For the benefit of Mr. Gravedigger…

February 19, a gray stone house on a quiet street, a gravedigger’s tale. These sound like necessary ingredients for a murder mystery, but instead they were parts of our cozy, bright Victorian Happy Hour Salon to benefit the upcoming mainstage show, Gravedigger: The Plays of Mark Borkowski.

L-R- Actor Kenneth MacGregor, playwright Mark Borkowski, and Board President Marne Castillo.

Marne Castillo, the newly elected Board President for B. Someday Productions, the resident company of Walking Fish Theatre, opened her new home to us for delicious beverages, snacks, mixing and mingling. Monsieur Thujone of The Absinthe Drinkers was our master of ceremonies and bon vivant and Melissa Santangelo of The Oubliette Ensemble provided lovely harp music.  Raffle prizes were provided by El Quetzal, The Music Fountain Cafe, Historic Philadelphia, The Aramingo Diner, The Philadelphia School of Burlesque, and many more.

Mostress Vicki performs a tarot reading for a guest.

Mistress Vicky performs a tarot reading for a guest.

Most importantly, excerpts from our upcoming show were read by the cast. The plays in this show- A Gravedigger’s Tale, The Mutilation of Saint Barbara, and Twilight’s Child, were all inspired by things that Borkowski witnessed while growing up in Kensington.

Salon guests watching the dramatic readings. The playwright is at center.

Salon guests enjoy dramatic readings in Ms. Castillo's foyer.

The stories in Gravedigger are not for the faint of heart. They are spellbinding tales with unique characters, and every one has their own exclusive version of a happy ending. Surrounded by the luxury and kindness in Marne’s home, seeing and hearing these excerpts of these gritty, gripping plays was like having a visitation from a ghost.

The plays will come to life in full this May, the 5th through the 23rd, 2010. We’re proud to say that thanks to the help of Marne Castillo, our board members, and all of our supporters, we did make our goal for this fundraiser.  To those of you who helped us, we are grateful for your support of our programs and mission.

If you missed this fantastic party, don’t fret- keep your calendar clear for The Spring Blues Soiree on April 10!

Managing Artistic Director Michelle Pauls and longtime supporter Dr. Bob Wallner.

We’ll have entertainment by New-Orleans-style blues band New Pony, in the garden-cottage setting of the Angler Movement Arts Studio in Fishtown. Wear your best party dress and kick off your shoes to dance! keep your eyes on walkingfishtheatre.com to purchase tickets with no handling fee.

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Ten Questions for High Dramma’s D.C. Fisher!

As we’re making merry this holiday season, we’re interviewing various members of the Walking Fish/B. Someday family. D. C. Fisher of High Dramma answered ten questions for us during a break from preparing for the upcoming show, Stop! Dramma Time!  To find out what’s going on in the mind of one of the great mad geniuses of sketch comedy, read on…

High Dramma members, L-R: Jen jaynes, Zac Ross, Adam Cregoe, D.C. Fisher, Johnny Smith, and reclining, Jackie Wolfson.

For those of us new to you, what exactly is High Dramma?

HIGH DRAMMA is the most carefully written, precisely structured, comprehensively rehearsed and sublimely acted fart joke you’ve ever seen.

How was the troupe formed?

Johnny and Zac were in another sketch comedy group in Philly who I will not mention but they will with the fiery hatred of ten thousand suns, and felt that it wasn’t up to snuff. They decided to form their own group, and called me about being the head writer. With my only other option at that point being graduate school, I jumped at the chance.

What’s your creative process?

Over the years, I’ve slowly lost the ability to make sense of life outside of a humorous approach, so, at this point, all I have to do is let my mind wander and sketches start coming out.

How has High Dramma changed since you’ve been performing at Walking Fish?

It gives us kind of a home field advantage. It’s a place we’re very much used to and familiar with and that lets us plan out the lighting, staging, entrances, exits, and blocking much more precisely than if we were in a new location each show. Pretty much, it limits the number of things we have to worry about, coming into the theatre for each performance, and makes us more ready to start with the funny.

Chicken or beef?

Make the cow and the hen mate, (Tape that for me too, I know a dude who will pay top dollar for that kind of thing) then take that animal, kill it, and deep fry it. Delicious Beefken. Tastes great, and less filling.

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever had as a performer?

Pre-HIGH DRAMMA, it was selling out my 1200 seat high school auditorium for sketch comedy shows my sophomore and senior years, and performing our college sketch show at KCATFs.

During HIGH DRAMMA, probably having about fifteen people from my office, including two of the owners, attend a show and love it. Job security on two fronts. It’s nice.

What do you want audiences to come away with after seeing one of your shows?

I want to them to either love us or hate us. I don’t want anyone to go away thinking, “Meh, they were pretty good, I guess”. I’d prefer an audience with 25% of people who loved us, and 75% who hated us, because that 25% will come back every time.

What are you reading these days?

“Close Range”, a book of short stories by Annie Proulx, an anthology of Galway Kinnell’s poems, and “Apocalypse Culture” by Adam Parfrey, which is a book of essays concerning how art and agriculture are ruining humanity, a defense of necrophilia, poetry by schizophrenics, etc… pretty much the most absurd premises imaginable, argued at length with a totally misplaced passion and elegance.

What’s under your bed?

A smaller bed with a guy who looks exactly like me sleeping in it. I only looked once, however, because it freaked me out when I saw it. That guy makes a mess, though; he doesn’t take care of his lawn and he leaves his Christmas lights up till April. Jerk.

If you could have any three famous people, living or dead, over for lunch, who would you invite and what would you serve?

Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx. We would go out to the nicest restaurant in Philly, I would buy them as many drinks as they wanted and I would sit back an enjoy what would most certainly happen.

High Dramma performs this coming weekend. The shows start at 9pm on Friday, December 18 and Saturday, December 19. Get your tickets at http://www.walkingfishtheatre.com, or at the door starting one hour prior to curtain. Bring a friend, bring an enemy, bring cookies!

Ten questions for Annie A-Bomb!

As we’re making merry this holiday season, we’re interviewing various members of the Walking Fish/B. Someday family. Anna Frangiosa, also known as Annie A-Bomb of Revival Burlesque, Cabaret Red Light and The Philadelphia School of Burlesque, answered ten questions for us during a break from preparing for the upcoming show, A Burlesque Carol. Take a look!

Clockwise from left: Randi Warhol, Melissa Bang Bang, Annie A-Bomb, Dina Colada and Cubby Altobelli take on the greed and dystopia of the for-profit theatre industry in Revival Burlesque's "A Burlesque Carol."

For those of us who might have been living under a rock for the past 150 years, what is burlesque and how does it differ from other performance art forms?

Many people still don’t know what burlesque is, or they think it is classic strip tease. It is classic strip tease, but traditionally it includes satire and other types of short acts and skits, from magicians to musical acts. If you wiki or google the word you’ll find that the definition is “making fun of high culture”, so it is a populist form of theater, often a cheap ticket, and a show satirizing the high brow entertainments of the day. There was big time and small time theater back before film became the entertainment of the day, there were big and small burlesque stars. Burlesque doesn’t take itself too seriously, and has always had defend itself from critics. People who say it is smut or has no place in the arts probably don’t know what it is, or are people with a repressed sense of fun.


What was your path to burlesque?

I studied anthropology and fashion design in college, and graduated from FIT and Temple. I came to burlesque in the late 1990’s when was an aspiring costume designer, and a retro head into all kinds of vintage stuff. I grew up watching old films and I knew what vaudeville and burelsque was from an early age.


This isn’t your only recurring burlesque gig. How does Revival Burlesque differ from Cabaret Red Light?

I like to describe Revival as like “Kids in the Hall with boobs”, or “SNL with boobs”. We make pop culture references and we run the gamate stylistically show by show. And Cabaret Red Light is run by bunch of commies who want to start a revolution. Cabaret Red Light has live, original music by the Blazing Cherries. CRL’s the Seven Deadly Sins takes place in hell and features various guest host “devils”.

You’re also the headmistress of The Philadelphia School of Burlesque. What’s the best benefit you get from that endeavor?

I get to meet a lot of women who are real characters. For some reason ladies interested in burlesque are creative and awesome! And I’m able to build the burlesque community in Philadelphia.

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had as a performer?

Either performing at the Union League in the hall were the President of the United States dines when he comes to Philly (I think they said that all of them have dined there!) He wasn’t there, it was a private Christmas Party. OR Riding with the Axis of Eve girls during the 2004 presidential election when they came to Philly to get out the vote. We were “Fairies for Kerry”!

A Christmas Carol has had every possible permutation of revision, adaptation and satire since its original publication in 1843. Why do you think its popularity has endured for so long?

I think A Christmas Carol is timeless because there will always be miserable, greedy people. We fantasize about how they could just, “wake up one morning and see the light”.  The Scrooge character does this, so we think, “Why not Rush Limbaugh?”

What do you want audiences to come away with after seeing one of your shows?

You’ll have to ask them.

What are you reading these days?

E.T.A Hoffman short stories which are for a upcoming project, Sexus by Henry Miller, and I’m always reading books about how to make stuff. Puppets and knitting are often the subject of these how -to books lately.

What’s under your bed?

Summer clothes, bed sheets, and my cats.

If you could have any three famous people, living or dead, over for lunch, who would you invite and what would you serve?

Sean Penn, George W. Bush, and Fidel Castro. If Fidel isn’t alive switch to Susan Sarandon instead.

Revival Burlesque’s next show, A Burlesque Carol, will warm your heart and tickle your funny bone. It’s playing this weekend, Friday, December 11, Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13.  All performances start at 8pm. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit our website at www.walkingfishtheatre.com. Thanks!

Ten questions for Teri Ramsay!

B. Someday’s Family Theatre Series at Walking Fish Theatre is the result of a partnership with The Neighborhood Parenting Project. It’s more than just a partnership between a theatre company and a social service organization; it’s a constructive friendship. Get to know our friend Teri Ramsay in ten simple questions.

For those of us who might have been living under a rock for the past 30 years, what is The Neighborhood Parenting Program of By My Side?We are a great organization comprised of mostly local families with young children. We offer Playgroups, groups for ages 4 & up & are currently working to also begin a program to support pregnant/parenting teens. By My Side is the last vestage of 13 pilot projects that began over 25 years ago to help prevent child abuse by helping parents learn about early childhood development. When parents understand what are normal stages in a child’s development and can get tips on how to deal both from the staff and other parents, expectations are more realistic and parents are less stressed. Our biggest value, as I see it, is connecting people and creating community.

What was your path to The Neighborhood Parenting Program of By My Side?
It’s a little complicated… By My Side is an organization I started in 1997 to help formerly homeless mothers. After 2 years of that work, it went into limbo. I became an employee of an organization called The Preschool Project in 2001. The Neighborhood Parenting Program (NPP) was one of the programs in that organization. By 2004, I began helping to coordinate NPP in addition to my role as a parent educator for a Home-based Head Start/Early Head Start Program. In early 2007, The Preschool Project like many others, ran into major funding difficulties and it became clear that closing their doors was a real possibilty. The Executive Director & Board asked me if I would take the program independent and try to keep it alive. I had been witness to the amazing connections made through NPP so, I went about resurrecting By My Side’s 510(c)3 and here we are.

What’s your most memorable moment as part of this program?
Hard to say…..each Playgroup & Event brings so many “keeper” moments! What pops into mind, though, was playing the Easter Bunny at our Easter Egg Hunt this past spring…the costume itself was quite a challenge for me as was staying quiet & fairly still for that long so the kids wouldn’t recognize my voice….can’t really see much through that head so I was concerned about stepping on the little ones!


How does B. Someday’s Family Theatre Series complement your program?
Early literacy is so important! Michelle, Stan & their daughter, Astrid were part of NPP beginning when Astid was 6 weeks old. Way before The Walking Fish was a reality, Michelle and I had partnered to do a public literacy event to fulfill a grant obligation. She & Stan had already been toying with the idea of taking some of Astrid’s favorite stories & adding a performance flavor to them. Out of that was born 2 productions of “Frog & Toad” which were highly received. When The Walking Fish was being born, we revisited the idea of doing this on a regular basis….hence, The Family Theatre Series. It’s another way to get my folks out into the community and expose the children to theatre & books early on.


The Family Theatre Series is a literature-based performance, using classic children’s books. What were some of your favorite books when you were growing up?
Anything about horses…and I did go through a brief Nancy Drew period. Of course, they were written on stone tablets back then!


The next Family Theatre Series performance is based around the theme of giving, and utilizes Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” What’s your connection to this book?
What I like about the story line is the message of happiness in giving of one’s self/not things and the seeming unending requests from the one receiving to give more. There is a beauty and sadness. It’s also a book people either really like or don’t. It was chosen mainly because of its recognizability factor and that it opens up discussion.


What are you reading these days?
Mostly grant proposals & early drafts of my own children’s series “In Grandma’s Garden” that I have been working on for a couple of years when I have time.


What’s under your bed?
a few dust bunnies, a stray sock or two and sometimes my dog.


If you could have any three famous people, living or dead, over for lunch, who would you invite and what would you serve?

Robin Williams, Carl Sagan & Jesus Christ…… bread, cheese, fish & wine.

What’s the best piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received?
You’ll understand when you’re a parent!
The December installment of The Family Theatre Series is coming up on Saturday, November 5 at 11:00 am. Join us at 2509 Frankford Ave for a fun family experience that you won’t soon forget!

Hear all about it with Rep Radio!

Darnelle Radford of Represented Theatre Company came over to visit us last week. He produces REP RADIO, a unique and insightful show about theatre production in the Greater Philadelphia Area.  Darnelle took some time to chat with Michelle about Walking Fish Theatre and our programming, and then with the cast about the puppets and the show.

Have a listen to our interview!

You still have a few chances left to see The Good Puppet of Szechwan. It will be playing on Wednesday, November 18 and  Thursday the 19th at 7pm, Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st at 8pm, and finally on Sunday the 22nd at 2pm.

Get your tickets now and save time at the box office! There’s never a handling fee.

Praise for The Good Puppet of Szechwan!

Howard Shapiro of The Philadelphia Inquirer saw The Good Puppet of Szechwan this past weekend and has plenty to say about every aspect of the show.

Good Puppet

Our heroine is a puppet

“Heleva, in his adaptation of the morality drama, went looking for a good person or, in this case, a good puppet. Somewhere on the way, he came up with a good puppet play, a complicated undertaking for the small theater, which brings it off so well.”

You can still see B. Someday’s reinvention of a classic this and next week at Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia PA.  Get your tickets now without a handling fee.

Behind the scenes video of The Good Puppet of Szechwan

See a bit of rehearsal and hear director Stan Heleva’s modus operandi and raison d’etre in this short video by filmmaker Mike Spano. Find out what it is about this story that’s compelling and relevant, and what makes it so magical.

It might not look completely magical right this second. When this was filmed, the puppets were functional but unclothed and unpainted. We’ve come a long way since then, so you’ll be able to see big differences when you come see us on November 6. For more information, visit our website. Thanks!