Face-to-face Fringe

Set aside Sept. 9 through Oct. 2 for the 25th Annual Philadelphia Fringe Festival, with theater and more theater, plus dance, circus acts, and art installations — sometimes all in the same production.

This year’s call for proposals resulted in a record-setting number of submissions, which will yield nearly 200 different works and more than 1,000 performances. The lineup will be announced in early August.

All of the shows the Fringe itself curates will be live, as will the majority of shows by independent artists — roughly a quarter of them will be digital-only.

Look for details next month at fringearts.com/2021-fringe-festival.

Shakespeare, outside and in (and streaming)

In an enchanted forest north of Quakertown on Route 309, mischievous fairies encounter mismatched lovers in William Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, staged outdoors through Aug. 1 as part of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival at a new open-air theater at DeSales University in Lehigh County.

“It’s a chaotic ball of energy,” said director Matt Pfeiffer, a Barrymore Award winner now in his 22nd season with the festival.

But that’s not all. Through July 31, the festival offers Charlotte’s Web Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m. on the outdoor stage. Then, the festival’s Young Company Shakespeare Project performs Love’s Labour’s Lost at 3 p.m. on July 24 and 25, also on the outdoor stage.

There’s an indoor option as well: An Iliad, a modern retelling of Homer’s classic, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays through Aug. 1.

Details are at pashakespeare.org, and most performances offer with virtual streaming. Masks are required inside buildings.

Murder mysteries to go

From the time she was in high school, Traci Connaughton knew she wanted to own her own business. “I thought maybe retail,” she said.

Instead, the business Connaughton built capitalized on her passion for theater, specifically, staged dinner theater and walking tour mysteries. Her company, Without a Cue Productions, offers shows throughout the summer at Peddler’s Village in Bucks County, at the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May, and in Philadelphia’s historic district.

The staged shows and walking tour mysteries vary by site. If you choose the walk option, the selections are Murder by Gaslight in Old City, Murder in the Jazz Age at Peddler’s Village, and The Murder of James Cosgrove in Cape May.

“Dinner theater has different reputations,” acknowledged Connaughton. “It’s a stepping-stone theater-wise for performers. It isn’t where people want to end up, but it’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to create a very professional group that would appeal to a more corporate, broader range of clients, so I could create steadier employment for actors.”

Connaughton caught the theater bug in high school. In college at Drexel University, she acted in dinner theater for tuition money and found herself drawn to the improvisational aspect of the genre.

When she started Without a Cue in 2002, the company rehearsed in her one-bedroom apartment in Fairless Hills, with her mom sewing costumes. Like all entrepreneurs, Connaughton did it all and does it all, from acting to schlepping. “I’m writing my own material, and directing it and producing it, and doing the bookkeeping and everything else.”

This summer, she has been able to provide work for 30 actors so far. “For years, I never thought we’d make it to the next year,” Connaughton said. “After about 10 years, I began to think, ‘This isn’t going away, so I better make plans for the future.’ We are far bigger than I ever anticipated.”

Full schedule at withoutacue.com

Get them while they’re HotHouse

To keep themselves busy and creative during the COVID-19 shutdown, Wilma Theater’s theater incubator group, the Wilma HotHouse Company, set to work creating six video shorts, all very different.

Hold Fast’s dance and music offers a meditation on the quarantine. The Rot is a music video that grapples with the dank political.

Who wipes the sweat off the basketball court during games? The Floor Wipers with gloves and mops provide insight in a comedy sketch.

Actor Melanye Finister builds community with her mother’s Creole gumbo recipe in The Lagniappe Project while other HotHouse performers explore secret transmissions from Black Planet in Code Black Planet, a mix of spoken word, sketch comedy, and music. Demons wait to be purged in Expired, an interactive website.

Available free (donation encouraged) via Wilma’s website, wilmatheater.org/hothouse-shorts