Miniball Festival Returns to Put Artists on Fast Track to Philly Fringe - CircusTalk

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Miniball Festival Returns to Put Artists on Fast Track to Philly Fringe

From April 1-8, the Miniball Festival, presented by Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, returns this spring to lay the groundwork for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in the fall. Alongside a slew of innovative performances, four Performance Track Awards will be allotted to help artists mount their work through the Cannonball Festival at Philly Fringe.

PHILADELPHIA– In the ever-festive spirit of Cannonball, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre is gearing audiences up for the spring with the return of Miniball, the bite-sized version of their annual Cannonball Festival—the first and largest hub of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival held each September. The Miniball Festival helps the audience keep that Fringe energy rollin’ year-round with encores of previous Cannonball shows, as well as first looks at exciting new shows that will be centerpieces of the Fringe.

On April 1, Miniball returns to the Maas Building at 1325 N. Randolph Street with the second annual Cast Off Soiree. Later in the week, six of Philadelphia’s most exciting independent artists will mount 13 performances on its stage. Ticket prices vary.  Tickets and more information can be found on the festival’s website.

Miniball Festival opens with the Cast Off Soiree right in Philadelphia. Three performers strike dramatic poses near a sculpture fountain.
Cast Off

Along with Miniball, Cannonball is currently seeking artists for this year’s Cannonball Festival, which will run from September 1-30. As the first and largest “Hub” of Philadelphia Fringe, Cannonball is both artist-run and community-curated. By pooling resources, Cannonball offers affordable production opportunities to performing artists of all disciplines. The Cannonball experience is one of community and exchange: they offer lots of support to artists, create social events and preview opportunities, and carefully curate fun and inclusive social spaces to hang out in all Festival long.

Alongside buy-in options, co-presenting options, and split bills, Cannonball is offering four stipend tracks. These tracks are competitive presentation and/or development tracks that come with additional opportunities and resources. Each stipend track is panel-adjudicated and requires additional application questions.

2023 will mark the second year of the BIPOC New Work Presentation Track, which offers a $2,750 stipend to BIPOC artists presenting new, full-length works of any discipline. New this year are the Performance for Younger Audiences Development Cohort, which offers mentorship, development support, and a $750 stipend; the CSAW Award for New Work by Circus Artists of Color, which comes with a $5,600 stipend; and the Snack Track for Small Audience and Immersive Works. Applications and further information are available on the festival’s website.

Miniball begins with the second annual Cast Off Soiree on Saturday, April 1. Then, from April 6-8, six of Philadelphia’s most exciting independent artists take the stage for 13 performances. At a time when trans* people, bodies, and voices are under attack from legislative and other bodies, this iteration of Miniball features the work of four trans* and non-binary artists or artist groups. This exciting weekend of performances is led by the debut of The Other Gardeners by Very Good Dance Theatre.

The Other Gardeners

“The Other Gardeners” is a new project created by Very Good Dance Theatre, a queer-led and BIPOC-centered experimental performance collaborative with works by and for Black artists and/or those from African lineage. “Gardeners” playfully (re)imagines what remains of Eden after its more popular residents (Adam & Eve) have moved on, and reminds us that paradise cannot be destroyed, only lost. This project explores questions around lineage, diaspora(s), and liberation, and asks all those in its midst to grapple with which burdens have been placed on them, by whom, and how we can shoulder them (together). This is a Black queering of our origin stories, both a prequel and a sequel, and a conjuring of all the auto-biographies that never came to be… or at least haven’t yet? Expect sobbing and laughter, remembering and envisioning, dreaming and forgetting, and loving and loving and loving.

Very Good Dance Theatre was created in 2019 by Colby Calhoun (they/she), a  nonbinary biracial trans-femme dance theatre artist, advocate, and activist. Their work spans the gaps between dance, theatre, and performance art and explores community as a practice, a live(d) experience, in order to teach and inspire collective action toward liberation. “I think Black queer narratives around both our lineage and the liberation we’re working toward are super important—especially now, where we are at very real threat of extermination,” said Calhoun. “So I’m very excited to have the space at Miniball to explore and experiment with how I get to share my story with myself, my stage partner, and the community.”

Other performances in the Miniball Festival are

Cast Off! Opening Night Celebration & Benefit for Cannonball

Spring into a new season of risk-taking art at the second annual Cast Off! Soiree, a part of Philadelphia Theatre Week. Expect delicious food and flowing drink, live music, show excerpts, a sexy crowd of the city’s most daring independent artists, and plenty of fun surprises. Let’s cheers to another year of Philly’s thriving performance scene and collectively uplift the work of our community. This event will benefit Cannonball 2023 and the work done year-round to turn the tides of theatrical production toward more equitable, grassroots models.

Your Showby John Miller Giltner

Heads up: this show uses rock-and-roll music and PowerPoints to blow your mind.

The non-binary son of God tries to convince their dad to use their pronouns. Which God? They aren’t sure. He was an absent father.

Daughter of the Sea by Laura Lizcano

Laura Lizcano presents music from her newly-released, contemporary jazz album Daughter of the Sea, featuring Erin Busch on cello, Jake Kelberman on guitar, and Lizcano on vocals and ukulele.

Written largely during quarantine, Daughter of the Sea is a reflection of Lizcano’s experiences with and feelings of belonging to something bigger than the boxed identities imposed by culture and society. Featuring tracks sung in both English and Lizcano’s native Spanish, the album offers an internal look into Lizcano’s life, addressing a wide range of topics from breaking generational traumas and grappling with immigrant identity, to sexual desire and learning radical self-love.

Lyrically, the album pulls inspiration from singer-songwriters like Fiona Apple, Mon Laferte, and Regina Spektor, while it is influenced musically by the likes of Paul Simon, David Bowie, and American composer Caroline Shaw. The artist’s love for classical music is apparent in Daughter of the Sea, with the esteemed Daedalus Quartet performing instrumental interludes throughout the album and providing instrumentation on several key tracks. These interludes were composed by Philly composer Erin Bush.

Sarah Knittel/Marina Abramović by Sarah Knittel

Ouchies, Daddy! The “Taylor Swift of Solo Female Clown Shows” is back with a solo female clown show that will leave your horny ass upping your mood stabilizers. Sarah Knittel/Marina Abramović is a sloppy, sexy autopsy about the agony of starting over. An ooey-gooey clown show that is part therapy session, part standup, and full-on ARTSY FARTSY PERFORMANCE ART WET DREAM. Beats provided by sugar rush pop sensation Child Princess.


Make Me Out of Clay by Ella-Gabriel Mason

A dancer transforms into a golem—a supernatural vigilante made of riverbed clay—tasked with protecting the most vulnerable. In Make Me Out of Clay, 30-something Jewish enby Ella-Gabriel draws on Jewish folklore to reckon with violence and colonialism, past and present. Through movement, text, and ritual, they grapple with their great-grandfather’s role in settling Jewish refugees on stolen land and reconsider the definitions of strength and survival handed down from the previous generation.

Tartar’s Wormhole by Alex Tatarsky

Alex Tatarsky makes performances in the unfortunate in-between zone of comedy, dance-theater, performance art, and deluded ranting, sometimes with songs. They experienced fleeting international fame as Andy Kaufmann’s daughter and also used to perform as a mound of dirt. Now, they bring you a mixed bill featuring the strangest of the strange performing artists at the craggy edges of dance, theater, comedy, and music to share glimpses of their brilliance and tragedy, to be continued later this year at Cannonball.

About the Festival

Cannonball Festival presents risk-taking independent artists in back-to-back performances next to delicious lounge spaces, fostering creative collisions and community conversation. Cannonball disrupts traditional arts presenting models by centering artist-to-artist curation, pooling and redistributing resources to provide small-scale, high-impact production opportunities for wild, under-resourced performances, and building a sustainable arts ecosystem from the ground up. In its inaugural year in 2021, Cannonball produced 28 unique works over 21 days for 150 performances in a single venue during the Philadelphia Fringe, welcoming over 2,500 audience members and winning three overall Fringie Awards. In 2022, Cannonball returned to the Maas Building and expanded to the nearby Icebox Project Space, offering even more production and presentation opportunities for independent artists from Philadelphia.

About The Festival Producers
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

Almanac Dance Circus Theatre is an award-winning, internationally recognized, Philadelphia-based performing arts ensemble dedicated to creating original works of genre-defying art. Through hybrid experimentation, deep narratives, and open environments of circus learning, Almanac gives audiences access to a little bit (or a lot of) everything so they can experience the vicarious thrill of performance without barriers.

All images shared by Carrie Gorn and the Cannonball Festival. Images belong to Mae West. 

Main image:  Cast Off Soiree
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