10 Picks for the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival

The Fringe Festival kinda crept up on us this year. Perhaps live performance isn’t at the forefront of our minds. Nonetheless, today marks the official start of the 2020 Philly Fringe. Needless to say, things are considerably different this year. Most performances are virtual—some live, some recorded—but a few are in-person (with varied precautions). Here are a few shows we’re looking out for this festival.

For the complete show listings visit FringeArts.com (the website of the Philly Fringe’s founder organization) and FreeFringePhilly.com (the website of a 2-year-old guerilla org for independent artists).

#txtshow (on the internet)
Brian Feldman

If there was one performer ideally suited to creating art in the midst of a global pandemic, it was Brian Feldman. With 24 Minute Embrace, Dishwasher, Wawa® Shabbawa. and other pieces, Feldman was expanding the definition of live theater even before COVID-19 forced others to play catch-up. He brings one of his signature projects to the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, a completely immersive multiscreen performance featuring a mysterious character named txt who recites a script written anonymously in real-time by a live audience (on the internet).
September 10-October 4, 2020

James Haro & Jenna Kuerzi

An original solo-play by Philly playwright James Haro, presented as a filmed digital piece for Free Fringe Philly, an alternative festival for independent artists running concurrently to the FringeArts-sponsored Fringe Festival. Directed by Jenna Kuerzi, the quippy gender-swapped fan-fiction fable was inspired by the controversy and mythos surrounding Community creator Dan Harmon.
September 25-October 4

Nothing to Show
Alexandra Tatarsky
Alexandra Tatarsky was about to premiere the latest episode of their ongoing SIGN FELT project when=the COVID-19 shutdown hit. In its place, Tatarsky shares collected and ongoing notes on nothing, collaging narratives of art-making and despair into a deranged meditation on derangement, situated in a public window display in Center City.
September 21-October 4, 2020
1600 Chestnut Street

Welcome to the Shiva House
Benjamin Behrend and Logan Gabriel Schulman
Shiva is the seven-day Jewish mourning period following the burial of a loved one. This traditionally involves joining the bereaved in their home for recollection and comfort. This virtual play combines live digital performance, audience participation, a guided-audio walking meditation, and a companion booklet as the audience gathers to memorialize and celebrate the larger-than-life Sam Bloom.
September 10-27, 2020

Four Drinks In
Sarah Knittel
Who cares that theater is dead and the virus has won? Who cares that we’re alone and sad. We can still drink! Sarah Knittel will show us how. She’ll have four drinks, pop on Instagram live, and talk to whoever joins. Grab a drink and join her in this Philly Free Fringe production.
September 12, 2020

An Encounter
Irina Varina
A couple years ago, Irina Varina had an entry into the digital fringe. This year, the inventive artmaker is again bucking the trend with an in-person (distanced) stroll down Broad Street. One person at a time goes on a 30-minute walk with Death, on the opposite side of the street. Varina also has an in-person entry in the Free Fringe, Goodbye (a) world.
September 10-23, 2020

Coffee and a Play
A new work repertory festival, featuring works by up-and-coming BIPOC playwrights: Discovering Blackness, a short film by Briana Gause which considers Blackness in a post-racial 2032; Young Money by Erlina Ortiz, about a hip-hop star and the lady who cleans his dressing room; and Lawrence’s Law of Pawn Shops by Jaedto Israel, about the non-human owner of a magical pawn shop in a small town. Join for one, two, or all of the shows.
September 17-September 27, 2020

The Way Out
Tangle Movement Arts
An in-person, 100% socially distanced, immersive performance for a drive-through audience, this circus show unspools across 78 acres of historic Laurel Hill Cemetery. It’s an evening of live performance made for the pandemic, capturing a world inside a bubble, a meditation on time and history, and pockets of memory illuminated by flame. Artists creating work for The Way Out include: dancers-choreographers Evalina “Wally” Carbonell and Weiwei Ma, sculptor Madeline Rile Smith, dancer Ama Ma’at Gora, music-theater artist Eppchez!, and performer Christina Eltvedt.
October 1-3, 2020

Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars
Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle, Steve Cuiffo
Tune into Zoom to catch lost transmissions from the Elephant Room as physical theater maestros Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle, and Steve Cuiffo explore a futuristic dystopia in an interactive sci-fi sequel to 2011 Fringe Festival favorite Elephant Room.
September 23-September 26, 2020

Evalina “Wally” Carbonell and Weiwei Ma, with Ajibola Rivers
A rare in-person performance, albeit with unspecified safety precautions. Blood is a new dance work, created and performed by two female artists, Evalina “Wally” Carbonell and Weiwei Ma. They are joined on stage by composer Ajibola Jeremy Rivers in contemplation of blood itself and its flowing viscosity. Wally and Weiwei have worked together under the umbrella of the internationally renowned and Philadelphia-based Kun-Yang Lin/ Dancers (KYL/D) since 2013. This is their first independent choreographic collaboration.
September 24-September 27, 2020
118 W Phil Ellena Street

The Philadelphia Fringe Festival runs September 10 to October 4, 2020. See FringeArts.com and freefringephilly.com


2 Replies to “10 Picks for the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival”
  1. Some of these are Free Fringe only shows! Would be great to have a clear title that ensure folks know there are two festivals, one is a Free Fringe, and one is a non Free Fringe aka Philly Fringe by Fringe Arts
    There is a pretty big difference. Even in pandemic, one is heavily curated, one costs a lot of money to get into and promote, one has no barrier of entry and promotes equally across all platforms.

    Thanks for considering an edit!

    1. Hum, I added some language. Last year I did picks for both, but it seemed there was less difference this year and only one Free Fringe artist got in touch about a show. (To be fair, not many FringeArts artists did this year either.)

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