Each fall, Philadelphia’s phenomenal performing and visual arts scene goes to an entirely next level of greatness with the arrival of the annual Fringe Festival.
Now in its 19th year, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival returns September 3-19, with 16 days of progressive performances of theater, dance, visual arts, music and spoken-word and much more.
In September, 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).
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 regional artists in its independently produced shows.
And that’s just the start. The festival includes more than 600 opportunities to see shows, sometimes as many as 80 performances in a single day.
Where to begin? Check out FringeArts comprehensive online guide and read on for our primer on the 2015 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 80 performances in a single day taking place over the course of 16 days, catching a Fringe Festival show in Philadelphia can be very easy.
The Fringe Festival offers up a huge array of engaging performances and accessible venues, all of which are viewable online in a 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, stay tuned for our top picks of Fringe Festival performances.
For the complete festival calendar, check right here.
See below for more on this year’s festival.
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 a dozen remarkable shows.
Set in eight venues throughout the city, including the FringeArts home theater, the Drexel University Armory, the 23rd Street Armory, Union Transfer and the Merriam Theater, show runs last anywhere from just three days up to 16-day runs.
Though all of the curated shows highlight incredible artists and were hand-picked to be included in the 2015 festival, two centerpiece shows are truly not to be missed.
From September 3 to 5, two Ingmar Bergman screenplays – After the Rehearsal and Persona — will hit the stage in an American premiere at the huge 23rd Street Armory. Renowned Dutch director Ivo van Hove and set designer Jan Versweyveld are known for presenting large works of theater, and After the Rehearsal/Persona employs the sweeping space with a huge set, including a 10,000-gallon pool of water.
Towards the end of the festival, September 10-12, the remarkable result of three celebrated artists working in concert arrives in Philadelphia for a rarely seen production. A monumental work of dance, Available Light premiered more than 30 years ago in honor of the opening of the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art. With choreography by Lucinda Childs, music by John Adams and set design by architect Frank Gehry, the piece incorporates the beauty of dance with light, sound and architecture to present a stunning interdisciplinary encounter.
For a complete schedule of curated festival shows, check right here.
Check back for more picks as the festival continues.
Independent Fringe Shows
Beyond the core performances, hundreds and hundreds of shows by more than 150 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 Neighborhood Fringe lineup include Philadelphia favorite organizations and artists like 1812 Productions, Opera Philadelphia, Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Tribe of Fools, The Beserker Residents, BRAT Productions, Gunnar Montana, REV Theatre Company, Tangle Movement Arts and many, many more.
Plus, new for 2015, there is also a selection of Digital Fringe works that live online.
Check here for a sortable guide of all shows, and check back with us for more.
Festival Late Night at FringeArts
In addition to festival performance venues, engage with the fest nightly at the 2015 Festival Late Night series at FringeArts.
Bringing together Fringe artists and audiences after-hours each night of the festival, Philadelphia’s King Britt and Kate Watson-Wallace have curated a nightly presentation of eclectic live music and DJs.
Admission varies from free to $30 and shows begin nightly at 8 p.m. or later.
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.
Tickets are generally 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 Presented Fringe shows and $5 off of the Neighborhood 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.
Ready to get your tickets? Browse all of the shows right here.
See you at the Fringe.