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The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts announced the 2018 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts lineup of performances and shows from around the world.

In the span of 11 days, 50 shows will entertain crowds in a celebration of culture and diversity.

“The nature of these projects are focused on how we form community and how we express ourselves as a city,” said Jay Wahl, producing artistic director.

Performances during the festival include dance, live theater and interactive visual-art installations.

“We’re proud to present so many world-class artists that open our eyes about how we form community, collectively tell our stories, shepherd our flocks, define our individuality and defy gravity,” Wahl said.

“When I’m in the audience being awed by these shows, I realize that though the performers on stage may be of different race, gender or religion, I see how much we have in common as people celebrating together humanity’s courage, prowess, beauty and grace.”

One show premiering in Philadelphia during the festival is Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. The show is a 24-hour performance-art concert focusing on social history of the United States using popular music covering topics like diversity, civil and queer rights, and women fighting for the right to vote.

“The 24-hour show tells history of the United States from the point of view of those who systematically have been left out of the picture, people who did not have a voice,” said Wahl.

Mac is a theater artist, singer, songwriter and playwright who identifies with a unique gender pronoun: “judy.”

According to Wahl, Mac was inspired to write the show based on an experience in San Francisco. Around age 14, the theater artist attended an AIDS walk. It was the first time Taylor Mac saw people who were “out” as gay.

The 24-decade history will be presented in 24 hours, as two 12-hour parts.

“Someone has to tell this story,” Wahl said. “By acknowledging what has happened in our communities we can move forward together. That is the idea of this show, and I’d apply it to the whole festival.”

Another featured show looks at the role of gender and masculinity in culture by putting it to dance.

“My Organ My Seoul” is a male dance performance from South Korea looking at what it means to be a man in culture. The show is a world premiere.

Regardless of the plot, dance or song, each show celebrates individuality and unity.

“It’s defying gravity with your bodies, not about gender or sexuality, but physics and space,” said Wahl. “When we come together, we can achieve things.”

When looking to bring in talent, Wahl said he considers what would resonate with Philadelphia.

“I’m always interested in what are the questions we’re talking about, the challenges we’re struggling with and how can it be a gateway to open a dialogue.”

“For PIFA, I combine that interest with work that tends to be hard to describe, not classifiable, not just dance or music performance. It’s always about the relationship in real time, telling a story with the audience. The audience is the show and that’s what I’m really interested in. There is no barrier there,” Wahl added.

Each show and performance in the festival has different points of view for anyone to enjoy, he said.

“That serves to continually illustrate that we are in this together. This is our city and this makes our city. We are participants in the art.”

Other announced shows include Doggie Hamlet, an outdoor theatrical event that features five performers, three dogs and a flock of sheep; Cristal Palace and Tape Riot. 

The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts runs May 31-June 10. For more information on the festival’s shows, artists and performers, visit www.kimmelcenter.org/pifa.

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