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Category: Season 1

Architecture is everywhere

On today’s podcast, we interview Thomas Choinacky to talk about his new work, A User’s Manual. Choinacky is the founder, producer, and co-curator of SoLow Fest, an 11-day festival of solo experimental performance in Philadelphia. He is also a company member of Applied Mechanics, a devised, collaborative theater ensemble. At the time of the interview, Choinacky was on location at Washington College in Maryland with Applied Mechanics for a residency of their FringeArts production, FEED.

Thomas Choinacky spaces out. (Photo by Jen Cleary)

Step into my parlor

A User’s Manual is a solo performance designed to respond to the body’s constant manipulation by the architecture that surrounds us. Drawing attention to structures, sounds, textures, and history, each site-specific performance catalogues the memory of its place. In Choinacky’s own words, he attempts to make “visible how humans are constantly affected by the surroundings we pass through and by the architecture we build.”  This interview goes deep into Choinacky’s philosophy of creating a performance and considers the spaces we occupy.

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Rebel/Rebel

InterAct Theatre Company’s world premiere of Mary Tuomanen’s MARCUS/EMMAbrings together Jewish immigrant and anarchist Emma Goldman and Jamaican immigrant and pan-African movement leader Marcus Garvey. Both were turn-of-the-20th-century activists deported from the United States, and in Tuomanen’s drama, they meet in a sort of purgatory for a no-holds-barred, sex-fueled, bloody-minded battle to rekindle the smoldering flames of their legacies.

Stevens and Davis as Goldman and Garvey. (Photo by Kathryn Raines/Plate 3)

In this REP Radio interview, Akeem Davis, who plays Garvey, and Susan Riley Stevens, who plays Goldman, discuss what their characters’ lives and actions mean today and how much more relevant they’ve become since the presidential election. You might even say the world has turned into the show’s director’s notes! The play is also intensely physical, and the actors discuss how they prepared for their roles, the many contrasts between their characters, and the way those contrasts are highlighted by InterAct’s design team.

Stevens has been acting professionally in Philadelphia since 2001, won a 2007 Barrymore Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Act II Playhouse’s production of Bad Dates. She also happens to be married to another Philly favorite, actor Greg Wood. Davis arrived in Philadelphia in 2011, has appeared on area stages almost constantly since then, and in 2015 won the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist.

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Act up, write back

On today’s podcast, we met with Stephanie Feldman, Philadelphia writer and coordinator of the Philadelphia chapter of Writers Resist. This movement is designed to engage a community of authors, poets, filmmakers and the like to use their talents and shine a light on the fundamentals of democracy. Writers Resist will host a rally this weekend at the National Museum of American Jewish History with a plethora of local writers slated to speak.

Stephanie Feldman, ready to resist. (Photo by Sarah Miller Photography)

The Writers Resist movement rapidly coalesced after poet Erin Belieu posted on Facebook, “We will not give in to despair. We will come together and actively help make the world we want to live in. We are bowed, but we are not broken.”

Belieu’s call for writers to organize local events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day has already resulted in more than 50 events throughout the United States and around the world, including a flagship New York City event co-sponsored by PEN America, and additional events in Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Austin, Portland, Omaha, Seattle, London, Zürich, and Hong Kong.

Stephanie Feldman is one of the Philadelphia rally’s organizers, with Alicia Askenase and Nathaniel Popkin. She is also a novelist, and a professor of fiction writing at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

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‘LIZZIE’ takes an axe to Borden’s legend

For today’s podcast, I made my way to South Philly to hang out with 11th Hour Theatre Company. We talked about the upcoming production of LIZZIE, with music by Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner, and book by Tim Maner. The show’s director, Kate Galvin, and its Lizzie, Alex Keiper, take us back to 11th Hour’s Next Steps Concert Series, when they first presented the musical, and we return to the present as they prepare to present the full production with some uniquely 11th Hour touches.

From l. to r., the cast of Lizzie: Rachel Brennan, Cara Noel Antosca, Alex Keiper, and Meredith Beck. (Photo by Daniel Kontz)

Perhaps you recall the dark rhyme, “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks/When she saw what she had done she gave her father 41.” LIZZIE takes a new look at the multiple controversies surrounding the 1892 murder of Borden’s stepmother and father. We also talk about the company’s trip to Borden’s home in Fall River, Massachusetts, the power (or lack of power) of women past and present, an artistic focus for 2017, and what 11th Hour is looking forward to in the new year.

Stay tuned.

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A theater company grows in Elkins Park

On this podcast, we interview White Pines Productions artistic director Benjamin Lloyd. Lloyd, a B.A. and M.F.A. Yale drama grad, has been a fixture as a Philadelphia actor for decades. He founded White Pines in 2009. The company operated out of the Elkins Park Gilded Age mansion Elkins Estate until 2012.

Benjamin Lloyd participates in White Pines’s long-form improv dinner theater. (Photo via whitepinesproductions.org)

Since then, the company has moved to a storefront in Elkins Park’s bustling business district, where they offer classes to adults, children, and people with special needs; produce original work; host a long- and short-form improv-based dinner theater with a three-course meal; host the Bright Invention improv ensemble; and offer off-site training programs. Here, Lloyd discusses his new model for arts organizations, the role companies like his serve in their neighborhoods, and the guiding philosophy behind White Pines’s “community-based performing arts studio.”

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Walken onstage together

On this podcast, we are joined by Two Walkens: Susanne Collins and Kevin Meehan. We talk about the origins of the devised theater performance duo’s mashup, explore some iconic standouts from Christopher Walken’s expansive body of work, and we even get a sample of the show.

Collins and Meehan just walken around. (Photo by Peter Michael Radocaj)

Two Walkens, a world premiere, takes a few of Walken’s best-known big- and small-screen appearances, and combines them with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic children’s book The Little Prince to see if this town really is big enough for the both of them. The show asks the timely question “How do we cope when the world outside gets to be too tough to handle?” Pick your weapon of choice.

Collins and Meehan are Philly theater veterans, but this is their first creation together.

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Catching up with Steve Pacek

On this podcast, I chat with Steve Pacek, featured in Theatre Horizon’s production of William Finn and James Lapine’s musical A New Brain. It’s been four years since Pacek won the 2012 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theater Artist and the same amount of time has passed since he last chatted with us. Let’s play catch up!

Steve Pacek sings for his life in Theatre Horizon’s ‘A New Brain.’ (Photo by Matthew J Photography)

About A New Brain

Tony Award-winners Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Lapine (Into the Woods) based this musical comedy on Finn’s life threatening battle with a deadly diagnosis of arteriovenous malformation. The show, similarly, explores one man’s quest for a second chance at life. After a children’s television songwriter receives a life-changing diagnosis, he struggles to come to terms with his creative ambitions and family relationships. In an unforgettable performance, Pacek leads a cast of Philadelphia’s top vocalists through this gorgeous musical about how we spend the time we are given.

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20 years and five new Barrymores, all in one week

On today’s podcast, we catch up with Theatre Exile producing artistic director Deborah Block to talk about Theatre Exile’s 20th anniversary season. We start off with congratulations on Exile’s 13 Barrymore Award nominations (which Monday night became five wins for their production of Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand: Production of a Play, Direction of a Play (Matt Pfeiffer), Leading Actor in a Play (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), Supporting Actor in a Play (J. Paul Nicholas), and Sound Design (Michael Kiley).

Anthony Mustafa Adair and Jenson Titus Lavallee in Theatre Exile’s upcoming ‘Guards at the Taj.’ (Photo by Paola Nogueras)

We also focus on Exile’s next production, Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at the Taj and tease with the rest of the season, which includes John Pollono’s Lost Girls, and Tracey Scott Wilson’s Buzzer, It’s always a pleasure to chat with Deb. I hope you are as excited about their 20th season as I am.

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Trumping the election with comedy

On this episode of the Broad Street Review/REP Radio podcast, we discuss 1812 Productions’ annual political satire This Is the Week That Is (TIWTI). Meet Sean Close and new cast member Nia-Samara Benjamin, both of whom appear in TIWTI‘s “Election Special.” Can you guess what we talked about?

L to r: Justin Jain as Joe Biden, Sean Close as Elizabeth Warren, and Nia-Samara Benjamin as Tim Kaine. (Photo by Mark Garvin)

Why should Saturday Night Live have all the fun this election cycle? Host Darnelle Radford, Benjamin, and Close give you the local lowdown on how to suck up all the year’s dirty politics without getting sick.

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