An annual smorgasbord of performing arts, the Fringe Festival kicks off this week in Philadelphia with more than 1,000 performances by hundreds of artists. Running September 7-24, the 18-day fest draws tens of thousands of people to venues ranging from the usual to the unlikely in every corner of the city.
Now in its 21st year (old enough to buy a beer!), the entire extravaganza comes together thanks to FringeArts, a year-round organization presenting unconventional performing arts by locally, nationally and internationally renowned creators.
- The 2017 Fringe Festival runs from September 7-24.
- Shows take place at some of the the city’s premier venues, including the Wilma Theater, the Drake, the Annenberg Center and more.
- The festival showcases both curated and independently produced shows.
This year, the organizers curate a slate of programming that includes returns for popular Fringe performers Thaddeus Phillips, New Paradise Laboratories and Pig Iron Theatre Company as well as visits from choreographic legends from New York, Europe and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, hundreds of independent artists put on more than 100 pieces of original and adventurous new work.
A delicious menu of ticketed performances of theater, dance, comedy, spoken word and more gets topped off with a host of free happenings, drink specials and late night live music and DJ sets at the Fringe Arts headquarters along Delaware Avenue.
With a packed schedule that allows attendees to see multiple shows a day, committed Fringe-goers can potentially take in 20 or 30 performances over the two-and-a-half weeks of the fest.
But even casual art fans will be sure to find something to delight among the diverse line-up.
There’s even more to see online, with dozens of websites and web series incorporated as “Digital Fringe.” Plus, the art takes to the page this year as Fringe Arts launches its first ever pop-up bookstore.
Read on for our comprehensive guide to the 2017 Fringe Festival.
Overview and Festival Tips
From its humble beginnings as a five-day event centered around Old City, the Fringe Festival has grown to include thousands of performances in every area of Philadelphia and beyond. The sheer breadth of top-quality original art on offer year after year is astounding.
This year, FringeArts presents 13 shows with some associated screenings and talk backs. These are uniformly impressively produced works by acclaimed local acts and leading artists from across the world.
The festival also showcases 100 independently produced shows, including many world premieres. There’s a huge diversity of spectacles, from small one-night, one-person pieces to large-scale, unconventional, site-specific works by established companies.
Choosing from so many great yet unknown shows can be overwhelming. Pick up a Fringe program in coffee shops, theaters and other locations around the city or use the online guide to search by date, neighborhood, and type of performance (curated, independent, late night, or digital). There’s also an option to narrow your choice by such features as “unique venue,” “LGBTQ,” and “Free.”
One thing to note: If you’re planning to attend multiple shows a day (and you should!), running times are not exact, so it’s best to leave a little cushion to get to your show.
Check out our picks below and see more in our guides to September theater and dance.
Curated Fringe Shows
At the heart of the Fringe are the innovative productions curated by festival organizer FringeArts, which run from theater and dance to opera and spoken word.
Expect high production values, incredibly talented performers and cutting-edge performance art from renowned artists from Philadelphia, New York, elsewhere in North America and beyond. These are creatives at the vanguard of the international performing arts scene, gathered in our city for a few short weeks.
Shows take place at eight of the city’s premier venues, including the Wilma Theater, the Drake, the Annenberg Center and, of course, the FringeArts headquarters.
Here’s a sample of what we’re looking forward to:
- New Paradise Laboratories’ Hello! Blackout tackles the Big Bang, September 5-17
- Samual Pepys gets a woke deconstruction in dance-theater piece 17c, September 7-9
- See an entire house built onstage in HOME, September 13-16
- An opera festival and the Fringe collide in We Shall Not Be Moved, September 16-24
- Spend an evening with drag goddess Martha Graham Cracker, September 19
- Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme gets a treatment by star European choreographers, September 22-24
- A Period of Animate Existence sees choral groups highlight Pig Iron Theatre Company’s largest-ever show, September 22-24
Independent Fringe Shows
The bulk of the lineup at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival come from independent producers. Despite their “indie” status, these artists include some of the city’s best-loved dance and theater companies, star local performers and creators and up-and-coming talents.
Many shows are presented each day throughout the city, from Old City to West Philly, Kensington to South Philly. Along with traditional venues, you’ll find shows at such unconventional places as a graveyard, a nightclub, a moored ship, and even your own home!
- Gunnar Montana, KINK HAUS at the Latvian Society, September 5-24
- Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano at Bethany Mission Galley, September 5-24
- Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes at Painted Bride Art Center, September 6-23
- Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, Iphegenia at Alius on Cruiser Olympia, September 7-22
- JUNK, …strand… at Gray’s Ferry Crescent Trail Park, September 7-23
- Tribe of Fools, Fishtown — A Hipster Noir at the Drake, September 8-23
- Poison Apple Initiative, Scattershot at Frankly Bradley’s, September 8-10
- Chris Davis & Mary Tuomanen, Alchemy at One Shot Coffee, September 13-24
- Theatre in the X, Running Numbers at The Bank, September 15-16
Remember that the Fringe is all about taking risks. There’s something to see in every neighborhood on every night of the festival, and the best show might be one that no one expects.
Fringe Late Night and Extras
After-hour shows have become a Fringe tradition, and it’s one continued in style in 2017.
The fun gets going September 8 with a Festival Kick Off featuring funky Philly act Ill Doots. The party continues all festival long with live music and DJs on most nights starting at 10:30 p.m. at the FringeArts headquarters.
Even if there’s no scheduled concert, FringeArts is the place to be. Outside, the Haas Biergarten has drafts, al fresco seating, games and performance art at the Camper Fringe truck. Inside, La Peg Brasserie serves a menu of French delectables and an extensive array of drinks.
To celebrate the festival’s 21st birthday, FringeArts invites you to raise a glass of Fringe Benefit, a specially brewed Belgian-style ale from Saint Benjamin Brewing Company.
This year also sees the first FringeArts bookstore, with publications and associated artist talks at nearby fashion and coffee shop United by Blue.
For another kind of party, on Thursday, September 28, Feastival 2017 hits FringeArts’ 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 every show can be purchased either online, at the Fringe Festival box office or at performance venues starting 30 minutes prior to the show (usually cash only at the door). Prices range from free to $75, with most shows commonly costing around $10 to $30.
All tickets are e-tickets, so there are no paper tickets to pick up (or lose). You’ll get an email a PDF to print out, or show the QR code on your smartphone for entry.
Students and 25-and-under can get in to curated Fringe shows for just $15 and receive $5 off of the ticket price of independent Fringe shows if the original price is $15 or more. Groups of more than 10 can save 25 percent on any show. If you’re planning to see a bunch of shows, consider a FringeArts membership; $65 (for one) or $100 (for two) gets you 30 percent off all performances, including year-round FringeArts presentations.
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.
Are you ready now? Browse all of the shows here.