Free Fringe sustains the spirit of accessible art

4 minute read
Francesca Montanile is part of charismatic band Girl Poop, who will perform at Free Fringe. (Photo by Redlite Photos)
Francesca Montanile is part of charismatic band Girl Poop, who will perform at Free Fringe. (Photo by Redlite Photos)

Accessibility to art is something that can slip away. The original spirit of the Fringe Festival was just that: make theater and performance art accessible to people of all walks of life. Now, it’s more or less outgrown that mantra, as some of the curated shows peak at a $50 admission price tag, or more. That’s not within the means of every art devotee, and may reveal problems for the means of the creators themselves.

So, what are we to do? Enter Free Fringe, whose press page opens with the farcical source quote:

“this is some bullshit”

—a performer who wanted to do fringe but it cost too much.

BSR explored this at length on the BSR podcast with some of the founders of Free Fringe Philly, an unaffiliated version of the Fringe Festival. With Free Fringe, everything is free: free for the artists to submit their work, free to attend, and free to be included. And you are free to give as much as you’d like to the artists at the end of each show—or not, if you’ve got nothing to spare.

The list of shows is robust, so we’ve got a roundup of all the performances that grabbed our attention.

Panic Trauma Sex Distraction

Drag performers and stand-up comics come together to tell dark, twisted, hilarious stories about the many things in life that stress us out, including coping with mental illness. Catch the show on Thursday, September 12 at 8pm at TABU, 254 South 12th Street, third floor cabaret.

The Detour

Have you ever taken a walking tour of Philadelphia? Probably not, right? Well, now might be the time to change that with Jenna Horton’s The Detour, an unofficial walking tour of Philadelphia’s ‘historic square mile.’ The thing is, The Detour promises to flip the script so that you’re not getting the typical American history tour that’s giving you reservations. RSVP online, and note that it is a walking tour: email Horton via Eventbrite for info on accessibility.

Girl Poop

Everybody poops, believe it or not. And Girl Poop, a femme foursome specializing in Pussy Pop Rock, sings that truth with original music about sex, shame, self-love, and secret pleasures. See the cosmic band members Kelly Conrad, Alicia Crosby, Francesca Montanile, and Megan Thibodeaux in action on Tuesday, September 10 at 9:30pm at Silk City Diner, 435 Spring Garden Street.

Dawn Phenomenon

Dawn was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes one year ago, and she has no idea what she’s doing with her life. But she’s got gossip from diabetic celebrities and more to dissect and cope with invisible disabilities—including the one that claims millions of lives every year. This one-person show stars Jenna Kuerzi, a seasoned actor and singer and alum of many productions and companies in Philly and NYC. See the phenomenon on September 17 at 6pm, September 21 at 5pm, or September 22 at 3pm at Columbus Square Park, 1200 Wharton Street.

MYOB: Mind Your Own Body: Irreconcilable Differences and Other Tales

Denise McCormack’s one-woman show takes traditional folktales and flips them on their heads. Subvert the traditional tales and expectations of Cinderella and many others on Wednesday, September 18 at 7pm or Friday, September 20 at 7pm. RSVP online.

Suicide Ward: The Musical!

Nolwazi Monique brings us a look at the 36 hours after the first and most serious suicide attempt of a Black non-binary poet. Monique, a queer writer, singer, spiritual teacher, and healer, uses their work to examine what it means to be holy in a world where the distinction between the sacred and profane seems arbitrary. Check it out on Thursday, September 19 at 7:15pm at A-Space Anarchist Community Center, 4722 Baltimore Avenue. Bathrooms are not wheelchair accessible.

Non-linear: works-in-progress by black lgbtq artists

Healing and art-making are non-linear, and the Starfruit Project brings us an evening of theater works-in-progress by Black LGBTQ artists. Join in on Monday, September 23 at 7:30pm at Vox Populi, 319 North 11th Street, third floor. For accessibility requirements and questions, contact Vox Populi at [email protected] or call (215) 238-1236.

Ben Franklin Sex Party

Ben Franklin is throwing a secret sex party, and you're invited! The Founding Father of Fornication weaves through time to save us from sexual shame and late-stage syphilis. Sarah Knittel and Bradley Wrenn’s new work is in its early beginnings, and they want you to come check out the work-in-progress. See it September 13-14, 20-21 at 8:30pm at Pilot + Projects, 1719 North 5th Street (which is not wheelchair accessible).

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