PHILADELPHIA - September 5, 2013 --Philadelphia offers some of the finest cultural experiences anywhere, but did you ever think about who incubates the arts? Producers and performers need a place to hone their craft, and you generally don't find those performances in top-ticket venues. That's not to say such works aren't worth seeing. What began as the Philadelphia Fringe Festival was born to provide emerging art and artists a venue. Originally, performances occupied virtually any available space in Old City...everything from a street corner to a vacant commercial building. It was fun and spontaneous. But as the festival grew along with the artists, there was a need to offer curated performances that were more refined, yet still with a fringy "edge". So in recent years, the festival split in two, becoming the Live Arts festival and the Philly Fringe. It also grew to venues city-wide, even beyond. This year, it's re-branded as the Fringe Festival. One of the featured events this year is "The Ballad of Joe Hill", a play by Bradley Wrenn that was part of the fringe side seven years ago. It still has a certain "edge" but is now presented as one of the curated shows. There will be thirteen performances starting tonight, all at Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue. The show is a comedy despite containing an execution. At first sight, it's entertaining. But after seeing it, you're likely to focus on underlying social issues that are as current as today's headlines. Adrienne Mackey directed it as an emerging work in the Fringe Festival seven years ago, and she's grown with the play. So has author Wrenn, who also performs. Not what you're looking for? The festival has so many offerings that you're bound to enjoy something. Many festival-goers enjoy the adventure of discovery, so much so that they buy an all-access pass and attend literally dozens of events. You can learn more, explore shows, and buy tickets on the Fringe Arts. Festival members enjoy generous discounts on ticket prices while supporting the movement year-round. As always, there will be a nightly Festival Bar where audiences and performers will meet to unwind. This year it's at Underground Arts, 12th and Callowhill Streets. You might also want to know about Feastival, sponsored by Audi and supporting the fringe movement. This year's edition is next Thursday, September 12th at Pier 9 on the Delaware River waterfront. You can learn more about that on its own website, Philly Feastival.
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