Erica Atwood is a self-proclaimed cat-lover, wine-drinker and educated Gen-Xer.
She represents one percent of Philadelphia, according to German artist collective Rimini Protokoll, whose members plan to give life to statistics this September with “100% Philadelphia,” a FringeArts project and continuation of their series featured in cities across the world. Atwood, the external affairs and community engagement specialist for the city of Philadelphia, was the first “non-actor” chosen for this performance following the same guidelines that are practiced in each city the show is performed in.
“We chose Atwood as our first ‘non-actor’ because we knew that she was comfortable with public speaking, reliable and would have the connections needed to get the chain going,” Sarah Bishop-Stone, programming manager for FringeArts, said.
To be a part of the performance, Atwood is required to know one other person on the stage and they also must represent one percent of the most recent census from Philadelphia. The performance will consist of 100 people who, together, represent 100 percent of the city.
“We look at gender, age, race, neighborhood, family situation and we build this chain of people who are somehow connected,” Bishop-Stone said. “When it’s all said and done, everyone should know somebody else on the stage.”
So far, the recruiting process, which began in January, has brought the total number of participants to 75. All of them are connected in some way or another and represent all different races, cultures and hobbies within Philadelphia. FringeArts worked with many community organizations to recruit the “non-actors” to represent the city.
Bishop-Stone said that while it was surprisingly easy to find people of Vietnamese and Native American descent as part of the chain, they are having trouble finding white men in the Northeast to connect in the chain.
Atwood, who has never performed in Philadelphia before, will kick off the show as number one.
“‘100% Philadelphia’ seems like a very cool way to represent the city I love and call home,” Atwood said of her decision to join the project.
The performance, which will be held at Temple Performing Arts Center Sept. 19-21, will be pay as you wish. The performance space was chosen for its proximity to public transportation and availability to the community.
“We wanted someone who has never been to a theater production before to feel comfortable walking in the doors and taking in the show,” Bishop-Stone said.
The show will consist of many parts, including reenactments of the performers’ days, as well as question and answer sessions in which the performers will be forced to identify certain traits by stating “me” or “not me.”
“This is an opportunity for us as Philadelphians to tell our narrative directly and authentically,” Atwood said. “For generations, our stories get told on stages or in headlines that have no real context of who we really are and what’s really important to us.”
Rimini Protokoll has organized and shown this production all across the world in cities like London, Melbourne and Krakow, with scripts customized to the city in which it is performed.
The artists will come to Main Campus Sept. 15 for an Artist Talk about the performance at Paley Library.
“You will see the difference between the mothers and children getting ready for their day at work and school early in the morning and the bike messenger who wakes up at noon and parties into the night,” Bishop-Stone said. “You will watch the life of the city in 24 hours.”
Paige Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @By_paigegross