Fairies hidden in plain sight

Philly Fringe 2021: It Gets Worse But Then… Theatre Company presents FOUND

3 minute read
A wall with decorative artifacts and framed b&w illustrations of various insects populate a wall with its own grass frame.
One of the hidden spots in It Gets Worse But Then... Theatre Company's 'Found.' (Photo courtesy of It Gets Worse But Then.)

To truly experience the hybrid version of FOUND, during which you are traveling all over Center City, South Philly, and Fishtown, you have to truly know Philadelphia. The clues that will help you travel from point to point require quite a bit of knowledge of street names and notable locations—so much so that my companion and I frequently had to check Google Maps to see whether we could figure out which streets had, for example, Scottish names. But the payoff for street-savvy Philadelphians moving through FOUND is that as much as they think they know the city, they will inevitably wind up somewhere they have never been.

Faewild meets urban jungle

The general premise of FOUND is that the fey world is in upheaval because the Summer King refuses to go through with his annual peaceful transition of power to the Autumn Queen. He has been making the process more and more difficult over the last few years, the result of which is that summers are longer and hotter than they once were. This, explains a fairy in the first video, is the real explanation for climate change.

You, the human participant, set off on sort of a scavenger hunt to learn more. I say “sort of” because you don’t have to travel from clue to clue in any sort of order, nor are you expected to help solve the problem presented by the Summer King. Your role is to wander familiar neighborhoods and eavesdrop on various fey as they go about their lives and make plans for the transition—or for what will happen should the transition fail. There is no winner here. There’s not really even a conclusion. The real reward is in finding a small pocket park you didn’t know existed, or a hidden mural near a popular Queen Village hangout.

Two ways to experience

For those who wish to listen to the audio drama of FOUND without traveling all around Philly (it can be a lot of walking), It Gets Worse But Then... Theatre Company offers a second way to experience the story, exclusively through the production website. The web experience is also useful to participants who missed a destination or two but still want to enjoy the drama.

However, there is no mystery to the virtual FOUND experience. The clues that are the backbone of the hybrid version are unnecessary here; all you have to do is click a map. It would have been more engaging if virtual patrons somehow could have experienced some of the scavenger hunt’s mystery, and not just the prerecorded scenes between the fey.

Tricky travel

I had already done a bit of walking around Center City by the time I met up with my companion to experience FOUND, so I can’t tell you exactly how much of the nine miles I walked that day were strictly due to the show, but I can tell you that we hit four of the seven stops on the map in about three hours (with a brief detour to John’s Water Ice en route to one of the South Philly stops). I’m sure It Gets Worse But Then... had their reasons for spreading the clues out as much as they did, but I think the event might have been more enjoyable—and certainly would have been more accessible—if there was less ground to cover.

Still, on a beautiful fall day in Philadelphia there are worse things you could be doing than taking a long walk and communing with fairies.

What, When, Where

FOUND. Written by Devan Callahan, Devin Randall, Doriane Feinstein, and Griffin Horn. Free. Through October 4, accessible on-demand virtually from home or in spots throughout Center City, South Philadelphia, and Fishtown. (215) 413-1318 or fringearts.com.

Accessibility

FOUND includes a virtual experience that is accessible with a high-speed internet connection. For the hybrid experience, a combination of public transit and walking is recommended to get between stops; please note that one stop in particular involves quite a bit of walking along an unpaved path. Smartphones are also required for the virtual experience, and headphones are recommended. All audio in the show has also been transcribed.

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