We create original works of performance art in Philadelphia, PA. Our work is collaboratively created by the director, the ensemble, the playwright and the composer. Sometimes our work looks more like theatre, and sometimes it look more like dance. We explore the psychological, the fantastic, the haunted, the historical, and the supernatural. Our style is informed by the cinematic nature of the imagination. We are obsessed with bending time and transporting place. Live music is integrated into our rehearsal process, as well as the shows we produce.
We focus on creating more space for women’s voices in contemporary art. We support bold female leadership. We activate our artistic ecosystem by providing a platform for female-identifying artists to express themselves, exchange creative practices, find inspiration and generate confidence in their artistic value.
Sam Tower + Ensemble assembles to develop original work on a project-by-project basis, using this platform to create otherworldly performance through complex and diverse female voices, and to experiment with bold models of producing. We create theatrical worlds where women stand in front (both onstage and off), and we provide our Ensemble the opportunity to explore thrilling psychological stories that women are often not afforded. Our work is about female characters and their journeys. The women in our pieces are not required to shrink their losses, their victories, or the space they take up, in order to fit into the story. They are not mirrors for the experience of a male hero. It is our vision to create performance that empowers women artists to make courageous, honest, boundary-pushing theatre.
The work we make is a portal to a more magical place. We create site-inspired environments that invite audiences to enter strange, yet familiar worlds. We draw source material from visual art, film, music, poetry, history, and spectacular objects. We regularly invite artists from other disciplines to collaborate with us on auxiliary projects to expand our practice beyond the theatre. Past works include The 5th Floor (2012), The Travelers (2013), 901 Nowhere Street (2015), I’d rather choke than be a quitter (Plant Me Here Co-Pro 2016). The Ensemble has collaborated with filmmaker/performer Tess Kunik to create surreal companion films; those works include The Road to Ermine’s (2015) and PINK NOISE (2016).
The operations of Sam Tower + Ensemble began in 2012 when director/choreographer Sam Tower started working with playwright/performer Jeremy Gable. The 5th Floor, an immersive play for 5 audience members in a 5-story elevator, marked their first self-produced project together.
Led by their mission to promote female voices and artistic leadership in Philadelphia, Sam and Jeremy continued to create new performance of all shapes and sizes. In 2013, Anna Szapiro entered the fold as a creator/performer and collaborated with them on an original physical theatre piece titled The Travelers, directed by Tower.
In 2014, Tower assembled the team for a large-scale all-female film noir fever dream. 901 Nowhere Street premiered in the 2015 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. This production marks the inclusion of ST+E ensemble members Emilie Krause, Merri Rashoyan, and experimental composer Alec MacLaughlin. Tower conceived this rock n’roll infused crime thriller as a response to the lack of representation for complex female characters in theatre, film and TV. Subverting the predominately male-driven genre, where women are generally portrayed as one-dimensional, allowed the creative team to discover boldly and messy female characters inside this influential genre. After penning the script for 901 Nowhere Street in collaboration with the Ensemble, Jeremy Gable became the Resident Playwright for ST+E.
Sam Tower + Ensemble regularly collaborates with other female-centric companies to mount co-productions and create auxiliary art projects. In March 2016, ST+E created/produced I’d rather choke than be a quitter, a full-length visual art movement fantasia in collaboration with art collective Plant Me Here. ST+E also welcomed its newest members this year, theatre artist Katie Croyle and recent UArts graduate, Nia-Samara Benjamin.