Capturing Philly performances in original drawings

A look back at Philly's 2023 cultural scene through the eyes of local artist Chuck Schultz

4 minute read
Impressionistic colored pen & ink drawing of people clustered in a living room, with various words & phrases written in black

Writing and photos are not the only way to capture a performance! From community theater to the Curtis to Koresh, Philly visual artist Chuck Schultz has been in the audience this year, and now, he brings 10 memorable 2023 performances to life in his own style. We hope you enjoy this special retrospective.

Just above, we have a look at InterAct Theatre Company's world-premiere February production of Stephanie Satie's The Last Parade. (Here's the BSR review.) In an arts scene rich with diverse performances, talented artists, and competing world views, InterAct promotes ongoing conversations about our most urgent ideas. Artistic director Seth Rozin helms an environment where playwrights like Satie, who is experienced in analyzing the conditions of refugees in our world, create art informed by members of the community. The Last Parade, though it's set in 1992, is a vital perspective on the current war in Ukraine.

Colored pen & ink drawing of about 11 jaunty mostly female figures arrayed under large trees.
An illustration of Swarthmore Players's spring 2023 production of Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing.' (Image courtesy of the artist.)

The Players Club of Swarthmore (PCS) is a year-round community theater with two stages: a 300-seat venue for "Broadway-scale musicals and plays" and an 80-seat black-box "second stage." PCS auditions are open to all. The illustration above captures the theater's spring 2023 production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Schultz says that every theatrical performance benefits from different modes of seeing. He enjoyed actor Elizabeth Clarkin-Breslin's turn as Beatrice, as the two romantic antagonists in this play discover unity.

An impressionistic colored digital drawing of 8 dancing figures wearing blue or green outfits, with various skin tones.
An illustration of Collage Dance Collective's March 2023 performance at Swarthmore College's Cooper Series. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Swarthmore College hosts the Cooper Series, a program of lectures, performances, and exhibitions funded by the William J. Cooper Foundation. The events bring leaders in statesmanship, science, art, and more to the campus. Above, Schultz captures an April 2023 Cooper Series performance by Collage Dance. Programs like these allow young people to experience a diversity of cultures.

Impressionistic colored digital drawing of several dancing figures awash in black, purple, blue, and red
An illustration of the April 2023 Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers performance at Esperanza Arts Center. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers landed at Esperanza Arts Center's Teatro Esperanza for a special performance of the company's Santuario on April 22, 2023, captured in the above drawing. To Schultz, the performance was a vision of how art transcends from teacher to dancers and then to students. Company founder Kun-Yang Lin, cultivating and sharing skills like chi awareness, offers spiritual foundations which are often difficult to maintain in the multi-disciplinary dance field.

Impressionistic colored pen & ink drawing with 8 figures of the same blonde woman in various attitudes
An illustration of Annie Wilson's 'Always The Hour,' performed at Icebox Project Space in April 2023. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Schultz calls Annie Wilson's April 2023 Always the Hour, an art exhibition and dance performance that was also a multi-media installation at Icebox Project Space, a "cathartic experience" that spoke to a shared sense of loss in the pandemic. Wilson is a Pew fellow, and Schultz has admired her interpretations of the dance world since her At Home with the Humorless Bastard, which premiered at FringeArts in 2016. Always the Hour, a durational, immersive experience, allowed the audience to seek and discover their own experiences and meanings, whether they wanted to lie under a gazebo of fabrics, watch a suspended sandbag leak a steady stream of sand, or contemplate the upside-down Christmas trees above their heads. (Here's a review of the show in thINKingDANCE.)

Impressionistic colorful digital drawing of about a dozen dancing figures awash in red, purple and blue
An illustration of Koresh Dance Company's 'Masquerade' in May 2023. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Schultz calls Koresh "an amazing dance company that reminds us how wonderful it is to be in this international city." The company's May 2023 production, Masquerade, illustrated above, connected modern dance to its global influences, capturing stylistic influences from around the world. (Here's the BSR review.)

Black & white ink drawing of about 6 stylized pirates in various battle poses, with a crowd of people at left.
An illustration of the Savoy Company's 'Pirates of Penzance' in May 2023. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Founded in 1901, Philadelphia's Savoy Company bills itself as the world's oldest amateur theater company dedicated to performing the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Schultz calls it "a treasure for Philadelphians." Schultz has followed the company since its 2018 production of Iolanthe and stage manager John Scott invited him to experience the May 2023 run of Pirates of Penzance.

Impressionistic pen & ink drawing of a crowd of contorted dancers, splashed with skin tones, all wearing black leotards
An illustration of Anne-Marie Mulgrew & Dancers' June 2023 production of 'NOW! Three Years Later.' (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Schultz met his longtime friend Anne-Marie Mulgrew, founder of Anne-Marie Mulgrew & Dancers, at the NextMove dance series when he was drawing and writing theater reviews for Phindie. The above illustration captures AMM&DCO's June 2023 production of NOW! Three Years Later, which the company described as “a response to the pandemic’s personal, political, and social impact on us as humans and how it transformed our world and our environment.” (Here's the BSR review.) With film and movement, the show included nods to the New York City performance art scene and the Martha Graham technique of pivoting and bending the body.

Impressionistic, flowing drawing in blue tones of about 15 people in solo and interactive dance moves
An illustration of Susan Marshall and Mimi Lien's 'Rhythm Bath' in September 2023. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

This year's curated Fringe Festival brought us Rhythm Bath at Christ Church Neighborhood House. Choreographer Susan Marshall and set designer Mimi Lien teamed up for this immersive dance installation co-produced by Temple University's Institute on Disabilities. (Here's the BSR review.) This production distinguished itself by inviting neurodivergent audiences, with many aspects of sensory play and experience, a performance timeline given to every guest, and opportunities to lie, sit, stand, and move during the show. Marshall and company won first prize at Princeton University's Keller Center 2023 Innovation Forum.

Crowded, stylized colored pen & ink drawing showing dozens of musicians playing onstage at Verizon Hall, all wearing black.
An illustration of Curtis Institute of Music presenting its 'The Spectacular Strauss' concert on October 22, 2023. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Spectacular Strauss, captured in Schultz's drawing above, opened the Curtis Institute of Music's current mainstage season at Verizon Hall on October 22, 2023. Schultz, located in a beautiful historic building on Locust Street right off Rittenhouse Square, is one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the US. Its students, including conducting fellow Micah Gleason, performed this tribute to 20th-century German composer Richard Strauss. Schultz enjoyed Gleason's "avant-garde" approach to the classical music hall with her interpretation of The Dance of the Seven Veils. Under the baton of her teacher, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (the music director of both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York's Metropolitan Opera), the students also offered a monumental rendering of An Alpine Symphony.

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