20 Picks for the 2019 Philadelphia Fringe Festival

It’s that time of year again. Three weeks jam-packed with theater and other performance art. That’s right, the Fringe Festival is back in Philly. This year brings over a thousand performances by over 150 artists. You can only see so much. Here are 20 shows we recommend.

But we also recommend that you take other recommendations and see as much as you can. (Hell, if you have your own picks, send them our way and we’ll post them.)

THE-B-SIDE_photo-by-Bruce-Jackson_5835-1200x800The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” A Record Album Interpretation
The Wooster Group

Actor Eric Berryman and two fellow performers sing along to work songs recorded in 1960s Texas state prison farms. Directed by Kate Valk of revered Lower Manhattan experimental theater company The Wooster Group. We’ve seen the NYC performance and it was seriously good.


Hella Fresh Theater

John Rosenberg continues to be a lone voice for unpretentious dialog- and character-driven theater in Philadelphia. His latest work sees two friends at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art in 1978 stumble upon an exhibit by a Chicana artist (created for this show by artist Osiris Zuniga).


Is-This-A-Room-Photo©PaulaCourt-1200x800Is This A Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription
Tina Satter/Half Straddle

Tina Satter was surfing the internet at work when she came across the transcript of whistleblower Reality Winner’s home interrogation by the FBI. Her colleagues at New York-based Half Straddle use the transcript as the script for this stunning real-life drama. Again, we were lucky enough to see this NYC show and it is a must.


Annie Wilson

Choreographer Annie Wilson’s Lovertits was a consensus pick for best of Fringe in 2014; she returns to the festival for the first time with a series of short new works.


Fase_2018_©Anne_Van_Aerschot5-1024x683Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas

Groundbreaking Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker revisits the minimalist work which first put her on the map. You can find preview videos online and they look great.


25The-Sea-VoyageThe Sea Voyage
Philadelphia Artists’ Collective

The PAC have provided highlights of many recent Fringe Festivals (The Sea Plays, Rape of Lucrece, Iphegenia at Aulis, to name a few) and this year’s site specific 1600s play by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger looks sure to continue that streak.


joseph-keckler-let-me-dieLet Me Die
Joseph Keckler

Anyone who has seen his “Shroom Trip Opera” video knows Joseph Keckler is no ordinary opera singer. He challenges notions of the artform’s demise in this multiperformer medley of death songs with humorous and affecting commentary and introduction by Keckler.


18Come-BackLittleShebabyWilliamInge-1200x750Come Back, Little Sheba
Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium

Fringe favorites and masters of the absurd IRC revisit William Inge’s 1950s classic, also an Oscar-winning film.


sunset-cypher-aniSunset CypHER
Ani/Malayworks / Drum Like a Lady

Ani Gavino’s silky choreography was a highlight of a recent festival preview. She joins forces with two other female artists for a one-night-only performance to to the setting sun at Bartram’s Gardens.


the-edge-almanacThe Edge
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

Hot off a Barrymore nomination, Almanac brings its one-of-a-kind stylings back to the Fringe with a world premiere about grief and decay.


urban-movement-artsFire in the Sky and You Are Not a Shining Star
Urban Movement Arts

Hip Center City dance school UMA hosts two works by its instructors and artists in residence.


and-tell-death-of-Queens-egopoAnd Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens
EgoPo Classic Theater

EgoPo stages a rarely seen one-act play by Tennessee Williams.


98Beyond-The-Light-leilaBeyond the Light and Puppet-delphia Fringe Slam
Leila and Pantea Productions

What would the Fringe be without some puppetry? Leila Ghaznavi and Pantea Productions create consistently quality Fringe shows and the late-night Puppet-delphia is always a festival must-see.

uumbal-02-1200x795Úumbal: Nomabic Choreography for Inhabitants
Mariana Arteaga

Choreographer Mariana Arteaga was inspired by a mass killing, street protests, and government crackdown in Mexico to create a communal performance which reclaimed public spaces for joy and dance. Local volunteers submitted dance moves, worked to construct a choreography, and perform a large-scale ambulatory work in South Philadelphia. Free!

urban-movement-artsCoated: 1944 Circus Fire Project
Open Ring Circus

This work memorializes a little-remembered fire in a circus in Connecticut that killed and injured hundreds and shocked the nation.

skeinofheartSkein of Heart

Festival stalwart Brian Sanders’s physical dance and intriguing conceit should provide another in his string of festival favorites.


There-wilma-theaterThere: In the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other
The Wilma Theater

A stirring, prescient work of contemporary poetry formed the core text of early rehearsals for the Wilma HotHouse company. The company interprets this book-length poem for the stage on a set by contemporary installation artist Rosa Barba.

billy-baaadly-behaved-goatBilly the Baaadly Behaving Bully Goat: The Musical
Play Nice Productions

This is something for the little ones—an adaptation of a bestselling children’s book about bullying.

prestige-drama-fringe-festivalPrestige Drama and Queer Bait: Sterile
Good Good Comedy

The connoisseurs of the funny stuff present two new works at their cosy Chinatown comedy club.



Gunnar Montana

Gunnar Montana’s sexually charged, intensely physical, visually impressive dance shows are among the best-selling acts of every Fringe. His BASEMENT continues for a week following the festival.


See a complete listing of shows at FringeArts.com. We’ll be looking at the guerrilla Fringe festival Free Fringe in a subsequent article.

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