In the first few weeks of school, the chaotically delightful task of acclimating oneself to the daily academic grind almost too easily keeps students from discovering what life is like in Philadelphia. This is unfortunate considering the variety of the cultural experiences to be found by anyone who seeks them.
Philly plays an important role in contemporary art. Every year, this fertile art soil manifests itself as the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival (https://www.livearts-fringe.org). The festival, which will be held Sept. 3 – 17, is a two-week bonanza of cutting-edge performances and new work from artists across all disciplines of expression: dance, theatre, sculpture, film and a vast array of installation and interdisciplinary work.
This year’s festival boasts a few landmarks and important changes. More than 150 different groups and artists make this the largest lineup offered by the festival, which has tripled in size since the first festival was held in 1997. The festival offers about 40 shows, and the tickets are all $35 and under.
This year the program has changed its name from “Philadelphia Fringe” and divided its content into two distinctly different, simultaneously running productions. The two mini-fests are billed together, with one Web site, one program book, but a much different agenda for each clearly defines itself from the other.
The first festival is the Philly Fringe, a name reminiscent of the festival the previous year. This hullabaloo knows no screening process; all shows are self-produced by the artist, with the festival handling all the box office support and advertising. This lack of selection guarantees a diverse, unpredictable and frenzied energy throughout the performances.
The Philly Fringe is modeled upon the Edinburgh Fringe, the first and most notable performance-and-arts festival to advocate open access to what goes on.
The second half of this festival is the Philadelphia Live Arts Fest, which you may have noticed is also the all-encompassing title for both shindigs. The Live Arts Festival features premiere performing groups and artists from all around the world. This year some of the key performances are from the Chinese Opera of Shen Wei Dance Arts, the Kabuki of Akira Kasai and the experimental theater of New Paradise Laboratories.
“I’m…impressed at how many parts of the city this festival reaches. Fringe artists are really at the forefront of taking the festival beyond Old City. I hope that audiences will use the opportunity to explore and discover something unique and unexpected,” said coordinator Barry Becker.
What the founders of the festival hope for is to bring the idea of “festival time” to the streets of Philadelphia. All over the city, from the Arden Theater to playgrounds, to museums, hotels and grocery store roofs, festival performances are scheduled to take place.
Another element that makes the festival inclusive and interactive is the Late Night Cabaret. Aside from being a place to meet up with other audience members, the cabaret offers music and live acts along with being a gathering ground for the artists. An online journal, www.tribe.net allows people to read descriptions in progress of the work that goes into the festival from all vantage points.
The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival offers contemporary arts and entertainment while seeking to express Philadelphia life. Aside from being a momentous display for the somewhat esoteric world of “what’s hot now in art,” it also brings the community together with one big celebration.
For anyone seeking artistic entertainment or a better understanding of Philly’s Art, the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival exhibits a more cultural view of the town famous for whiz-covered cheese steaks.
Marilyn Peck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.