Philly’s theater community has been desperate to perform, and the enthusiasm for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival is palpable. More than 1,000 performances are scheduled for 170 shows at more than 70 locations throughout the region Sept. 9 through Oct. 3.
New this year is a festival within the festival — the Cannonball Festival, with dozens of shows at the Maas Building near Fifth Street and Girard Avenue. And within the Cannonball, there’s Visions, a festival of short plays staged weekly.
Lots of Fringe shows are outdoors, 40% combine digital and live performances, and 23% are online only. Most producers are requiring proof of vaccination and masks for indoor performances and recommending masks for outdoor spaces, but check with venues for their specific protocols before you go.
The sheer choice of entertainment is overwhelming, so we’ve asked local theater professionals to weigh in with their picks.
Jacinta Yelland, cofounder of the woman-led inFLUX Theatre Collective
Jacinta Yelland is appearing at the Fringe Festival in The Choice, a comical and uninhibited inFLUX work that follows three women as they race against their biological clocks trying to decide whether to have children. ($20. Sept. 9-18, Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St.)
Sun & Sea. I have been dreaming of seeing this opera installation by an all-woman creative team — Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, and Lina Lapelytė — since I heard about its debut at the 2019 Venice Biennale (it won the Golden Lion.) Not to be missed. ($15, Sept. 30-Oct. 3, Budd building, 2831 Fox St. Tickets are timed, the opera cycles through in an hour.)
On Buried Ground by Shayla-Vie Jenkins and Emily Bate. Recently I’ve been grappling with the acceptance of my own mortality, and I very much look forward to seeing this show. Every time I see Shayla-Vie Jenkins dance, my mind is blown away by the power, precision, and freedom in her movement. (Free, Sept. 8 & 11, Christ Church Burial Ground, Fifth and Arch Streets)
Being/With by Nichole Canuso Dance Company. I had the absolute pleasure of participating in Being/With: Home in last year’s Fringe, and I am beyond excited to learn that Nichole is presenting a new iteration. It takes you on a beautiful, meditative journey with a complete stranger — connecting you through virtual space and movement. It is enlightening, liberating, and joyful. ($35. Sept. 9-Oct. 2, multiple locations)
Dwayne Alistair Thomas, writer of “The West Philly Meeting,” which played recently in a Theatre in the X production at Malcolm X Park
Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge, staged by Elevator Repair Service. James Baldwin’s commentary about the social division between us as a people rings true even today. Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge, which explores conversations he had during and after his well-publicized debate at Cambridge, will help bring further light and resolution. ($39. Sept. 9-11, FringeArts. 140 N. Columbus Blvd.)
Nanay, an interactive dance performance by Ani/MalayaWorks Dance. Whenever I see Ani Gavino perform, I am blessed with an experience, not just a show. She pulls her audience into a realm where time does not matter. You will be forever changed once you let her talent into your life. ($20, Sept. 17-19, outdoors at Bartram’s Garden Community Boathouse, 5400 Lindbergh Blvd. Bring chairs.)
Alice: not your child’s wonderland. You can always trust EgoPo to take your mind down the rabbit hole. So now that they’re doing their own reenvisioning of the classic tale, it should prove to be an event that will have you questioning your entire perception of the world. ($32. Sept. 29 & 30, outdoors at Glen Foerd, 5001 Grant Ave.)
Honorable mentions: No Diggity (improv from Crossroads Comedy Theater, $10, Sept. 26 at Theatre Exile); Stellar / Rise (a dance film by Kyle Marshall Choreography and live performance by Bree Breeden, Kyle Marshall, Jose Lapaz-Rodriguez, and Ariana Speight, , $35. Sept. 24 & 25 at FringeArts); Soundscape Visualz (a musical performance piece by Teyquil Skelton, Warehouse on Watts, $10), and I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman (a performance by Tara Lake of storytelling, theater, song, and poetry, $10, Sept. 20-22 at the Whole Shebang)
Mae West, member of Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and part of the group producing the Cannonball Festival at the Maas Building
Mae West will be performing at the Fringe Festival in $7 Girl, an autobiographical, solo production based on their experiences as a queer, trans sex worker. ($20, Sept. 19-25, Maas Building, 1325 N. Randolph St.)
I’m especially excited for some of the immersive pieces at the Cannonball: If We Win by Yannick Trapman-O’Brien, Artifacts of No Consequence by Jeff Evans, and Nuptial Blitz by Gabrielle Revlock. Yannick and I started working together in 2019, and I became enthralled by the way he brings you into the micro-worlds he builds. Evans’ work will be site-specific in a cottage and I’m looking forward to how he utilizes the space. The way Gabby interrogates the sociopolitical aspects of dating and relationships is really enthralling. (If We Win, free; Artifacts of No Consequence, $20; Nuptial Blitz, $20, check cannonballfestival.org for dates and times)
I was so captivated by Irina Varina when I first saw her in Jillian Jetton’s Heat Wave. She’s doing a show, Irina learns guitar and songwriting, as a public accountability project. I feel like this is going to be such a beautifully vulnerable piece! ($15. Sept. 17-Oct. 1, Headlong Studios Courtyard, 1170 S. Broad St.)
Connor Hogan is doing Gilligan Gigs Again, which is a trivia cabaret all about radical self-acceptance. Knowing Connor, this show is sure to be bold, hilarious, and full of surprises. ($18. Sept. 9-24, Victoria Freehouse, 10 S. Front St.)
Ardencie Hall-Karambé, associate professor of theater and English at Community College of Philadelphia, artistic director of Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective
Kaleidoscope will return to the stage some time this winter with a production of Amen Corner by James Baldwin, perhaps at the historic Church of the Advocate. Ardencie Hall-Karambé is also chief executive of Arden Blair Enterprises.
Bon Appétit! By Julia Child and Lee Hoiby (During a Pandemic!). Honey, you have it all here — Julia(-esque), food, opera, and comedy! I watched Mrs. Child as a kid growing up in rural Texas. So, I’ll bring the wine. This should be fun. (Pay what you can, livestreaming through Sept. 26)
Adjust the Procedure by Jake Shore, produced by Spin Cycle. My reasons here are purely personal. Living through the fallout of coronavirus in higher education firsthand and the lingering aftermath, it will be interesting to see how this moment is being captured as collective memory. ($10 online, for streaming throughout the festival)
Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge, staged by Elevator Repair Service. Considering the racial and political climate we are in, this play is called for and needed. This debate was 55 years ago, but the essence of the question has yet to be answered. ($39, Sept. 9-11, FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd.)
Twelfth Night, by Indecorous Theatre Productions. I happen to love Shakespeare, and Twelfth Night is one of my favorites. Don’t let the “lofty” language fool you; Shakespeare be dishing the dirt and spilling the tea in this romantic romp complete with mistaken identity and cross-dressing. ($20, Sept. 11-26, Strawberry Mansion House, Fairmount Park)
Lovers and Madmen by Forgotten Lore Theatre with Lone Brick Theatre Company, Widener University. Reason: It is Shakespeare. It is the fae. It is interactive. Audience members can really get into the bBard with this one. ($20, Sept. 16-19, outdoors, audience guided through Taylor Arboretum, 10 Ridley Dr., Wallingford)
Dane Eissler, associate producer for EgoPo Classic Theater
Dane Eissler will be directing EgoPo’s Fringe offering, Alice: not your child’s wonderland, an adaption of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that he cowrote with Jenna Kuerzi. The dangerous, topsy-turvy Wonderland that emerges is an adult realm and not for children. ($32, Sept. 29 & 30, outdoors at Glen Foerd, 5001 Grant Ave.)
deprogram. I love Fringe because so many dance and dance-theater pieces get the attention they deserve. And I love Megan Mazarick and her work, so of course I’ll be there. ($15. Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Maas Building)
Sun & Sea. This sounds like such a stunning experience. Opera art installation with no beginning or end on an indoor beach? I had to do a double take. ($15, Sept. 30-Oct. 3, Budd building, 2831 Fox St. Tickets are timed, the opera cycles through in an hour.)
Kimie Muroya is a founding member of Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists and has the lead role in the world premiere of R. Eric Thomas’ The Ever Present, presented by Theatre Exile in five different South Philadelphia parks Sept. 11-19. (Free, bring your own chair, date and location details at theatreexile.org.)
QvK, presented by Philadelphia Artists’ Collective: The best Shakespeare speeches, stage violence, audience voting all in one place? Only 45 minutes long? Directed by Damon Bonetti? Composed by the Eli Lynn? Yes, please! This piece by PAC hits all the sweet spots for me, and I’m certainly looking forward to it. (Free, Sept. 16-Oct. 3, outdoors at Bardascino Park, 1000 S. 10th St. Bring chairs.)
Changing My Major to Joan, presented by Boris Dansberry. Boris is an amazing up-and-coming queer artist in this city, and I cannot wait to see their one-person show! Using contemporary theatrical portrayals of Joan of Arc, they’re exploring community, representation, and queer history all woven together in a beautiful and touching revue-style performance. (Pay what you can, Sept. 17-19, Pig Iron Theatre Company Studio B, 1417 N. Second St.)
The Hazards of Love, presented by The Hum’n’Bards Theater Troupe. The Decemberists are one of my absolute favorite bands, and I’m so excited to see their concept album, The Hazards of Love, realized in performance! But be warned — this piece deals with some strong material and is for audience members 21+. ($10, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Front Street Dive, 10 N. Front St., and streaming starting Oct. 2.)