BEAUTIFUL ZION: A BOOK OF THE DEAD
written and performed by Jeffrey Stanley
directed by Daniel Student
"[This show is among] the most striking and provocative. You might be shocked by what you see, but we promise you won’t be sorry. Stanley courageously bares his soul, divulging family secrets, haunting dreams, interpretations of Nietzsche and his ideas of human happiness. Get your tickets as soon as possible; only 16 are sold per show in order to involve and affect every member of the audience."
- Ellie Levitt, The Daily Pennsylvanian, 'Top 5 Must Sees at Live Arts & Philly Fringe'
"One of the most exciting aspects of the Fringe Festival is when it draws audiences to places they’ve never been before and might never have a chance to go again, whether it’s a room in an unknown mansion or in the depths of a possibly haunted grotto. After the demise of a close relative who drank himself to death, Jeffrey Stanley became obsessed with communicating with the dead through Ouija boards. Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead is a “real dark comedy” about the years he spent trying to talk to the other side. But how could all that eeriness (and humor) be conveyed in a traditional theater space? So the New York expat looked for a stage appropriate for the macabre elements of his decidedly funny show. He found the Blue Grotto. It’s decked out in thousands of blue lights on light fixtures by artist Randy Dalton. Stanley equates it to a mad scientist’s laboratory. ‘It’s visually stunning, it’s creepy as hell, it’s in the cellar of an old building and it might be haunted,’ Stanley said.
- Molly Eichel, Philadelphia Daily News
"It's a one-man show, but award-winning playwright Jeffrey Stanley isn't the only one in it. At least, he hopes not. The supporting cast is made up of ghosts — if they're willing to make an appearance. Years in the making, the new play includes elements of an earlier work Stanley performed in New York under the curation of Andy Warhol pal Neke Carson. The play is 'about communication between family members while they're alive and maybe even after they're dead,' Stanley says. Expect humor, but also 'a lot of death, a lot of suffering, a lot of human misery.'"
- Matt Cantor, Philadelphia City Paper
Post-show walk-through of the entire set beginning with the "hell room" where the seances took place and then moving into the Blue Grotto proper, with all prop photos, papers, martini paraphernalia, and the antique suitcase hung or laying as they are by the show's end, having been pulled and attached to chains hanging from sculptures in the seating area, or passed around for audience inspection.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August, 2011
Philadelphia, PA – Shiva3 is proud to announce the world premiere of acclaimed New York playwright and NYU faculty Jeffrey Stanley's autobiographical, darkly comic monologue BEAUTIFUL ZION: A BOOK OF THE DEAD at the 2011 Philly Fringe Festival. The 70-minute show will be performed in the Blue Grotto, artist-in-residence Randy Dalton's blue-illuminated wonderland in the dark, dank, mysterious cellar of the CEC on 35th and Lancaster, at 8pm on Wed 9/7/11, Thurs 9/8/11, Fri 9/9/11, Sat 9/10/11, Wed 9/14/11, Thur 9/15/11, Fri 9/16/11 and Sat 9/17/11, for a total of 8 performances.
This diabolical, supernatural, comical, theatrical event explores family secrets, homemade ouija boards, inept dream interpretation, Nietzsche, and death by acute alcoholism: all the things that make life worth living. Featuring live ouija action from audience volunteers, the show has multiple endings depending on which ghosts appear.
|The monologue will also be staged in an
"The Fringe is all about pushing
boundaries and performing works in nontraditional spaces," explained
Stanley, "so rather than do the show in a place you'd expect, like
upstairs in the Meeting House Theatre at the CEC, I'm doing it inside
Randy Dalton's moody, meditative Blue Grotto installation in the
cellar, made up of thousands of blue lights, many of them in antique
fixtures, giving the place an almost Victorian feel.
The seating area is intentionally limited but comfortable, so only 16 tickets will be sold per show. "That's okay," said Stanley. "With such a small audience I'm clearly not doing this for the money. I'm doing it to make cool art in a cool space. It's an intimate, creepy, magical story so an intimate, creepy, magical space seems appropriate. I also love that the CEC is a former Quaker meeting house and school dating back to 1837," he said. "I had looked high and low across Philly for a performance space that fit the bill of being old, of being intimate, of feeling spiritual in some sense, and of being potentially haunted. Other contenders had included the Edgar Allan Poe House basement, the Mutter Museum and Laurel Hill Cemetery. When I remembered my visits to the Blue Grotto during an early visit to Philadelphia two years ago it was, no pun intended, like a light bulb going off. Make that a zillion blue light bulbs."
Stanley was thrilled that Daniel Student, artistic director of Philly's historic Plays & Players Theatre and the driving force behind the popular Superheroes Who Are Super reading series, accepted his offer to helm this new work. "I've been gradually resettling in Philly from Manhattan since 2009," Stanley said, "and doing a lot of lurking in the city's theatre scene. When you're in a city that likes the idea of putting cheese on steak, and of rioting and flipping over cars when their team wins, you have to be careful how you proceed. The last thing you want to do is offend someone. I became aware of Dan's work by sneaking into the many shows he's directed, and by stalking him at Quig's Pub. You can smoke there and the drinks are cheap, so naturally actors and directors flock to it." Stanley added, "Dan's a visual, imaginative, brave, quick-witted director. He's the perfect match for BEAUTIFUL ZION: A BOOK OF THE DEAD."
"I myself am not a believer in spirits," director Dan Student about his involvement with this unique show, "but now I want to be. When I read Jeff's play I knew I was in for a journey into a strange and exciting world. He bares his soul in a way that is at once deeply personal to him and universal to us all. It's a perfect blend of snarky comedy, touching melodrama, and a chance for the audience to interact in wonderful and magical ways."
Freemasonry Fridays – for both Friday shows, the first three ticket holders to discretely wear their Masonic rings or other authentic Masonic logo jewelry and show it to Jeffrey Stanley in secret before the show will secretly be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate. Don't try to pull a fast one—Stanley knows his Masonic jewelry.
Paranormal Psaturdays (so much for alliteration on this one) - for both Saturday shows, the first three ticket holders to show Jeff a convincing photograph or smartphone video clip of authentic-looking paranormal activity in their homes will be given a $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate.
BEAUTIFUL ZION: A BOOK OF THE DEAD in the 2011 Philly Fringe
When: Wed 9/7, Thurs 9/8, Fri 9/9, Sat 9/10, Wed 9/14, Thur 9/15, Fri 9/16 and Sat 9/17, at 8pm sharp. Seating begins at 7:45pm.
Where: SEE MAP. The Community Education Center (CEC) on 35th and Lancaster in the Blue Grotto in the cellar. By subway take the blue Market-Frankford line to 34th, walk up the hill on 34th to Lancaster, turn left and walk one block. The CEC is a large brick building on your left. PARKING is also available in the CEC's rear parking lot at 3590 Warren Street (on 34th Street turn onto Filbert Street and merge onto Warren; map to parking lot here).
Tickets: $20, purchased only in advance through the Fringe Festival website, http://www.livearts-fringe.org. No tickets will be sold in person at the door.