While I may not have been familiar with Fire & Ice prior to my cooking session with Executive Chef Chris Nguyen, apparently the Old City restaurant is known to quite a few locals for their monthly “Drag Yourself to Brunch” event which is–yep, you guessed it–brunch and live drag show. Now, I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I love more than a plate of scrambled eggs, it’s a crew of fabulous drag queens.
The next edition will be going down this Sunday, May 19, featuring special VIP guest Johnny Weir. Admission is $35 if you wanna eat and drink (price includes a free Bloody Mary or mimosa) and just $10 should you just want to catch the show.
Either way, I recommend sticking around for lunch/dinner. Perhaps these pics might entice you…
What happens when you pack 10 talented improvisers on to one small stage, blind-fold them then turn out the lights? You get a uniquely visceral improv comedy show performed in the pitch black, duh.
After a successful run in the 2011 Philly Fringe Festival under the title Dark Comedy, the Philly Improv Theater is now reviving the production, now dubbed The Bat, for a three-week run with shows every night Thursday through Sunday, as well as a special second midnight show on Saturday. And having gotten a chance to attend a preview performance, I can assure you it lives up to the intrigue.
With both the audience and performers forced to exercise their imaginations even more so than usual, The Bat unfolds similarly to radio play all starting with a poem passage randomly selected before the show and read out loud on the stage. “It offers the cast and audience a feeling—a shared emotional connection that you really don’t get from just asking for a word,” explains local improv vet Jason Grimley, the show’s director.
From there, just sit back, close your eyes and prepare to have your mind blown as the cast use nothing but their lightening speed wits and uncanny human sound effects to craft a wild series of scenes and characters. While obviously you’d assume not being able to play off one another’s actions and expressions would be severely limiting to the performers, it turns out it can actually have some advantages. For instance, only in the dark could you have a character convincingly tumble down several flights of stairs without them ever having to leave their seat.
7pm. Through May 19. $12-$20. The Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St.
The Inquirer’s Kevin Riordan spotlighted Philadelphia’s fluorishing local poetry culture via the excellent Apiary Magazine last week. From the piece itself: “Apiary’s first issue appeared in 2010. The magazine is Philly-centric but hardly parochial; 730 men, women, and children from all over the country submitted poetry and short fiction for the forthcoming Apiary 6.” And “Apiary, a print and online literary magazine as energetic and eclectic as the Philly poetry scene it nurtures.”
By the way, an apiary is, by Webster’s definition: “a place where bees are kept; especially a collection of hives or colonies of bees kept for their honey.” Just an FYI.
In a way, poetry’s never really been as sexy as it should be. It’s the art of words, an art form that dwells in ideas and nuance. And an intuitive and sensitive mind, one that cherishes the technicality of expression, doesn’t always lead to a well-attended and buzzworthy event. Poets have often been outsiders, too, writers who’ve known the burden of constant thought interpretation. The poetry reading and writers workshop has always been a haven of judgement-free safety. In the best way possible, the love of letters and expression of free literary thought has been a historic playground for freaks, outcasts, weirdos and philosophers.
With these two big events next week, there’s an opportunity to see just how diverse and lively Philly is as a poetry breeding ground. Apiary’s big on promoting poetry events in Philadelphia, and they’re pushing these two: the Philadelphia Poetry Grand Slam FINALS and the Philly Youth Poetry Movement Grand Slam FINALS. The more-adult Grand Slam Finals are on Friday night, May 3rd, at PhilaMOCA, but it’s still all ages; it’s at 8:30pm, and tickets are $8 in advance (and a little more at the door) and $15 for VIP. The young kids’ll be selling out the Art Museum (the Van Pelt Auditorium) with a quick 5:30pm door and 6pm sharp show time; tickets are $7 for students and the youth and $15 for adults. A special appearance is planned by the Swarthmore College Poetry Team, and last year over 400 people showed up for some slammin’.
Oh, and by the way, Apiary’s been highlighting local writers’ favorite poems all month, so I thought it’d be nice to share one of those here and now. This is Helen W. Mallon’s pick, a writer/writing coach/book reviewer, a(n excerpt from a) poem by Louise Erdrich called “Advice to Myself”:
“Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw out the cracked bowl and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and the the dead
foaming up in grey rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses the toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic–decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks….“
Once again, the 2013 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts will celebrate the end of its month-long, citywide performances and events with an all-day extravaganza, consuming six blocks along the Avenue of the Arts and capturing all the mystery and magic of the festival’s “If You Had a Time Machine” theme. Should you be thinking the street fair sounds like one big lame-fest, here’s five reasons why you should consider checking it out:
1. It’s free, dammit! For absolutely no cost, you’ll enjoy an eclectic mix of live tunes, including the Brazilian beats of Philly Bloco and piping-hot jazz of the Blackbird Society Orchestra, as well as a variety of unique street performers—from jugglers and acrobats to post-apocalyptic stilt-walkers and a nine-foot tall robot.
2. It’ll be your last chance to walk through the Kimmel Center’s Time Machine, then spend several minutes trying to figure out what the hell it actually does. Seriously, does anyone get that thing?
3. You’ll get to discover new local eats and treats. Aside from carnival staples like cotton candy, hot dogs and ice cream, the diverse line-up of food vendors will be serving up practically every type of cuisine you can imagine.
4. There’s fun for the whole family. If you’ve got youngsters, this is one event where you’re definitely going to want to bring them along. After a ride on the Ferris wheel, kiddies can make their way through three elevated obstacle courses, then mingle with animatronic and puppet dinosaurs in the Dinosaur Petting Zoo.
5. Because everyone else you know probably is. The inaugural fair in 2011 attracted nearly 200,000 people. So do you really want to be that one schlub who doesn’t go, then have to spend an entire year hearing about it until PIFA returns in 2015?
Sat., April 27. 11am-7pm. Free. South Broad St., between Chestnut & South Sts. pifa.org/streetfair
With only four more performances left, you don’t have much time to debate whether or not you want to book yourself a ticket. So allow me to help guide you in this decision as quickly as I can…
Pro: The troupe’s signature choose-your-own-adventure narrative structure is incredibly innovative and fun. And unless you’ve seen an Applied Mechanics performance, chances are, it’s unlike any other theater experience you’ve had. The audience is free to roam the space as they choose and wherever they go, they become engulfed in the action.
Con: This “narrative” is convoluted to the point of unintelligible. It’s sorta like being led on a wild goose chase only to find out there was never an actual goose for you to chase—maybe a mutated duck, but no goose.
Pro: Every single member of the show’s whopping 26-actor ensemble is spectacular. With this having been my second or third time seeing several of the performers, I’m convinced they don’t get nearly as much praise as they deserve. Seriously, a bomb could have gone off and not a single one would have broke character.
Con: You may leave with a headache. There’s a lot happening around you and between trying to process all of it, making sure you’re not in a performer’s way and occasionally referring to the provided program/map/guide, it can be quite overwhelming.
Pro: They feed you chocolate. If you happen to be following the right character(s) at the right time, you might even get a little wine.
Con: As the explained by its subtitle (“The Epic Feats of Notable Persons in Europe After the Revolution”), the show revolves around the Napoleonic Empire and the French Revolution. I don’t know about you, but a lesson in 19th century European history doesn’t exactly elicit a great deal of enthusiasm.
Pro: For better or worse, you’re going to be enthralled. And for $15 bucks, I think it’s worth finding out yourself.
8pm. Through April 13. $10-$15. Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St.
So. PIFA, the Philadelphia International Festival of Arts, is now in full swing and the Kimmel Center, its beating heart, proudly features a “time machine.” Yes, two years ago we celebrated Paris and now we embark on the heady task of time traveling: “PIFA asks audiences ‘If you had a time machine…’” The guide’s introduction says: “This journey takes us from the Big Bang to the invention of casual Fridays, and from a family-friendly puppet show in 1876 to the landing of Columbus in 1492, as the artists feverishly work together across time and space, crossing and blending a variety of styles to reflect PIFA’s core values of collaboration, innovation, and creativity.”
Alright, maintaining a positive attitude, we say this is cool. It’s cool that there’s loads of free programming, it’s cool that our city endeavors a month-long festival of arts that attracts artists of every medium to our city, and it’s cool that unique programming is created specifically for this festival.
But, uh, time travel? Could be cool. We love Back to the Future. But if we’re being real, like we do, some of these things are just so weird. When pushed and constricted by a theme, seems like some whacky stuff came about. Some stuff gets really specific, creating art based on a date in time. While other events stretch over hundreds of years of history.
Here are seven musical moments we’ve got our eyes on:
1. Last Call at the Downbeat (Jazz Bridge): “In November, 1942, 25-year-old trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie is in Philadelphia leading his own quartet at the Downbeat Club. He’s just been fired by big bandleader Lucky Millinder after a stint at the famed Earle Theatre at 11th and Market Streets – right around the corner. It’s war time, and big band swing is all the rage, but Gillespie has been experimenting a bit with a new approach to music. Something most people don’t even know about yet, something called bebop… he’s anxious to play you a little and tell you a lot about Philadelphia jazz – back in the day.”
April 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th at 8pm. $25. Red Room at the Society Hill Playhouse, 300 S Broad Street.
2. Bond and Beyond (Peter Nero and the Philly Pops): “Agent 007 has the suave sophistication needed to thwart the evil plans of Dr. No, Goldfinger, and Mr. Big – and so des his musical motif. Relive the thrill and adventure as The POPS, led by Michael Krajewski, play the iconic music of James Bond and other themes of espionage. Audience favorite Debbie Gravitte lends her sultry soprano to these tantalizing tunes for an evening you won’t want to miss. After all, you only live twice!”
April 26th-28th. $30-$114. April 26th, 8pm, April 27th & 28th, 3pm. Verizon Hall, 300 S Broad Street.
3. The Children’s March (Singing City and the SC Children’s Choir): “May 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama – a major catalyst for bringing about the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. The newly commissioned work by Philadelphia composer Andrew Bleckner and acclaimed Philadelphia storyteller and narrator Charlotte Blake Alston features Singing City and the Singing City Children’s Choir, and tells the story of one moment that changed the course of civil rights in America. The concert will be followed by a conversation with the artists.”
April 26th, 8pm. $20-$30. Church of the Holy Trinity, 1904 Walnut Street.
4. Casual Friday (Stone Depot Dance Lab): “Stone Depot’s Casual Friday begins with a Happy Hour in the Ruba Club’s inviting lounge, sponsored by Philadelphia Brewing Company, and continues on a wild ride through an unorthodox history: a performance for anyone who has braved the work force, navigated the social strictures of bosses and co-workers, or simply needs a Casual Friday for any reason.”
April 12th and 19th, 6:30pm & 8:30pm. $15. Ruba Club Lounge, 414 Green Street.
5. Aquarian Exposition: A Trip Back to the Original Woodstock (Sharp Dance Company): “Join us for a night dedicated to the unique and controversial decades of the 60’s and ’70s. Aquarian Exposition: A trip back to the Original Woodstock taps into the spirit of love, acceptance and exploration that made the hippie movement one that will transcend time. Enjoy some of the most prolific music in history performed as dancers embody the groovy sixties through new and original choreography set by Diane Sharp-Nachsin. Audience members will feel like part of the performance… including a contest for the best dressed audience member in hippie gear! Don’t miss this beautiful homage to Woodstock.”
April 12th-21st, April 12, 13, 19, 20, 8pm, April 14 and 21, 7pm. $20. The Box, 2628 Martha Street.
6. SENDMSG (Dan Deacon): “Internet Hall of Fame inductee Ray Tomlinson sent the first email from one computer to another in 1971. For the past forty years the evolution of his contribution has grown to see over 3 billion email accounts in existence today and the generation of new social communication technology. Enter instrumentalist, composer and DJ Dan Deacon, who uses this moment as a springboard to creat an evening where the audience is as much a part of the performance as he is. Using smartphone technology, Deacon and the audience will creat a shared musical experience to open and close an evening filled with a unique show not to be missed.”
April 12th, 8:30pm. $15. Perelman Theater, 300 S Broad Street.
7. Songs in the Key of Life: Robert Glasper Presents a Stevie Wonder Tribute: “Firmly planted in the worlds of jazz, hip-hop, and R&B, Grammy-nominated Robert Glasper bring together an all-star cast featuring the Experiment Band (Derrick Hodge, Mark Colenburg and Casey Benjamin), Lalah Hathaway, Stokley Williams, and Eric Roberson, dedicated to Stevie Wonder’s timeless body of work. This performance, commissioned by Harlem Stage, includes new arrangements and new compositions written by Glasper, inspired by Stevie Wonder.
April 14th, 8pm. $25-42.50. Verizon Hall, 300 S Broad Street.
10 Things We Saw, Heard, And Learned At #Faymeproblems Starring Alaska Thunderfuck At Tabu Last Night
Tammy Faymous can host a party. She’s a qualified and talented emcee and last night she invited RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 contestant Alaska Thunderfuck to grace Philadelphia with her presence. It was fun.
1. Tammy had a bit of a stage built up on the second floor of Tabu, a welcome addition to make better sight lines and create more of a performance space. It’s nice to have a living room feel to a drag show but last night was much more of a stage performance and it worked.
2. It started shortly after 11:30pm with Tammy wearing an unconventionally large, tall platinum wig with hints of pale pink in it. She started by toying us with the first few measures of Beyonce’s “End of Time” before she told us it wasn’t going to be that kind of show and if we didn’t like it, the door’s downstairs and Voyeur’s across the street before ripping into “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks.
3. Luna Lavey, Philly’s long-legged faerie princess nailed out a punk-flavored number and then the dark and beautiful Aeryanah Von Moi brought sultry R&B flavor. But then Maddy Milan delivered on bizarro beauty with her giant, swinging bush-anchored limp dick. Seriously, Maddy always brings it with her elaborately-handmade bodysuits and this one was perfectly over-the-top.
4. The Goddess Isis, who never disappoints, swooped in and did a Taylor Dayne song called “Original Sin,” the theme from The Shadow. She wore horns that made her look like the evil queen from Snow White. Isis always nails whatever vibe she’s trying to pull off and her witchy, Wiccan, Stevie Nicks enchantress ways were not lost on this audience.
5. Then something pretty sweet happened – Tammy did Weezer. She sang “Say It Ain’t So” and it was fantastic. Ms. Faymous always manages to inject a little bit of the unconventional, a little unexpectedness. Weezer at a drag show? Why not?
6. Alaska herself is a tall, weird queen. She had on a big, slightly natty wig and in the interview she did with Josh Middleton for G Philly, she confessed that her name came from doing drugs; weed, that is. She and some friends were getting stoned when they started talking about names of weed strands when she decided to adopt one as her stage name. Her presence is a goofy one; her face is pretty staid until she works those wild lips – it’s where she’s perhaps most expressive. She tends to pose for photos with a contorted mouth. For her first performance of the night, the crowd went ape and she did a pretty amusing mashup of RuPaul songs.
7. There were lots of straight people in attendance. Even Tammy joked throughout the show that she saw so many New Jersey names on the list of pre-ordered tickets. Even straight people love RuPaul’s Drag Race, this is a reality we live with. They even wore Alaska t-shirts. A few youngbloods went a little crazy, and even in the 10-minute set break they were dancing all over each other like they’d never had alcohol before. One lady kept pulling her shirt up and above her bra. Not cute.
8. After a typically spot-on Carrie Underwood moment from Isis with “Two Black Cadillacs,” a cute and quirky Roxxy Glamour came out and did Yelle’s “Safari Disco Club.” Lip-syncing French pop is not easy. Maddy nailed “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift, a questionable song choice because we all hate T Swift, we being the human race, but “Trouble” has that little bit of rage that Maddy channels so well. She took it to a dark and angry place that worked as well as her Limp Bizkit “Faith” moment at last winter’s Josh’s Drag Ball at iCandy. Her bandeau bikini top fell off her tits many times.
9. Tammy made a big announcement: JuJuBe’s coming to the gayborhood for Pride and Sinful Sundays. Yup, in June, the RuPaul’s Drag Race alum and America’s Asian Sweetheart is going to grace us with her electric charm. THAT’s a season I watched and THAT is a drag queen I will pay to see perform.
10. Alaska finished up with a sickening rendition of Lil’ Kim’s “How Many Licks?” in which she finished the lines with “How many licks does it take ’til you get to the center of Alaska Thunderfuck?” in a gold, lame tunic. Then Tammy sang “Glamazon” and all the girls came down with what looked like rolls of wrapping paper before they pulled the ends and they exploded with glitter and confetti. It was quite a night.