The Wilma Theater’s annual Fête Fundraiser has always been an event that serves many purposes. One, it’s a time for creatives and art lovers to come together for one night of entertainment, and two, it’s also a vehicle for the Wilma to keep their contribution to the Philly arts scene alive.
“We have undervalued art for generations and I think the pandemic has shown people that art and performance may be some of the only things that truly bring us together,” says Adam Weiner, frontman of Low Cut Connie.
Weiner’s band was born and bred in Philadelphia before hitting the road all around the globe performing at major festivals like the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, Bottlerock and beyond, and even performing at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration earlier this year. Now, Low Cut Connie can add headlining the Wilma’s Fête Fundraiser to their resume.
“I’ve performed in many countries around the world but sometimes it’s just being able to play in a little club,” explains Weiner. “Like right here in Philly, we’ve got a bar called Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar….And just playing there for the people of South Philly, that’s a highlight. Even as much as getting on the stage for 8,000-10,000 people at a music festival. There’s nothing better than being in a little bar and being eyeball to eyeball with people and playing.”
The fundraiser slated for Sunday, April 11, will be an occasion worth watching, even digitally… although virtual entertainment is par for the course for Weiner.
In March 2020, Weiner began broadcasting directly to his quarantined fans with his ‘Tough Cookies’ live streams, described as: “A live and unscripted variety show where Weiner could pull from his catalog of hundreds of songs, play covers he had learned five minutes before, offer inspirational monologues, strip to his underwear at the piano, and invite his heroes on for intimate conversations.”
Those livestreams garnered viewers from over 40 countries.
“For whatever reason, by the second episode of it, we had hundreds of thousands of people from around the world watching it. It just spread,” says Weiner.”I sort of committed myself last year to doing it all year. It’s not exactly a concert, it’s more of what I would call a variety show. We’re singing songs, doing monologues, using comedy, I’m reading palms through the phone—just doing anything to lift people’s spirits in a time when entertainment was really lost. So, it’s become my job.”
For the fundraiser this Sunday, audiences can expect Weiner to follow a similarly creative and artistic suit with all of his performances, pre-pandemic and post. “If anybody’s tuned in for ‘Tough Cookies’ they’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that I’m going to give 110%. Just because I’m in my house, and just because we can’t physically wrap our arms around each other and I can’t mess up your hair in the front row and we can’t hug each other, doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it my all. So, I’m going to treat my performance for the Fête and for The Wilma like I would if I was playing at Madison Square Garden or anywhere,” he explains.
According to the release, the 2021 digital Fête will feature streamed performances, special guest appearances by Wilma HotHouse Company members and the cohort of four co-artistic directors, and more – all topped off by a fabulous virtual dance party. The event serves as The Wilma’s main fundraiser for the season, and the company relies on the money raised to support their artistic programming as well as community outreach and educational programs that serve many of the Wilma’s Philadelphia neighbors during this difficult and isolating time. This year’s Fête is hosted by Wilma HotHouse Company artists and creators of the online talk show ‘Poppapank’ Jaylene Clark Owens and Justin Jain, and it will all be streamed live April 11 starting at 5:30 p.m.
“I was just so happy to work with them because I’ve enjoyed so many performances at The Wilma,” says Weiner. “They are a huge part of the arts community in Philadelphia. I started in rock and roll, [but] I love theatre and band and comedy and film and all of the things that the Wilma is doing with their programming… It’s lifeblood for art in Philadelphia.”