Philadelphia has been been home to some amazing festivals and events in the last few years, including Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, Philadelphia Science Festival, Hawaiian-themed Philadelphia International Flower Show and Diner en Blanc Philadelphia. We thought we couldn’t be any prouder of our city… but boy, were we wrong!

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival + Philly Fringe came along and totally rocked our world!  In the past, the Festival piqued our interest, but it didn’t always mobilize us into instant action.  Let’s face it, fall is a busy time and the Festival usually competed with other equally amazing events. This year, however, the electriying lineup grabbed our attention from the start. We ended up attending a record number of performances and events.  In fact, two of all-time favorite “Philadelphia” moments happened during the Festival. We’re having such a good time we don’t want the fun to end. Lucky for you, it doesn’t have to!  Check out some Festival highlights below… and don’t miss two amazing shows that are still running.

FESTIVAL FUN CONTINUES… 

Brat RockPile
Continues through September 26
Showtime 9:30pm
Underground Arts, 919 N 5th St, Philadelphia

Brat Productions returned to the Philly Fringe for the first time since 2006’s sold-out Live Arts Show EYE-95 Re-Tarred. Some things are worth the wait, and Brat RockPile is no exception! All-star Brats Madi Distefano and Jess Conda set the tone for what will be a season on the Fringe with RockPile, a double header that features a remount of Popsicle’s Departure, 1989 and the world premiere of Eternal Glamnation.  The corruption begins with Popsicle’s journey to underground Boston’s defiant punk-rock world. Distefano celebrates young toxic love as she portrays both characters in a self-destructive young couple. Distefano’s presents a tour-de-force performance that is full of tension and angst.

After a break (and trip to the Festival bar), we again go back in time to the sparkle and pop of Eternal Glamnation. Conda first debuted Eternal Glamnation in Brat’s workshop series, Rock & Awe. Conda ups the game — and the camp — in this full stage production that pays homage to ’70s icons of glam, including David Bowie and Lou Reed.  While the spectacular vocal performances were the real thrill here, the other thing that will keep them talking is the drag-glam alien presented by Erik Ransom.   Both shows are great examples of Brat doing what Brat does best. They also are shining examples of Philadelphia’s growing “rocking theatre” movement that now includes such talented groups/performers as Bearded Ladies Cabaret,  Martha Graham Cracker and Johnny Showcase.  The rock ‘n roll fun continues tonight and tomorrow night.

Tickets are available as a double feature online. Individual performance tickets are also available at Underground Arts.

Open Air
Continues through October 14, 2012
Nightly from 8:00pm to 11:00pm
Located between 21st and 24th streets on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

On a normal evening, Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a quiet place. Cars speed by,  locals walk their dogs and joggers get in some mileage.  The Association for Public Art took this quiet and mellow nighttime space and transformed it into Philadelphia’s largest ‘art gallery.’  Open Air, created by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer,  utilizes mobile technology in a spectacular interactive light experience directed by participants’ voices and GPS locations.   Art is awesome, but interactive art? Even better!

Voices of everyday people are turned into light using a free mobile app that allows participants to record and submit messages of up to 30 seconds in length — shout-outs, poems, songs, rants, dedications, proposals. In response, 24 powerful robotic searchlights, stationed strategically along a half-mile section of the Parkway, will create a unique, dynamic light formation in the sky. The lights will react in brightness and position to the GPSlocation of the participants and the frequency and amplitude of their voice recording, which can be heard through the app, the project website and public speakers located at the Project Information Center. The free “Open Air Philly” app will be available from the iTunes store starting Sept. 20. Priority will be given to those submitting messages from the Parkway, but for those not onsite, the project website www.openairphilly.net, will allow users to record messages that will be archived and played back by the lights if other web visitors rate them highly.

Open Air gives the concept of free speech a whole new twist, which is especially fitting as Philadelphia is the birthplace of our nation.  By the end of the project, thousands of individuals will have expressed themselves onsite and online. Organizers estimate hundreds of thousands more will experience the project as spectators.  While the project seems massive, to the individual recording the message, its actually quite personal.  In terms of Philly fun, this project is a definite winner. Batman only wishes the bat signal was this cool!

We attended opening night and watched Grammy Award-winning musician and legendary beatboxer Rahzel and internationally renowned extreme vocalist David Moss light up the skies.  The minute the lights started to move we mentally wrote this down as ‘history in the making.’   We had the same feeling several nights later when we were not under the lights, but 2.5 miles away. We were shopping at 22nd and Oregon in South Philly. People literally got out of their cars and were stopped in motion. We aren’t sure if they thought the alien mother ship had landed or if they knew it was Open Air.  Either way, it was simply amazing to see art literally stop people in their tracks. What a truly brilliant project! 

THINGS WE LOVED… 

Sequence 8 by 7 Fingers
We will be totally up front. We went to this show kicking and screaming. Well, not really, but we weren’t super enthused. Last year, 7 Fingers brought us a smoking hot ad campaign…that still has us fantasizing just a little! While the ads were memorable, the show was not. The flashy ads didn’t match the show content or tone. There was amazing circus skills, but the story dragged on.  If Spring Awakening became a circus show, Traces would have been the result. Fast forward to Sequence 8… From the split second the performers took to the stage, we couldn’t take our eyes (and ears) off of them.  7 Fingers totally redeemed itself with a show that mixed a cocktail of physical stunts, humor and sex appeal.  The pace and music was faster, upbeat and enthusiastic. After a long day at the office, we want to be thrilled by a circus show — and Sequence 8 had us loving every minute of it from the edge of our chairs. Our favorite performance of the night was the mesmerizing lyra (hoop) act that brought never before seen skills to a city that has a budding circus movement.  As we sat in the section with circus students from a local school, we could hear each of them appreciate the artistry and skills. We also heard them mentally taking notes for when they return to their lyra classes. Sequence 8 made its United States debut in Philadelphia. It is definitely a MUST SEE show if it comes to a town near you.

Le Grand Continental
One of our favorite ‘Philadelphia moments’ was during the first steps of this massive public line dancing event.   200+ performers of all ages and backgrounds, ranging in experience from professional dancers to pure amateurs, took to pavement outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art to create a  fun and exciting community dance event choreographed by Sylvain Émard.  While we enjoyed watching some of the pros busting a move, we couldn’t get enough of the everyday ‘joes’ that had no formal dancing training. In fact, there were a handful of folks that might have never stepped on the dance floor before.  No matter the skill level, though, everyone performing was having the time of their lives, and that energy flowed right into the audience.

After the skillfully choreographed numbers, the dancers were joined by the audience who simply refused to leave. They flooded the sidewalk and the Art Museum steps for a pop-up dance party. By the end of the experience, we had only one regret… that we didn’t apply to join the dance troop.  Next time Brat’s Jess Conda, who helped with recruitment, asks us to dance, surely the answer  in the future will be YES, please!

The Art Form of Circus
Last year, Philadelphia School of Circus Arts broke new ground by presenting its first-ever show in the Philly Fringe. This year, the Green Fairy took a year off, but the circus fun continued to fly higher than ever. Hot on the heals of an exploding circus movement, this year’s Festival roster contained several gems that featured both professional circus artists and advanced circus students (and future stars).  In addition to Sequence 8, our favorite selections this year ranged from The Gate Reopened by Brian Sanders and Junk, You Don’t Say by Tangle, and WAMB by Broken Arrow Workshop.  Feastival even joined the big top fun by presenting aerial performances mixed and mingled with Philadelphia’s top chefs.

Now that we’ve shared our favorite moments, we’d love to hear yours!  Post them below as a comment or drop us a note on Facebook.  Also, visit Facebook more photos and commentary on the Philadelphia Live Arts and Philly Fringe and other September happenings.

Disclaimer:  No monetary compensation was provided for this post. Facebook, Twitter and Google are not affiliated with this giveaway. 

About Philly Loves Fun

A blog about Philadelphia's fun and unique adventures, arts, events, food and opportunities.

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