Thomas Choinacky has been booted from his South Philly apartment by Asher Grey, "the newest artistic voice to the American art scene."
"It's become a new beast of an apartment," Choinacky said.
The eviction's not permanent, though, because Asher Grey doesn't exist.
Grey is a character created by Choinacky for his piece "Substance," a one-man show that Choinacky is presenting as part of the SoLow Festival, a collection of works curated by Choinacky and Amanda Grove that focuses on one-man performances.
The festival acts like a safety net for solo performers. Choinacky said they have it harder than artists who operate under the auspices of a company. For the soloist, a single person takes the hit if the piece is a financial failure, there's only one of you to spread the word and no collaborators around for instant feedback. But by bringing disparate solo artists to collaborate on the SoLow Festival, it allows them to do things they wouldn't normally be able to do.
"Now you're not just one person," Choinacky said. "It's a whole group of people working together."
This year's festival starts tomorrow and runs through June 19. And it has moved from one central location to more intimate spaces - the homes of performers.
"There's a nice feeling about home. There's an informality about it," performer Jenna Horton said. "I love it when you're in ordinary spaces and the theatrical steps in."
The pieces range in topics from Corinna Burns' memoir "Wasted House," about the ravages of alcoholism on a family, to Meghann Williams' "I Swear This One is Gonna Last and All Those Other Bastards Were Only Practice," an intimate look at a relationship. Pieces vary in length, too, and can be anywhere from "a 15-minute installation or a full-on hour-and-a-half performance," Grove said.
The performance spaces are clustered in Fishtown, Kensington and South Philly. The cross streets for these makeshift venues are featured on SoLow's website (solowfestival.blogspot.com). Exact addresses are given upon making a reservation for a performance by emailing email@example.com.
There aren't many avenues to do this type of thing. Even festivals that seemed designed for experimental expression, such as autumn's Fringe Festival, can be prohibitively expensive for one person because of application fees.
"We want to focus to be cheap or free to remind everyone that financial obligations shouldn't bar you from artistic expression," said Grove, whose piece "Grande' Wake-ning," the first part in a planned trilogy, is about a woman who must have a waking dream to stave off a cultural rapture. "Anything the artists charge goes right back to them. There's no festival fees, there's no marketing, there's no overhead."
Because the costs are low, artists are able to take risks. And the audience gets to see something that might not have been economically feasible on a bigger stage.
(The cost of admission is low, too. Shows range from pay-what-you-can to $10. "No one can be turned away for not being able to pay," Grove said.)
Horton, whose piece "ON AIR" features a radio-show host who may not actually be broadcasting to anyone, said the low cost for performers helps enormously. "This festival says solo, but not alone," she said.