FRINGE FESTIVAL: Half Magic
FRINGE FESTIVAL: Half Magic
Theater, Circus, Storytelling
A cardboard box mountain looms over him. Joe knows his job – to take these relics of a life and do the impossible task of sorting them into “Trash” or “Treasure”. But as he opens the first box, he finds himself drawn through a portal to the past, reliving the moments that shaped him.
He hurtles from the stay-at-home care of his white mom, to the immigrant line-cook stories of his brown dad, to the warm memories of his childhood best friends: young adult fantasy novels. Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, and Half Magic spring from their boxes, whirling him back into their familiar worlds and lessons.
But…what lessons did they teach him, really? Suddenly, memories turn dark. As he sorts through the mountain of boxes, Joe realizes that there’s more to his story than he understood. Trash turns to treasure and vice versa as he reconceives his identity – from white, Harry Potter wannabe to a mixed race person in full command of his Half Magic. He looks around and realizes that there are others like him, caught between categories, also seeking a place to belong.
Created by Joseph Ahmed and directed by Cat Ramirez, Half Magic swirls together autobiographical physical theater with inventive juggling and object balancing to create a hilarious, heartfelt, magical journey into what it means to be mixed race, to search for community, and to hold the things we love with care and criticality. Part theater, part circus, it is a “a poignant, critical work that ought to be viewed, documented, and revisited, especially by immigrant parents, children of immigrants, and those with a biracial identity.”
Developed through Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists’ Mini-Residency program, early versions were presented to audience acclaim at Asian Arts Initiative, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, and as part of the first annual Mixed Asian Media Fest.
About the Artist
Joseph Ahmed (he/they) is a mixed race Asian, genderfluid, Philadelphia-based theater artist and arts administrator whose work combines, collages, and swirls together with the disciplines of dance, circus, and interactive performance. His work often slams together personal stories of identity, grief, and healing with media and pop culture to explore how stories shape us. They’ve been developing Half Magic since 2020 as part of Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists’ Mini-Residency program, with additional support from Tiny Dynamite. An early digital version of the project was featured as a special exhibition at the first annual Mixed Asian Media Fest.
Half Magic is supported by producer Sam Tower and developed in solidarity with clown, multidisciplinary performance-based artist, organizer, and trauma informed facilitator Rachel O’Hanlon Rodriguez’s She Was A Conquistawhore. Both projects share the guidance of Cat Ramirez, a Philly-based director and producer who specializes in new plays, devised work, multidisciplinary performance, and event production. For Joe, Cat, and Rachel, who previously worked together on Theater Exile’s Today Is My Birthday, and are currently part of the artistic team for Obvious Agency’s Space Opera, solidarity looks like sharing of resources and expertise in an effort to model the kind of community support that they believe exemplifies indie Philly performance.
Beyond this project, Joe is a founding worker-owner of the interactive performance cooperative Obvious Agency, and a former company member of the Barrymore Award-winning physical theater/circus companies Tribe of Fools and Almanac Dance Circus Theatre. As a director, actor, and more, he has worked throughout Philadelphia with companies such as the Arden Theatre Company, Theater Exile, Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, First Person Arts, and Team Sunshine Performance Corporation.