PW Picks Darwinii

The Philadelphia Weekly’s J. Cooper Robb picks “Eleven shows you can’t miss at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe”.

“The Fringe boasts plenty of alternative venues but few are as curious or fascinating as the American Philosophical Society. A majestic building boasting all manner of bizarre oddities, APS is hosting the world premiere of Darwinii: The Comeuppance of Man (Sept. 4-12 and Oct. 16-25). Penned by acclaimed playwright Glen Berger ( Underneath the Lintel ) the comic exploration of Darwinism stars Brett Keyser, who gave an impressive performance a few years back in the quirky sleeper hit Horribus! Horribus!”

…though we still call it Horridus! Horridus! Thanks for remembering, J.

Darwinii—SOLD OUT—Philly Fringe

Join us for the World Premiere performances of Darwinii: The Comeuppance of Man at the 2009 Philly Fringe Festival, Fridays & Saturdays, September 4, 5, 11, & 12 SOLD OUT at 6:30 PM at the APS Museum, 104 S. 5th St. (between Chestnut and Walnut), Philadelphia, PA. Limited seating. Seriously. Tickets $10 on sale now at the Live Arts-Fringe website, or at the Fringe Box Office, 215-413-1318. Please plan to arrive early as the show begins promptly and 6:30 PM, and there will be NO LATE SEATING.


Images of Darwin, Rhea darwinii, and T. H. Huxley’s skeletons courtesy APS Museum

Created by Brett Keyser and New York playwright Glen Berger, this solo performance features Keyser in the role of Cristóbal, an Argentine man accused of various crimes, including stealing original Charles Darwin manuscripts from rare book libraries around the world. Why? Because he’s convinced he’s the great-great-great-etc… bastard-grandson of the father of Natural Selection. As part of his sentence he must deliver a public apology, during which he digresses, with flamboyant intensity and bawdy humor, into the story of his life, growing up as an orphan in Tierra del Fuego and inadvertently becoming an expert Darwinologist (not to mention an international criminal), exploiting every opportunity to prove his pedigree. The performance is a tango-tinged dance of life, a fresh take on some of Darwin’s ideas about the struggle for survival, sexual selection, the origin of species, and the descent of man.

Darwinii evolved from an initial workshop of improvisation and interplay between Keyser, Berger, and Canadian fellow traveller Ker Wells. The creative team also includes Tracy Broyles of Spiral Q Puppet Theatre on props and costumes, and Laylage Courie of Brooklyn-based Luminous Work, providing the voice of a renowned fictional Darwin scholar.

Darwinii was commissioned by the American Philosophical Society (APS) Museum, and supported in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS: Tales of Civic Effluvia

A eulogy for a buried creek, spoken and sung by the souls that lived and died along its course.

TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS premieres September 5th, 2008 at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, two minutes before local sunset:

Friday, September 5, 7:23pm

Saturday, September 6, 7:21pm

Friday, September 12, 7:11pm

Saturday, September 13, 7:10pm

Each performance is approximately 29 minutes long, ending with the close of civil twilight.

Additional performances commence at 4pm on Saturday and Sunday, September 20th and 21st, and at 1pm on Saturday, September 27th for National Public Lands Day.

The performance takes place on the former site of Dock Creek in Independence National Historical Park, SW block at the intersection of 3rd and Chestnut Streets.

In the middle of this park block between Carpenters’ Hall and the First Bank of the United States there is a small depression in the land, a memorial marking the course of Dock Creek, which was arched over and buried at the end of the 1700’s, after it had become irredeemably fouled by the domestic and industrial waste being dumped into it for over a century. The creek still flows beneath us, as the oldest exit for Philadelphia’s civic effluvia.

It is easy to forget what roils through the pipes below, which is, after all, why it was put down there. But breathing deeply at the sewer grate, performance artist Brett Keyser peels back the layers of this man-made landscape in an evocative “exhumation” of the little tidal creek, an elegy of ebb and flow, of growth and decay, of life, and love, and loss along “The Dock”.

Commissioned by the American Philosophical Society Museum, Keyser’s TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS was conceived as a companion piece to Drawing Dock Creek, a sculptural installation on the same site by Winifred Lutz. Both Lutz and Keyser are artists in residence for the current APS Museum exhibition “UNDAUNTED: Five American Explorers, 1760-2007” through December 2008.


McMahon, Michal. “Publick Service” versus “Mans Properties”: Dock Creek and the Origins of Urban Technology in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia in Judith A. McGaw’s Early American Technology, 1994

Watson, John Fanning. Annals of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time, v. I, 1857, specifically the chapter entitled “The Drawbridge and Dock Creek” pp. 336-349

Levine, Adam. The History of Philadelphia’s Watersheds and Sewers