Gas & Electric Arts
Gas & Electric Arts was co-founded by Lisa Jo Epstein and David Brown in 2005 so that they could mesh their respective strengths and passions in a multi-faceted theatre organization that would match their desires for the stage equally with their commitment to activism through theatre in the community. We chose our name because we believe that theatre should be an essential part of a community's life, an accessible, vital utility that ignites introspection even as it generates dynamic dialogue around who we are and what we desire. Like electricity in action, the intangible that sparks energy, we created Gas & Electric Arts to make theatrical work that stimulates us to think again, to live more fully in the present moment, and to never forget the power of our five senses.
Gas & Electric Arts produces plays by living playwrights who are boldly redefining American theatre. It was thus that we launched the company by mounting Lisa d’Amour’s Anna Bella Eema in 2005 in a tiny theatre with few resources. The excitement around our debut propelled us to obtain our non-profit status so that we could institutionalize our vision. Our second show, in the fall 2006, was the first of three national theater companies to produce the world premiere of Abi Basch’s expressionistic play Voices Underwater. We mounted it at the Adrienne Theatre mainstage for three weeks during the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Our multi-layered performance style was considered innovative, thought-provoking and completely different than any other theatre in Philadelphia. In September 2007, we mounted the East Coast premiere of Kira Obolensky’s play Quick Silver to great acclaim. We collaborated with Tim Harbeson, a composer and puppet designer, to forge a striking new production with all original music and puppets. 2008 marked Gas & Electric Arts fourth year and our first two-play season: O Yes I Will (I will remember the spirit and texture of this conversation) by Deb Margolin and a completely re-imagined production of Anna Bella Eema. In 2008 we received our first Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Award (PTI) to commission Obolensky to write and collaborate on the creation of an original work for Gas & Electric Arts. This world premiere, Cabinet of Wonders: An Impossible History was performed in the fall of 2009.
Since 2006, Gas & Electric Arts has expanded its theatre-based education program, designed primarily for non-actors, by offering short workshops and longer-term residencies which enable participants to explore the self, society and how to make individual and community change. Participants gain playful yet powerful new tools for negotiating conflict, addressing personal and group struggles, dreams, and building community. Through interactive activities rooted in the work of Augusto Boal (Nobel Peace Prize Finalist 2008) with whom Epstein trained extensively in the USA and at the Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed in Paris France, this work is designed to awaken participants to their own capabilities, explore challenging issues in non-competitive, open ways and offer a chance for honest dialogue through the moving language of images and theatre. We regularly train artists, educators, activists, and social service professionals in these techniques.