Photo: Very Good Dance Theatre, photographed by Christopher Sonny Martinez

Stand in your purpose. Step into joy.

In alignment with our 2024 programming theme, Conjuring Joy at the Bride is our new artist-in-residence program to nurture the Philadelphia art scene. We’ve selected 4 local artists from an open call who will be granted 2 months of rehearsal space, artistic development opportunities, and a stipend to build community both with their cohort and with our surrounding West Philadelphia neighbors.

All residents will present public offerings (performances, workshops, in-progress showings, etc.) in late summer. Stay tuned for event announcements!


Matthew Armstead, “Thriving Together”

Matthew Armstead (they/them), founder of Culture Work Studios, is a seasoned leader with 15+ years at the intersection of justice movements and artistic expression. They make performance experiences for audiences to reclaim power and embody our liberation now. Matthew engages audiences by intertwining community organizing, popular education, and physical theatre techniques. Recent works include Song Bridge & Magic Lagoon (Cannonball Festival), and Inspira: The Power of the Spiritual (Theatre for Transformation). A recipient of an M.F.A. from Pig Iron Theatre Company and the University of the Arts, Matthew holds a B.A. in Theater and Women’s Studies from Swarthmore College.

Thriving Together aims to reinforce paths that lead us to our wholeness by exploring ways to move through the 2024 election season and thrive. We already live with the political polarization, frenzied new media, and lingering stress of a pandemic that comes before and after an election. Rather than burnout while struggling or numb the discomfort, we can come together across our differences and face the challenges feeling well-resourced. The Bride Space will be the creative nucleus for experiments in music making and recording, movement in the studio, as well as street performances that engage SEPTA passengers at 52nd and Market. During March, in a culminating installation, audiences will traverse between live performances, time capsules, and comfort food. Together, with the Conjuring Joy cohort and other collaborators, I’m excited to celebrate our freedom to thrive.

Cassidy Arrington, “Naming Ceremony”

Cassidy Arrington (they/them) is a 22 year old poet, photographer, and videographer from Philadelphia, PA with a BA in Ethnicity, Race, & Migration Studies from Yale University. Arrington’s artwork centers intimacy and adolescence in queer and Black kinships. Their practice has been heavily informed by their own experience growing up as a queer Black kid. Poetry has served as an important artistic outlet for Arrington through their involvement with the Philly Youth Poetry Movement, Brave New Voices International Poetry Festival, Yale University Art Gallery and WORD Performance Poetry at Yale. Growing up in the Philadelphia visual art and poetry scene, Arrington developed an intimate relationship to the arts as a means for survival. They channeled this perspective into their photography, determined to depict urban, Black, and queer communities with care.

Naming Ceremony: As someone with complex feelings toward my body as a mark of gender, I intend to use self portraiture, portraiture, and poetry as a practice of noticing and excavating the queer self from the physical body. I would photograph myself and others in the studio setting, living spaces, and the surrounding landscape. Furthermore, I would channel my own experiences, quality time with subjects, and conversations into poems about gender, erotica, and love.

Colby Calhoun/Very Good Dance Theatre, “TENANTS/TENETS”

From Colby Calhoun (they/she): We are a queer led, BIPOC centered, collaborative collective of artists that play with the ideas of what is dance, what is theatre, and what is “good”. We devise brand new works of performance that traverse the genres of dance, theatre, and other performance discipline – always at the intersection of arts and activism. Very Good Dance Theatre (VGDT) was founded in 2018 as an artistic home for queer/trans & BIPOC artists in Dallas, TX, Texas at large, and now is expanding to find a similar home in Philadelphia, PA.

Since 2018, selected to participate in AT&T PAC’s 2020/21 Elevator Project Season, and was chosen amongst the first cohort of Artists In Residence at Arts Mission Oak Cliff in 2021. Most recently, in 2023, VGDT was award a BIPOC NWT grant from the Cannonball Festival for their Philadelphia premier, The Other Gardeners, and is excited to be in residency at The Painted Bride in 2024.

Very Good Dance Theatre continues to make work as an independent theatre group through festivals, residencies, and other opportunities like this.

TENANTS/TENETS is an immersive afro-futurist dance theater experiment, that spontaneously generates a new society by and for its participants. During this residency the ensemble returns to the piece, originally workshopped in 2021, to create a new iteration side-by-side with their audience. This piece will ask us all to examine the ways we work together and with the community(s) we are a part of, and we’re excited to ask and answer those questions together. Welcome to the colony, it’s y(our) house/(y)our rules!

Francesca Montanile Lyons, “1001 Unread Messages”

Francesca Montanile Lyons (she/her) is a director, performer, visual artist, and educator based in Philadelphia. Across mediums, her work seeks to disempower shame and taboo through playful honesty & voyeuristic delight. Credits include co-creating/directing Dear Diary LOL (PHL FringeArts & New Ohio), Rough & Tumble (Cannonball Fest & LeMondo), Van Gogh Shogh by Donna Oblongata (PHL Fringe), Legal Tender (PHL Fringe & AntFest), Fourth Quarter (FPA Fest), directing Die, Dumping, Die! (MuralArts), Sometimes the Rain, Sometimes the Sea (UArts), and performing/co-creating Girl Poop (2018-2021). MFA in Devised Performance, UArts/Pig Iron School (2016). BA in Theatre Arts & Performance Studies, Brown U (2011).

1001 Unread Messages is a performance and gallery experience in development that will be made from and inspired by verbatim language from text messages and other digital artifacts. It asks: what can the intimate mundanity of texting reveal about our relationships? What if we look at time spent on our screens with tenderness? What can it teach us about how we connect and what we value? In this residency, I will host open art-making workshops where participants will create visual artworks from digital artifacts that they can either take home or leave to be displayed as part of the show.

Upcoming Events

Community Event

Conjuring Joy at the Bride

Summer 2024