Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

Brittle Women
-Susan Hagen

The Real Thing
-David Warner

Pal Around
-Steve Cohen

Human, Nature
-Janet Anderson

War on War
-Sam Adams

Sons Also Rises
-David Anthony Fox

Due Cause
-Frank Lewis

Delaware Divas
-David Shengold

October 31-November 6, 2002


Material Girls

Schticky situation: (l-r) Funny Fest participants Nichole 

Canuso, Betsy Herbert, Anneliese Euler, Lee Ann 

Etzold, Mary Jackman-Carpenter, Jennifer Blaine, 

Karen Getz, Gail Rosen and Susan Moses.
Schticky situation: (l-r) Funny Fest participants Nichole Canuso, Betsy Herbert, Anneliese Euler, Lee Ann Etzold, Mary Jackman-Carpenter, Jennifer Blaine, Karen Getz, Gail Rosen and Susan Moses.

The Female Funny Fest might make you think, but it wants to make you laugh.

“We either get the Lifetime television thing or we get the radical-feminists-who-hate-men thing.”

Karen Getz is describing two common reactions to her three-year-old company, Tapestry Theatre. Tapestry, created by Getz, Kelly Jennings and Mary Jackman-Carpenter, is on a mission to create theater for women. The problem is, phrases like “theater for women” can invoke terrifying visions of Judith Light and Meredith Baxter duking it out for custody of Tori Spelling, or can be read, instead of “theater for women,” as “theater not for men.”

"We struggle over how to explain that we are trying to give female artists an opportunity. Our primary focus is really good work that happens to be done by mostly women," Getz says.

Getz and her partners were inspired to start Tapestry when they found themselves lamenting the dearth of juicy parts for female actors. Their first production, King Me, used pieces of several of Shakespeare's history plays, including Richard III and Henry V. "We, as women, got to speak some of Shakespeare's most powerful and beautiful language reserved, normally, for men," Getz says. Tapestry is one of two new theater companies in town dedicated to helping women produce theater; Theater Catalyst's Eternal Spiral Project is the other.

In some ways, Shakespeare also inspired another facet of Tapestry's mission -- to let the women of Philadelphia be funny. Fueled in part by the Bard's numerous hilarious and tragic clowns and fools, often meant to be played by men, the women of Tapestry wanted a chance to clown around on their own terms.

And thus, the annual Female Funny Fest was born. "Many theater companies in this town are run by women," Getz notes. "But much of the work they produce still has the same conventional limitations for funny women."

Last year's inaugural fest assembled a handful of performers doing poetry, one-woman shows, improv and song-and-dance routines. This year, Tapestry is boasting a larger lineup for the five-day festival, hosted by Jennifer Blaine and including established Philly theater scenesters like Madi Distefano, Lee Ann Etzold, Nichole Canuso, Bobbi Block and others. Two veteran improvisational comedy companies, ComedySportz and Lunchlady Doris, will be joined by the brand-spanking-new Thirteen Skirts, an all-female improv troupe featuring members of both ComedySportz and Lunchlady. Jackman-Carpenter and Micheline McManus founded Thirteen Skirts. "From 15 years of improv experience, I learned it was rare to find a group equally balanced between men and women," says Jackman-Carpenter, a ComedySportz member. "We've done a Œladies night' at ComedySportz, and it was so fun. It's not so much that we're furthering an agenda, it's just a unique energy and a different dynamic when it's all women."

ComedySportz's Block will bring her new company, P3 (People Percussion Project), to the Fest for its second performance (the first was at the 2002 Fringe Festival). The "body percussion company" started with Block's trip to a workshop hosted by a cast member of STOMP!. Block hopes to combine her sense of theatricality with her partner Judy Freed's dance background, interspersing comic vignettes with rhythmic routines.

New Paradise Laboratories' Etzold is joining Headlong Dance Theater's Canuso to reprise their characters from Pig Iron's lauded clown show, Flop. The new material is "a lot of stuff we played around with in rehearsals," Etzold says, "little guilty ideas we had that were too silly, if you can believe that." Etzold will also perform some of her songs with Anneliese Euler. "Most of the songs I'll sing next week are being composed as we speak," jokes Euler, "which makes them world premieres."

Veering into the world of the unexplained, The Amazing Rosen Sisters, Debbie and Gail, will take the stage at the Fest and attempt to conjure the spirits of the Fox sisters, sibling conjurers from the mid-19th century. Reached by phone, Debbie matter-of-factly explains that she and her sister are happy to chat about their work -- except that Gail is currently tied up. Literally. After some shuffling, Gail picks up and announces, "My wrists are still tied but I can talk." Apparently she must be bound before any conjuring takes place, to keep her from injuring herself while possessed. The sisters do a combination of performance art, comedy routine and psychic demonstration. At the first Funny Fest, they demonstrated "sibling telepathy," asking audience members to give objects to Gail to psychically communicate to a blindfolded Debbie. The result? "We did all right," Debbie says somewhat tentatively.

The Funny Fest is encouraging audience members to bring their embarrassing diary entries and angsty poetry to the shows, to be pitted against performers in a round of "Dueling Diaries." Getz is planning to bring a "drop dead" letter she wrote after a particularly painful breakup, and promises that the collective adolescent pain from this group of performers will be enough to leave people rolling in the aisles.

In the end, Getz says the goal of the Fest is simple, and works with Tapestry's mission. "I'm hoping that this will develop, that artists will say they have an idea and they think it's funny, but they know it would never be produced anywhere else."

Second Annual Female Funny Fest, Mon., Nov. 4-Fri., Nov. 8, 9:30-11:30 p.m., $15, The Playground at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., 215-888-MUSE.

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