It’s all sorts of star-studded in Philly tonight. John Waters mills about the lobby of the Wilma Theater, on Center City’s Avenue of the Arts, having just witnessed the world premiere of choreographer/director/dancer Bill T. Jones’ contemporary opera, We Shall Not Be Moved. The visually dazzling production bravely revisits a shameful moment in Philadelphia’s modern history, the 1985 police bombing of a West Philly row house occupied by members of black separatist group MOVE, which resulted in six deaths, many injuries, and a neighborhood consumed by flames. The opera is a fictitious account of an interracial clique of orphaned teens including a transgender male, seeking shelter in that now haunted building.
Addressing race, queerness, class disparity, police-citizen relations, and identity, it’s a profound work, presented jointly by Opera Philadelphia’s inaugural Festival O (www.operaphila.org/festival) and the concurrent Fringe Arts (www.fringearts.com).
Following its phenomenally successful 2017 edition, the second Festival O will take place September 20-30, 2018, and it’s but one of the fresh, delightfully queer developments making this ever-evolving City of Brotherly Love a repeat destination for many travelers.
The 22nd FringeArts, which encompasses about 1,000 events over 17 days at their five-year-old home venue on Delaware River Waterfront (which includes a 240-seat performance space and La Peg, a brasserie/beer garden), as well as at spaces throughout the city, runs from September 6-22, 2018.
Dense with vibrant, edgy productions from around the world and by homegrown talent alike, keep an eye out for anything by Philadelphia choreographer-performer Gunnar Montana (www.gunnarmontana.com). His way-gay, episodic “Kink Haus” was a 2017 standout thanks to sensual, edgy, and humorous vignettes featuring agile and attractive men, women, and those who blurred the distinction, plus Cirque du Soleil–level acrobatics.