Something about Winnipeg seems to drive its artists to exult in the archaic. Where Guy Maddin’s films are otherworldly silent-cinema fever dreams, Daniel Barrow’s projection performances recall a more recent, less fanciful past. His Winnipeg Babysitter collection unearths eccentric treasures from memories of public-access TV. His more performative pieces — like the two he’ll bring to Fringe — rescue the overhead projector from the doldrums of classroom demonstration and transform the clunky device into a tool for “manual animation” — comic-book narratives brought to multimedia life. Looking for Love in the Hall of Mirrors follows a foppish farm boy as he moves to the big (-ish) city, while The Thief of Mirrors combines live and recorded sound with video and projections for a distinctive, strangely live/still portrait. The piece takes a skewed look at wealth and privilege through a lens that at times resembles lush paintings come to dreamlike life. —Shaun Brady
Fri., Sept. 14, $10, International House, 3701 Chestnut St.
Private Places is intentionally tongue-in-cheek. This is a public performance, after all, and you may wind up getting up close and personal with the dancers: At certain times audience members are situated smack in the middle of the stage. Choreographer Jumatatu Poe is up to some conceptual tricks in this experimental work that digs into how our public and private lives are becoming increasingly conflated. He plays around with stylized movements, such as mechanistic gestures of the service industry, and J-sette, a drill-team-inspired gay black club dance style. There are leaders, loners and followers, and you may even be instructed to move, as the cast attempts to rearrange the space to create some level of order. Which is a tall order, when performers start getting naked and/or stuffed into suitcases. —Deni Kasrel
Sat., Sept. 15-Thu., Sept. 20, $28-$35, Live Arts Studio, 919 N. Fifth St.
That the guidebook shrugs and calls this a “happening” is a big clue: Even by Fringe standards, this one is sublimely strange. Hosted by the Penn Museum, Monsters starts with a 2:30 p.m. workshop, with artist/Columbia U. Computer Music dude Douglas Repetto teaching you how to construct an army of little, clumsy walking-table creatures. “It’s not often you have the chance to build a herd of mechanical foals while surrounded by ancient artifacts,” he says, correctly. Then at 4 p.m. it’s time to set the little guys loose (on each other?) in the China Rotunda/Thunderdome. “It’s not really something we can rehearse, so even I don’t know quite what will happen,” says Repetto. “But in my mind, it’s sad and weird and lovely.” —Patrick Rapa
Sun., Sept. 16, $12, Penn Museum, 3260 South St.
Since 1991, John Collins’ experimental, Brooklyn-based Elevator Repair Service group has made a goal of tearing apart and reconfiguring the mythology of the Marx Brothers, Ernest Hemingway, Andy Kaufmann and the Beats. For its latest work-in-progress — Arguendo, being tested out in an afternoon show — they tuck into the legality and morality of Barnes v. Glen Theatre, the 1991 Supreme Court decision ruling against two clubs that challenged a law requiring exotic dancers to wear pasties and G-strings, arguing that nudity was a protected element of free speech covered by the First Amendment. “I’m a big follower of the Supreme Court, and for years I’ve downloaded and listened to recordings of oral arguments,” says ERS founder-director Collins, who was particularly moved by this case’s oddly philosophical arguments about high art versus low art. The show also has an inherent comic “touch of absurdity,” says Collins, “since these judges are some of the last people you’d expect to hear discussing that kind of performance — it’s full of great one-liners.” —A.D. Amorosi
Sun., Sept. 16, $18, Arden Theatre, 40 N. Second St. For more on Arguendo, read Emily Guendelsberger's feature, here.
When Leah Stein Dance Company says “site-specific,” they are not fooling around. Hoist can exist only in the Maas Building, a “former trolley repair shop” in Northern Liberties that still revels in its brick-and-steel glory days. “The dancers will hang from beams and swing from ropes,” says managing director Jane Stojak. “No part of the building is spared if the dancers can reach it and feel it.” —Patrick Rapa
Wed., Sept. 19-Sun., Sept. 23, $20, Maas Building, 1325 Randolph St.
Cornet player and electronic musician Rob Mazurek’s various projects are defined by their settings. The skronky free jazz of his hometown is at the root of his Chicago Underground Duo with drummer Chad Taylor, while his Exploding Star Orchestra crafts sounds that are cosmic and nebulous as befits their astrophysical tag. The name of his São Paulo Underground is apt in a literal sense, as his three bandmates — percussionist Mauricio Takara, keyboardist Guilherme Granado and drummer Richard Ribeiro — all hail from that Brazilian city. But it also fits in a more descriptive sense, capturing the mixture of sunny tropicalia and gritty experimentalism. Most members supplement their instruments with electronics, which explodes their avant-jazz exotica with glitch disruptions, swallows it in clouds of hazy distortion or abstracts it into off-kilter echo chambers. —Shaun Brady
Wed., Sept. 19, $16, Crossroads Music at the Calvary Center, 801 S. 48th St.
In the spring of 2010, radical Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic was honored at MoMA with a retrospective of 40 years of her groundbreaking works. During the run, the 63-year-old Abramovic performed a new piece, The Artist Is Present, in which for three months — six days a week, seven hours a day — she sat, rarely moving and never speaking, at a table in the exhibition space. Visitors were invited to sit in the single chair across from her as she silently stared a hole through their pitiful souls. The experience shook many to the core, provoking emotional outbursts that ran the gamut from ugly-cry to freaky, maniacal laughter — and, lucky for us, director Matthew Akers was there to catch it all on celluloid. His documentary follows Abramovic from the planning stages to the final moments of her performance (which clocked in at a personal-record-breaking 700-plus hours), offering a behind-the-scenes peek at the process of the art-world icon. —Josh Middleton
Wed., Sept. 19, $9, International House, 3701 Chestnut St., internationalhouse.org.
“When starting a play, I ask myself, ‘What’s the last show in the world I would ever want to make?’” says Young Jean Lee, a darling of the avant-garde and one of American Theatre magazine’s 25 artists destined to shape theater in the next 25 years. “Then I force myself to make it.” Given that, it’s not too surprising that Lee’s ensemble takes on utopia. Untitled Feminist Show has the feel of a stage-fright nightmare: six completely nude performers go through a choreographed series of rituals and dances in a sort-of-cosmic variety show. “Our goal is to find ways to get past our audiences’ defenses against uncomfortable subjects and open people up to confronting difficult questions by keeping them disoriented and laughing,” says Lee. —A.D. Amorosi
Wed., Sept. 19-Fri., Sept. 21, $28-$35, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St. For more on Arguendo, read Emily Guendelsberger's feature, here.
An improv comedy troupe leaves the stage. Thunderous applause fills the room. Performers bow. The audience laughs. A riotous performance ensues. This is Backstory, an improvised show that unfolds in reverse, as performed by Hot Dish, a group out of Philly Improv Theater. Think of it like the movie Memento — only instead of short-term memory loss and the angst-filled hunt for a killer, expect a series of hilarious, telescoping flashbacks to play out against a soundtrack of live music, performed on guitar or ukulele and selected by the audience. A version of the full-length improvised play ran for two months at Improv Boston; here, it’s shown as a doubleheader with a 20-minute set from the Philly Improv Theater House Team. —Samantha Melamed
Wed., Sept. 19-Sat., Sept. 22, $12, The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St.
Australia’s Back to Back Theatre is beyond the pale. Not just because the 25-year-old company poses uneasy questions about gridlocked democracy and paints radically comical portraits of the Third Reich, among other raging topics. Mainly, it’s because BtB makes daring works with actors and authors facing all manner of supposed intellectual disabilities. And those theatrical efforts look and sound like no other. Take Food Court. Here, one woman’s battle with body image and brutality is staged as a slow-moving improvisational dance. At first, its exercise-gear-clad artists course through a misty haze of literal smoke and mirrors until they hit a black forest of bad decisions and moral dilemmas. Doubly thrilling is that the performance is accompanied by a live ensemble, The Necks, who play a deliciously differently scored soundtrack each night, giving each show its own weird sonic sway. —A.D. Amorosi
Thu., Sept. 20-Sat., Sept. 22, $30, Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.
- Naked on stage in front of hundreds of people — but it's no nightmare.
- Large-scale and high-visibility art makes a spectacle of itself.
- Four regular families become performers, telling their own stories in their own homes.
- Cooking up a dignified but futile era of left-right relations.
- Three artists explore wildly divergent scenes of losing one’s home.