Now in its 18th year, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival returns September 5-21, with 17 days filled with hundreds of performances of theater, dance, visual arts, music and spoken-word and more.
Philadelphia becomes an arts mecca thanks to the Fringe’s huge range of shows and complementary events, which draw tens of thousands of people to see hundreds of artists perform in venues both traditional (stages, cabarets) and offbeat (basements, galleries).
Curated and organized by FringeArts, the Fringe Festival (formerly known as the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe) welcomes any and all artists to its Neighborhood Fringe shows and features works by acclaimed contemporary artists in its Presented Fringe performances.
An expansive and compelling array of works make up this year’s presented show lineup, including four world premieres: The floating public art installation WetLand; a world-premiere co-creation from Pennsylvania Ballet, Curtis Institute of Music and FringeArts; the new 99 Breakups from Pig Iron Theatre Company; and, last but not least, The Adults from New Paradise Laboratories.
And that’s just the start.
Where to begin? Read on for our primer on the 2014 Fringe Festival, below.
Influenced by Edinburgh — the mother of all festivals celebrating progressive performing arts — five Philadelphia artists banded together in 1997 to create an outlet for other contemporary and experimental performers to present their works. What began as a five-day event has grown into more than two weeks of high-quality, highly innovative artistic presentations across the city.
With as many as 75 performances in a single day taking place over the course of 17 days, catching a Fringe Festival show in Philadelphia is as easy as choosing an artistic discipline, picking the neighborhood in which you’d like to see a show and arriving at the venue.
From world-premiere theater at the Painted Bride Art Center in Old City to contemporary dance within an art installation at Drexel University in University City, the Fringe Festival offers up a huge array of engaging performances and accessible venues, all of which are viewable online in a sortable guide.
This year, the festival is again organized into two performance-type categories: Presented Fringe and Neighborhood Fringe.
Presented Fringe shows are juried pieces brought to the fest by FringeArts, and include 11 core shows of dynamic theater, dance and visual arts.
Neighborhood Fringe shows are unjuried, independently produced works that offer regional artists and local performers a chance to showcase their best work to a wide audience.
In addition to presenting the annual fest, FringeArts now produces year-round programming thanks to the opening of its permanent headquarters on the corner of Race Street and Columbus Boulevard this past fall.
Stay tuned right here for more on FringeArts, and check here for a complete schedule of Fringe Festival events.
See below for more on this year’s festival.
Presented Fringe Performances
The seemingly all-inclusive Fringe Festival features hundreds of shows, but at the heart of the fest is FringeArts’ Presented Fringe performances, which this year showcases 11 shows, including four world premieres.
Set in eight venues throughout the city, including the FringeArts theater, the 23rd Street Armory, Independence Seaport Museum Pier, and the Temple Performing Arts Center, show runs last anywhere from just three days up to 16-day runs.
Though all of the Presented Fringe shows highlight incredible artists and were hand-picked to be included in the 2014 festival, a handful of shows are truly not to be missed. Here are just a few of our picks, and check back for more as the festival continues.
• 100% Philadelphia
If Philadelphia were embodied, what would it look like? Moreover, what would it think about key issues? Developed in collaboration with FringeArts, German artist collective Rimini Protokoll’s 100% Philadelphia brings 100 carefully selected Philadelphia citizens (read: non-actors) onstage to represent the city’s population of 1.5 million and its unique demographic imprint. Tickets are pay-what-you-wish to encourage all-city participation. North Broad Street, Temple Performing Arts Center, September 19-21.
An imaginative floating installation moored on the water next to the Independence Seaport Museum, WetLand is the brain child of Brooklyn-based artist Mary Mattingly and aims to inspire conversation around a dystopian view of the future, wherein rivers and oceans have overtaken urban areas. Mattingly’s answer to this vision of an environmentally degraded world? A retrofitted 1971 Rockwell Whitcraft houseboat. Admission to see WetLand is free and ongoing onboard programming ranges. Penn’s Landing, Independence Seaport Museum Pier, daily through September 21.
• 99 BREAKUPS
Perennially bold and always popular, Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company delivers dynamic works of theater. For this year’s Fringe presentation, Pig Iron offers up the world-premiere work 99 BREAKUPS, a comedic look at what happens when public audiences bear witness to conversations (arguments, tantrums) that should probably be held in private. Avenue of the Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, September 5-7, 9, 10, 14-16.
• What I Learned About Outer Space
A first-of-its-kind collaboration between longstanding Philadelphia arts leaders Pennsylvania Ballet, Curtis Institute of Music and FringeArts, What I Learned About Outer Space is a world-premiere work of adventurous choreography set on dancers of The Pennsylvania Ballet to compositions created and performed by Curtis Institute composers and alumni. Old City, FringeArts, September 6-7.
• The Adults
Known for experimental, sometimes radical performances, New Paradise Laboratories brings the world premiere of The Adults to Philadelphia audiences. A highly physical show, cast members come together to display what happens when adults start behaving badly on vacation. Old City, Painted Bride Art Center, September 3-14.
• White Rabbit Red Rabbit
A metaphorical work by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, White Rabbit Red Rabbit has been performed in many cities, but is always unique, thanks to Soleimanpour’s rules: Each night of the performance, the audience arrives to a stage set with only a script in a sealed envelope. Then, every night a different actor takes the stage, opens the envelope, and reads the script aloud sight unseen for the first — and last — time. Old City, FringeArts, September 6-8, 10-12, 13, 18-21.
• The Four Seasons Restaurant
Last year, the Fringe Festival presented the thought-provoking piece On the Concept of the Face Regarding the Son of God by Italian theater-maker Romeo Castellucci and his company Societas Raffaello Sanzio. This year, the experimental group returns to Philadelphia with a provocative work of theater inspired by artist Mark Rothko’s refusal to complete commissioned work in New York’s Four Seasons restaurant. Center City, 23rd Street Armory, September 11-13.
Neighborhood Fringe Performances
Beyond the core performances, hundreds and hundreds of shows by more than 150 independent artists are included in the Neighborhood Fringe lineup.
Presented daily throughout the run of the fest, catch cutting-edge dance, theater, comedy, visual art and more in every neighborhood of Philadelphia — from Fishtown to Fairmount, West Philly to Old City.
Highlights of this year’s Neighborhood Fringe lineup include Philadelphia favorite organizations and artists like 1812 Productions, BalletX, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Aaron Cromie, Headlong Dance Theater, Tribe of Fools, REV Theatre Company, Tangle Movement Arts and many, many more.
Check here for a sortable guide of all Neighborhood shows, and check back with Uwishunu soon for our picks.
Fringe Festival Bar at La Peg
In addition to festival performance venues, engage with the fest nightly at the 2014 Fringe Festival Bar at the brand-new La Peg at FringeArts.
A full-service restaurant and bar from acclaimed Philadelphia chef and restaurateur Peter Woolsey, all signs point to La Peg delivering wonderful waterfront eating, drinking and general merrymaking in its spacious interior and sprawling outdoor beer garden.
Bringing together Fringe Festival artists and audiences after-hours each night of the festival, La Peg’s bar and cabaret performance space hosts free late-night shows.
The Festival Bar at La Peg at Fringe Arts serves as a versatile space for Fringe Festival goers to unwind, enjoy post-show drinks and conversation, plus variety shows, live music and DJs.
Admission is free and shows begin nightly at 10 p.m. Check out the nightly schedule of entertainment online.
Tickets to all shows are available for purchase online, from the Fringe Festival box office or at performance venues starting 30 minutes prior to the show, and generally range from $10 to $30.
All ticketing is via e-tickets, so there are no paper tickets to pick up (or loose). Just bring a printed version of your e-ticket or show the QR code on your smartphone for entry.
All online purchases do require a credit card, and are available online.
To buy tickets in person, arrive the Festival box office at FringeArts is open between noon and 6 p.m. through September 4, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. after September 5. Tickets are generally available at the door one hour prior to Presented shows and 30 minutes before Neighborhood shows. Note though, that most Neighborhood Fringe shows are cash only at the door.
Students and 25-and-under tickets are $15 for most Presented Fringe shows and $5 off of the Neighborhood Fringe ticket price (if the original price is $15 or more). Groups of more than eight can also score a deal, and save 20 percent.
Ready to get your tickets? Browse all of the shows right here.
See you at the Fringe.
2014 Fringe Festival
When: September 5-21
Where: Multiple venues
More info: www.fringearts.com