Since 2013, Phindie has had the most and best coverage of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival of any publication IN THE WORLD. This year, we’ll once again do our best to review as many shows as possible, interview a bunch of artists, and get perspectives on the festival from regular theatergoers and leading performers.
But how do we know what’s going to be good? Well, we don’t. But years of previewing and reviewing have given us some insights into the artists and shows which you’ll want to put near the top of your list for the 2018 Fringe. (Know more? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @phindiemag and tell us!) Here are Phindie’s picks for the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre
Almanac is billing J/J/J/J as a return to its roots—impressive acrobatics which don’t try to hide their human efforts. Though it always gives impressive shows with richly communicative physicality, the contemporary circus ensemble got a little into the weeds with some of its idea-heavy full-length shows. If, as expected, J/J/J/J reveals a mature company finding its ideal balance of character-driven acrobatics and theater in a coherent full-length, this could be their best show in years. Guide page 76.
[The Garden at the Maas Building, 1325 N. Randolph Street] September 4–16, 2018; fringearts.com/event/jeannejeanjohnjawn
Eccentricities of a Nightingale
Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium
IRC concluded its Fringetime journey through the work of Eugene Ionesco with last year’s Bald Soprano; for 2018 it brings its signature brand of absurdity to an early play by American great Tennessee Williams. The site-specific performance at Bethany Mission Gallery begins before the Festival and runs through the last day, so there’s plenty of opportunity to see the stalwart Fringe favorites. Guide page 84.
[Bethany Mission Gallery, 1527 Brandywine Street, North Philly] September 4–23, 2018; fringearts.com/event/tennessee-williams-eccentricities-of-a-nightingale
Close Your Legs, Honey — A New Musical
Hannah Parke & Shamus Hunter McCarty / Philly Improv Theater
FringeArts launched a Festival app for the first time this year. As of writing, Close Your Legs, Honey is the most-liked show on the app. Coproduced by PHIT, the “high-glitz musical misadventure” features an all-star creative crew, many of whom are doing double-duty on other Fringe shows: performers Jenna Kuerzi, Claris Park, and Katherine Perry; choreographer Dana Kreitz; Barrymore-nominated lighting designer Robin Stamey; and music director Damien Figueras. Guide page 71.
[The Adrienne, Center City] September 5-22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/close-your-legs-honey-a-new-musical
Philadelphia Artists Collective
With The Creditors, Sea Plays, The Rape of Lucrece, and Iphigenia at Aulis, the PAC have provided previous Festivals seriously high-quality, brilliantly site-specific stagings of classic theater. These works were among the very best theater offerings of the respective theater seasons. This year’s offering fits the PAC model, with JM Barrie’s reckoning with loss and love staged around the scenic grounds of Woodlands Mansion and Cemetery in West Philly. Guide page 103.
[Woodlands Mansion and Cemetery, West Philly] September 5-22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/mary-rose
Song of My Self-Care
Jimmy Grzelak / Philly Improv Theater
Improv company PHIT brings almost a dozen shows to its home at the Adrienne. Jimmy Grzelak’s imaginative staging of a real-life self-help book by “Great American Poet” Walt Whitman impressed at this year’s Solo Fest and got a workout at other Fringe Festivals. Guide page 74.
[The Adrienne, Center City] September 6–8, 2018; fringearts.com/event/song-of-my-self-care
The Renegade Company
Mike Durkin’s project to tell the story of an iconic Philadelphia neighborhood began as version of Hemingway’s Nobel-earning The Old Man and The Sea. But the company which brought us Animal Farm to Table and Bathtub Moby Dick found itself embarking on a wholly new journey. The resulting walking tour begins at the infamous drug intersection of Kensington and Allegheny and ends in a charming park in gentrifying Port Richmond; along the way it communicates the diverse stories and history of the streets we traverse and the people who call them home. Guide page 77.
[Begins at the Allegheny El Stop, Kensington] September 6–16, 2018; fringearts.com/event/kensington-streetplay
Fly Eagles Fly
Tribe of Fools
Fringe favorite Tribe of Fools return with an au courant Philly-themed show about Eagles fandom which opens the same night that the Super Bowl LII Champions (mang, it feels good to write that) begin their title defense at the Linc. Previous Fringes have seen the Tribe of Fools bring their highly physical theater to the Mummers and Fishtown hipsters; this examination of another local institution was inspired by an off-hand tweet by Broad Street Review editor Wendy Rosenfeld. Guide page 72.
[The Drake Theater, Center City] September 6–22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/fly-eagles-fly
God, Forgive Those Bastards
The jazz-infused 2012 album God, Forgive Those Bastards: Songs from the Forgotten Life of Henry Turner by melodic modern punk outfit The Taxpayers gives a musical and dramatic framework to a pay what you want performance by The Hum’n’bards. Award-winning singer Wyatt Flynn leads a world premiere show which follows the story of an everyman’s downfall. Guide page 78.
[The Fire, 412 West Girard Avenue, NoLibs/Kensington] September 6–22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/god-forgive-bastards
As Far As My Fingertips Take Me
Tania El Khoury
One of five contemporarily relevant works by London-based Lebanese artist Tania El Khoury, As Far As My Fingertips Take Me showcases her art-gallery theatricality. Though Gardens Speak, the headline work of ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury, takes place only at Bryn Mawr College, As Far As My Fingertips Take Me has performances in both Bryn Mawr and Old City. The performance is an intimate one-on-one encounter (through a gallery wall) with a refugee. As he tells you his family’s story, he draws on your arm. Too often, stories of immigration and refugees do not really penetrate our consciousness, even if we’re politically sympathetic to the plight. This work literally leaves its mark on us. Guide page 36.
[Pii Gallery, Old City; Taft Galley, Bryn Mawr College] September 6–23, 2018; fringearts.com/event/far-fingertips-take
German composer and director Heiner Goebbels got his start collaborating with iconoclastic playwright Heiner Muller (Hamletmachine). Goebbel’s works have toured internationally for almost 30 years, but this Fringe marks his first artistic visit to Philadelphia. His Songs of Wars I Have Seen features musicians from the leading Philadelphia classical ensembles (Philadelphia Orchestra and Tempesta di Mare) playing music from across centuries and reading work by Gertrude Stein. But the highlight of the Curated Fringe is Stifters Dinge, a massive performative installation previously seen in the huge turbine lobby of the Tate Modern museum in London. It is theater with no actors—haunting, meditative, experiential. Guide page 31.
[Navy Yard Building 611, South Philly] September 7–9, 2018; fringearts.com/event/stifters-dinge
Bon Iver Fights A Bear
maura ampersand doug
Orbiter 3 alums Maura Krause and Doug Williams recombine their creative energies in a humorous reexamination of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The wood-cabin creation of this hipster classic is one the great artmaking myths of the 21st century. Krause and Williams pay tribute to the beauty of the songs (“Re: Stacks”, “Skinny Love”, etc.) while exposing the gendered trope of the disturbed male genius through the eyes of a bear unimpressed by the falsetto ballads. Singer-songwriter Emily Schuman stars. Guide page 103.
[Art Church of West Philadelphia, 5219 Webster Street] September 7–17, 2018; fringearts.com/event/bon-iver-fights-a-bear
Brian Sanders’ JUNK
What would a Fringe Festival be without a Brian Sanders’ JUNK show? Gunnar Montana is absent this year, but the Fringe’s best-selling high-energy dance company returns with a plunge into what’s sure to be a Festival favorite. Expect “1960s Palm Springs … by way of 10th and Hamilton” with nighttime (10:30pm) performances at the Patio at Spring Garden, below the new rail park. Guide page 83.
[The Patio at Spring Garden, 10th and Hamilton streets] September 7–22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/plunge
Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theatre
Stalwart Philly improv group Tongue & Groove begins all its rehearsals by asking the members about their current emotional state. For its 2018 Fringe show, the company does the same with the audience, then uses the answers to the question “How do you feel?” to craft its humorous show. Phindie called a previous year’s show “A night filled with irreverence and laughter reminding us all we are still alive.” Guide page 72.
[The Adrienne Theater, Center City] September 7–22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/feel
Savannah Reich recently moved to Philadelphia. She brings with her an impressive playwriting resume and a buzz of anticipation. Her first Fringe entry is a psychedelic fever dream set during a 14th century plague. It looks at how we deal with tragedy as humans: “totally inadequately, and like assholes.” Yep. Guide page 104.
[Panorama Philly, 5213 Grays Avenue, West Philly] September 8–16, 2018; fringearts.com/event/pestilence-wow
From El Lion (2011) through The Alchemist (2017), Chris Davis has provided some of the most memorable, imaginative, and Fringey theater of recent Fringes (2014’s Anna K still stands out). Fresh from his annual trip to the Edinburgh Fringe, Davis premieres a one-man show about “what it means to be a chosen artist in the world today” at a West Philly hub for promising Fringe shows. The Presented plays alongside Sarah Knittel’s NIGHTMARE FUEL and Savannah Reich’s Pestilence: Wow! Seems like a good reason to spend an afternoon across the Schuylkill. Guide page 104.
[Panorama Philly, 5213 Grays Avenue, West Philly] September 8–24, 2018; fringearts.com/event/the-presented
If audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe are any guide, this is gonna be one shit-kicking show. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following Sarah Knittel’s work for Automatic Arts, HellaFresh Theater, or AntiGravity Theater, which produced her collaborative teeny-boppy fun-fest Dear Diary LOL. One Scottish reviewer called NIGHTMARE FUEL“dark and demented…Not only is it in turns disconcerting and entertaining on a surface level, but works as an allegory for an abusive, gas-lighting relationship without bashing the crowd over the head with a hectoring sermon… what fringe is all about”. Well. that sounds like its what Fringe is all about. Guide page 103.
[Panorama Philly, 5213 Grays Avenue, West Philly] September 8–24, 2018; fringearts.com/event/nightmare-fuel
The curated portion of the 2018 Fringe Festival is light on theater, but its sole entry looks like a winner. A world premiere work by master of the dark clown arts Trey Lyford (all wear bowlers, Elephant Room), The Accountant is inspired by a Samuel Beckett play and Lyford’s mid-life contemplation on mortality. It escapes the boundaries of its genesis with a living set which transports us to a world of daydreams—a hidden portal beneath the mundane of life. Guide page 33.
[Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street, Old City] September 6–9, 2018; fringearts.com/event/the-accountant
Poison Apple Initiative
Bastion Carboni’s 2015 Fringe debut remains one of the most kick-ass introductions in Philadelphia theater. For 2018, the curator of ongoing political burlesque series Agitated brings a solo show to the cabaret’s gayborhood home. The fiercely intelligent, darkly funny playwright presents a travel vlogger obsessed with disaster tourism in another show built on anger, sure to be hilarious until it’s terrifyingly not.
[Franky Bradley’s 1320 Chancellor Street, Center City] September 9–15, 2018; fringearts.com/event/vacation
The William Penn Story
Brotherly Love Theatre Company
Philadelphia’s answer to Hamilton looks at the story of the Founding Fathers’ founding father. Music by multi-instrumentalist Adam Grode and book by David Henry Wrigley bring catchy but not cheesy hip hop, alt-rock, and other styles to a story which touches on Penn’s persecution in England, his ocean crossing, his noble experiment, and his wife’s unheralded role in shaping and administering the colony of Pennsylvania. Guide page 84.
[Lemon Hill Mansion, North Philly] September 9-19, 2018; fringearts.com/event/the-william-penn-story
An Unofficial, Unauthorized Tour of LOVE Park
Rose Luardo & Kate Banford
Is there anyone in Philadelphia funnier than Kate Banford? Oh maybe, but there’s no one doing more with humor than the director of Good Good Comedy Theatre. She and comedy cocreator Rose Luardo brings their inventive wit to the beautifully relaid urban oasis that is LOVE Park with a completely factual guided walk through the ghosts of skateboard features past. One of three FREE shows sponsored by Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Rec; maybe this one will get us to love the redesign after all. Also check out ChiChi Chip (an ode to the gnarly) by Philly Kerlop, a company founded by Vince Johnson of Urban Movement Arts studio. Guide page 68.
[LOVE Park, Center City] September 10–15, 2018; fringearts.com/event/unofficial-unauthorized-tour-love-park
The FREN BANKLIN Experience
Maybe Phindie is getting old. Maybe everything changes and gets worse. Maybe both. But sometimes it seems like the Fringe isn’t as Fringey as it once was, even if we don’t know what we mean by that. Maybe having a weird performer come to your house and give a fake tour of your house is what we mean by that. In which case we must love The Fren Banklin Experience and maybe we do. Guide page 90.
[your shitty house] September 10–24, 2018; fringearts.com/event/fren-banklin-experience
Lee Minora’s turn in Berserker Residents’ I Fucking Dare You was a hilarious highlight of the 2016 Festival. Another Philly hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, White Feminist reads like the PERFECT play for late 2018, when we all hate the shithouse this world has become but we also hate ourselves for our smug hatred #hashtag. As one reviewer put it, “White Feminist smashes liberal self-righteousness apart and then plays in the ruins”. Guide page 74.
[Plays & Players, Center City] September 12–16, 2018; fringearts.com/event/white-feminist
WOLFCRUSH (a queer werewolf play)
On the Rocks (Elaina DiMonaco & Haygen-Brice Walker)
Fans of late night Fringe were impressed by On the Rocks 2017 long-named offering, which showed growing maturity from playwright Haygen-Brice Walker. A trimmed down cast and running time (plus two 8pm shows) evidence a grown-up company of skilled actors (headlined by Campbell O’Hare and Jenna Kuerzi) which remains true to its drunken (BYO) no-holds-barred late-night shock-theater roots. Also, queer werewolves. Guide page 74.
[Vox Populi, 319 N. 11th Street, Center City] September 13–22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/wolfcrush-a-queer-werewolf-play
Svaha Theatre Collective
You don’t get many chances to see Sarah Kane plays in Philly, so you better take them when they come. Svaha’s 2016 staging of Crave over-heightened the emotion of her late work, but that’s a style that fits Kane’s reworking of the classical play. Guide page 78.
[Mascher Space Cooperative, 155 Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Kensington] September 13–22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/phaedras-love
For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf
Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective
Billed as a choreopoem rather than a play, Ntozoke Shange’s seminal work tells the story of seven women who have suffered oppression in a racist and sexist society that sounds an awful lot like our own. Shange’s poetry combines with music and dance to communicate a timely story in a boundary-pushing manner. Guide page 83.
[Klein Theatre at the Church of the Advocate, 2121 N. Gratz Street, North Philly] September 14–23, 2018; fringearts.com/event/for-colored-girls-who-have-considered-suicide-when-the-rainbow-is-enuf
The fine spirits from local manufacturer Philadelphia Distillery are mixed into signature drinks by house mixologist Canyon Shayer. Shayer created four tasty cocktails especially suited to the four original plays. Juniper Productions seeks to put art in unconventional places and make it appealing to all. Phindie called the 2017 production “a fun night out”, by which we meant you’ll get drunk on good drinks. Guide page 77.
[Philadelphia Distilling, 25 E. Allen Street, Fishtown] September 17–26, 2018; fringearts.com/event/cocktail-plays
An unhealthy obsession with Kate Winslet, a true-life Bjork stalker uneasy with his identity, harmful teenage passions, the inability to handle rejection: four original works by four men explore and take responsibility for toxic masculinity. Short plays by Jeremy Gable, Thomas Choinacky, J. Hernandez (and Amanda Schoonover), and Armando Batista continue to run after the Festival’s end. Guide page 73.
[The Drake Theater, Center City] September 19–30, 2018; https://fringearts.com/event/simpatico-theatre-projectx-4solo/
Also check out these recommendations: Airport Opened, AntiCone, The Buried Life, Carry Me, Chichi Chip (an ode to the gnarly), Company, Darlings: Kill Us Please, Do You Want A Cookie?, Ground Works, Kill Move Paradise, Indestructible Flowers, In the Forest, Lay Me Down Softly, The Museum Workout, Paprika Plains, Passport, The Propoganda Machine, Troilus and Cressida, Voided, and some random shows which neither you or us know anything about then tell people what you thought #phillyfringe18.