Philadelphia School of Circus Arts; David Scott Kessler: The Pine Barrens; Saffron, A Pennsylvania Treasure

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts
Producer: Karen Smyles

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts is the region’s center of contemporary circus arts. The school was founded in 2008 by Shana and Greg Kennedy who wanted to share their love of the circus arts with everyone. After traveling the world and working with several major circus organizations, like the enormously popular Cirque du Soleil, they decided to settle down here in Philadelphia and opened a school in Germantown.
Shana and Greg believe that circus is a performing art, much like music, dance or theater, not an athletic discipline, and what to introduce this idea to everyone. Students can take classes in aerials (static trapeze, corde lisse, aerial silks and lyra), juggling, unicycling, tightwire, tumbling and physical conditioning for students of all ages, ranging from 18 months to adults of any age. All students are encouraged to gain performance experience, whether in public forums or studio showcases for parents and friends.
Building upon the strong foundations of their successful school, later this year they will be opening a full-time school to train students who would like to become professional circus artists. Currently, there are very few options for these students in the U.S, leading most to travel overseas to train. Philadelphia will become the first city in the U.S. to offer higher education for circus artists.
Friday Arts sits down with Shana and Greg to find out how they really did “Run away and join the circus” and how the circus has now come to town!

David Scott Kessler: The Pine Barrens
Producer: Michael O’Reilly

Filmmaker David Scott Kessler has been working on his evolving documentary, “The Pine Barrens”, for the better part of a decade. Before he began the work, he had never visited the Pine Barrens proper. Guiding the viewer through the Pinelands’ winding, rust-colored rivers, its dark forests and slowly developing towns, the documentary creates a contemplative and complex portrait of a place. Through a haze of tall-tales around campfires, encounters with “Pineys” punctuate a landscape removed from contemporary experiences of reality. With the Pinelands as its primary character, the film explores the symbiotic yet sometimes destructive relationship between man and nature. Aiming beyond journalism, The Pine Barrens is a meditation on Nature and Place and their roles in the formation of identity through impressions and artistically interpreted moments; instances best experienced through a veil of wonder and left largely unexplained.

The Pine Barrens of New Jersey, once seen as uninhabitable, has been called home by many. Believed to be unprofitable, it gave birth to industries. Perceived inhospitable, it became refuge. Faced with eradication, it flourished. The Pines are a living contradiction, thousands of acres of remote forest within the nation’s most densely populated state. Rare plants and animals are often found feet from busy roadways.

Its unique glacial geology, Lenape Indian and American history, rare wildlife, fire ecology, and a culture filled with mystery and folklore such as the Jersey Devil, makes the Pine Barrens one of the most interesting places in America. The Pinelands are the nations first National Reserve, consisting of roughly 1.1 million acres, with parts designated for preservation and controlled growth. An aquifer holding 17 trillion gallons of the cleanest water in the US gives life to both nature and the seven counties that reside within the Pineland’s borders. A 15 member independent commission, created in 1979 is intended as the guardians of preservation and responsible land use. Corruption and short-sightedness threaten those goals.

Saffron, A Pennsylvania Treasure
Producer: Monica Rogozinski

Shirks Saffron is a delicacy grown in the Pennsylvannia Dutch area by Justin Hulshizer. Growing up helping his grandmother care for her cherished saffron bulbs, has instilled in Justin a sense of duty and heritage that propels him to endure the arduous job of growing the delicate saffron flowers, and waiting a whole year for them to bloom in October, when their valuable threads are available to be hand picked. It is a labor of love. Justin invites us for a wonderful home cooked meal, showcasing his saffron on a Chicken Corn Noodle Soup, accompanied by a seasonal apple crisp, a taste of Fall.

When Exec. Chef Eli Kulp was looking for locally grown saffron to be part of an all local ingredients menu he was creating for Fork Restaurant, he was introduced to Justin. Since then, Fork has been utilizing Shirks Saffron on some of their dishes. Chef John Patterson demonstrates how he translates some of the traditional saffron recipes into a contemporary dish such as Saffron Ravioli on Rabbit Broth and The Saffron Revenge.

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