Fringe Festival 2020 is almost here, and although the festival, for the most part, will be taking place through the virtual sphere, there are two new aspects of the beloved art tradition that all Philadelphians can take part in without a screen.
Two new walking tours will be included in the Fringe Festival’s line-up of cultural activities, and both experiences will give users a unique look at the City of Brotherly Love. TrailOff is an audio storytelling app that utilizes users phones to transport them into an augmented reality world that also syncs movement through ten different trails around the city, and Walk Around Philadelphia is a 100-mile self-guided tour that explores Philadephia’s perimeter.
Trail Off puts Philadelphians right in the middle of a story as they become characters who must run from monsters, uncover clues to mysteries, or adventure into unknown secrets from the past in stories synced in real-time. There are ten trail dramas total, and each one is available to download through the app.
The idea came to lead artist Adrienne Mackey in 2017 when she decided to merge the world of nature with technology and storytelling in one compact format. According to a release, through her company, Swim Pony, Mackey partnered with the PEC and app developer Toasterlab to bring interactive stories to the region’s trail systems using responsive technology and design. A team of writers, actors and musicians then spent two years with Mackey and sound designer/composer Michael Kiley creating the audio-dramas you hear in TrailOff. Mackey also worked with writer TS Hawkins to develop a central narrator character (a mythic being called The Ranger) who guides users through the app, voiced by local performer STARFIRE
The stories involved in TrailOff span from enchanting tales to urban legends from the area including covering the Jersey Devil (River Devil II: The Return by Carmen Maria Machado), an Afrofuturism-inspired mythology mystery (Li Sumpter’s Chronicles of Asylum), Arabic diaspora (A Sycamore’s Psalm by donia salem harhoor) and more. Each story and adventure can go at the user’s own pace and is also scored with original music and design that features binaural audio, giving the experience a true 360 feel that fills the spaces between one scene on the trail and the next.
The PA Environmental Council also decided to partner up with Swim Pony for this new experience to help add an environmental aspect to the project. Together, both organizations decided to choose trails that highlight a diversity of landscapes and also partnered each writer with a non-profit trail advocate to assist with research and local knowledge of the site.
After each walk the app’s interface will also shift from its standard map to a behind-the- scenes portal. The portal will give users the opportunity to check out podcast-style interviews with writers as well as more info on points of interest near the trail to give users deeper insight into the spaces they’ve just explored while participating.
TrailOff will premiere this fall (Sept. 10) in conjunction with FringeArts, and the app will be available to download for a year after its launch.
The second walking experience hitting the city next month sings a slightly different tune.
Walk Around Philadelphia is one perimeter walk around the city that encompasses over 100 miles, and is said to take about 5.5 days to complete, however, the walk can also be broken into smaller segments and completed over months or years. Groups are self- organized, choose their own routes, and can take on the walk on their own time and at their own pace.
The walk was created by Jacques-Jean “JJ” Tiziou, who has trekked the 100 miles around Philly five times before already. According to the release, Walk Around Philadelphia was born in 2016 from a collaboration with Ann de Forest, Adrienne Mackey and Sam Wend through a Swim Pony Performing Arts residency. Tiziou has continued the walk as a personal pilgrimage annually, leading growing groups through this urban exploration, and this is the first time the walk has been offered outside of February.
Participants who sign up for the tour will be provided with everything they need to complete the scenic trek including limited- edition perimeter passports, printed maps, reflective safety belts and more.
Tickets for this tour are available now through FringeArts website.
Even though the four-week long celebration of some of the most diverse and cultural expressions of the city is for the most part not in-person this year, Philadelphians will still have this opportunity to get up, get moving and learn about the city with unique first-hand experiences—no matter which walking experience they choose.
For more information, visit fringearts.com