Once upon a time the Old City Fringe was the Philly Fringe. Old City on the first Friday in September was the place to be, with guerrilla shows, plays in coffee shops and parks, art gallery openings, and busy streets. And the buzz lingered in the neighborhood for a fortnight, with most plays within a few blocks and the Festival Bar just down the street. The Fringe has come a long way in a short time and it’s churlish to complain about such a varied and entertaining two-week event, but the heart yearns for what is gone. So it was comforting to see the Fringe Guide divided into neighborhood sections, with Old City one of the largest sections. Phindie’s eight preview of the Philly Fringe considers 2013 productions in the historic heart of the Festival and Philadelphia itself.
Old City Fringe (includes Society Hill)
Twelve of the fifteen Fringe productions in east Center City are categorized as theater, with a visual arts show and two dance shows making up the remainder. The dance pieces should be stellar, though: Naatya Seva performing the beautifully formalized Indian dance form Bharathanaatyam and local dance star Nichole Canuso leading two people at a time on a provocative individualized tour through The Garden of our bodies.
The Old City waterfront provides the site-specific venue for one of the picks of the 2013 Festival, as 2012 Fringe success Philadelphia Artists’ Collective (The Creditors) stages Eugene O’Neill’s Sea Plays. A cast which includes some of the finest Philly actors (Brian McCann, Keith Conallen, David Blatt, and Eric Scotolati, among others) brings to life two early O’Neill works, Bound East for Cardiff and In the Zone, aboard the tall ship Gazella. Ahoy!
Old City theater anchor the Arden Theatre is getting its 2013/14 season underway just after the Festival concludes, but the playhouse is lending its space to a couple Fringe shows. Shannon House will stage a reimagining of R. L. Stein’s epic Goosebumps series, Paperback Dreadful, in the Arden lobby. On the Arden’s Arcadia Stage, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice gets a 1920s reworking by the Albert M. Greenfield Teen Council.
Painted Bride Art Center hosts short runs of three Presented Fringe pieces: Irish Riverdance star Colin Dunne’s Out of Time, Sō Percussion’s drum adventure Where (we) Live, and the past Festival favorite Jo Strømgren Kompani’s absurd (its in a nonsensical language) yet relatable physical theater piece The Society. Found Theater Company has a longer run at the Painted Bride with the contemplative celestial show This is The Twilight Kingdom (with two fitting midnight performances).
In other enticing area shows, Fringe star Geoff Sobelle explores the inner life of objects in his Presented Fringe production The Object Lesson; Alexandra Berczynski serves up the 20-minute one-woman How to Make Potato Salad on food preparation and the act of eating; and female-focused upstart Crack The Glass Theater Company brings four world premieres by women writers to Grasso’s Magic Theatre with 4Play.
The 2013 Fringe Festival runs September 5-22. See fringearts.ticketleap.com for tickets and info. Check out Phindie previews of other Fringe neighborhoods and more great festival coverage on our 2013 Fringe Festival page.