30 Days of Philly Arts: Geoff Sobelle at FringeArts Festival

Geoff Sobelle in The Object Lesson

Geoff Sobelle’s work embodies the differences between mainstream theater and fringe. In fact in reviewing his show with Trey Lyford called all wear bowlers in 2005, New York Times critic Jason Zinoman said “…it’s hard to imagine the kind of daring and ingenuity in all wear bowlers in the commercial theater. It’s one more reason to feel foolish about spending money on a Broadway show.”

all wear bowlers is one of my favorite Philadelphia FringeArts Fest shows ever, a magical romp through the history of comedy. Then there was Amnesia Curiosa, a bizarre foray into science performed in the oldest operating theater in the country at Pennsylvania Hospital.

Both productions sprang from Rainpan 43, Geoff Sobelle’s collaboration with Trey Lyford, dedicated, according to their website, “ to creating innovative, actor-driven absurdist plays that are at once deeply profound and at the same time utterly ridiculous.”

Writing in the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Laura Shin put Sobelle’s career into this context:

Like a Goldberg device, Sobelle seems in constant motion with one thing leading to another, however improbably. He belongs to the seven-member Pig Iron Theatre Company in Philadelphia, stages his own experimental work and acts in polished productions of conventional stage plays. In 2004 alone, Sobelle put on his vaudevillian show all wear bowlers in New York and Germany; performed in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof and Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, both in Philadelphia; worked on several film projects; and appeared in two Pig Iron productions—Shut Eye in New York, and Hell Meets Henry Halfway, which went up in Philadelphia, New York, Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania. He plans his schedule almost two years ahead. Not bad for a theater actor who paid $1 for his 1985 Toyota van and says his life is held together by duct tape.

You still have time to catch the world premiere of Geoff Sobelle’s latest solo show at the FringeArts Festival.  It’s called The Object Lesson and takes on our culture’s obsession with stuff.  Starting with nothing but a 19th century teaching protocol and inspiration from verbal comedian George Carlin and physical comedian George Carl, Sobelle built the piece during various residencies in several locations.  For more on his process click here for an informative interview with the artist.

There are very few of us who aren’t touched by things and the meanings and importance that we attach to them.  To see one very talented man’s perspective on all this, click here for information on how to see The Object Lesson.



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