After three years in its new headquarters at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival -- presented by FringeArts
-- is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The 15-day extravaganza, which will feature 178 shows all over the city (a handful curated by FringeArts and the rest mounted independently), is running September 9 through 24.
On July 19, FringeArts gathered media and presenters for a look at this year’s curated lineup of shows from homegrown and international artists. President and producing director Nick Stuccio, who assembles the slate along with FringeArts programming director Sarah Bishop-Stone, touched on some notable returning artists along with those new to the festival.
Fringe audiences of two years ago might remember the inaugural production of The Sincerity Project
, an ambitious theatrical happening from Philly’s Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, with plans to span 24 years. Every two years, the same seven-person ensemble will converge for a performance mixing theater, music, ritual and dance "to reveal stories from the performers’ respective pasts, to display their bodies in the now, and to reveal their evolving desires and aspirations for the future."
Italian director Romeo Castellucci is also returning (after past festival hits The Four Seasons Restaurant
and On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God
) with Julius Caesar. Spared Parts.
A man with no vocal cords performs Mark Anthony’s funeral oration while another holds forth with an endoscope displaying his vocal cords in real time.
Other notable artists include Stew & Heidi Rodewald, who are partnering with the The Wilma Theater
to offer Notes of a Native Song,
a "concert novel" homage to James Baldwin. Cesar Alvarez will mount his extraordinary musical The Elementary Spacetime Show
(about a girl who has to play her way through a surreal game show to win her right to suicide) in partnership with University of the Arts
. (The show premiered at UArts' inaugural Polyphone Festival in 2015.) Three-time FringeArts presenter Reggie Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group will open the fest with Citizen
, which Stuccio said is inspired in part by "famous African Americans who left this country to fulfill their identities."
This year’s "masthead show" is coming from director Brett Bailey, a white South African whose controversial work probes post-colonial Africa. Bailey’s Third World Bunfight will present a condensed 100-minute version of Verdi’s Macbeth
in partnership with Opera Philadelphia, reimagining Shakespeare’s tragic figure as a dictator in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (It comes with a host of associated discussions and events
Find the full lineup of curated shows
As for the rest of the fest, audiences can find 11 types of shows in the categories of music, dance, comedy, film, theater, spoken word, interdisciplinary, happenings, visual art and circus. 2016's iteration will branch out into West Philadelphia, and there will also be lots of work in Fishtown/Kensington, the Northwest, Northern Liberties, Old City, South Philly and more, including the second year of the Digital Fringe, with work presented exclusively online.
Audiences can sit in graveyards, forage on a farm, drink, laugh, interact, share stories and more. Shows will take place in venues including a yoga studio, a gay nightclub, Elfreth’s Alley, museums and parks. The full lineup will be available in print and online
Markman especially appreciates "artists who use our platform to find their own unique audience."
And for local beer lovers, FringeArts announced one more new partnership: "Fringe Benefit," a limited-edition pale ale from Kensington’s Saint Benjamin Brewing Company
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Nick Stuccio and Jarrod Markman, FringeArts