From the radio to the stage: Commonspace LIVE comes to FringeArts

Sheeyash Palshikar of 'Now You See Me.' (Photo by Jennifer Boshnack.)

Over the winter, we took a look at Commonspace, a hybrid of radio news and the personal narrative podcast. Now, the project is launching Commonspace LIVE, its first series of live events, coming to FringeArts May 22 through 26.

Commonspace is a partnership between First Person Arts (FPA) and WHYY, and this affordable spate of live performances will put a personal face on many issues that have riled the country and our city. Storytelling threads will include gentrification, stereotyping and racial profiling, culture, masculinity, and ethnicity, plus FPA’s Memorial Day-themed StorySlam, “Battle Scars,” and two chances to pitch a story for the Commonspace radio program.

On Monday, May 22, the series begins with Woke. Our everyday lives aren’t as tumultuous as the news cycle we’re all used to, but sometimes your life “collides with real headlines.” This evening of “dramatic revelation” lets storytellers weave their own “jolting truths, medical diagnoses, and surprising injustices” into a complicated larger world. Gentrified takes the stage on Wednesday, May 24, promising “a compassionate and honest investigation” through real-life stories about the many facets of gentrification from all corners of the city: “What does it really mean for our relationships, our community, and our local culture?”

On Thursday, May 25, Now You See Me beckons a little more mysteriously. “Three astonishing illusionists,” played by Shreeyash Palshikar, Randy Shine, and Fred Siegel (directed by Mason Rosenthal), dazzle the audience with wonders of masculinity and race, “defy[ing] all reasonable logic with hypnotizing skill.” Watch out — you may walk away questioning what’s real. The following night brings Targeted, revealing the person behind the crosshairs, the community behind the person, and the history and truth underneath everything. Giving the mic to America’s outsiders, the show invites the audience to “the sobering reality of a country divided” and warns that “you can’t unhear this.”

These four curated shows are all happening at FringeArts (140 N. Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia), with doors at 7pm and the show at 8pm. Tickets are $10 ($7 for members of WHYY, FPA, and FringeArts).

More FPA in May

The latest in FPA’s StorySlam series is coming up at FringeArts on Tuesday, May 23, at 8pm ($7 to $10), before Memorial Day weekend. As with all StorySlams, “Battle Scars” attendees can sign up at the door to perform a five-minute real-life story on the night’s theme: “Scrapes, scruffs, dings, and dents,” physical or figurative. Ten storytellers will be randomly chosen; one winner will get a $100 prize and a slot at the 2017 FPA Grand Slam.

Finally, WHYY and FPA are offering two sessions for people who want to get their stories on the air — and folks who want to lend an early ear. First, those who have submitted their stories and received an audition will have a chance to record their five-minute tales in private "Story Booth Recordings," and a free event will follow in which selected radio hopefuls share their stories live with an intimate audience. Pitch! Commonspace Auditions are coming up on Saturday, May 27 (recordings at 1pm; show at 2pm), at the William Way LGBTQ Community Center (1315 Spruce Street), and on Wednesday, May 31 (recordings at 5pm; show at 7pm), at United Bank, 3750 Lancaster Avenue.