The Dolls of New Albion

Live theater has largely eluded otherwise-artsy Manayunk, but Sean Connolly and Gabe Henninger, Roxborough natives both and founders of the Manayunk Theatre Company, plan to change that. They produced the edgy thriller Splatter in last year’s Neighborhood Fringe and now present the U.S. premiere of Paul Shapera’s utopian steampunk opera in the shiny new Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center. It “mashes together Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with this steampunk world,” Henninger explains. Can a machine hold a human soul and give it new life? Sept. 3-12, $20, Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center, 7 Lock St. —Mark Cofta

ANDY: A Popera

The Bearded Ladies’ aesthetic has grown through low-budget cabaret successes Marlena and the Machine, No Regrets, My Dinner with Dito, their an­nual Bastille Day fete and this summer’s Bitter Homes & Gardens, but ANDY: A Popera, a collaboration with Opera Philadelphia, is artistic director John Jarboe’s biggest and most outlandish creation yet. This is the long-awaited developmental third stage of this ambitious examination of Andy Warhol’s life and infamy that, after last summer’s two-week run, moves from the Ladies’ comfy Wilma Theater lobby home to a vast Kensington warehouse that’s been transformed into a den of pop iconography and absurdity. Sept. 10-13, 17-20, $30-$40, Opera in the City, 1526 North American St. —Mark Cofta

Till Birnam Wood

John Schultz’s one-hour Macbeth adaptation — in which the audience is blindfolded while the action unfolds around them (safely, he assures) — was a sold-out hit last year, which is an excellent reason to revive it for some late-night (10 and 11:30 p.m.) performances this weekend. Immerse yourself in what Schultz says is an “an experience of the language,” as well as “the visceral sounds and overwhelming scents of Macbeth.” Most importantly, he adds, “The audience will feel the energy of actors at work; the electricity of the moment will be a shared experience between actor and audience.” Through Sat., Sept. 5, $15, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom St. —Mark Cofta

It’s So Learning

The Beserker Residents’ latest smart, zany escapade — after Fringe hits The Jersey Devil, The Giant Squid, The Annihilation Point and The Talkback — takes us back to middle school and the almost primal experience of learning and growing up in the classroom. This dark, savage, interactive comedy, created by core members Justin Jain, David Johnson and Bradley K. Wrenn with Dawn Falato, Lee Minora and director Adrienne Mackey, promises to gleefully skewer America’s floundering education system. Why do we go to school? After the Beserkers guide us through homework, bullies and grades, grades, grades, maybe we’ll have some kind of answer. Sept. 11-20, $15, Ruba Club Studios, 416 Green St. —Mark Cofta

The Captive

Like many local small companies, the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective received an early boost by producing Fringe shows, including site-specific successes like 2013’s The Sea Plays (aboard a ship) and 2012’s Creditors (in the Franklin Inn Club’s library). Edouard Bordet’s seldom-seen 1926 drama, directed by PAC co-founder Dan Hodge, was censored in its time, its producers and actors jailed. That sort of outrage is just good publicity today, but PAC doesn’t trade in cheap thrills — its record of excellence in producing little-known classics transcends momentary controversy, revealing the timeless qualities of overlooked works of importance. Sept. 1-20, $25, Physick House, 321 South Fourth St. —Mark Cofta

Damned Dirty Apes!

The Renegade Company takes to the park for a walking tour inspired by the films Planet of the Apes, King Kong and Tarzan the Ape Man, written by Chris Davis and Sam Henderson, conceived and directed by Mike Durkin. This mash-up from these rebellious deconstructors of familiar works, such as Fringe hits Hunchback and Bathtub Moby Dick, posits a wary, sometimes violent coexistence of man and apes in an alternate universe much like our own. The participants are warned to wear comfortable shoes and to prepare to get dirty — and to not, under any circumstances, stray from the path. Sept. 9-13, 15-19, $20, FDR Park, 1500 Pattison Ave. —Mark Cofta


I took a PlayPenn play­writing class last spring that included talented UArts grad Haygen Brice Walker, in which he shared some provocative scenes from his play about four loser teens toiling at a bleak haunted house attraction. Those scenes were pretty damn good. He hoped the play would shock and disgust audiences. Now it’s ready for an audience strong-willed and strong-stomached enough for it, with the caution that “due to graphic violence, strong language and sexual situations” all must sign a waiver before the performance. This, of course, will only further entice late-evening Fringegoers, but it’s really no gimmick. You’ve been warned. Now go. Sept. 4-13, $15, Headlong Studios, 1170 S. Broad St. —Mark Cofta

She Is a Problem

Part of the Fringe Fest­ival’s success is that while audiences love out­landish comedy, they’re not shy about darker and deeper material — the more raw the better. This “interactive gallery installation and devised theater experience” comes with “trigger warnings” about themes of suicide, mental illness, self harm and substance abuse, as well as nudity. The seven women in the all-female company Problem Collective explore the romanticism we often associate with a female artist’s death, baring the issues through the lives, works — and suicides — of Francesca Woodman, Sylvia Plath, Diane Arbus, Unica Zurn and Kay Sage, all up close and personal at the Adobe Café. Sept. 9-14, $10, Adobe Café, 1919 E. Passyunk Ave. —Mark Cofta

Me First: An Autobiographical Comedy About Dying

Local playwright Jason Rosenberg and the Cursed Church Artist Collective explore Rosenberg’s gruel­ing, sur­real struggle with three auto­immune diseases, which he’s coped with for more than five years. The recent UArts grad examines how hard it is to live while fighting an unseen disease, what some call an “invisible disability,” and finds humor amidst the pain. How do you keep friendships or romantic relationships alive when your life is consumed by the effort to stay alive? Rosenberg, who also performs this one-man show, is donating pro­ceeds to medical charities. Sept. 10-19, $10, The People’s House, 1323 Mifflin St. —Mark Cofta

The Light Princess

Anthony Lawton, creator of the Barrymore Award-winning fairy tale The Foocy and busy local actor, adapts George MacDonald’s little-known 19th-century Scottish story for the stage with the all-star assistance of Alex Bechtel (music), Aaron Cromie (puppets), Matt Pfeiffer (direction) and Dave Jadico (set), collectively billed as “Ugly Stepsister.” The title character is cursed with a loss of gravity, both inner and outer; she not only floats in the air, she cannot feel emotion. This story of rebellion, grief and the enduring power of love is suitable for kids but, thankfully, hasn’t been Disney-fied into a bland cash cow. Though it’s technically a work in progress, its pedigree and potential make The Light Princess a Neighborhood Fringe must-see. Sept. 11-13, $10, Lantern Theater, 923 Ludlow St. —Mark Cofta


If you enjoy performance that’s up close and personal, then you’ll dig Duende, where the audience is seated on the same level as the musicians and dancers. The proximity helps create a relaxed, informal vibe to allow for more intimate connections. Because the dance is largely improvised, you never know where dancer Chloe Felesina may end up, or how close she may get to the audience as she moves to the sounds of cellist Gabriel Cabezas and violinist Zoe Martin-Doike. The music includes 20th-century classical and electronics. It’s sonically challenging, and the relaxed atmosphere combined with the spontaneous movement offers a nice invitation to keep your mind and ears open. Sept. 19, $15, Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine St. —Deni Kasrel


In the video for his Indiegogo campaign for PURGATORY, Gunnar Montana says, “I really feel like I’ve challenged myself on this one. I’m stepping outside of my box — and I have a very big box.” Indeed. If you’ve caught any of Montana’s prior Fringe shows, you know this guy makes spectacles that assault your senses and sensibilities, all in the name of entertaining — even if, at times, raw and uneasy — escapism. With this latest creation, Montana digs deeper while reaching for a higher level of artistry as he explores the concept of purgatory — not as a temporal condition to be dealt with while dying, but rather as a state we experience in our daily lives. Sept. 9-19, $25-$35, Latvian Society, 531 N. Seventh St. —Deni Kasrel

The Most Awkward Love Life of Peabody Magoo

Based on writer/director Brandon Monokian’s own horribly awkward love life, The Most Awkward Love Life of Peabody Magoo is the story of a bumbling boy and his search for love. Starring Scott Brieden as Peabody Magoo (one of four cast members), the show deals with the idea of rejection. An acoustic guitar provides a soundtrack of thoughtful angst. The adult-themed drama is adorable and, well, awkward. “In today’s fast-paced world of dating apps and immediate gratification, the show offers an equally quick look at instant rejection,” said Monokian. “It’s tragic, but ultimately hopeful.” Sept. 4-6, 11-13, 18-19, $15, William Way LGBT Center, 1315 Spruce St. —SJ Punderson

Pretty Tall for a Hobbit

Chicken nuggets will be served at this comedy about growing up and hating every second of it. Writer Katie Verde is a self-admitted nerd, and it follows that Hobbit is inspired by her own experiences. Do we have control of our future? How do we minimize regret? These questions and more will be pondered as the Lord of the Rings score guides the audience through 45 minutes of stream-of-consciousness playacting. Anyone who’s ever attended a con, role-played or simply has an overly active imagination will surely appreciate the show. It’s also family-friendly, for the kid in all of us. Sept. 3-6, 10-13, $12, Middle Earth, 339A W. Girard Ave. —SJ Punderson

Night Trolley

Combining elements of cabaret, sketch, standup and drama, Night Trolley features the talents of nearly 17 Philadelphia comedians. The topic: SEPTA. Comedy gold? Perhaps. The audience can expect to be greeted by a kindly conductor and ushered along on a briskly entertaining journey of the mind. The show will be similar to an actual trip on public transit, with all the surreal humor and strangeness that comes with it. Live house band Misandrist Haberdashery will supply the beats during the 90-minute show. “I didn’t anticipate all the philosophical conversations I’d be engaging in with the performers, but we’ve really dug deep in exploring the nature of the trolley,” said writer and director Alejandro Morales. “I believe U2 wrote a song about it in the ’90s; it moves in mysterious ways.” Sept. 18, $15, Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. —SJ Punderson

Pope Up

Despite the impending descent of Pope Francis on Philadelphia (you may have heard about it), Pope Up is somehow the only papal entry in this year’s Fringe Festival. A medley of artists across various mediums will display their vision of his visit. Deanna McLaughlin addresses the commercial side of the event in creating the Pope Tote, Pope-pourri, Pope Soap, etc. Sculptor Joan Menapace’s “Tend Your Flock” is concerned with the lack of attention given to transgender Catholics. Clifford Bailey’s church steeple, made with rebar, represents lost churches that were once proud symbols of their communities. Several artists use a feminist lens to examine the Catholic Church through sculpture, painting, even a “Pope Binder.” Sept. 5-6, 12-13, 19, free, Global Dye Works, 4500 Worth St. —SJ Punderson


Why would you let Brian Feldman into your home to wash your dishes and then read a monologue of your choosing? What if he breaks your favorite coffee mug? According to the titular actor/dishwasher: “Hopefully, you get clean dishes and the experience of having an actor perform in your home.” For Feldman, “It’s about the artist/actor’s dilemma — wanting to do your dream job. I don’t know anyone passionate about being a dishwasher. I always wanted to be an actor.” Once asked to perform Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” as a dramatic monologue in a Scottish brogue, Feldman says he “likes the mystery of not knowing how many people, dishes or what the monologue is.” And he won’t reveal his favorite dishwashing soap. “In my pursuit of a sponsor, I don’t think it’s good to pick one.” Sept. 3-12, $20, your home. —Gary M. Kramer


Playwright Alisha Adams (The Men From the Girls) brings her newest, site-specific work to North Philadelphia. There, a group of self-identifying survivalists will plot to finally leave Philadelphia and civilization as a whole behind, all the while confronting the (very big) notions of survival, autonomy, escape and whether or not those words even mean anything. Seems like a tall order for an 80-minute performance, but Adams prior work proves she is no stranger to big ideas. Shelter-in-Place’s immersive nature is designed for thoughtful provocation and is bound to leave audiences mapping out their own escapes, however they may choose to define them. Sept. 18-20, $10, Las Parcelas, 2248 N. Palethorp St. —Marc Snitzer


Fate, the human condition and text-based choose-your-own adventure games inform the intimate 100. Intimate as in, performer and playwright Sam Henderson’s procedurally generated solo show is limited to one audience member per performance. Framed as an intersection between computer language and theatrical language, 100 has that audience member meet Henderson at a predetermined location in the city and roll dice, an action that determines just what they’ll be witnessing. It’s a piece of art based on algorithms and a mechanical way of thinking (and a passion for 1980s role-playing games), one that Henderson insists creates a wholly new relationship between audience and performer. Sept. 8-17, $20, various locations. —Marc Snitzer

Sometimes Callie and Jonas Die

With its fairly direct title, Sometimes Callie and Jonas Die immediately raises questions about what the hell dying sometimes even means. Turns out, Callie and Jonas use their temporary deaths for a cruel game, one-upping each other in the amount of terror they can cause others by killing themselves in public. At first seemingly a softly gruesome fantasy, the Austin-based Poison Apple Initiative’s production is also a commentary on adolescence, the hunger for attention and the actions taken to receive it. Sept. 8-13, $15, 1fiftyone, 151 N. Third St. —Marc Snitzer

See Also: City Paper‘s Fringe Fest previews and reviews.