Philadelphia Artists' Collective creates classical acts


"We started the company out of an artistic desire to create a body of classical work. There are a lot of classics out there, the most accessible being Shakespeare,” Krista Apple, of Ninth and Sigel streets said.

Apple is one of five members of the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, which began from the humble goal of two members Damon Bonetti and Dan Hodge — who also is Apple’s fiancé — wanting to produce a play. With its original four members on board since 2007, the group expanded by one, designer Katherine Fritz, of Fourth and Dickinson streets, this past spring.

“Dan and Damon founded it and Charlotte [Northeast] and I were along for the ride pretty soon after,” Apple, 35, said. “Dan and Damon set out to produce one play, and we realized we wanted to continue and produce lots of plays over a longer period.”

Focusing on bringing rarely produced classical works to Philly, the collective has set up a diverse offering this season with two staged readings — one of which Apple will direct — and a full production of a lesser known Shakespeare play “Timon of Athens” in April.

“Both the [staged readings] present conundrums of propriety and hypocrisy. People pretend to be really prim and proper, but behind closed doors they are something else entirely,” Apple said of “The Critic” and her production “The Country Wife.” “The audience gets a bird’s-eye view of that. We can all relate — we pretend to be socially proper or what have you.”

“The Critic,” directed by Joshua Browns, is the next work being showcased by the collective Nov. 5. Apple said the five members always collaborate on the projects as producers even if they are not participating in other capacities such as director or actor.

“It’s not our intent to be artistically involved in every project, but we like to work together because we like each other as artists and as people,” she said, adding about her Feb. 11 reading, “This is the first time I’m directing a reading in Philadelphia — my Philadelphia debut.”

Most of the collective’s works are collaborations with other artists — with their recent Fringe piece a departure from this as all five members worked on the project — with a focus on turn-of-the-19th-century works usually at the forefront.

“It’s always a really amazing and refreshing reminder working on these plays, aside from the fact we obviously don’t use this language in everyday conversation, aside from that, the people in these plays want and love and need and hate and fear the same things that I do,” she said. “It’s reassuring to me somehow that technology changed and language and we, as a people, we haven’t changed that much.

“Actually, we will survive and persevere over the next 100 years.”

Growing up in Ohio, the self-described “painfully shy” Apple felt an instinctual pull out of her comfort zone and onto the stage.

“I started acting because I felt like I knew it was the only way I was going to get over this fear of speaking to and in front of people,” Apple said. “I still consider myself pretty shy, especially around people in a group. I can’t even think how shy I’d be if I wasn’t forced in front of people everyday for money.”

Apple participated in school plays, her first role as a chorus member in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and though she said she was originally “terrible,” she found her voice and her niche.

“I studied abroad in London during my undergrad at Kenyon,” she said of the Ohio-based university where she studied theater. “So I spent a year doing only Shakespeare and classical theater.”

With bachelor’s in hand by 1999, Apple began teaching her craft around the Midwest and also eventually in New York City, while continuing to perform.

“There were four years — I moved to New York City and I realized that wasn’t quite right. I was teaching and acting in New York, as well. I didn’t do stage. I was lucky enough to do some film work; I did an episode of ‘Law and Order’ while I was there. And I was teaching Shakespeare in public schools,” she said.

All of these career moves, however, were in spite of an early promise that Apple made, saying she would never work in theater. Eventually the experience proved too positive to pass up.

“I fell in love with the people and all the traveling I got to do — all the exceptional people I got to meet and with the plays I was working on. It made me fall in love with acting. It was my chance to see the world from just about everyone else’s point of view,” she said. “To embody a character, I have to be completely willing to understand the character’s version of the world even if it contradicts or goes completely against my beliefs.

“It’s made me be a better human being. I had to be able to empathize with them. That’s why I stay. I don’t know the exact moment I made the decision to get here, but that’s why I stay.”

Having just finished acting opposite her fiancé in the Fringe production of “Creditors,” Apple is focusing on her upcoming directorial effort and producing the rest of the collective’s season, though she does have plans for future collaborations further down the line.

“[Dan] and I usually work as co-producers or co-actors. I’m hoping next time we collaborate he’s directing and I’m acting because he’s a brilliant director, especially of Shakespeare,” Apple, who completed a master’s of fine arts at Temple University in 2009, said.

While the couple will have to wait until next season for the chance to tackle these roles together, the current season is more than enough to keep the group’s members busy.

“We love to create classical plays that are relevant,” she said. “We love being in the same room together. We don’t ever pretend the audience isn’t there. We include the audience and talk to the audience. We are there because and not in spite of them.”

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