Set a Flight Pattern to see “Fly Eagles Fly” at the Fringe Arts Festival

Tribe of Fools soars to higher theatrical heights with an Eagles-themed FringeArts show.

By Joseph Myers

Until February 4, when the Philadelphia Eagles used their talons and talents to defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, holding allegiance to the Birds had mostly meant dealing with disappointment. Now that the gridiron group holds championship distinction, the city has collectively found itself captivated and even adopting atypical athletic swagger. South Philly-heavy performance collective Tribe of Fools chose to capture that joy through “Fly Eagles Fly,” a runaway favorite in this year’s FringeArts Festival.

Action shot from “Fly Eagles Fly.”Credit: Plate 3 Photography

“It’s so interesting, especially in Philadelphia, how sports can affect so many individuals’ demeanors and dispositions,” artistic director Terry Brennan, who is also co-directing the 90-minute look at fandom and friendship, said before a recent performance. “When we look back to seven months ago, that’s where we got that rare example of just how good it can feel to go from being in the hunt to being the best of the best.”

“Fly Eagles Fly” performers (left to right) Nathan Alford-Tate, Janice Rowland, Taiwo Sokan, Jacinta Yelland, Kyle Yackoski. Credit: Plate 3 Photography

The West Passyunk resident and his peers are presenting the office-situated comedy through September 22 at Center City’s Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake. Touching on the depth of personal interactions, social matters, self-knowledge and concern for others—all frequent Tribe of Fools themes—the plot follows the riveting 2017 campaign that culminated in the title game upset over the vaunted Patriots, whose quarterback ends up as a character dubbed “evil, imaginary Tom Brady” in the show.

Left to right: Nathan Alford-Tate, Kyle Yackoski, Taiwo Sokan, Janice Rowland, Jacinta Yelland. Credit: Plate 3 Photography

The piece features a puppet aspect which meshes beautifully with the five-member cast. This provides audiences with a simultaneously jovial and serious examination of office exchanges – with the thespians bonding over football yet questioning what their admiration and occasional disdain for the sport mean for their own maturation process and their endowment of empathy toward one another. Fast-paced, much like the pastime that it so expertly dissects, the action sees the hires display such unity that one could do no wrong in enlisting them to teach a chemistry course. Blessed with a highly commendable script, they exhibit confidence in exploring a topic that has often left Philadelphians short on that very blessing, namely, the Eagles’ chances of emerging as the last squad standing among the National Football League’s 32 franchises.

“Last season’s run validated hardcore fans’ devotion to this team even more, and it also invited new people to join the flock,” Brennan said of two types of dedication that the play addresses. “No matter where someone stood, though, we all got this eternal gift of camaraderie, and that’s so moving.”

In soaring higher than they had ever done, the Eagles became legends and have done their part to intensify Tribe of Fools’ theater community standing, as “Fly Eagles Fly” has proven a favorite among FringeArts attendees, according to votes cast via the festival’s feedback application. The NFL Network has often replayed the Birds’ history-making win, giving an obvious nod to their moment in time. After having seen “Fly Eagles Fly,” theater buffs might want to emulate those who repeatedly watch the replay (you know you who are!) by going to see this play again and again. I can guarantee you that just as is the case with the television airing, the Eagles will win every time.

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