Life and death at 27

“27,” a theater piece about partying with rock stars in the afterlife, features a Temple alumna.

Imagine that when a person passes away, they don’t enter the pearly gates. Rather, they join an eternal party where musical legends like Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain live forever.

Enter “27,” an original performance piece by New Paradise Laboratories. It will premiere during the  Philadelphia Live Arts & Philly Fringe Festivals this month.

“If you like to have your mind blown, you’ll like ’27,'” said Whit MacLaughlin, the film’s artistic director. He is responsible for helping to bring this experimental performance piece to life. The last in a trilogy about parties, “27” will take a slightly different turn by focusing on a funeral revelry.

About the concept of the play, MacLaughlin said, “I love the music of the 27-ers — Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix. [It’s] a party in the afterlife involving the 27 Club of genius musicians who died too young meeting a ‘normal’ person.”

MacLaughlin said that there is a certain mysticism surrounding the age. Twenty-seven is a crossroads for young people toward either failure or success. It is a period in a person’s life when they come to realize their younger days are nearly finished.

“Twenty-seven is the age where you definitely have life’s backpack on your back and you’re wondering what you’re going to need down the line,” MacLaughlin said.

Emilie Krause, a Temple alumna, is one of the stars of the show. She had performed in one other experimental piece before joining the cast of “27.” In order to earn a role, Krause had to create a short video about “descent” and post it to YouTube along with all the other hopefuls who were auditioning. Being involved with a collaborative work forced her outside of her comfort zone.

“It actually kind of scares the pants off me. There’s a certain kind of safety in performing other people’s work,” Krause said.

Krause said that this is the first devised theater piece she’s ever worked on. Rather than one person creating the piece and allowing others to bring his or her words to life, everyone had a say in the development of the production. Krause will share the stage with four other actors who all collaborated throughout the course of three months.

“Everyone involved has poured themselves into the project, and having audiences come into the room and experience what we made from scratch makes me feel extremely vulnerable,” Krause said.

“27” will have live music performed onstage by Alec MacLaughlin, a musician from central Texas. He has performed in a variety of musical roles and is branching out to add theatrical composition to his résumé. Alec will be playing the guitar with trigger samples in a style that can best be described as both meditative and harrowing.

New Paradise Laboratories was created in 1996 in hopes of creating pieces that step away from traditional theater. Instead, it seeks to display wide varieties of work performed by ensemble casts. Whit MacLaughlin said that it was a pipe dream that came to life. Since its inception, it has created 15 productions in 15 years. In addition, it has attracted a loyal core of individuals dedicated to the vision New Paradise wishes to fulfill.

“New Paradise Labs was a way to make a kind of work that I had dreamed about for a long time — immersive, crazy, very visual and muscular,” MacLaughlin said.

MacLaughlin and Krause both said that Philadelphia’s local arts scene is exceptional. Although it has been often overlooked by individuals in the past, more people are starting to appreciate the cultural contributions made by this city. Now in its 15th year, the Live Arts & Philly Fringe Festivals are succeeding in its mission to make Philadelphia a notable place for the performing arts.

Despite what kind of entertainment a person may enjoy, this month long event is sure to have something for everyone. “27” is just one of several cutting-edge performances debuting within the next few weeks.  Events are scheduled to be performed at various venues in Philadelphia.

 “27” will run from Sept. 5 through Sept. 16 at Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place.

Christina Morgeneier can be reached at

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