Hundreds of thrilling performances of theater, dance, comedy and other performing arts hit venues across the city as the acclaimed Fringe Festival returns to Philadelphia for its 22nd year from September 6 to 23.
For 17 jam-packed days, Philly earns its reputation as a home for great performing arts thanks to a curated program of both cutting-edge work by leading international artists and a vast array of unusual original work by some of the city’s best creators.
FRINGE FESTIVAL FAST FACTS
- The 2018 Fringe Festival runs from September 6-23.
- The 17-day performing arts festival features over 1,000 performances by more than 150 artists.
- Shows take place at dozens of venues around Philadelphia.
- Ticket prices range from free to $35.
Presented by FringeArts, the Fringe Festival features an impressive curated lineup that includes cabaret superstars The Bearded Ladies, acclaimed music group International Contemporary Ensemble, darkly comic theatermaker Trey Lyford and innovative choreographer Meg Foley as well as major international artists performing a slate of presented works.
Leading Philadelphia companies The Wilma Theater, EgoPo Classic Theater, the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium and the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective headline a raft of independent productions, including numerous free or pay-what-you-wish performances.
Read on for our complete guide to the 2018 Fringe Festival.
Overview and Festival Tips
Over the last two decades, Philadelphia’s Fringe Festival has established itself as a major forum for cutting-edge contemporary art, with an astounding breadth of high-quality performance on offer year after year.
For the 22nd iteration of the annual extravaganza, festival organizer FringeArts curates more than 15 shows by top international artists and presents over 150 shows by innovative independent performers. Dozens of free works are also available online in the Digital Fringe.
In all, the festival showcases a wide diversity of spectacular performances, from intimate one-person pieces to large-scale, groundbreaking works by established companies.
After the Fringe, head over to the FringeArts waterfront headquarters (140 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard) for drink specials, pop-up entertainment and the chance to mingle with performers and audiences.
Tickets to most curated works are $29 per person, while most independent shows are under $15 per person (and usually cash-only unless bought in advance). Students and 25-and-under folks get discounts to all shows and many performances in all categories are free or pay what you wish.
See descriptions of all the shows and a full calendar of events in the 140-page Fringe Guide, available for pick up at the FringeArts headquarters and at coffee shops, stores and venues around the region. Arranged by neighborhood and discipline, each show listing in the guide has a unique short-code URL with more information and tickets. Or visit FringeArts.com for searchable listings of all the shows and ticketing links.
Curated Fringe Shows
The Fringe’s core programming consists of more than 15 productions curated by Festival organizer FringeArts.
This diverse programming provides an opportunity to see creative artists at the vanguard of their respective fields, gathered in Philadelphia for 17 days of contemporary performance.
World-premiere productions, first-time visits by major international artists and acclaimed contemporary works of theater, dance, music and more grace the city’s top cultural venues, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the FringeArts headquarters.
Here’s what to look forward to:
- Artists from around the world gather in a converted warehouse for Do You Want A Cookie?, an experiential tour through the history of cabaret (September 4-16).
- Office life meets clowning meets Samuel Beckett meets a contemplation on mortality in Trey Lyford’s imaginative The Accountant (September 6-9).
- The stories of refugees and displacement feature in ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury, five interactive exhibits in Old City and Bryn Mawr (September 6-23).
- Stifters Dinge is an impressively large-scale performative installation by German composer-director Heiner Goebbels (September 7-8).
- More than 150 Philadelphians perform a joyous line dance in Le Super Grand Continental (September 8-9).
- The Philadelphia Museum of Art in the setting for a workout in Monica Bill Barnes’s aptly titled The Museum Workout (September 12-16).
- Cutting-edge music plays at shows Songs of Wars I Have Seen, In Plain Air and Of Arms and the Man (various dates).
- World-class choreographers push the boundaries of dance in Caen Amour, The undergird, manger and Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd (various dates).
Independent Fringe Shows
In addition to its presented programming, FringeArts provides a platform for independent artists in all disciplines to present experimental or risk-taking new work. This year, over 150 artists take up the baton with thousands of performances of theater, dance, comedy, music and interdisciplinary work at venues all around Philadelphia and beyond.
Don’t be fooled by the “independent” label: This portion of the Fringe includes work by some of the city’s leading performance-art companies and creators. The bulk of performances take place in Center City or Old City, but the festival spreads into all corners of Philadelphia, with works as far afield as Kensington, Chestnut Hill and South Philly. Along with shows at the major theaters like The Wilma Theater, The Drake and The Adrienne Theater, many performances take place in unconventional or site-specific locations.
Here’s a sample of the best works on offer:
- Heart-stopping acrobatics combine with communicative theater in Jeanne/Jean/Jawn/John (September 4-16).
- The grounds of Woodlands Mansion and Cemetery host a site-specific work by a top producer of classic theater in Mary Rose (September 5-22).
- Bon Iver Fights A Bear features a humorous and timely look at the creation of a landmark album (September 7-17).
- Popular choreographer Brian Sanders brings late-night joy to the festival with Plunge (September 7-22).
- Sarah Knittel tears up the horror genre with Nightmare Fuel, a hilarious show about an ex-boyfriend (September 8-24).
- New musical The William Penn Story promises to be Philadelphia’s answer to Hamilton, historical costumes, feet-tapping music and all (September 9-19).
- The Fringe heads into viewers’ homes during The Fren Banklin Experience (September 10-24).
- Lee Minora parties in ruins of liberal self-righteousness in White Feminist (September 12-16).
- Transgressive humor and outlandish drama play out in WOLFCRUSH (a queer werewolf play) (September 13-22).
- The hilarious folks at Good Good Comedy Theatre distill the humor into the best-of show Darlings: Kill Us Please (September 19-22).
- Dance and body painting combine in Paprika Plains (September 21-22).
Tickets and Staying Over
Tickets to every show can be purchased 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 $35, 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). Attendees get an email with a PDF to print out or a QR code to show on their smartphones for entry.
Students and 25-and-under folks 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. Planning to see a bunch of shows? Consider a FringeArts membership ($65 for one person or $100 for two people) which includes 30 percent off all performances, including year-round FringeArts presentations.
Make a weekend out of the festival and book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package to get free hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.
Excited? Browse all of the shows here.