Tribe of Fools plays with time travel in ‘Shut Your Wormhole’

 Frances Calter, Colleen Hughes and Tara Demmy seem to be enjoying rehearsals for “Shut Your Wormhole.” Credit: Christopher Haig Frances Calter, Colleen Hughes and Tara Demmy seem to be enjoying rehearsals for “Shut Your Wormhole.”
Credit: Christopher Haig

Almost precisely one year ago, Terry Brennan and Jay Wojnarowski sat in the Last Drop Cafe for hours, frantically brainstorming around the theme of time travel.

Tribe of Fools, their Philly-based experimental theater group, had always developed work from the troupe’s own idiosyncratic inspirations. But this time, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts came calling with an assignment. And if Tribe wanted the commission, they would have to conform to the fest’s 2013 theme: If you had a time machine, where would you go?

“We felt like if you made a time machine, the first thing that would happen is other people would start coming out of it, and they’d be hassling you — trying to get you to help them change things in their past,” says Brennan.

And with that, Tribe’s latest campy romp, “Shut Your Wormhole,” was born.

Drawing on influences from the era of serial radio dramas, “Wormhole” is broken up into 10-20 minute segments that will be presented, one per day, at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free, and Tribe is hoping to draw a following out of the Center City commuter crowd.

“We’re aiming for people walking home from work. We made it easy for them — come in, catch a quick thing, take off and come back tomorrow,” explains Brennan.

The quirky narrative was developed over the last year, with the company working in their usual technique: agreeing on a few rough plot points and continually improvising around them, making in-the-moment discoveries and refining their material along the way. And Tribe’s vision of the future is indeed a frightening and peculiar place. For starters, Jean-Claude Van Damme is president of the United States in 2024.

“We were really interested in the way movies influence our understanding of history. Like, when people discuss the JFK assassination, they often confuse the events of the [Oliver Stone] movie with real life,” says Brennan. “So, we had fun with the idea that a future society that discovered time travel would idolize action stars that appeared in time travel movies from the past.”

If you go

‘Shut Your Wormhole’

April 4-26

The Kimmel Center: Commonwealth Plaza 300 S. Broad St.

Free, 215-546-7432 www.pifa.org

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