How broken instruments provided bonding — and a prop — for a Philly sketch comedy team - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 8, 2017 12:22 pm

How broken instruments provided bonding — and a prop — for a Philly sketch comedy team

The members of Fezziwig, a house sketch team at Philly Improv Theater, paid to repair one of the broken violins from "Symphony for a Broken Orchestra" after using one of the broken conga drums for their holiday-themed show.

"Symphony for a Broken Orchestra."

(Photo via twitter.com/DAFrizzG)

Last weekend’s performance of “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra” at the 23rd Street Armory saw 400 people from all backgrounds playing some of the more than 1,000 broken instruments owned by the School District of Philadelphia.

The spectacle, which featured a composition by Grammy Award– and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang and earned a good amount of local and national attention, was organized by a number of arts- and music-focused groups around the city such as Tyler School of Art’s Temple Contemporary and the Philadelphia Orchestra to highlight the need for more music education funding for the city’s schools.

(Here’s a snippet of what a group playing broken instruments sounds like.)

So now that it’s all said and done, where do we go from here?

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Well for one, Temple Contemporary will be working with instrument repairers to start fixing up the instruments so that they can head back to the schools they came from where they’ll hopefully be played once again.

About $222,000 has been raised for instrument repair so far, according to a Fund for the School District of Philadelphia rep. You can help push along the effort by paying a minimum of $50 to adopt an instrument.

And that’s exactly what the Fezziwig house sketch team at Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) did after one of the members, Wendy Lenhart, had a chance to be a part of the broken orchestra this past weekend. Her instrument? Conga Drum #19. (All of the instruments have a specific ID number.)

Lenhart, who played percussion in high school, said in an email that she originally just wanted to adopt a snare drum “in honor of my school section.” But getting to play in the orchestra, which involved the challenge of learning how to play a drum that had a hole at the top, “was probably the most fun I’ve had all year.”

Wendy Lenhart and Drumington Steel. (Photo courtesy of Temple Contemporary)

But Lenhart decided to take her involvement in the initiative even further by asking Temple Contemporary if she could borrow the conga drum for her sketch team’s holiday sketch show, “Sketch the Halls,” which had its first show the day before the first performance of “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra.”

The fact that the prop was a broken one actually fit in pretty well with the show’s wacky theme — “What if the Nativity was actually an AirBnB?” “Sketch the Halls” has four more shows, including one tonight at 9 p.m.

For Lenhart, the meshing of the two creative projects was purely coincidental but it also provided an important bonding time with her sketch team members, many of whom also played instruments when they were younger, to remind them of the importance of arts education in schools.

It’s why they all pooled some money to adopt another instrument, Violin #115, as a team.

“It was a part of our creative expression as young people and music teaches people to work together — just as we do to write comedy shows at PHIT,” Lenhart said. “The arts is one of the those things that just bring people together.”

Fezziwig’s “Sketch the Halls” show last weekend. (Courtesy photo)

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