Encore performance: Philly Theater Week prepares goes curtains up on a second year of stage delights

Where social interaction has been constrained to online forums, Leigh Goldenberg  finds the theater to be a sacrosanct place for people to occupy the same physical space.That’s why Goldenberg, the executive director of Theatre Philadelphia is thrilled to return the…

Where social interaction has been constrained to online forums, Leigh Goldenberg  finds the theater to be a sacrosanct place for people to occupy the same physical space.

That’s why Goldenberg, the executive director of Theatre Philadelphia is thrilled to return the second year of the organization’s marquee event, Philly Theatre Week, an offering of more performances and opportunities meant to forge bonds between audience and artist.

This year’s event, running from Feb. 7-17 plans to provide reduced tickets at a rate of either no cost, to $15 and as much as $30. Philly Theater Week will feature 100 different events, totaling over 315 performances, produced by professional regional theaters, local community theaters and independent artists.

“Philly Theater Week is to raise awareness of the great productions happening in the region and to reduce barriers for audiences to attend and to try something new,” said Goldenberg. “There’s so much happening here, right in your backyard, all within a 35-mile radius.”

Theater aficionados and novices alike can get excited for a wide-range of plays and musicals, from classics like Opera Philadelphia’s production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Academy of Music to world premiers such Barrymore, Whiting and Terrence McNally Award-winning playwright James Ijames’s Youth that will perform at the Villanova Theatre.

Other productions that Theatre Philadelphia hopes will excite include: Theatre in the X already sold-out The Colored Museum at The African American Museum, Theater Exile’s return to their renovated South Philly space with An Oak Tree, and Philly Fringe Festival standard Juniper Productions’ Best of Cocktail Plays at Philadelphia Distilling. Philly Improv Theater will also be adding its comedic chops to the event with different productions nearly everyday and University of the Arts will be showcasing their new Equinox Festival during Philly Theatre Week.

In an effort to create an even stronger Philly scene, Philly Theater Week will also include events to support its community.

“This year there are ticketed events that are for theater artists to connect with each other,” relayed Goldenberg. “This is a great way for people to come together as well … for people to create new work together or to just join in conversation around things.”

Goldenberg can’t remember a time when she didn’t have a passion for theater, attending shows with her parents when young and taking acting classes at the Arden Theatre Company in high school.

“I have always felt like theater is a great way to bring people together and just expose yourself to experiences other than your own and to really build empathy,” explained Goldenberg. “I’ve always done theater with a bit of a social justice and civic engagement bent. I like to see how when you learn about something through a theater where you connect with people, what are you prepared to do next.”

Aligned with a “social justice and civic engagement bent,” Philly Theater Week will also showcase a number of progressive events, such as a “Radical Design,” a two hour social event for queer people of color designers to meet and network with local artistic directors at The Design Center on Feb. 11. In addition, there will be an E-Waste Recycling Drive on Feb. 11 at Suzanne Roberts Theatre for people to donate old electronics to the Philadelphia Green Alliance Chapter.

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“Philly Theater Week is to raise awareness of the great productions happening in the region and to reduce barriers for audiences to attend and to try something new,” said Goldenberg. “There’s so much happening here, right in your backyard, all within a 35-mile radius.”

– Leigh Goldenberg, executive director, Theatre Philadelphia

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Heading into the second year of Philly Theatre Week, Goldenberg feels an added confidence. From putting tickets up on the website sooner to more comprehensive registration forms for theaters, the executive director made sure to apply the lessons learned from the year before — including when to best schedule the kickoff events.

Both kickoff events are free and will take place at Cherry Street Pier.

“One thing that was a challenge last year was that our kickoff party was on the first day Theater Week and that happened to day of the Eagles Super Bowl parade,” said Goldenberg. “I’m not going to begrudge a Super Bowl win at all, but this year we planned our kickoff on Feb. 1 and 2, a couple days before Theater Week starts so we are not in conflict with any football and not in conflict with any other Philly Theater Week events.”

Philly Theater Week | Feb. 7-17. Free, $15, 30. Locations vary. theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/2019-philly-theatre-week

TAKING THE STAGE

Philly Theater Week has an epic 10 days of 100 different events. Here is a quick dive into some of the shows you’ll most certainly want to check out.

Youth

A test of convictions, come watch award-winning playwright James Ijames’ latest creation about a young non-believer who joins a church youth group. When miracles follow the newcomer’s arrival, the community is left to deal with questions around identity, sexuality and faith. On Feb. 13, there will be “Wine Down Wednesday,” featuring a Q&A session with Dramaturg Adrena Williams. Then on Feb. 14, the theater will host a “Speaker’s Night” talk-back with Playwright James Ijames and Director Ed Sobel. | Feb. 5-17. $15. Vasey Theatre Villanova Theatre, 800 Lancaster Ave., Villanova, Pa. theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/2019-philly-theatre-week

The Presented

It comes as no surprise that it’s hard to be an artist. Join Chris Davis for 50-minutes of comedic musings as he explores the challenges of today’s thespians.| Feb. 7-9. $15. DaVinci Art Alliance, 704 Catherine St. theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/the-presented

The Bridges of Madison County

Philadelphia Theater Company presents The Bridges of Madison County. Winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Score and Orchestrations, the musical explores paths taken and not. When a married Italian woman meets a National Geographic photographer meet on chance encounter, their four days together ask the question, “what if?” | Philly Theater Weekdates: Feb. 8- 15. $15-$30. Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St.

theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/the-bridges-of-madison-county

Improvathon, benefitting The William Way LGBT Community Center

Move aside danceathon, and make way for the improvathon. Bright Invention will improvise until they raise $500 for The William Way LGBT Community Center. See how long they will go. And hey, Gritty will be there for some mascot cheer as the improv group tries to reach its philanthropic goal.| Feb. 9. Free – RSVP. Arch Street Meeting House Bright Invention, 320 Arch St. theatrephiladelphia.org

Johnny Depp: a Retrospective on Late Stage Capitalism

It wouldn’t be Philly Theater Weekif there weren’t some oddball shows in the mix. Val Dunn and Jenna Kuerzi take on the rise and fall of Johnny Depp’s career from his first role. As per the show’s description: “Bring your Edward Scissorhand poems, your Gilbert Grape anecdotes, and Jack Sparrow memorabilia to toss onto the shrine turned dumpster fire Depp has created for himself.” | Feb. 10-14. $15. Gnome Portal, 233 South Melville St. theatrephiladelphia.org

Betrayal

An earnest look at love, sex, marriage and friendship, come watch this Barrymore recommended performance of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal. Flipping the script on timeline, the show is told from end to the beginning. |  Philly Theater Weekdates: Feb. 12-17. $30. Stephen’s Theater at Lantern Theater Company, 923 Ludlow St. theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/betrayal

Test Flights

Leap off into the many disciplines of live performance, which include  circus, theatre, dance, spoken-word, music, and performance art. Witness the intersection of art with these works-in-progress performances at Circadium. | Feb. 13. Free – RSVP. Circus Campus, 6452 Greene St. theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/test-flights

Broads

Put aside any sexist notions of female gentility, these are some very bawdy broads who are ready to bring the funny. Curated by Jennifer Childs of 1812 Productions and starring Joilet Harris, MB Scallen, and Jess Conda, Broads showcases skits about comedic women throughout the 40’s, 50s and 60s. | Feb. 13-17. $30. Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place. theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/broads

74 Seconds…To Judgment

A new play by Philadelphia playwright Kash Goins, 74 Seconds…To Judgment centers on a deadlocked jury unable to decide on  what is “justifiable homicide.” Each performance includes a post-show talkback. | Feb. 9-16. Arcadia Stage at Arden Theatre Company,40 N. 2nd St. theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/74-secondsto-judgment

An Oak Tree

Back at its South Philly theater, come watch Theatre Exile’s dark comedy, An Oak Tree by Tim Crouch. A hypnotist who has lost the power of suggestion and a parent who has lost a child, the show features Pearce Bunting and a new actor each night who does not know the script. Fully immersive, the performance delves into the dynamics of the hypnotist and his subject. | Philly Theater Week date: Feb. 16. $15. Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th St.  theatrephiladelphia.org/whats-on-stage/an-oak-tree-by-tim-crouch

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