FringeArts kicks off the High Pressure Fire Service festival, named for FringeArts' historic building, by celebrating Philadelphia artists and creators with the return of the A Fierce Kind of Love, a collaborative show produced by Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities. Written by Suli Holum and directed by David Bradley, Fierce tells the largely unknown history of Pennsylvania's intellectual-disability rights movement through music, movement, and narrative told by a cast of professional actors and community members with intellectual disabilities.
Hitting close to home
The content of the play comes directly from interviews with the family members who demanded the closure of Pennhurst and other facilities where people with disabilities experienced rampant abuse and neglect and were shut away from opportunities to live in the community. A Fierce Kind of Love debuted in the spring of 2016 to wide accolades.
David Bradley spoke about what it means to bring the production back for FringeArts’ festival, especially in a political and social climate that is dramatically different from that of three years ago and in which more people have awakened to the need to become activists. “This time, we are aware of what it means to perform this show about disability rights in a time when civil rights issues are acute,” Bradley says. “It’s deepened the power of how we’re holding the show. The fight for disability rights isn’t over.”
Once more, with feeling
Almost the entire original cast is back for this production (one actor had a prior commitment), including the four performers with intellectual disabilities. Bradley observed how the work of the ensemble has not only picked up from their last engagement but has gotten richer. “This show steeps in us,” he says. “There’s a depth of feeling and connection that we’ve held since the last production.”
Bradley also acknowledges how meaningful it is for Fierce to be chosen for a festival that celebrates work created by Philadelphia artists. The production not only features actors with disabilities but is also performed in a way that is inclusive and accessible for audience members with disabilities. There will be open captioning during the show as well as ASL interpretation. There are seats located near exits so audience members can easily exit if overstimulated.
Evening performances will be followed by a conversation with the artists, and matinee performances will be followed by conversations with community stakeholders about the themes that emerge in the play. Audience members are encouraged to stay and join the conversation. The list of facilitators is available here.