Inside the Pennsylvania Ballet’s performance of the “Nutcracker” with Artistic Director Roy Kaiser

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet | Photo: Alexander Iziliaev
Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet | Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

An annual holiday tradition in Philadelphia, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is being performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet at the Academy of Music through December 29th. XPN’s Bob Bumbera recently spoke with the the ballet’s artistic director Roy Kaiser about the performance, it’s history and more. Listen to it below. Go here for tickets and more information about the show.


Weekend Arts Crawl (Bonus Edition): The creators of Nerds The Musical talk about the latest incarnation of Bill and Steve’s excellent adventures

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Theatre Company |
Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Theatre Company |

WXPN’s Bob Bumbera sat down with Erik Weiner and Jordan Allen-Dutton, the creators of Nerds the Musical: Bill & Steve’s Excellent Adventure to talk about the changes to the show since it’s initial debut in Philadelphia seven years ago. The show has returned to the Suzanne Roberts Theater on Broad Street, presented by the Philadelphia Theatre Company. It runs through December 29th. Tickets and more information here. Listen to Bill and Steve Erik and Jordan below in their interview with XPN’s Bob Bumbera.


30 Days of Philly Arts: Emma at Lantern Theater Company and upcoming Jane Austen Festival

EmmaIn 2015, Jane Austen‘s novel Emma will be 200 years old.  But the concerns and observations of the famous English writer have relevance for today and have earned her a devoted following in this technologically savvy and jaded world, quite a different place from the country estates of Georgian-Regency Britain where her novels are set.

Emma, whom Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed in the 1996 movie version, is a wealthy, intelligent, high spirited and meddling young woman of 20 who delights in matchmaking.  Through the twists and turns of a complex plot, she eventually comes to realize that one of the matches she has been trying to make is counter to her own heart when it comes to her moral mentor, Mr. Knightley …”one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them.”

Bringing this coming of age tale to the state is Lantern Theater Company, which has presented classics and originals over the past 18 years.  Their audience engagement series accompanies each production with discussions with artists and scholars.  This Friday the director of Lantern’s Emma, Kathryn MacMillen, will hold a Q&A with the audience.

Emma, starring  opens in previews today and runs through October 27th.  Next month there is a related  Jane Austen Festival related to the production called Regency and Revelry, featuring among many other activities a Regency dance lesson and readings/signings with noted Austen scholars.

For ticket information for Emma and the upcoming Lantern season click here.



30 Days of Philly Arts: Constitution Day celebrations

constitutiondaypic Here in the cradle of our nation’s government, the 226th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution is a big deal. The National Constitution Center on Arch Street, now 10 years old, is a repository of information and education about our legal system and the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the document that starts “We the people…”

Today the Center is offering a day full of free activities including naturalization of new citizens with a keynote address by Gerda Weissman Klein, Holocaust survivor and founder of Citizenship Counts.  Also speaking today are civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis and free speech advocate Mary Beth Tinker. There will be discussions of the constitutional implications of two issues in the news now, drones and gay marriage.  The Center will also host game shows on the separation of powers and bill of rights, offer crafts and colonial lawn games, and even serve a birthday cake for the Constitution.

While you’re at the Center, you can also see a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln in a special exhibit up through September 22nd.

Also celebrating Constitution Day is nearby Christ Church Burial Ground, where a number of the signers of the Constitution are buried.  The Church and cemetery will host family friendly events on the anniversary of our nation’s most important document.


30 Days of Philly Arts: Go directly to jail – for a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary

Photo courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary
Photo courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary, which housed prisoners from 1829 to 1971, is a National Historic Landmark.  In 1787, while helping to put together the Constitution of the United States (tomorrow is Constitution Day!), Benjamin Franklin convened a committee to deal with the miserable conditions in which prisoners were kept in Europe and America.

It took a few decades for Pennsylvania to take the lead in prison reform and endow a new word with meaning: penitentiary, a place designed to cause prisoners to reflect on their crimes and repent rather than being simply punished.  This method was derived from Quaker principles and prisoner isolation was strictly enforced.

As word spread of the new concept and the innovative building in which it was being employed, visitors came from all over the world, including Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville and British writer Charles Dickens, who wrote opposing opinions about the methods of Eastern State.

Tourists came, too, in the nineteenth century, and they are still visiting the Penitentiary.  They come in huge numbers for the annual Halloween Terror Behind the Walls tour, but tours of Eastern State are possible every day of the year.

There’s a self guided audio tour of 45 minutes to several hours with a soundtrack of the Voices of Eastern State–guards, wardens, inmates–narrated by actor Steve Buscemi.  There are newly expanded Hands On History tours in which guides help visitors recreate unique experiences from playing bocci as if you were a prisoner to unlocking cells as if you were a guard.  Both these activities are included in the price of admission.

Eastern State Penitentiary also houses historical and art exhibitions.  There’s a ongoing collection of some 500 specimens of insects and invertebrates modeled after the collecting of a late 19th century inmate. TowerCam! shows the guards’ perspective from the top of the prison. There’s a cell block covered in knitting using 25,000 yards of yarn, and several more arts installations and exhibits covering the history of Eastern state, like the refurbished synagogue and a recreation of the luxurious interior of gangster Al Capone‘s cell.

ESP has been featured as a setting for various movies and music videos. It was used in the Bruce Willis movie 12 Monkeys and in the film Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen. The Dead Milkmen filmed the video for “Punk Rock Girl” there, and it was used in the Tina Turner video for the song “One Of The Living” from the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome movie. Watch that video below.

More information here on visiting this remarkable Philadelphia landmark (not recommended for children under the age of seven).


30 Days of Philly Arts: Blake Carrington at Philadelphia Photo Arts Center

installationSince 2009 The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC) has provided a hub for the Philadelphia photographic community.  This nonprofit located in the Crane Building helps photographers of all skill levels in creating contemporary photography through education and access to expensive digital equipment, as well as offering gallery exhibits and lectures.

For the third year the Center also encourages all of Philadelphia to document a day in the life of the city, Philly Photo Day, by submitting a photograph taken on a camera or smart phone during one 24-hour period, this year on October 18th.  This year PPAC is supplying digital cameras and photographers at a number of community centers.  The photographs will become part of a giant exhibition at the center and for the first time this year, PPAC also use residents’ photos to create 20 photographic murals with the City’s Mural Arts program and 40 billboards that go up in December.

PPAC is doing this public art with help from the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge.

The new exhibition that just opened in the PPAC gallery, called Shaping a Signal,  features the work of internationally exhibiting, New York based photo artist Blake Carrington. He’s showing a selections from two projects, one of them developed with the Urban Archives at Temple University. Carrington creates work by using custom made software to translate audio signals into visual waveform, and then manipulates the waveform as a means of drawing. Select moments of this process are then chosen  to be printed, creating unique and dynamic artworks.

Collaborator Lauren Pakradooni, also known as Pak, is a visual and interdisciplinary artist who also creates cassette loop tapes and manipulates them with other recordings, often in performance. Blake Carrington will conduct an audio-visual performance, along with Pak, on Saturday October 12th that will show the process by which he creates his work.

Watch this video of Blake Carrington’s Apple Blossom Time at the James A. Farley Post Office in New York in December 2012

Apple Blossom Time from Blake Carrington on Vimeo.


30 Days of Philly Arts: Graveyard Cabaret at Laurel Hill Cemetery

l_laurel600[1]Laurel Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for a who’s who of Philadelphia history, from Thomas McKean, who signed the Declaration of Independence, to General George Meade, who won the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, to beloved sportscaster Harry Kalas.

The many guided tours at Laurel Hill provide insights from different perspectives into the history contained in this National Historic Landmark, one of very few cemeteries in the nation to be so designated.  There are tours that focus in on writers or criminals or immigrants…one later this month is titled The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Laurel Hill on September 29th.  And of course the cemetery is in its prime around Halloween.

During this time of the FringeArts Festival, Laurel Hill is also the setting for some of the festival’s site specific offerings.

Tonight and next Friday and Saturday, New York’s  REV Theater Company presents Six Feet (Above and) Under: A Graveyard Cabaret, which has been been reconceived by company directors Rudy Caporaso and Rosey Hay and returns by popular demand.

The cabaret follows the story of departed souls as they wander from the world of the living to the world of the, yes, dead, accompanied by music from various artists from Bessie Smith to Scissor Sisters.

The Associated Press has said of REV Theatre Company’s work “Not to be missed” and the Philadelphia City Paper has called them “exhilarating and imaginative.”

The cost of the ticket includes cocktails served before the show.  Reservations are required, tickets can be purchased here or at the door.