Our Guide to the PIFA Festival
The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), produced by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, returns for its eighth consecutive year to bring Philadelphians the kind of art that brings you up and out of your seat — literally. With a promise of “11 days of gasp-inducing goosebumps,” this year’s festival, which runs May 31-June 10, might be the most extravagant and outrageous one yet.
The more shows you see, the more you save. After your first purchase on TodayTix, you’ll receive a $5 voucher in your confirmation email to use toward your next festival experience. Don’t miss this unforgettable festival, showcasing the most exciting works from both local and international artists.
Though this festival is jam-packed with you-can’t-go-wrong choices, here are some shows to check out, as well as some advice on how to make the best of your time.
Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (June 2 and June 9)
From the fantastical and provocative mind of MacArthur Genius Grant winner Taylor Mac comes this marathon fête that examines U.S. society and history over the past 240 years while celebrating the epic scope and evolution of music. Performed in two parts over the course of the festival (Part One covers 1776-1896 on June 2, and Part Two picks up in 1896 and carries us to present day on June 9), each part spans more than 12 hours with audience members invited to take breaks and come and go at their leisure. The ensemble will include local Philadelphia musicians, visual artists, and performers who have been invited to team up with Mac for the glitz and glam fest. Audiences will be moving, seating, dancing…anything goes! A truly communal experience awaits.
Doggie Hamlet by Ann Carlson (June 3-4)
You might be skeptical, but hear us out. Billed as a “3D Pastoral Poem,” “Doggie Hamlet” features five human performers, three herding dogs, a flock of sheep, and an open field for their playing space. This one will get you out into the fresh air for 70 minutes and lets you sit (on bales of hay) amongst two kinds of fluffy animals — who doesn’t love fluffy animals? You get all of this while watching the interactions and negotiations inherent in studying instinct. And there’s a twist: This isn’t a production of “Hamlet.” Inspired by David Wroblewski’s novel “The Trials of Edgar Sawtelle” that draws from the structure of Shakespeare’s play, this outdoor piece will take place at Fairmount Park at dusk for two performances only. And unlike 24-Decade History of Popular Music, “Doggie Hamlet” is kid-friendly.
My Organ My Seoul by Ambiguous Dance Company (June 3)
South Korean artists Boram Kim and Jang Kyeong-min team up with organist Ahreum Han and their company of dancers to bring “My Organ My Seoul,” a charming exploration of rhythm and individual expression that will showcase the Kimmel Center’s Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ. Weaving in irreverence, wit, and playful styling, this dance piece, performed only once in the festival, is sure to please those in search of a more “traditional” audience experience that is anything but typical.
600 Highwaymen: The Fever (June 6-June 10)
This barrier-breaking theater company is at PIFA with its most adventurous work to date. This immersive, participatory experience asks the audience to join and examine the mysteries of human existence. This experience is not for the faint of heart. Get ready to hold hands, talk to, and collaborate with your fellow audience members in this show that is part-meditation, part-theatrical experience. Every night is a different, as the audience is a key component to creating the magic.
Also, don’t forget to check out the massive PIFA Street Fair on June 9, a block party on Broad Street filled with good food, performances, and more. If you play your cards right, and you’ll be able to fit in a whole year’s worth of international art in just a week and a half.