When performance artists-turned-administrators Meredith Sonnen, Chris Davis, Lena Barnard, and Lauren Tracy took over SolowFest in 2015, they wanted to keep it lean and mean, rather than outsize the fest’s intimate origins due to its success.
The floating venue, featuring experimental micro theater in small spaces (from cars and apartments to tiny black boxes) with small casts (often one performer), allows a diverse range of shows and players (e.g. actors as walking sculptures) at affordable costs to producer and audience.
All shows are encouraged to be Pay What You Can, with a suggested donation. For SolowFest’s ninth iteration from June 14 through June 24 (subtitled “Stranger Things Have Happened”), the 11-day event asked its artists to look inside and discover how and what they create in such weirdly socio-political times.
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“I feel like 2018's shows are more about questions,” said Sonnen, a former director at FringeArts’ headquarters. “You can see a real seeking in the descriptions and images coming from this year’s SolowFest artists. People are trying to make sense of something, and I completely relate. I'm incredibly excited to be invited to think about the questions plaguing us right now. i.e. Where are we going? Where have we been? What can I do about it?”
Sonnen stated that neither she nor her SolowFest partners ever lend any curatorial vision to the affair; that it is free for the artists to be in the festival.
“Art is for everyone and everywhere. I’m not sure honest curation is possible. How can we decide one piece of art is more valid or needed than another.”
The same thing is true of audiences and Solow’s Pay What You Can donations, so that no one is turned away from a show due to lack of funds. Also staying the same is Solow’s love of non-traditional venues.
“There’s something wonderful about being in a house and hearing the traffic outside, and the floors creak, and the AC whirring. I wouldn't trade that for all the opera houses in the world.”
What is different for the 2018 fest is its abundance of dance and movement-based work.
“Some years are theatre heavy, others are more dance, or music. So, right now, it looks like a dance and technology year, but we are getting new shows every day so the balance could tip.”
Here is a list of cool SolowFest shows with Sonnen’s commentary.
Co-created and performed by I-Chia Chiu and Mason Rosenthal.
By appointment June 19-22. Scheduled on the hour between the hours of 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.. Performances take place in supermarkets across Philadelphia with exact addresses provided by e-mail.
You’ll witness frozen hot dogs on display, the steady thump and roll of grocery carts, a lone figure stacking cans. “A guerrilla performance inside an actual supermarket for an audience of one, “Aisle” is a somnambulistic drift across international borders, through memories of the past, and visions of the future.”
Dance like no one likes you
Created and Performed by Sean Thomas Boyt
June 17 at 7 p.m. The Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine Street
A one-man show that details the plight of a freelance dancer lost in the gig economy and his mundane interests. “Delve into the politics of the dance world, marvel at Sean's sparkling résumé — you'll get a copy — and witness his long-lasting admiration for Japanese pop stars in action.”
Created and Performed by Claire Elisse Byers Pitts
June 16 at 12 p.m. Ben Franklin Parkway, starting in Love Park at 16th and Franklin and ending on the Art Museum steps.
A meditative, nearly 6-hour-long piece which explores the body as moving sculpture and the outside world as a viable space for artistic expression. “You may stay with the artist for as short or long as you wish. You are welcome to stop for coffee, go see friends, go to class, and then return to the piece as it moves along the Parkway.”
Pre-Phyre: Say Goodnight
Created and Performed by Die-Cast (Robert DaPonte, Carlo Campbell, Andrew Carroll, Anthony Crosby, Colleen Corcoran, Hannah VanSciver, Ross Beschler and more. Directed by Brenna Geffers
June 15 at 9 p.m.; June 16 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Ulana's, 205 Bainbridge Street
This immersive hour-long-theater piece drops you amongst a disparate group waiting out a storm in an abandoned club. “This features solo pieces about music, death, and rebirth which occupy the three floors of this fantastic disco.”
Llegando (work in progress)
Presented by Lxs Primxs. Created by Belle Alvarez & Carl(os) Roa. Dramaturgy by Cat Ramirez
June 19 at 12:30 p.m., June 20 at 9 p.m.
Headlong Dance Theater, 1170 S Broad Street
“Destiny and Pancho are two cousins desperate to find La Ciudad. What they find instead is a journey that teaches them about their ancestral past, and how they can move through the present.” This piece is about the psychic pain we've never experienced and didn't have language for, and where it comes from.
For more information, visit: solowfest.com.