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Every year I compile a list of family-friendly Fringe Festival options, but making this year’s selection was particularly bittersweet. You see, when I started doing this (originally for the Philadelphia Inquirer), it was out of necessity.
I had two young children and wanted to bring them along to join in the fun. They were young, I was young, the Fringe was young, and we were all hungry for exciting new performances.
Alas, my oldest flew the coop a couple of Fringes ago, and my youngest is about to enter his senior year of high school. They can attend just about any show they want these days, and they do. Last season I sat next to my boy at an event at the Bok as a woman disrobed before us and danced, her tampon string dangling in the spotlight. I was mortified; he was totally fine with it.
In any case, I believe appropriate exposure to the Fringe, early and often, has helped them become the arts lovers they are today. The keyword there is appropriate because whether it’s a matter of having to explain dangling tampons or making a fidget suffer through a three-hour-long recitation of legal proceedings, you no doubt want to light a spark, not dump a bucket of water on it.
And sometimes my guidance is wrong. Last year’s Pig Iron fiasco was billed as child-friendly, mostly because it included children, I guess. But I could barely sit still for the whole thing myself.
So listen, that's my disclaimer. Have fun, take chances, but most important, teach your children to crave the arts and to challenge themselves. We’ll all reap the benefits someday.
Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard’s Le Super Grand Continental follows up on the success of 2012’s Le Grand Continental, a massive dance spectacle performed on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. With 200 participating dancers drawn from all walks of life, it’s a blast to watch, and if the smalls get inspired, stay afterward, because the whole thing becomes a dance party. Best yet, it’s free, and the timing makes for a perfect capper after a couple of hours of viewing the art inside.
Australian acrobat-dance troupe Circa and director Yaron Lifschitz’s Humans (recommended for ages eight and up) is part of the “Extended Fringe,” which includes a couple of extra shows that open after the festival’s official closing date. The good news is that this means if your kid catches the international dance bug, you can keep feeding it. The bad news is, well, watch the trailer, and maybe invest in some gymnastics pads.
Philly Kerplop’s Chichi Chip (an ode to the gnarly) might happen on a smaller, more local scale than Le Super Grand Continental, but it still sounds like a blast. Choreographer and artistic director Vince Johnson earned his chops with Rennie Harris Puremovement. The piece promises hip-hop dance and a marching band in LOVE Park, but best of all, like its bigger, curated cousin, it’s also free.
A solid pick for parents, grandparents, and kids alike, the Rock on Pointe Dance Company brings Music from the 1970s on Pointe to the Rotunda. A little bit Deep Tracks and a little bit Yacht Rock, the olds can bask in nostalgia while the youngs ooh and aah over all those tippytoes.
Children who like a good old-fashioned story might consider The Magic of Storytelling with Tchin or Ants on a Log’s Music for Children and Other Curious People. Tchin, an artist and educator, combines stories of Native American culture with puppetry and indigenous flute music.
His message of environmental awareness dovetails nicely with Ants on a Log’s musical about environmental activism, Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline. Performers Julie Beth and Anya Rose have appeared on WXPN’s Kids’ Corner, so the children in your life are probably already fans.
Finally, for a taste of the Fringe’s true interdisciplinary spirit, those elementary school-age and older might enjoy Figmago, a collaboration between muralist Meg Saligman and choreographer Brian Sanders’s dance company, JUNK. Most Philadelphians know Saligman’s work, they just don’t know that they know. Imagine a child’s thrill at recognizing an artist’s style, being in their studio, watching the art come alive, and simultaneously taking part in an escape room-type game. I know! I wish I could join you.
But my time has passed (and it’s too early to agitate for grandkids). So, do me a favor: have fun, keep introducing the young to new work, check out shows I don't even mention just because they sound cool, and spend the rest of the night discussing them. And if any of your little critics have strong opinions on what they’ve seen, by all means, send them to Broad Street Review to post their thoughts here.
What, When, Where
Le Super Grand Continental. Choreographed by Sylvain Émard. September 8-9, 2018 at the Philadelphia Musem of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia.
Humans. By Yaron Lifschitz and the Circa Ensemble. September 28-29, 2018, at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia.
Chichi Chip (an ode to the gnarly). By Philly Kerplop. September 6, 13, 21 and 22, 2018, at LOVE Park, 16th Street and JFK Boulevard, Philadelphia.
Music from the 1970s on Pointe. By Rock on Pointe Dance Company. September 8, 2018, at the Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia.
The Magic of Storytelling with Tchin. By We Are Seeds of CultureTrust. September 15, 2018, at the Art Dept, 1638 E. Berks Street, Philadelphia.
Music for Children and Other Curious People. By Ants on a Log. September 15, 2018 at the Children's Community School, 1212 S. 47th Street, Philadelphia. September 22, 2018 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement, 1542 E. Montgomery Avenue, Philadelphia.
Figmago. By Meg Saligman and Brian Sanders JUNK. September 6-22, 2018 (some dates are art only, others include the performance--see schedule for details), at Meg Saligman Studio, 825 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia.
Tickets for all shows available at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or fringearts.com.
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