Philadelphia Live Arts Festival/Philly Fringe performances often are cutting-edge, experimental, provocative. In past years, many of them also have been hot. Sweltering, even.
Abandoned buildings, U-Hauls, murky indoor pools, converted warehouses, and city parks have become nontraditional performance spaces - sometimes fascinating, almost never climate-controlled.
But at this year's festival, which officially opens Friday and runs through Sept. 18, there are far fewer of the site-specific works than in the past. To accommodate larger audiences, more performances are being staged in traditional theaters and other venues that frequently host performances. Even better for saunaphobes, every Live Arts event is air conditioned. (In the festival's Fringe component, it's still anything goes.)
That issue aside, here's some of what looks hot on the creative front:
(Lucinda Childs with film by Sol LeWitt and music by Philip Glass) The work of three artistic luminaries, Dance is the Live Arts Festival's centerpiece (Sept. 10 to 12). Dancers perform a series of steps over and over, while the original 1979 cast, including Childs, dances with them on film. Dance-related events include a screening of a film of another Childs-Glass work, Einstein on the Beach, a lecture about Childs by dance critic Deborah Jowitt, and a conversation with Childs and Glass.
Bang on a Can Marathon A festival that has focused on theater and dance will do a lot of catching up all at once on Sept. 12 when it presents New York contemporary-music mavens Bang on a Can for the first time in Philadelphia. In each two-hour segment of the 10-hour marathon, various groups play in a wild mix of genres and styles. You can come and go.
Cankerblossom (Pig Iron Theatre Company) Live Arts mainstay Pig Iron follows up 2009's Welcome to Yuba City with its first family show, a fairy tale about adoption, kidnapping, and a world of two dimensions. Includes (intentionally) cardboard characters, music, video, animation, whimsy. Up now and running through Sept. 18.
Sanctuary (Brian Sanders JUNK) Last year, Sanders put his JUNK dancers in a long-abandoned pool in the sinuous, splashy hit SCUBA. This year, through Sept. 18, he combines punk, monks, and a 14-foot-high wall that serves as a stage for 10 dancers.
¡EL CONQUISTADOR! (Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental) Thaddeus Phillips returns to the festival through Sept. 11, with Tatiana and Victor Mallorino, in the story of a telenovela-addicted Colombian peasant who becomes a big-city doorman and lives both in his own put-upon world and the glam one on the small screen.
TAKES (Nichole Canuso Dance Company) Canuso, who became Alice in Wonderland at the 2008 festival, is again exploring dimensions. This work will take place in a fabric cube, and be viewable from 360 degrees, while a video installation will show the work live, as well as 20 seconds in the past. Performances, and free gallery hours, run through Sept. 18.
Cédric Andrieux A dancer with the Lyon Opera Ballet and former performer with Merce Cunningham, Andrieux demonstrates and narrates the story of his life in dance. Directed by choreographer Jerome Bel, last seen here with 2008's witty The Show Must Go On, it runs Sept. 14 to 16.
Freedom Club (New Paradise Laboratories and the Riot Group) New Paradise, creators of last year's popular Fatebook, joins with NYC theatrical risk takers the Riot Group to examine American political extremism, from John Wilkes Booth to crumbling cults to seances, while jumping back and forth in time. Ends Sept. 11.
8 Megan Mazarick/Meg Foley, Jumatatu Poe/Eun Jung Choi, Olive Prince/Shavon Norris, Daniele Strawmyre/Jaamil Olawale Kosoko What do you do when you have more promising local choreographers than you can fit into one festival production? Give each half a night and turn the performances into a minifest. Collect 'em all, Tuesday through Sept. 12.
Romeo and Juliet (Nature Theater of Oklahoma) Can you recount Shakespeare's tale of star-crossed lovers? Are you sure? The Nature Theater of Oklahoma cold-called people, recorded their versions, and compiled the outrageously garbled results in a production that contains barely a word of the Bard. Wednesday through Sept. 11.
Decadere (BoanDanz Action Company) In 2007's festival, Marianella Boan choreographed a clever work for two dancers in, on top of, and around a Little Tikes playhouse. This time the local Cuban choreographer explores how U.S. and Latin American cultures interact in a series of multimedia, multi-music interdisciplinary collisions. Sept. 15 to 18.
Chicken (Charlotte Ford) A frequent performer and presenter at Live Arts, Ford - just back from Edinburgh's Fringe - addresses the culture of fear in a clown play about a bizarre trio trapped in a submarine and at one another's throats. Through Monday.
Stew and The Negro Problem with Heidi Rodewald For one night only, Sept. 13, the one-name-only Stew, creator with Rodewald of the Tony-winning rock musical Passing Strange, brings his "Afro Baroque cabaret" to Philadelphia.
First Love by Samuel Beckett (Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland) A one-man tour de force by Beckett specialist Conor Lovett, who has performed 19 roles in 24 Beckett productions internationally. Through Sunday.
The Sun Also Rises (The Select) (Elevator Repair Service) ERS continues its American-lit survey (GATZ - a complete reading of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby - was here in 2007) with an experimental production based on Hemingway's novel of 1920s expat angst. Sept. 15 to 18.
Journey to the West: Reinterpreting Tradition Series (Danny Yung) In this U.S. premiere, theater artist Yung uses demonstration, discussion, and video to explore two prominent 1930s Chinese opera singers, how they were influenced by performing in the West, and how cultures transform one another. Three programs, Sept. 13, 17 and 18: Attend one or all.
The noncurated Philly Fringe side of the festival can be hit-or-miss, but this year's includes a good number of regular players on Philadelphia's arts scene. They include Luna Theater's production of Thom Pain (based on nothing), Iron Age Theatre's Marx in Soho, Gas & Electric Arts premiering Between Trains, and the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium's The Madwoman of Chaillot.
EgoPo, which relocated to Philadelphia from New Orleans after Katrina, will be performing Peter Weiss' The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum Under the Direction of Marquis de Sade. And Joseph P. Blake, playwright and former Daily News reporter, premieres A Separate Sun, starring Barrymore winner Joilet Harris, with music by three-time Emmy winner Bill Jolly.
In dance, there's Leah Stein Dance Company with Japan House/Philadelphia, performed in Fairmount Park's lovely Shofuso Japanese House; Fresh Juice from Mascher Dance (BYO fruit), and popular Pink Hair Affair's multimedia Meld.
For complete details on performances, dates, times, venues, and ticket prices, call the festival box office at 215-413-1318 or visit