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Your Guide for the 15th Annual Philly Fringe and Live Arts Festival

Make no mistake, this year's Philly Fringe and Live Arts Festival is the largest in the event's 15-year history.

The creative minds behind the annual event, which begins Friday and runs through Sept. 17, are still coming up with enough firsts to keep people jazzed for more.

The Live Arts Festival's first-ever large-scale visual art presentation opens on First Friday on the Delaware River waterfront. Artists from Belgium and France are installing Zon-Mai (translates to "at home, elsewhere"), a giant house of screens featuring projections of 21 dancers performing in their own personal spaces, at the Former Pumping Station (140 N. Coumbus Blvd.) across from the newly finished Race Street Pier. Official gallery opening for this installation is Thursday, Sept. 8 from 5-8 p.m.

There are eight world and U.S. premieres and one Philadelphia premiere. There's Parisian puppetry, a theatrical experience that begins online and ends in person, and even a scavenger hunt on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Artists come to Philly from all over, as far as Tel Aviv, performing dance, theater, music, spoken word, a variety of visual arts, children's shows, and interdisciplinary works. Since 1997, more than 10,000 artists have performed in 2,000 shows before more than 250,000 patrons.

The official Festival Box Office is housed at the Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, 215.413.1318). Hours are as follows:

- Through Sept. 1 and Sept. 5: 12-7 p.m.
- Sept. 2-17: Sun-Thu 12-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Perhaps the biggest news is the festival is planning on soon having a permanent home. The festival has an agreement of sale with the City of Philadelphia to purchase a former pumping station on Columbus Blvd. across from the Race Street Pier along the Delaware River waterfront. The 10,000 square foot historic site would feature year-round programming, a 225-seat theater, offices, rehearsal studios, a full restaurant and bar, box office, and an outdoor plaza.

The estimated cost to fully renovate the building is $5 million. With $2.8 million in early commitments, the organization has created a fundraising campaign. To learn more contact Robin Barnes at 215.413.9006 x14 or email her at robin@livearts-fringe.org.

TRACES OF LOVE: The New York Times has already called it "pure urban adrenaline." Traces combines traditional acrobatic forms with street elements like skateboarding and basketball, mixed with theater and contemporary dance. It runs at the Merriam Theater (250 S. Broad St., Philadelphia). Call 215.893.1999 for tickets (tickets for Traces sold only through Kimmel Center).

Following the 8 p.m. performance on Sept. 17, there will be a post-show Q&A with the show's artists and instructors from teh Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, moderated by PSCA Managing Director. PSCA is also a Fringe collaborator, presenting The Green Fairy Cabaret, a dazzling flight to 1900s Paris, on Sept. 8-10 at is facility (5900 Green St., Unit A, Philadelphia).

ARTICULATE LANDSCAPE: The artist sums it up as a "love story about stories," and while The Articulate Landscape combines short fiction readings with a sort of gypsy music caravan, Heather Shayne Blakeslee's latest project is sure to provide plenty of room for interpretation.

That's kind of the point of the multi-disciplinary performances of this novel-in-progress, set for Sept. 3 and 10 at The Fire (4th and Girard, Philadelphia). The Articulate Landscape is "nominally about a woman who is considering becoming a book," exploring themes of transition and metamorphoses, tension among different world views, and mythmaking.  

Selected readings, which provide ample opportunity for comedy and eroticism, will be performed by Blakeslee, Yards Brewing Company founder Tom Kehoe and Amos Lee drummer Freddie Berman. Blakeslee's band Sweetbriar Rose will provide some accompaniment.

The Sept. 10 performance will be followed by a reception in the bar and music sets from the performers.

FESTIVAL BAR + SOCIAL CLUB: Make plans for the next arts revolution here. RUBA Club Studios (416 Green St.,NoLibs) is providing a "relaxed social environment" for Festival artists and audiences to enjoy post-show drinks, conversation and entertainment like late-night cabaret and variety shows. Doors open at 10 p.m. every night of the festival, first-come first-serve, 21-and-over and no cover.

FEASTIVAL: The second installment of this highly successful foodie Fringe fundraiser, co-hosted by Stephen Starr, Michael Solomonov, and Audrey Claire Taichman, is honoring former Governor Ed Rendell on Wed., Sept. 14 at Pier 9 (121 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia).

The event features culinary offerings inspired by the hosts and the likes of Jose Garces, Georges Perrier and Marc Vetri. General admission tickets are $250 and VIP tickets cost $350 (includes private bar service, and auction preview). Video from last year here.

PHOTO CONTEST: Everybody's a photographer nowadays. But not everyone can get a free all-access pass to the 2012 Festival. That honor goes to the individual who wins the Festival's first photo contest, in partnership with Phillyfunguide.com and PNC Arts Alive.

Festival visitors can submit photos in three categories: Fringe or Live Arts performer or group, Festival Box Office, and Festival Bar. Voting starts Friday and continues through Sept. 24.

The photographer whose photo attains the most overall votes in any category wins the all-access pass ($400 value). Photographers submitting the top vote-getting photos in the remaining categories will each receive four complimentary tickets for next year's Festival ($100 value). Third place receives two complimentary tickets.

The Festival performer whose photo receives the most votes wins free registration and marketing fees for the 2012 Festival ($325 value).

JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Flying Kite. Send feedback here.


Philly Fringe 2011

The Articulate Landscape


Zon Mai

Photos Courtesy of PHILLY FRINGE

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