short performance film “This Ain’t a Eulogy” by Taja Lindley; and two nights of open mics.
Right next door, it’s the last outdoor musical performance at the park on 40th Street between Walnut and Locust. New Brass Band will be playing with Joy Ike.
Faerie Fest at Rockwood Park
Sept. 16, noon-4 p.m.
Rockwood Park & Museum, 4651 Washington Street Extension, Wilmington, Delaware
This free event for kids and families features tours of Rockwood Mansion, princess story time, a parade, and the apparently very popular fairy house/gnome house competition.