This little cat has a lot to be thankful for.
I am interrupting my regularly-planned blog posts to post a review of a play I saw this week at the Wilma Theater called School Pictures. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen: a one person performance by playwright Milo Cramer, who portrays a number of middle-school students they worked with as a private tutor in the City of New York before the pandemic. To take on all these parts in one play is quite an undertaking, but there’s more. Cramer sings all the parts in a high-pitched voice while accompanying themself on various musical instruments: a ukulele, a toy piano, a regular piano, and a portable organ. Sometimes they sit on the floor. Sometimes they sit on a chair. The set is sparse, an almost bare stage with minimal props.
Sound weird or tedious? It’s not. Cramer’s performance is engaging, well-paced, and entertaining. Nothing drags. You get drawn in to the personal stories of the students which are a combination of comedic, poignant, sad and illuminating.
Towards the end the play, Cramer wheels a tall blackboard onto the stage and resumes the role of teacher, instructing the audience about the institutional inequalities that plague the New York school system. There’s no preaching. Cramer’s arguments are all the more compelling because they engage in a dialogue with the audience, and lets everyone draw their own conclusions.
School Pictures will be at the Wilma Theater until November 20.
Halloween is over. The Phillies won’t be going to the World Series. We have reset our clocks. This means the Fall season is upon us. I don’t think a lot of people really liked the paintings of dead rats that I posted last week, but I always suspected there was a reason that I never had a future as a highly-paid blogger and influencer. No matter.
One of my favorite activities is walking through the different neighborhoods of Philadelphia. This week was the ideal time for it. As always, I take pictures on the way.
Swann Fountain. I always thought it was called Swann Fountain because of the Swans. Come to find out, that’s Alexander S. Calder’s pun. The fountain is a memorial to Dr. Wilson Cary Swann, founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society. Those Calders were full of jokes. Read this about Alexander Milne Calder’s joke on Philadelphia from the top of City Hall.
Speaking of City Hall,
Here’s a shot of City Hall Tower from inside the courtyard. Billy Penn is up there making mischief, but you can’t see him in this shot.
And here’s a picture of City Hall Courtyard with a repainted compass and map of the original City of Philadelphia in the center.
Here’s the recently-installed I Heart Philly sign in Love Park. The heart was originally bare. Now, it’s covered with stickers of flags from around the world along with messages from people who have stopped by.
And what would a visit to Philadelphia be without stopping at the Love Statue? Except there’s something fishy about the above photograph. You probably can’t tell what unless you’re from Philadelphia. Maybe even then you can’t.
Here’s another shot which reveals the answer. The Love Statue sits at the start of the Parkway looking northwest towards the Philadelphia Museum of art. The picture that shows it with Philadelphia City Hall in the background has been flipped around. Which is why you should remember that things aren’t always what they seem.
I know mixed media artist, cartoonist, painter and printmaker Phoebe Murer from Fleisher Art Memorial where we both serve on the student advisory committee. So I jumped at the chance last month to tour her studio which was on this year’s Philadelphia Open Studio Tour, sponsored by CEVA, the Center for Emerging Visual Artists.
Phoebe’s work can be startling for those expecting portraits, still lifes and studies. Yes, there are some of those because she is a formally-trained artist. But, as a self-described person “on the spectrum,” she has had to navigate the sometimes brutal institutions and bureaucracies that occasionally seem to do their utmost to suck whatever is unique and creative out of us. If you are not on the spectrum, but are even a little bit different, you surely know what I’m talking about.
Phoebe takes these experiences and makes art out of them. She uses conventional art materials and mixes in a healthy amount of wit, humor, truth, love, and perspective. The emotional kind.
A self portrait
More Self Portraits
I learned that when Phoebe was in high school, she made a collage at the end of each year. Later, she made paintings of some of the collages
Phoebe keeps rats as pets, and they are very important in her life. (Before meeting Phoebe’s friends, the only rats I had ever met were in my kitchen late at night, or in the crawl space beneath my old house. ) She has a little rat cemetery behind her house and paints a sleeping beauty portrait of each furry friend after they die. Rats live about six years, so there have been many rats in Phoebe’s life.
A “mask-ini” rendering of an imaginary bikini made from COVID masks. A humorous reaction to the difficulties mask wearing can cause for some on the spectrum
Some words about this year’s POST tours.
I didn’t go to many other art studios this year. Why? Read on. The way POST works is that art studios in certain neighborhoods, like South Philadelphia or West Philadelphia, are open to the public on a given weekend day. In the past, CEVA provided easy access to the addresses of art studios that were participating on a given date. So if I wanted to visit several studios that were participating on, say, October 15 in South Philadelphia, I could find their addresses together on a list and plan my route.
This year, CEVA provided a link to a poorly-designed interactive map which was extremely cumbersome to use on your phone. I was not the only person who had this problem. There were brochures that listed the addresses of which studios were open on a given date by area, but they were scarce to the point of non-existence, (although someone at a South Philly studio cheerfully told us we could pick up copies at CEVA’s office in Rittenhouse Square, a mile and a half away. )
There were booklets that gave the addresses of the studios, but these were listed in alphabetical order by name of the artist and not grouped by date or part of the city. The QR code in the booklet inexplicably took you to the same thing. It should have taken you to a downloadable PDF with the addresses for each studio participating in each neighborhood on a given day. I truly hope CEVA does better next year. POST is a wonderful program.