Philadelphia Fringe Festival returns with LGBTQ+ performances

Some of the most creative performers and artists in Philadelphia are coming together once again for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival Sept. 7-24. Birthed in 1997, The Philadelphia Fringe Festival is a living breathing homage to the very first Fringe Festival, held in Edinburgh Scotland in 1947. Now known as FringeArts, the annual event has “the intention of providing opportunities to contemporary performing artists to connect with audiences in an exciting social environment,” according to their website

The LGBTQ+ community is a crucial and necessary hub of FringeArts and this year’s programming reflects that. Some LGBTQ+ offerings this year showcase the community’s rich history as well as the diversity of Philadelphia’s art community.

Local drag performer Eric Jaffe is one of the members of The Bearded Ladies, a revolutionary cabaret company presenting their third annual cabaret festival aptly titled “Late Night Snacks” (Wednesdays-Sundays Sept. 8 through Oct. 1 at The Closet, 201 South St.). Showcasing everything from drag queens to art clowns to opera singers, each of these dynamically diverse artists are performing Wednesdays through Sundays at The Bearded Ladies’ brand-new custom cabaret venue.

Jaffe told PGN it is “important for queer and trans people to tell their stories and be seen, now more than ever. ‘Late Night Snacks’ is a staple of the Fringe Festival and the bears have pulled out all the stops, creating yet another incredible pop-up cabaret space for our community to come together and celebrate our talents.”

“Sing The Rainbow: A Pride Show For Everyone” (Sept. 8 at Liberty Lands, 913 N 3rd St.) presents a gloriously interactive musical journey searching for the colors of Pride (courtesy of renowned kiddie music band Ants on a Log). 

“MX AMERICA: A Variety Show with a Beauty Pageant Twist” (Sept. 8-9 at The Cube, 4700 Wissahickon Ave) is intriguingly summed up as a show that “welcomes contestants of all gender identities to display their hearts and intellects in a talent showcase, under the parodic guise of a beauty contest.”

“Dream Sweet Rough Man” (Sept. 1-11 at The Icebox Project Space, 1400 N American St.) interweaves dance and visual art with notes of traditional masculinity, while conspiring to create a gender construct-shattering presentation.

“Half Magic” (Sept. 12 at Fidget Space, 1714 N. Mascher St.) tells the story of Joe, who through a simple cardboard box, takes a journey through his own diversity and childhood, and reflects on how it impacts him today. 

“Good Bones (A Life In One Act)” (Sept. 13-16 at CSz Philadelphia, 2030 Sansom St.) looks to be one of the most emotionally revealing pieces of the Fringe Festival. A 74-year-old gay artist with four decades of sobriety reflects on the landmark moments of his life with equal doses of humor and raw honesty.

“Men On Tap” (Sept. 16 at William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.) will celebrate their 30th anniversary “with audiences’ favorites such as: Weather Gurls, Sisters and Thriller.” The tap-dancing celebration will include two performances at William Way LGBT Community Center in an event described as “Unpredictable, Imaginative and Fabulous!”

“Trans Party” (Sept. 15-20 at Rebel & Wolf Cafe, 1700 E Moyamensing Ave.) celebrates everything trans, love and community. The event merges an immersive experience with a universal celebration while unpacking what it truly means to be part of the community and dismantling tropes and fears. “Trans Party” is a “bold and loving exploration of trans joy through song, story, and friendship bracelets.”

“When writing ‘Trans Party,’ I was thinking of the many ways trans existence is fought against in our world, and how there’s barely room for being, let alone trans joy,” performer Tias Volker told PGN. “This show is a celebration of the community and beauty of transness, something that I think can serve as a reminder that we are here and worthy and powerful, and not just pieces in political debate.”

Lastly, “Dare Night” (Sept. 15-22 at Hamilton Family Arts Center, 62 N. 2nd St.) is a revolutionary take on the 2000 film “School of Rock,” offering a “choose your own adventure”-style production, with the audience being able to send dares to the audience in real time while the show is taking place.

For more information on FringeArts and to see a full schedule of events, visit

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