Every September, Philadelphia becomes a bona fide arts mecca thanks to the annual Fringe Festival and its 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).
Now celebrating its 20th year — that’s right, 20 years of Fringe! — the Philadelphia Fringe Festival returns September 9-24, with 16 days of progressive performances of theater, dance, installations, visual arts, music and spoken-word and much more.
Fringe Festival Fast Facts
- The 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival runs September 9-24.
- Tickets generally range from free to $30.
- Hundreds of shows take place at dozens of venues all around Philadelphia.
- FringeArts waterfront home in Old City is the festival’s headquarters.
Organized by FringeArts, Philadelphia’s influential presenter of contemporary performance, Philly’s Fringe Festival features works by acclaimed contemporary artists in its FringeArts curated performances and pieces by any-and-all artists in its independently produced shows.
For its 20th anniversary year, the festival has reached a new level of civic collaboration, too, which means partnerships and co-presentations with the likes of Opera Philadelphia, Drexel University, Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of the Arts, and the Barnes Foundation and many more.
And that’s just the start. The festival includes hundreds and hundreds of opportunities to see shows, sometimes as many as a couple dozen performances in a single day.
Overview and Festival Tips
What began as a five-day event has grown into more than two weeks of high-quality, highly innovative artistic presentations across the city.
The Fringe Festival offers up a huge array of engaging performances and accessible venues, all of which are viewable online in a handy sortable guide.
If the prospect of choosing a show out of the hundreds seems intimidating, we have a formula for you: pick a date, artistic discipline or neighborhood via the online guide.
With that information, the choices will be narrowed down to a manageable number of options. Or, check out our top picks of Fringe Festival performances and stay tuned for more picks throughout the festival.
For the complete festival calendar, check right here.
Curated Fringe Shows
The seemingly all-inclusive Fringe Festival features hundreds of shows, but at the heart of the fest is FringeArts’ curated performances, which this year includes more than a dozen remarkable shows.
Set in 11 venues throughout the city, including the FringeArts home theater, the Drexel University Armory, the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Bok Building and The Navy Yard, show runs last anywhere from just three days up to two-weeks.
A few shows that should be high on any festival-goer’s radar include:
- habitus at Pier 9, September 6-October 10
- Sound From The Bench: political appropriations by Ted Hearne at FringeArts, Sunday, September 11
- The Sincerity Project (2016) at Plays & Players, September 8-18
- The Elementary Spacetime Show at the Arts Bank at The University of the Arts, September 10-24
- Gala at the Prince Theater, September 13–15
- CATCH takes BOK at the Bok Building, Saturday, September 17
- Julius Caesar. Spared Parts at The Navy Yard, September 22-24
- portrait of myself as my father at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 23-24
For anyone who wants to check out a Fringe Festival production without the limitations of tickets and curtain times, though, head to Pier 9 at Penn’s Landing to check out habitus, organized by The Fabric Workshop and Museum. The immersive installation by visual artist Ann Hamilton is free and ongoing through October 10, offering visitors the chance to come and go anytime between Tuesday and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. (and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays).
For a complete schedule of curated festival shows, check right here.
Independent Fringe Shows
Beyond the core performances, hundreds and hundreds of shows from scores of independent artists are included in the Fringe Festival 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 independent Fringe lineup include Philadelphia favorite organizations and artists like Raphael Xavier, Opera Philadelphia, Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Gunnar Montana, The Beserker Residents, REV Theatre Company, Tangle Movement Arts and many, many more.
Remember, pick a date, artistic discipline or neighborhood via the online guide to narrow down the choices.
Plus, there is also a selection of Digital Fringe works that live online, so engaging with the festival is only a click away.
Check here for a sortable guide of all shows, and check back with us as the festival progresses for more.
Fringe After Hours
In addition to festival performance venues, engage with the fest nightly at the 2016 Festival Bar series at FringeArts.
Bringing together audiences after-hours each night of the festival, score late night happy hour deals — just show a festival ticket and get a drink for as little as $3 — and round out a night with free music from local musicians and DJs starting at 10 p.m. nightly.
For another kind of party, on Thursday, September 29, Feastival 2016 hits FringeArts’ expansive Delaware River Waterfront home with food and drink from celebrated Philadelphia restaurants and dozens of dynamic live entertainers. The annual benefit gathers dozens of top Philadelphia chefs and amazing performers to raise funds that contribute to the city’s cultural economy — it’s an awesome bash.
Tickets and Staying Over
Tickets to all shows are available for purchase online, from the Fringe Festival box office at FringeArts 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 lose). Just bring a printed version of your e-ticket or show the QR code on your smartphone for entry.
Tickets are generally also available at the door one hour prior to curated shows and 30 minutes before independent shows. Note, though, that many Fringe shows are cash only at the door.
Students and 25-and-under tickets are $15 for most curated Fringe shows and $5 off of the independent Fringe ticket price (if the original price is $15 or more). Groups of more than 10 can also score a deal, and save 25 percent
Or, you could just make a weekend out of the festival and stay overnight in Philadelphia. Check out Visitphilly.com for deals on hotel stays and the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package.
Ready to get your tickets? Browse all of the shows right here.
See you at the Fringe.