The annual Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe showcases dozens of local and international performing artists at venues all across the city, but you don’t have to travel very far to see some high-caliber work. Here are some festival picks in your neighborhood.
With the Mascher Space Co-op and thefidget space, the intersection of Cecil B. Moore and Mascher Street has become a hub for movement art. This is not your grandma’s Nutcracker ballet: in turns communicative, athletic, and provocative, the contemporary works at these venues will make you rethink what dance can be.
This year, Mascher Space Co-op hosts two farflung acts. Mascher co-founder Kate Speer returns to Philadelphia with a colleague from the University of Colorado Boulder MFA program for Sticks & Stones (Sept. 7, 8), an exploration of the power contained within the universal language of movement. The performers in Solos from Gdansk, Burdag, and Warszawa (Sept. 14-16) are making an even longer journey: these three Polish choreographers present pieces to culminate a several-week artistic-cultural exchange with the Philly dance community. At neighboring fidget space, artist-in-residence Lauren Mandilian uses surreal video imagery and suspended fabrics to create an otherworldly journey through time in Timelines (Sept. 14, 15).
Live Arts Studios at Fifth and Poplar streets hosts a stand-out of the Philly dance scene. Philly choreographer Jumatutu Poe has been a hit at previous fests. His 2012 piece, Private Places (Sept. 15-20), blends the seemingly incongruent movements of the service industry with the explosive J-Sette dance culture of black gay clubs.
Independent theater remains the heart of the annual festival, and our neighborhoods are blessed with an array of theatrical gems. Stalwart local venue the Walking Fish Theatre (2509 Frankford Ave.) presents a new work co-created by artistic director Michelle Pauls. Set in the pre-feminist 1950s, the adult-only 3 Wishes (Sept. 13-23) is inspired by the success of the 50 Shades of Grey book series. It promises equal amounts of sexuality, but less bad-writing-induced brain spasms. Walking Fish also hosts City Boy (Sept. 13-15), a coming-of-age story of a New Yorker’s return to his boyhood hometown.
One of the best things about the Fringe is all the site-specific theater. Visiting the Garage Mahal at 2026 N. Hancock Street, playwright Chris Davis saw an old VW bus. His mystery-comedy 1 Year and a Day (Sept. 14-22) makes use of the bus and other eccentricities of the venue unlike for an entertaining original piece.
Playwright Bruce Walsh’s work has been showcased at larger Live Arts spaces in years past, but this year he is inviting you into a decidedly intimate space: his home on Randolph Street. In Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969 (Sept. 7, 8), Walsh and his roommate reenact the famous talk-show debate between Noam Chomsky and William F. Buckley, intellectual grandees of the political left and right, respectively, all while serving you hors d’oeuvres. Space is, well, limited.
Only in this neighborhood; only in the Fringe. Check livearts-fringe.org for details and pricing on all the shows.