Scratch Night is a Philly tradition that has grown out of the Fringe Arts movement. For one hour, a series of artists - from acting companies to dancing troupes - display varying works in progress. It's a great way to witness art in the making and to sample the array of acts Philadelphia offers.
Fringe Arts first formed in 1997, and Scratch Night began in 2010. For many years, each act's performance was followed by an intensive talk-back session - which made for some very long Scratch Nights.
After six years, the event has been streamlined into its lean current format. Held the first Monday of every month, there are usually four to six acts, with each occupying the stage for 10 to 15 minutes. It allows artists to see if their content is working and audiences to take the pulse of the scene. The whole thing is followed by a family-style meal, usually roasted chicken, pasta, and various vegetables, catered by La Peg. That's when feedback can be exchanged among artists and audience members who stick around.
"This is definitely one of our longest-running traditions here," says Hallie Martenson, the communications director for Fringe Arts. "It's really ingrained in the DNA of Fringe Arts."
Martenson is performing a solo show at this week's Scratch Night, MonkeySong, a coming-of-age tale based on her experiences living on a hippie commune in New Mexico as a child.
Other performers this Monday include John Hawthorne and the Hopefuls, "a punk band with presidential pretensions"; travel writer Jimmy Grzelak, who will read from recent work about his travels in Eurasia; and Daniel Park's We Need to Talk, about a breakup set to a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style, die-rolling format. (Park also created a recent Fringe show called You Are the Hero, a kind of choose-your-own adventure live-action Zelda game.)
Rounding out the evening will be another solo performance by bravura Philadelphia playwright Sam Henderson, which bears a title that cannot be printed in a family newspaper, and Sam Tower's I'd Rather Choke Than Be a Quitter, another imaginative, slightly psychedelic offering from the creative minds that brought this year's Fringe hit 901 Nowhere Street.
Scratch Night starts at 7 p.m. Monday at Fringe Arts, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard. The suggested donation for admission is $5.