FringeArts 2016: People to Watch

The local talents to catch at this year's FringeArts Festival, September 9th to 24th.

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

From left to right: Ben Grinberg, Nichole Canuso, Alex Torra, Mary McCool, and Cory O’Niell Walker. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

September is one of our favorite months of the year. No, not because the kids finally go back to school — well, that too — but because September brings the annual FringeArts Festival, showcasing the weird, the wonderful and, okay, sometimes the wrenchingly bad. Here are five local talents to watch.

The Acrobat
Ben Grinberg, 26
Exile 2588, Painted Bride Art Center, 9/8-9/23
When he’s not playing saxophone with local theater rock band Red 40 & the Last Groovement, he’s making his body do seemingly impossible things with his Almanac Dance Circus Theatre. He’ll use dance, trapeze work and other circus movement to tell this “acrobatic folk-music space-epic adaptation” of the ancient Greek myth of Io—set 572 years in the future, of course.

The Choreographer
Nichole Canuso, 43
Pandæmonium, FringeArts, 9/14-9/18
Among the most veteran of Fringe performers, the South Philly resident has been a fixture of the fest since it began in 1997. And her dance-theater performances are some of the most anticipated. This year, she’s teamed up with heavy hitters Geoff Sobelle and Lars Jan to create an ambitious desert-set production that melds onstage performance and cinema with a live soundtrack.

The Director
Alex Torra, 37
The Sincerity Project, Plays & Players Theatre, 9/8-9/18
If you’re a regular festivalgoer, you probably recognize him as an actor from Pig Iron plays Pay Up and Twelfth Night. This time around, the Penn grad is behind the scenes with this work from Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, a troupe he co-created in 2010. You may have seen The Sincerity Project in 2014. The funny and moving performance art piece is designed to be staged every two years through 2038.

The Soloist
Mary McCool, 38
This Info Will Change Your Life, Plays & Players Theatre, 9/17-9/23
She’s been developing this one-woman concept since 2011, and describes her character as a “dark clown” leading the audience on a vision quest. “I’ve been a student of stand-up comedy and also horror films, and there’s a lot of similarity in those rhythms,” she explains of her 13th FringeArts appearance. “My performance balances extreme comedy with some very serious subject matter.”

The Gender Bender
Cory O’Niell Walker, 38
Fire In My Bones: A Gospel Jubilee, First Unitarian Church, 9/24
We don’t know too many opera singers who are also drag queens. Walker, a respected vocal coach, performs regularly with the Opera Company of Philadelphia. He also occasionally throws on a wig and performs as drag queen Cookie Diorio. (Get it?) For this one-night-only show, Cookie will be accompanied by pianist Jillian Zack in an evening of gospel songs and personal narratives.

Published as “The Lineup” in the September 2016 issue of Philadelphia magazine.