Don’t be fooled by the long fancy name—The Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art is anything but stuffy. The spacious NoLibs music venue/gallery/performance space, is easily one of best places in the city to soak up tunes from a surprisingly enjoyable indie band while being reminded that art can actually be fun. In the last year, their walls have been adorned with the fine art of rock poster artists, a collection of mixed-media pieces inspired by the late stoner comedian, Mitch Hedberg and works depicting modern-day myths and legends.
PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St. 267.519.9651 philamoca.org
Best “Please Look But Oh, God, Don’t You Dare Touch” Gallery
Most grandmas have a room in their homes that you aren’t allowed to go into for fear that you could damage her antique sofa or brass ducks. Wexler Gallery is the like the well-curated living room of the most refined, classy grandma who’s ever lived. Treating furniture design, glassware and lighting as “high art” in the same vein as a painting or sculpture, Wexler has some of the leading names in forward thinking design sitting in its gallery including wooden chairs and tables by David Trubridge (from New Zealand) and undulating pieces by Wendell Castle. Just remember, the rules are the same here as they are at g-ma’s place: look, but don’t touch.
Wexler Gallery, 201 N. Third St. 215.923.7030. wexlergallery.com
Most Bizarre Up-and-Coming Art Studio
LadyBeast may sound like a comic-book villain but really it’s the environmentally friendly art studio/mobile home created by South Philly’s Arianna Pelullo with Clare Gillen. In 2010, the two converted a Ford Grumman box truck into an environmentally sustainable (and now solar-powered!) mobile studio. Last summer, the women took “The Beast” on its maiden voyage to New Orleans and this year Pelullo is working as a mechanic’s apprentice to outfit the Beast with bio-diesel/veggie oil capabilities. “The intention of Lady Beast Project is to spread knowledge about the accessibility of alternative endeavors, from art to energy...” says Pelullo, who is now living in the Beast in West Philly and working with artist, Mac Nettles to create a plant environment throughout the truck of moss, succulents and air purifiers.
Ladybeast Project, ladybeastproject.com/home.html
Best Musical Theater on a Budget
The 11th Hour Theater Company produces teeny-tiny musicals that pack a big punch but won’t take a large bite out of your wallet. Dedicated to expanding the boundaries of musical theater, the company’s average ticket price is $25, far less than the cost of most musicals. How do they keep the prices so low and the quality so high? According to co-founder and producing artistic director Michael Philip O’Brien it’s about producing shows that focus on the actors and the story instead of spectacle. It doesn’t hurt that O’Brien and co-founder Steve Pacek are two of Philly’s top musical performers and that resident director Megan Nicole O’Brien is an innovative director whose productions boast an emotional intimacy that is thoroughly engaging.
11th Hour Theater, 267.987.9865. 11thhourtheatrecompany.org
Best Place to Get Both Kinds of Lit
“We want it to be more like a party than a lecture,” says Christian TeBardo, author of The Awful Possibilities about the new rowdy reading series he’s hosting at Tattooed Mom’s. TeBardo co-founded the series with Sarah Rose Etter, author of Tongue Party. “We’re mostly just on the hunt for readers who deliver—none of that monotone, quiet stuff. We’re looking for explosive and dynamic writers. We don’t want to put people to sleep,” says Etter. With the first reading this past August deemed a success, the next one is scheduled for November though, they warn, there’s no regular schedule—it’s more of a pop-up series designed to coordinate with out-of-town writers coming to the East Coast.
Tattooed Mom’s, 530 South St. 215.238.9880. facebook.com/tattooedmomphilly
Best New Book By a Local Author
While it’s true that the book’s author was once an employee of this very newspaper, we can’t help but admit that journalist Steve Volk’s Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable—and Couldn’t, is one of the most readable and strangely addictive tomes to come from a local writer in eons. The book aims to take an especially intellectual look at the world of the paranormal, yet without resorting to pastiche or mockery. Along the way, Volk manages to achieve his goal of opening readers’ minds, yet without denying the importance of a healthy skepticism. The book seems to have been written specifically for the sort of reader who would otherwise never admit to an interest in things that go bump in the night.
Best Political Theater
Many theater companies avoid politics like the plague. Yet InterAct Theater Company has shown itself willing to present all manner of political discourse, even if it challenges the sensibilities of liberal-minded theater audience. Last season’s When We Go Upon the Sea, a drama from Lee Blessing, held the American public (and especially passive liberals) accountable for the Bush administration’s irresponsible and immoral foreign policy. InterAct artistic director Seth Rozin thinks of the company as a kind of “Public Square,” a place where people gather to witness “the most pressing issues of our time illuminated through compelling human stories.”
InterAct Theater Company, 2030 Sansom St. 215.568.8079. interacttheatre.org
Ever think to yourself: Hey, I wonder where I can have a threesome and then promptly forget about it? Well, one of our writers thinks he's found that place. Want Mexican food that doesn't burn on the way out? Of course you do. More of these questions and answers have found their way into this year's Better Than Best issue. And what's better than best, you ask? We have no idea. We just knew we couldn't use Best Of, because another publication in this town has it on lockdown. But that doesn't mean we didn't put an enormous amount of effort into bringing you the most random hidden gems Philly has to offer. Because we did. And we think we've got a pretty good list going on here.