Philadelphia Fringe Festival shows to see
In his latest, choreographer Gunnar Montana takes us into the belly of an underground nightclub in Berlin where “no fucks are given and fierceness is always welcome.” He says the work—characterized by dramatic, gender-bending dance performances, outlandish costumes and maybe a well-toned butt cheek or two—is autobiographical, as it explores his recent commitment to sobriety and tackles what it means to be young and gay today.
Brian Sanders JUNK takes its 2017 Fringe Festival offering to Grays Ferry Crescent Trail Park, a serene, disconnected portion of the Schuylkill Trail with entrances in three spots around Forgotten Bottom. The show, like all of artistic director Brian Sanders’s work, is bizarre, complex and immersive. It’s actually four shows in one. Audiences choose from four experiences they want to take—from a bare-bones walking excursion and one that’s apocalyptic-themed to a fancier, more expensive version that includes a picnic dinner. At the end of each performance, the audience converges in an open field in the center of the park at sunset for a dazzling grand finale that incorporates JUNK’s signature acrobatic moves, song and a lot of rolling around gracefully in the grass.
Drag songstress Cookie Diorio returns to the Fringe Festival with a trio of cabaret performances benefiting local LGBTQ-serving nonprofits such as Women in Transition and Valley Youth House. Art of the Heel finds the powerhouse vocalist slipping into a pair of six-and-half-inch sequined platforms for an evening of songs that run the gamut from gospel and opera to pop and protest music. She is joined by a different musical guest at each performance, including blues band Stevie and the Bluescasters and operatic baritone Garrett Obrycki.
Iron Age Theatre Company’s latest—a world premiere by Rich Bradford—centers around Fred Hampton, a Black Panther and founder of the Rainbow Coalition who was murdered by Chicago police at age 21. A one-man show, the work examines Hampton’s compassionate approach to revolution and how he hoped to tackle issues like racist brutality, childhood hunger and poverty in the African-American community.
The real star of this show—the latest by Philadelphia experimental theater artist Geoff Sobelle—is a house that’s constructed onstage every night. It’s inhabited by a cast of characters representing the folks who live there over time; they move in, get into fights, have babies and even die and haunt the place, putting you in a fly-on-the-wall position as you watch the journey of one house transforming into a home.
The latest by director Thaddeus Phillips and visual artist Steven Dufala promises to be a “journey into an alternative universe for audiences ages 3 to 99.” The fantastical tale follows a father and son who jump into a portal to another dimension to retrieve a beloved stuffed whale. A dreamy soundtrack by Colombian composer Juan Gabriel Turbay accompanies.
Bearded Ladies Cabaret Artistic Director John Jarboe—whom you may also know as Edith Piaf at Eastern State Penitentiary’s annual Bastille Day celebration—debuts the fall 2017 version of his monthly, late-night cabaret series during the Fringe Festival. His special guest for the kickoff is the legendary German cabaret singer Dieter Rita Scholl. The gender-bending diva specializes in classic French cabaret songs, with a particular focus on lady singers. We’ll wait with bated breath for a Piaf duet between him and Jarboe.
This world premiere staged by the extraordinary Bill T. Jones seems absolutely current while at the same time tackling a brutal chapter of Philadelphia history: the 1985 MOVE bombing. Composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and librettist Marc Bathumi Joseph’s genre-defying piece features opera singers alongside spoken-word artists, hip-hop performers and R&B and jazz musicians.
New Philadelphia theater company Juniper Productions—which aims to produce theatrical works in non-traditional venues around Philadelphia—debuts its inaugural presentation at Philadelphia Distilling. The performance, part of the Fringe Festival and aptly named #CocktailPlays, features four new short works created by Philadelphia playwrights—and they’re each complemented with a signature cocktail whipped up by Philadelphia Distilling mixologists. Drinks are served an hour before showtime during a mix-and-mingle session with other attendees, so be sure to show up early. When it’s showtime, three local actors (pictured) take on roles in each play, which veer toward the suspenseful and darkly humorous.
Cabaret diva Martha Graham Cracker and her band take the stage at FringeArts for this wildly popular concert that’s now a staple of the annual Fringe Festival. You never know what kind of theatrics she’ll pull out of that tightly curled wig as the hairy-chested chanteuse belts out pop favorites and maybe grinds on an audience member or three.