Fringe Festival by the letters Philly's biggest annual theater event celebrates its 18 year beginning today

A scene from one of this year's Fringe Festival productions, "The Four Seasons Restaurant," the entry from controversial Italian director Romeo Castellucci.
A scene from one of this year's Fringe Festival productions, "The Four Seasons Restaurant," the entry from controversial Italian director Romeo Castellucci.
Posted: September 05, 2014

IT STARTED 17 years ago as a vehicle for adventurous and iconoclastic writers, directors and performers whose concepts of "theater" lay well beyond the realms of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Neil Simon, Tennessee Williams and William Shakespeare.

Today, it stands as the biggest and longest theater event on the city's calendar.

The 18th annual Fringe Festival officially kicks off today. By the time it wraps up, on Sept. 21, dozens of productions will have been seen by thousands in scores of venues from a Society Hill church cemetery to the glittering new waterfront headquarters of festival producer, FringeArts.

To get you set for two-plus weeks of provocative, envelope-pushing and downright weird-'n'-wacky theater, here's an A-to-Z look at the 2014 Fringe Festival:

A is for "The Adults," a world premiere from New Paradise Laboratories, set during a family vacation that brings out the worst in those in attendance.

B is for "99 Breakups," from Pig Iron Theatre Company, billed as "a theatrical - and scientific - look at endings, exits, disintegrations and the stories people have in common."

C is for Champagne Jerry, immodestly billed as "the greatest rapper in the world," and an individual who "likes snacks, books, sexual intercourse and rhyming."

D is for "Double Batman," Frank Perri's autobiographical one-man show about overcoming adversity through emotional growth.

E is for "Experiment #39," an Old City walking tour - for one audience member at a time - that is really a performance-art piece.

F is for "The Four Seasons Restaurant," a meditation on the effect that absence has on the human condition that is this year's entry from famed Italian director/agent provocateur Romeo Castellucci.

G is for "Graveyard Voices," an exploration of the meaning of life through poetry staged at St. Peter's Church Cemetery, in Society Hill.

H is for "The Hunchback of Notre Dame . . . a Mute Play," a dark reimagining of the Victor Hugo novel by the Renegade Company.

I is for "It Was All Downhill After Fleetwood Mac," Brian Shapiro's one-man reminiscence about the years when his father was the attorney for the powerhouse 1970s pop-rock band.

J is for Johnny Showcase & the Mystic Ticket, an eight-piece "absurdist soul" band that "toes the line between performance art and a psychedelic soul revival."

K is for "Kabbalah: The Musical," a "multidimensional" production by Shechinah Inc. inspired by the new-age branch of Judaism.

L is for La Peg, hot-hot-hot chef Peter Woolsey's just-opened restaurant/cabaret inside FringeArts' riverfront headquarters.

M is for Martha Graham Cracker, Philly's leading drag performer, who will do her thing - backed by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra - as part of the festival's "Late Night" schedule of events.

N is for Neighborhood Fringe, the collective banner under which scores of events are staged in nontraditional venues throughout the city.

O is for "The Only Band in Illyria," a program of the Balkan music recently featured in Pig Iron Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night."

P is for "100 Percent Philadelphia," whose "stars" are 100 residents of all ages, ethnicities, classes and sexual and political orientation who accurately represent the city's demographic profile.

Q is for "The Disappearing Quarterback," the one-man autobiographical work by former Philadelphia Eagle Mike Boryla.

R is for "Rainbowtown," a play for ages 3 to 8 from Two Ducks Theatre Company about "emotions, colors and a queen's search for a new home."

S is for Slim Bob Slim, ukelele-strumming star of "Stand Back, I'm Gonna Uke: An Evening Of Old-Timey Music."

T is for "Two Street - A Tale of Star Crossed Mummers," a play about a gay couple who belong to rival Mummers brigades.

U is for "Underground Episodes," which looks at the stories to be found - and told - in everyday Philly life.

V is for "___vs___," SHADOW Company's examination of the concept of mercy.

W is for "White Rabbit Red Rabbit," Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour's one-man play about resisting military service that will be read - sight unseen - by a different actor for each of its 11 performances. The first, scheduled for 4 p.m. tomorrow at FringeArts, stars veteran character actor/Philly resident David Morse. Others participating include Brian Anthony Wilson, of "The Wire," and WHYY's Jennifer Lynn.

X is for "BalletX at the Porch," a one-off performance tomorrow outside 30th Street Station.

Y is for "Yip and Al," a presentation based on the Depression-era anthem, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Z is for Ziya, the group presenting "Paradox," a multimedia work about the travails and triumphs of a South African family.


On Twitter: @chuckdarrow

Blog: philly.com/Casinotes

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