Many a parent has discouraged his children from pursuing a theatrical career, telling them: "You have to get a real job, something that will support a family."
Armen Pandola did just that. A resident of 22nd and McKean streets for 30 years, he graduated from Bishop Neumann High and St. Joseph’s College before earning his degree at Temple Law School. When daughter Alexandria came along, she had her heart set on theater. She graduated from American University with a degree in theater and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York.
Her father loves the idea of her being involved in theater — in fact, he joined her. Together, they came up with the idea for Green Light Theatrical Productions. Based in South Philly, the fledgling company will present the world premiere of Zelda and Scott: Boats Against the Current this week and next as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.
I reached Armen at his Center City law firm and he spoke enthusiastically about the play he had just authored. "Zelda and Scott epitomized the optimism of the Roaring ’20s," he said. "They lived tabloid lives before the tabloids."
Zelda and Scott: Boats Against the Current is about the dreams that the Fitzgeralds chased over two continents and three decades, and the destruction of their lives in pursuit of those dreams. Concentrating on the relationship that formed the focal point of both lives, Zelda and Scott explores one of the great legendary romances.
While Zelda is often seen as an appendage to Scott’s career, this play reveals that Zelda was an artist in her own right — an accomplished painter, a ballet dancer and a writer. Their volatility had a strange mix; her life and dreams were as devastated by Scott’s demons as his life and dreams were destroyed by hers. Their passion fueled the ’20s, and they crashed harder than anyone in the Depression-era ’30s.
The ambitious father-daughter team plan to extend their Green Light Theatrical Productions to nursing homes and schools in the community as part of their outreach project.
In spring 1998, another local company, 1812 Productions, was founded by Jennifer Childs and Pete Pryor with a goal to entertain and educate audiences through comedy, and to support and hire local artists.
As part of the Fringe Festival, 1812 Productions is presenting Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, a collaborative adaptation by Scott Greer, Michael Hollinger, Tony Lawton and Aaron Posner.
This project began as the brainchild of Greer, who, inspired by a collection of short stories by David Foster Wallace, envisioned the material as a series of theatrical monologues.
In an interview, Greer explained some of the quirky sketches found in this 10-character, two-actor play.
"Think of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men as a kind of display case — a ‘specimen collection’ for errant knaves, culled from around the country over the past decade," he said. "The play, like the book from which it has been adapted, examines one of the knottiest problems of the male psyche, namely, ‘Why is it so hard for men to relate to women in a loving, civilized way, particularly when that relationship is sexual?’"
He continued, "By presenting characters whose actions and attitudes are dysfunctional, we seek not to celebrate these behaviors but rather to expose and explore them. In particular, we hope to create the experience of ‘ha-ha-ouch’ — the laugh of shocked recognition, the chuckle of amused horror, the comic tickle followed by the tragic stab, the hilarious and the hideous intertwined."
Greer promises that this will not be more of the male-bashing seen in The Male Intellect, An Oxymoron? but instead will provide both insight and humor.
Dozens of other plays and performances continue around the city as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. The event was founded in 1997 with the mission to produce and present quality, risk-taking and experimental art to a wide and diverse audience in a setting that invites and encourages interaction between artist and audience.
The 16-day performing arts festival, through Sept. 13, attracts thousands of visitors to various non-traditional venues throughout Old City and surrounding neighborhoods. The festival features some of the most sought-after and talked-about performing arts events in the Philadelphia area. Productions are from a full spectrum of colorful work that falls within, between and sometimes beyond the standard categories of theater, dance, performance art, music, poetry and puppetry.
Tickets for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival range from free to $20 and can be purchased by calling 215-413-1318.
For more on the Fringe Festival, see the Lifestyles feature, Material Witness, and take a look at the Calendar.
Zelda and Scott: Boats Against the Current
2030 Sansom St.
Sept. 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 7 p.m.; Sept. 7 and 13, 2 p.m.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
233 N. Broad St. (near Race)
Through Sept. 20