From beautiful Pittsburgh to bucolic Baltimore to our beloved Philadelphia, and with several stops north till they reach Bar Harbor, Maine (what a contrast in locales!), Beth Nixon of Ramshackle Enterprises and her cohorts are taking their show BELOW and BEYOND on an intense little tour from May 3 to May 13. Inspired by the long-submerged Mill Creek of West Philadelphia, as well as the fracking debate in rural Pennsylvania, BELOW and BEYOND explores what lies beneath our feet. Using puppets, pulleys, movement, maps, and the imagination, the performance examines the intricacies of extraction and recognizes a waterway that continues to resurface. Tree house, houseboat, and bunker dwellers unite amidst an invasion of urban water buffalos. All this, plus a one-man band!
The show was created and is performed by West Philly’s own Beth Nixon (a performance artist-of-all trades, including her amazing and joyful cardboard art and drawings), and Sarah Lowry of The Missoula Oblongata, with Matthew Schreiber on accordion and many other instruments. Direction is by Donna Sellinger (also of The Missoula Oblongata). Philly people can catch the show May 7 at the Underground Arts at The Wolf Building (340 N 12th St.) at 7:30pm, and May 8 at The Beaumont Warehouse (bet. 50th and 51st Sts. on Beaumont Ave.) in West Philly at 7:30pm.
We caught up to Beth and asked her a few questions about the show.
Live Arts: How did the idea for BELOW and BEYOND come about?
Beth Nixon: The show grew out of a couple of intersecting things: Sarah Lowry and I wanted to work together on a project about the neighborhood where we both live and we’d heard stories about Mill Creek; making the show propelled us to do more research about what was happening/had happened underneath where we live. Simultaneously, we’d both been involved with Protecting Our Waters, a local grass roots alliance committed to protecting the Delaware River Basin and our region from unconventional gas drilling. We wondered if we could make a show that thought about the world vertically, connecting the above and below ground rather than following a horizontal story line.
LA: What are the various theatrical elements you are using? And how did you find them to be the right way to connect to the material?
BN: We use a variety of tools to share our tale. Matt Schreiber’s original accordion music creates a unique feel for the world of the play and the costumes, set, props and contraptions are a combination of what we needed, envisioned and could build on our non-existent budget. We imagined a world and then built it—with the help of Jebney Lewis.
LA: This seems like an intense 10-day touring schedule, how do you make sure you have the energy for each show?
BN: We’re counting on adrenaline and being excited to share what we’ve made with friends in each town we’re headed to. Carrots, coffee, and letting our selves get sucked into the characters we’ve created and their enthusiasm about their own survival.
BELOW and BEYOND
May 7 at the Underground Arts at The Wolf Building, 340 N 12th St., 7:30 pm. $7-15. Opening act: Joshua Marcus. Tickets available at the door.
May 8 at The Beaumont Warehouse, between 50th and 51st Sts. on Beaumont Ave. in West Philly, 7:30pm. $7-15. Opening act: Chenda Cope. Tickets available at the door.
To view the full touring schedule go HERE.