Icepack | Aug. 10-14

Mighty Writers launch new video series, new eats and more Masked Philly in this week's gossip

Mighty writers in Camden
Former Philadelphia Weekly editor Tim Whitaker has made his endeavor, Mighty Writers a force for literacy and creating fresh writing talent. Now, the organization have figured out a host of other awesome ways to give back – and inspire during a pandemic. | Image courtesy: MightyWriters.org

It’s perhaps one of the most oddly comforting things about living near the Italian Market.

Besides inexpensive berries, a season of lousy tomatoes, battling neighbors for Angelo’s pizza, flaming trash cans and knowing that some dimwitted, cowardly millennial fucks are screwing up the arrangement of driving, parking and biking lanes on Washington Avenue AND bitching about the not-so-socially-distanced lines at John’s Water Ice – seeing people young and old, students and teachers and those all races fly in and out of the Mighty Writers El Futuro space on South 9th Street is pretty inspiring.

At least in pre-pandemic mode, the always-active storefront was geared toward housing and hyping up kids to the imaginative and proactive powers and prowess of writing and reading as real-life tools to wield. It is one of Philadelphia Weekly‘s (Mach 1)’s own, one-time editor Tim Whitaker, who founded the now 11-year-old nonprofit. 

Now, the Italian Market space (not to be confused with other South Philly Mighty Writer spaces at 6th and South or 15th and Christian) stands mostly empty, its colorful tables and chairs unused, as if this MWEF doubles as a set for “The Walking Dead.” And yet, online and via streaming, Mighty Writers is active and alive. 

Last week, the Writers’ YouTube site (as well as its new partner in the online magazine, Literary Hub) went beyond reading about and writing essays, poetry and books and flew into music with the Mighty Song Writers video series. So far, alt-country songwriting marrieds Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell and jazz pianist Marcus Roberts have played and discussed their writing process while additionally delving into who their favorite teachers were, what essential reading they learned from, and such. Coming soon (every Wednesday a new video can be found) is HBO screenwriter (“Insecure”) turned musician-singer Phil Augusta Jackson, indie soul-folk goddess Valerie June, Jewel, Wrabel and Matt Quinn from the Philly duo Mt. Joy.

I don’t often write about kids – they bug me in a way that makes me feel like W.C. Fields  – but this program is mightier than any sour disposition.

New restaurant

I was just talking about 707 Chestnut a few weeks ago in Icepack when I mentioned how Chef Yun Fuentes – now at the sprawling, spanking new garden space at the new Wayward – used to be the executive chef at that very same address for Jose Garces restaurants such as Chifa and Rosa Blanca. That address, though, has been sorta-kinda cursed. 

The people who had it before Garces, Ryan Margolis with restaurant designers Renee and Don Freeman, fashioned a swellegant lounge-bistro at that address to no avail. Following them, Garces’ back-to-back (literal) hot spots were cool to a customer base, as was its most-recent owner, Nico’s. 

This time, however, I think 707 could thrive tastily and financially: Aldo Lamberti of Old City’s Positano Coast and South Jersey’s epic Caffe Aldo Lamberti fame is readying a not-too-casual take-out Pizza Fresca for September. And yes, when we can dine in again within Philly’s city limits, there will be café seating at Fresca. Stay tuned.

New spot 

Out of her one-time East Passyunk Avenue digs due to increased renters and evil landlord fucks, Ange Branca’s Saté Kampar snagged a nice long Malaysian dining pop-up invitation at Fergus Carey’s The Goat through summer.

Eric Slick album 

When it comes to Philly indie bands who have broken far into the mainstream, the hard-jamming and shambling Dr. Dog is at the very top of that heap. This week, however, their wildly inventive drummer, longtime solo artist, multi-instrumentalist and song-author in his own write/right Eric Slick, will release a fresh solo album “Wiseacre. The record drops this Friday featuring his big vocalist wife, Natalie Press, on the album’s first single, “Closer to Heaven.”

‘Live at Studio 4’ 

Another drummer? Whether as stickman on records from Lauryn Hill, Schoolly D, and Say Anything, to his production and mixing credits for the emo-punk likes of Tigers Jaw, Turnstile, and Title Fight, Philly’s Will Yip is a knob-twiddling contender, a man with a plan. Starting Aug. 14, with Tigers Jaw as his loud and live music-making first guests, the producer commences (with accompanying videographer hate5six) work as a curator and showrunner with “Live At Studio 4,” from Yip’s titular home-away-from-home recording space. Starts at 9 p.m., costs $10.

Charlie Ventura releases 

WTF another drummer? Though the albums won’t be released until Christmas, Philly drummer and producer Bruce Klauber announces that he just signed a deal with UK-based Jasmine records for the release of two sessions from local jazz saxophone jazz legend and Walk of Fame honoree Charlie Ventura. One from 1953 with The Gene Krupa Jazz Trio, and one from 1957 with fellow locals Billy Bean (guitar) Tony DiNicola (drums), Johnny Coates, Jr. (piano) and Gus Nemeth (bass) have been all-but-unheard for over 60 years. They’ll make nice holiday presents.

Tanaquil Marquez is pictured in a mask made by her student, Ricarda Oaxaca. | Image courtesy: Tanaquil Marquez

Masked Philly: Tanaquil Marquez

In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to beyond the pale during C-19, I reached out this week to Tanaquil Marquez, a Philadelphia director, writer and actor whose work has been on display at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and with 1812 Productions. She is also known as Associate Artistic Producing Director/Marketing Manager at Teatro del Sol, Philly’s primary outlet for producing new and classical Latin theatrical works. With theaters and performance spaces C-19 shuttered since March 13 (the opening night of her directing “Oedipus El Rey,”) Marquez jumped into a virtual theatre project, Teatro Quarantine. 

“This was a spontaneous initiative I formed with other Latinx artists in Philly to explore the way one can make theatre in the era of Covid-19,” she said, first taking Frederico García Lorca’s “Bodas de Sangre” and breaking it into seven episodes for YouTube and Facebook. “There, the actors are their own costume designers, set designers, props, crew, etc. They self-tape, while I direct over Zoom or Skype. Our biggest goal has been to connect artistically through a screen and achieve Duende.” 

Loosely translated to something nearing “passion,” “duende” is no easily-attained state. “Artists must go through a struggle to achieve ‘Duende:’ fitting as we are all struggling to create art. This has been a pretty ambitious process, but many wonderful discoveries and the continuous search for Duende.” Check out what they’re doing on YouTube.

As for what the mask stands for to Marquez, it means, “Respect. Solidarity. I got you and you got me and side-by-side, socially distant, we are working together to save lives.”

So what will Marquez do once the masks come down? Adapt Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” into a bilingual musical with Liz Filios for Del Shakes – a project that was supposed to start this September, but pushed back a year due to the pandemic. 

“That’s a blessing and a curse. We have more time to work on this piece and host workshops, but, of course everything is through Zoom.” 

Also in September: Marquez’s final production and last month of her residency with CoLab Arts in New Brunswick, New Jersey, creating a social advocacy piece with Latinx residents about the housing crisis and developments in the city. 

“I’m very excited about this piece,” said Marquez, “because the performers are mothers and their kids, so it’s been really wonderful seeing families create art together, especially social art.”

  • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

    A.D. Amorosi is a Philadelphia-based journalist who, along with Philadelphia Weekly, writes for numerous local, national and international publications including Variety and the Philadelphia Inquirer.