If it were, Warhol probably wouldn’t be impressed.
“David Bowie wrote a song for him and he asked Warhol, ‘What do you think of my song?’’’ says Kristen Bailey of the Bearded Ladies. “Warhol looked down on the ground and said, ‘I like your shoes.’”
Besides being socially awkward, Warhol’s famed Factory left a fairly significant trail of human wreckage. Young socialite-turned-actress Edie Sedgwick died of an overdose in 1971. Andrea Feldman committed suicide in 1972. A few years earlier, Warhol was shot by Factory outsider Valerie Solanas, who fired away after she was denied the return of a script.
“We’re looking at Andy through the lenses of a bunch of females,’’ says Bailey, who stars as Edie. “His mother, Julia, is one of the most important [characters] in the Popera. Warhol became a brand and seemed untouchable, but when you see him with his mother, you realize, ‘Oh, you’re a human being.’
“Solanas absolutely hates him,” she continues, “but Edie and Candy [Darling, another Factory star] have to go through his art machine and Candy knows she’s doing it and she’s willing to live with it, whatever the costs.”
Warhol had a special lens for the world around him.
“Warhol may or may not have had his own intellectual agenda and what he wanted his work to elicit from people, but at the same time we also see this man who made art out of a bottle of Coke,’’ Bailey says. “Candy Darling became an object to make art about and he treated her the same way he treated the Coke bottle. He took what’s beautiful from them and left the rest on the cutting room floor.’’
“Andy: A Popera,’’ which has undergone several permutations over the last few years, is composed by Heath Allen of the Bearded Ladies and Dan Visconti. John Jarboe, the Bearded Ladies founder, wrote the libretto and also directs. It’s part of this year’s Fringe Festival.
The work is billed as part opera, part cabaret, with singing soup cans, multiple Marilyns and a randy banana onstage in the Kensington warehouse where it will be performed. The space will replicate pre-Warhol shooting Factory life, and those who attend might find themselves part of the production.
“It’s going to feel like a Factory party,’’ Bailey says. “Someone will pass you a drink and put you onstage.’’
“Andy: A Popera” was planned for a Thursday through Sept. 20 run, but sold out. An additional show was just added, and there will be a standby line for each performance. Tickets are available at Fringearts.com or Operaphila.org.