The 2022 Fringe Festival, running from September 8 to October 2 at various venues across Philadelphia, encompasses theater, circus arts, comedy, dance, film, music, storytelling and other forms of art. While the festival offers over 1,000 local, national and international performances from artists who hail from a wide variety of backgrounds, here are 12 shows with LGBTQ themes, performers and characters. Some of these shows are also part of Cannonball Festival, a Fringe Hub produced by Almanac Dance Circus Theatre.
“Walk the (pink) Elephant” (DanceVisions artist-in-residence yaTande Whitney V. Hunter and Jude Sandy of Denizen Arts with Alex Shaw, Sept. 15 to 17, Performance Garage)
Inspired by African diaspora cultural and art-making traditions, “Walk the (pink) Elephant” commemorates generations of BIPOC and LGBTQ culture workers who lost their lives to HIV and AIDS, with an emphasis on Black artistic communities. The show elevates both the people who were battling HIV and those who knew and loved them, and challenges the stigma imposed upon people of color who were navigating the early days of the epidemic. The show runs from September 15 to 17 at the Performance Garage.
“Ladies at a Gay Girls’ Bar, 1938-1969” (Maggie Cee, Sept. 18, Tattooed Mom)
This solo show conveys the stories of working-class lesbian communities prior to what is thought of as the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. Through monologues drawn from interviews from The Buffalo Women’s Oral History and first-hand sources from the Lesbian Herstory Archives, writer and performer Maggie Cee’s lead character shines a light on the women whose stories may not have made history books, but who made a big impact on lesbian culture. Catch “Ladies at a Gay Girls’ Bar” at Tattooed Mom (530 South St.) on September 18.
“LGBTQuiet” (Shadow Company, Sept. 9 to 11, Venice Island Performing Arts Center)
Set in a school environment where the only openly queer teacher is absent one day, “LGBTQuiet” explores identity, self-expression and the need to be seen in a space that doesn’t promote sharing one’s authenticity. The one-act play draws from public discussions that stem from “Don’t Say Gay” laws to make commentary on the inability of school officials to prioritize what’s best for students. It runs from September 9 to 11 at Venice Island Performing Arts Center (7 Lock Street).
“high noon” (Ninth Planet, Sept. 5 to 18, Icebox Project Space)
A team of Black, queer and trans interdisciplinary artists makeup the cast of “high noon,” directed by Nia Benjamin. This piece of dance-theater comments on the Black experience via American cowboy mythology, specifically, “America’s poisonous lust for the lone ranger.” The show features live sound and music by local musicians Sam Rise and Oliver Spencer; performances by movement artists Vitche-Boul Ra and Kris Lee and a “panoramic video landscape” created by Jordan Deal. It runs from September 5 to 18 at Icebox Project Space (1400 N. American Street).
“Mio/Tuyo/Nuestro” (Carne Vivo Dance Theatre, Sept. 7 to 11, Icebox Project Space)
This immersive performance wends its way through the history of the eight stages of love, conveyed through the point of view of six queer and trans Black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC). The stories unfold in different ways, including through the love of caretakers, the honest words of children, the sharing of secrets and love that come from friendships, and more. Catch the show September 7 to 11 at Icebox Project Space (1400 N. American Street).
“Bath House” (Gunnar Montana Productions, Sept. 8 to Oct. 2, Latvian Society)
Through a combination of dance and movement, this “deeply sensory” immersive theatrical production is teeming with erotic energy. “Bath House” fosters an atmosphere where attendees should feel free to mentally entertain some of their own desires. The show runs from September 8 to October 2 at The Latvian Society (531 N. 7th Street).
“Junk/Luster” (Brian Sanders, Sept. 8 to 17, Concourse Dance Bar)
The interactive dance-theater show “Luster” is the heart and soul of the 30th season of JUNK, Brian Sanders’ nationally-recognized dance troupe. Set in an underground shopping-mall-turned nightclub, “Luster” puts a spotlight on the inherently warped aspects of reality show competition.
“Inspiration for ‘Luster’ came from looking deeply at how we measure one’s value in a world where self-worth and validation are measured in views and likes,” Sanders said in a press release. “[The show] pushes boundaries to determine how far people will go to get recognized.” It runs at Concourse Dance Bar (1635 Market St. Back Entrance) from September 8 to 17.
“Late Night Snacks” (Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Sept. 10 to Oct. 2, The Switch)
Each night of theatrical bites from the Bearded Ladies Cabaret showcases a different artist, from opera singers to drag queens, poets to cabaret performers and much more. Artists featured in the changing lineup include Ursula Rucker, Martha Graham Cracker, Pax Ressler, Sam Wise, Jarboe, and Eric Jaffe. It runs from September 10 to October 2 at The Switch (421 N. 7th Street).
“Surface Tension” (Company to X For, Sept. 7 to 14, Maas Building Studio)
This debut from Chicago-based circus company Company to X For explores a queer friendship through modes of acrobatics, weight-sharing, object manipulation and dance. Running the emotional gamut from ecstatic to dark, the show “celebrates vulnerable connection through sincere juggling.” It runs from September 7 to 14 at the Maas Building Studio (1325 N. Randolph Street).
“Time as a Symptom” (The Bean-Jam Project, Sept. 8 to 10, Adrienne Theater)
Set in a metaphysical subway station, “Time as a Symptom” follows two strangers who meet, get to know each other, potentially fall in love and ultimately go their separate ways. The show comments on how to share space, talk and connect after spending time isolating, and emphasizes the importance of “microscopic connections.” It runs from September 8 to 10 at the Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom Street).
“Song Bridge” (Matthew Armstead, Sept. 11 to 25, Maas Building Studio)
Through poetry, movement and song, Matthew Armstead’s “Song Bridge” takes the audience “on a compassionate journey about learning to sing again.” Built on themes of collective healing and self-forgiveness, Armstead’s show conveys a variety of voices, including Black and queer voices, and dispels some of the societal expectations to which they’re held. It runs from September 11 to 25 at The Maas Building Studio (1325 N. Randolph Street).
“How to be an Ethical Slut” (Brooke McCarthy, Sept. 10 to 29, Adrienne Theater)
Brooke McCarthy breathes life into this one-woman cabaret-comedy that has already garnered her the “Spirit of Fringe” award from past performances in other U.S. Fringe Festivals. McCarthy drew from her own love life while she lived in Philadelphia to tell a story that encompasses sexual health and positive representations of non-monogamous dating practices like triads and polyamory. “How to be an Ethical Slut,” which makes its Philly debut as part of the local Fringe, runs from September 10 to 29 at the Adrienne Theater Main Stage.