9 Must-See Independent Shows at the Fringe Festival

Descend into a bit of madness inspired by Planet of the Apes and King Kong.

Cast of Renegade Company's Damned Dirty Apes!

Cast of Renegade Company’s Damned Dirty Apes!.

As usual, there’s way too much to see at this year’s 19th iteration of the Fringe Festival, with 143 different events split between the “curated” shows, a.k.a. the performers who are invited and paid for by the festival, and the “independents,” a.k.a. the come-one-come-alls, which include everything from a comedy hypnosis show to stuff you should actually see. Today, we’re focusing on the latter to bring you our 9 must-see independent shows. (Click the show titles for ticket links.)

901 Nowhere Street

Fringe 901 Nowhere Street

Local theater creator and New Paradise Laboratories member Sam Tower takes the normally male-dominated classic noir genre and flips it with an all-female cast for this site-inspired crime drama set in a dark and eerie basement, complete with a smoky live jazz score. September 8th to 17th at Power Plant Productions, Old City.

Andy: A Popera

Fringe andy popera bearded ladies

Few Philly Fringe works see coverage in the New York Times, let alone 17 months prior to their fully realized production. But such was the case with this hotly anticipated collaboration between the gender-bending Bearded Ladies Cabaret and the recently rehabbed Opera Philadelphia, which has been attempting to dust off the operatic genre with doings like this: an opera-cabaret about Andy Warhol, staged in an Olde Kensington warehouse. September 10th to 20th at 1526 North American Street, Kensington.



Gunnar Montana’s Fringe offerings are always good gay, bloody fun, and we expect nothing less from this new work that examines that in-limbo place between heaven and hell. September 9th to 19th at the Latvian Society, Callowhill.


You may have seen actor-playwright Sam Henderson in last year’s festival in the modern Tolstoy adaptation Anna K., which audiences seemed to either love or hate. This time around, he’s a one-man show for a one-person audience and promises what happens will be different with each performance, inspired by the choose-your-own-adventure concept. What he’s not saying is what 100 is actually, you know, about. Or where it takes place. (Ticket buyers will get an email with an outdoor meet-up location.) But that’s half the fun of it. September 8th to 17th in Old City.

Exit the King

Fringe Exit the King

You can’t have a Fringe Festival without the theater of the absurd. Fortunately, Philadelphia’s masters of that theatrical form, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, return with Eugène Ionesco’s 1962 absurdist play. IRC’s 2014 festival production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros enjoyed a sold-out run. September 1st to 20th at Walnut Street Theater’s Independence Studio on 3, Washington Square West.

Damned Dirty Apes!

We loved the Renegade Company’s jarring 2013 Fringe offering, Bathtub Moby-Dick, which unfolded in a (literal) South Philadelphia living room. For their newest show, the setting moves to FDR Park, where your guided tour of the grounds descends into a bit of madness inspired by Planet of the Apes and King Kong. September 9th to 19th at FDR Park, South Philly.

The Empty Air and Animina

These two GPS-based soundscapes are from the mind of Philadelphia composer Michael Kiley. You download the respective 99-cent apps to your iPhone, put in your headphones, and walk around Rittenhouse Square (for The Empty Air) or Race Street Pier (for Animina); the compositions change based on your movements in those beautiful spaces. From September 3rd at Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse, and Race Street Pier, Old City.

It’s So Learning

fringe 1812

Philly physical theater champs the Berserker Residents send up America’s troubled education system. September 11th to 20th at Ruba Club, Northern Liberties.

The Shoplifters

Fringe: It's So Learning

If comic relief is what you’re after, you can do no better than comedy troupe 1812 Productions, which takes on this 2014 farce about an old woman who steals a steak and the security guard who detains her. 1812 co-founder Jenn Childs takes a break from performing and sits in the director’s chair for this one. August 27th to September 20th at the Arden Theater, Old City.

To check out our guide of curated shows, go here. The 2015 Philadelphia Fringe Festival takes place September 3-19. For more information and tickets, go here