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City of Extraordinary Fringe

Our blogs are written by our actual, real tour guides. This month, prepare to get weird in the wonderful world of theatre with our history guide Nate

(Uumbal in Mexico City, 2015 credited FringeArts)

You take your first few steps in the City of Brotherly Love, grab a cheesesteak, and wander around Old City, spotting the building where our independence was decided, the infamous Liberty Bell, and the oldest continuously inhabited alley from British Colonial America (Elfreth’s Alley). For some strange reason, you feel like you need something more, some entertainment and excitement to make this trip to Philadelphia unforgettable. Like John Adams, you take a stroll through Washington Square and sit on a bench. Unlike Mr. Adams, you look at your phone and scroll through some Facebook posts, which probably aren’t helping the excitement of Philadelphia.  But then, you stumble upon the secret ingredient nobody has shared with you about Philadelphia (until now) — FringeArts!

Although Philadelphia is most known for our historical gems, cheesesteaks, and sports fans, we also have an incredible art and theatre district, including the magical world of Fringe Theatre. And we’ve got a treat coming your way dished up by FringeArts from September 5-22: the Fringe Festival.

I got to hear from FringeArts’ Director of Marketing and Communication, Claire Frisbie, who gave us some inside information on all-things Philadelphia Fringe. Take a look at our conversation below (Claire’s words are in italics):

(Superterranean, 2019 credited FringeArts)

What is “fringe” theatre?

In general, fringe theatre refers to experimental theatre and performance—work that pushes the limits and boundaries of form and subject matter. FringeArts presents a lot of devised theatre (scriptless work that is created collaboratively by an ensemble) and interdisciplinary multi-genre work as well as dance, comedy, contemporary circus, and more.

What can I get excited about regarding Fringe Festival 2019?


Superterranean is a new world premiere from local faves Pig Iron Theatre Company and Tony Award-winning designer Mimi Lien, inspired by Lien’s fascination with urban infrastructure. Superterranean Podcast interview with Mimi Lien:

Úumbal takes the Fringe Festival literally to the streets in a free roaming dance performance through the streets of South Philly featuring 50+ non-professional dancers.

FringeArts is presenting a number of works addressing very timely themes, such as immigration (Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myer’s Cartography), the American Dream (Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s and EN-KNAP’s Pursuit of Happiness), and Russian interference in the 2016 election, to name a few (Half Straddle’s Is This a Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription).

Part of the fun of the Fringe Festival is experiencing performances in spaces you wouldn’t normally do so: venues range from literal apartments to LOVE Parkcoworking spaces and former garages.

Is there a way I can easily see what shows are performing at the Fringe Festival, and also purchase tickets?

There are a few ways:

  • Peruse our gorgeous print Fringe Festival Guide, available at FringeArts and at businesses around the city
  • Download the FringeArts App (available for iPhone and Android), where you can peruse by date, artist, and show, and make your own schedule
  • Sort by genre, date, theme, neighborhood, and more on our website (click on “programs”)

The best way to purchase tickets is via our website or to come to the Fringe Festival box office at FringeArts and do so in person. Box office pre-festival (Aug 26-Sep 4) hours: 11am-5pm. During the festival (Sep 5-22): 11am-8pm.

I’m only in Philadelphia for a few days–why should I add the Fringe Festival to my list of things to see in Philly? 

Philadelphia has a phenomenal performing arts scene, and the Fringe Festival is the ideal time to see work by the city’s best local artists, alongside some of the most exciting artists from around the world. There are shows taking place in virtually every neighborhood in the city, so it’s easy to pair a Fringe Festival show with other activities you might have planned. And from free outdoor performances to family-friendly shows to late-night cabaret—there is truly something for everyone!

If I miss the Fringe festival, are there still opportunities for me to see some fringe theatre in Philadelphia through FringeArts?

Always! FringeArts presents work year-round in our space on the Delaware waterfront. We have three additional festivals (Blue Heaven, an alt-comedy festival in February; Hand to Hand, a contemporary circus festival in June; and High Pressure Fire Service, a series of new works by local Philly artists), along with ongoing late-night programming, monthly scratch nights (featuring works in progress by local artists), plus more—sign up to our mailing list for more info!

(Pursuit of Happiness, 2019 credited FringeArts)

You immediately put down your phone, hop off the bench in Washington Square, and rush to a Fringe performance. After that cheesesteak, this will be the icing on the cake, filling you up with all that Philly has to offer!

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