by Rory McGlasson
A world-renowned theatre group has found a new home on Mifflin Street. Now they hope its neighbors get to know who they are.
It seems bizarre that Archedream for Humankind, a blacklight mask dance and theater company that seeks to evoke â€œarchetypes,â€ is well-known around the world, but not in its hometown. Itâ€™s true, though.
While on a family vacation out West, community activist Andy Toy saw the group perform.
â€œWhen they told me they were from Philly, I was amazed I had never seen or heard of them,â€ said Toy. How can a jewel like Archedream be known around the country and the world, but not in its hometown?â€
The Philadelphia-based group has performed in San Francisco Taiwan and New York City. Last week, the group performed in South Philadelphia at its â€œFriend-raser.â€
Over 75 people crammed into a side-street venue at 1324 Mifflin Street for the performance. Councilman Mark Squilla was in the audience, as was Toy.
The troupe is the vision and voice of South African native Alan Bell. Growing up in the age of apartheid, he resolved to find an artform that would unify the racially divided audience. In 1976, Alan fled to Amsterdam where he discovered the power of the tradition of mask theater to convey stories and unifying truths in a dreamlike and mythological way, resonating with the audienceâ€™s subconscious perceptions and outward expressions.
By combining the bold subtleties of mask theatre with the medium of black light, Alan has discovered a method to bridge his African roots and inherited European and American culture to create archetypal theatre that transforms by relieving audiences of suppressed feelings that is at the root of our alienation from one another.
In 2000, Alan and Glenn Weikert, a musician and multimedia artist, founded ArcheDream For Humankind and established itself in Philadelphia. Through the use of black light, mask and dance to touch the human heart, to communicate universal emotions, and to inspire the soul, ADHK brings transformative performances and workshops to diverse audiences throughout the Delaware Valley. UV light accentuates the supernatural aspect of its performance.
The group had a home in West Philadelphia up until last year, but the rented building was in serious disrepair, so ADHK had to move. The group performs workshops, which is what makes its new South Philly studio on Mifflin Street,a great venue.
â€œWhen are you guys performing again?â€ was a question one South Philadelphia audience member asked after a 30-minute performance last Wednesday night.
The problem is, the group does not know when they can perform again.
They do workshops, though.
South Philadelphia property owners Bob Santoro and Marsha Shiflet rented the space to the group. Now the troupe wants to get to know its neighbors. /Rory McGlasson