Brat Productions began in 1996 when theatre artist Madi Distefano directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a brick- and ivy-covered courtyard in Philadelphia. The unique atmosphere was made even more accessible with a BYOB policy and a $5 ticket price. Over the years Brat has experienced tremendous growth: from one show per season to three or more; from a budget of $7,000 to nearly $200,000; and from an unknown “fringe” entity to an award-winning company with a fiercely loyal audience and a reputation for experimentation and bravado. Brat explores new plays and re-envisioned classics, collaborates with emerging local and national artists, and produces work in non-traditional venues—all while offering one of the most affordable tickets in town.
Highlights of our History:
1997: Eye-95, written by Distefano, is a hit at both the New York and Philadelphia Fringe Festivals and cited as a "Perfect Example of Fringe" by a panel at Fringe NYC.
1998: A 24-Hour The Bald Soprano--Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist masterpiece--is performed by a six-member ensemble for 24 hours straight. "There is NOW no other way of performing Ionesco’s absurd comedy," raves Philadelphia’s City Paper; "An inspired choice."
2000: J. Cooper Robb of the Philadelphia Weekly names Brat "Theatre Company of the Year"; Max in Hollywood, Baby! is our first show for families, offered FREE to the public during the Philly Fringe; Rum and Vodka and This Lime Tree Bower, two plays by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, play in rep at Fergie’s Pub, an authentic Irish watering hole.
2001: Brat wins the Arts/Business Partnership Award from the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia for our work with Fergie’s Pub; Back at the Fringe, Brat pairs up with Greg Giovanni for Naked Cocktail. This original tale of world domination--complete with musical numbers--rears its ugly head at the Five Spot;
2002: Howie the Rookie, by Mark O’Rowe marks a triumphant return to pub theatre. Set in Lucy’s Hat Shop and Drinker’s Tavern, this two-man show plays to sell-out houses and rave reviews:
- "Nobody does the Fringe festival quite like Brat Productions" (Theatremania.com).
-"Brat is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of Irish Theatre" (BackStage Magazine).
2003: The Lazy Activist Series consists of 4 political site-specific events, created for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. This series was offered free to the public.
2004: Another fruitful season for Brat. Our Spring Festival (HoneyPot; adolescent girls in sticky situations) features a trio of shows exploring the complexity of school-age girls in the United States. Popsicle’s Departure, 1989 by and with Madi Distefano is Philadelphia Weekly’s Best New Play and earns two Barrymore Nominations for Best New Play and Best Leading Actress. Moby-Dick Rehearsed by Orson Welles, featuring an all-female cast, earns James Sugg a Barrymore nomination for Best Sound Design.
2005: Brat returns to Fergie’s Pub in January to present Eden, which garners Madi Distefano a Barrymore Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play. Later that season, Brat teams up with Tapestry Theatre to present a production of the musical Grease. Samuel French orders a Cease-and-Desist due to the all-female cast. In response, the creative team pulls a 24-hour writing session and emerges with Grease and Desist -- opening it 2 days later to a packed house and a standing ovation. The production is nominated for 2 Barrymore Awards: Best Original Music, and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Sarah Doherty’s portrayal of Rosie.
Our participation in the TCG Free Night of Theatre leads to a full week of free performances of previously produced pub plays, entitled Razing the Bar, Tavern Tales on Tap. We bring in over 300 new patrons to Brat Productions and give them a free treat.
2006: Brat debuts Causeway: Modern Slavery, series of short, curated pieces to raise awareness about social issues and give artists a supportive environment in which to create work that responds to social issues.
Kicking off Brat's 10th Anniversary Season in 2006 was Eye-95: Retarred, a re-writing and re-envisioning of the musical that started it all! This punk rock, crystal meth, stripper-tastic show was the hit of the Live Arts festival.
2007: Madi Distefano steps down as Artistic Director and Michael Alltop joins Brat to lead the company into its second decade. A whirlwind string of hits follows, including Three Chord Fiction (winner of The Ted and Stevie Wolf Barrymore Award for New Approaches to Collaboration), the 10th Anniversary revival of A 24-Hour The Bald Soprano; Fatboy, a raucous, brutal comedy by John Clancy that serves as Brat's entry to the Philly Fringe; and A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant; the controversial tongue-in-cheek musical about L. Ron Hubbard and the founding of a new age empire.
2008: User 927, a Brat-commissioned world premiere play, opens in June and garners unprecedented attention from the media—including the Associated Press, USA Today, ABC.com (with Charles Gibson), NPR.org, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) and London South East. For the Philly Fringe Brat tries something completely different, offering Martha and Dotty: Microwave Mambo! -- a download-only comedy voiced by a super-group of Barrymore Award-winners including Jennifer Childs, Karen Getz and Grace Gonglewski. In November Brat joins forces with the Painted Bride Art Center to present an all-new production of Naked Cocktail as part of the Greg Giovanni Retro-fest. Cocktail gets an extreme makeover with all new designs and actors, and with Distefano now serving as director. Brat fills the Bride with cocktail tables and flickering votives, and pumps in “smoke” to create the requisite seediness of a pre-smoking-ban dive bar. With a sponsorship from Sly Fox Brewery, audiences chug free beers and shots of booze upon entering the “Suck Down the Poison Café” for the night’s entertainment. Two raucous, sold-out shows attest to the continued popularity of this quintessential Brat production.
2009: During a time of economic implosion, thwarted Super Bowl hopes and bone-rattling winds testing the mettle of all Philadelphians—Brat comes up with a sure-fire way to get people to attend a show: stage it in a bar. For 3 weeks in February we present the Pub Theatre Fest at Fergie’s, a series of eclectic shows with $10 tickets and a free pint of beer. The festival, staged simply but with wide-ranging and ambitious subject matter, features six works spanning centuries of theatre: ancient epics, surreal commedia, contemporary Irish drama, and—for good measure—a hillbilly hoedown. Each night a different actor or group takes the stage, and Brat builds an audience through word-of-mouth and features in the local press. The shows include Beowulf, a blistering one-man rendition of the Old English epic enacted by adaptor/actor Charlie Bethel; Gilgamesh, Bethel’s one-man exploration of epic themes in a dazzling performance of the oldest recorded story in the world; Buddy Felch Tells It Like It Is, a profane and seriously demented extended monologue, with songs, by noted Philly actor Anthony Lawton; Johnny Showcase Hosts an Evening with Tempo Dello Spuntino, a rollicking evening of contemporary commedia sprung from the manic minds of Bradley Wrenn, Justin Jain, Brendon Gawel and David Sweeny; Eden, a staged reading of Eugene O’Brien’s play featuring Madi Distefano in the role that won her a Barrymore Award; and Go Irish: The Purgatory Diaries of Jason Miller, an intense one-man show by Tom Flannery and Rodger Jacobs that examines the soul in afterlife of the late Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and film and television actor Jason Miller. Also, in 2009, Haunted Poe, Brat's largest and most ambitious show to date.