Guides and Materials About Mr. Franklin
An Introduction
Ben Across the Curriculum
Essay Contest
Essay Contest
Benjamin Franklin’s Legacy Celebrated in UArts Multimedia Dance Performance, Electrifying Ben
November 28, 2005
Commissioned by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, The University of the Arts is honoring the legacy of one of this country’s original Founding Fathers with the multimedia dance production Electrifying Ben. Also containing music, light design, set design, video projection and, of course, kites, the 10-15 minute Electrifying Ben makes its world premiere December 9, 2005, at The University of the Arts Merriam Theater as part of the School of Dance’s annual Celebration of World Dance concert. Electrifying Ben is about a great man’s vision as expressed through several different media,” said director, choreographer and UArts dance graduate (1990, BFA in modern dance) and faculty member Silvana Cardell. With a master’s degree from Temple University in choreography, Cardell has had her work commissioned, produced and sponsored by theaters and national dance funding programs in both North and South America. In the show, Franklin is out to prove the existence of electricity, while searching for a way to reach the force coming from lightning. As lightning crashes overhead, a troupe of 13 UArts dancers shadows Franklin about the stage and a quintet of UArts musicians plays along as he contemplates, ponders and eventually conducts his “experiments.” During the experiments, Franklin’s thoughts are brought to life through dance, music, video and the production’s other elements. His first two experiments fail, but the third succeeds, triggering a salvo of kites swirling about the theater. Kites are as much a part of the production as its cast. To bring these “characters” to life, Mark Ricketts, founder of GuildWorks, a Portland, Ore.-based firm that pioneered indoor kite flying performance and zero wind kite design, has been appointed an artist in residence at UArts and will work with 11 fibers students on designing kites for each of the performance’s dancers. Utilizing space age materials such as carbon fiber composites, ripstop polyester sail clothe and spectra fiber lines, those students will develop kites bound only the laws of physics – not their imaginations. In addition to creating the show’s costumes, fibers professors Mi-Kyoung Lee and Liz Sargent will lend counsel and expertise on constructing the kites. The trick is to convince the audience that the kite’s space age materials are actually at least 250 years old. UArts faculty member Patrick de Caumette has composed the original music for the production. A familiar face at UArts productions, Pedro Silva is an independent set designer brought in for the production. Jay Madeira, the Merriam’s technical director, is working on the lighting. Eugene Bolt, of the UArts Development office, will play the role of Benjamin Franklin.

Electrifying Ben is the first part of a multi-faceted Kite Ingenuity Project, organized by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary and the University of the Arts, and made possible through generous funding from Ted and Stevie Wolf. This winter’s kite-dancing will be followed in the springtime by kite aerial photography demonstrations, and kite-making workshops for children. “In keeping with the Tercentenary’s interpretive emphasis on Franklin’s relevance today, this project will bring to life Franklin’s hands-on, practical ingenuity and his ever-curious spirit,” said Dr. Rosalind Remer, Executive Director of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary. “By inviting three contemporary kite innovators to Philadelphia to share their skills and produce new work, we will revive the original excitement and import of the famous ‘kite and key’ story for a diverse audience”

Tickets are $10 for general admission, $7 for students and seniors. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, a non-profit organization supported by a lead grant of $4 million from The Pew Charitable Trusts, was established to mark the 300-year anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth (1706-2006) with a celebration dedicated to educating the public about his enduring legacy and inspiring renewed appreciation of the values he embodied. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary was founded in 2000 by a consortium of five Philadelphia cultural institutions: the American Philosophical Society, The Franklin Institute, The Library Company of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, an Act of Congress in 2002 created the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission, a panel of fifteen outstanding Americans chosen to study and recommend programs to celebrate Franklin's 300th birthday. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary can be found online at