Neighbors on the Fringe

Original, outlier theater in East Falls and Germantown this fall

Fringe Fest is 3 weeks of unconventional performances — a city-wide celebration of innovative, contemporary performance. Every September, neighborhoods all over Philly go a little wild with creative energy as more than 1000 original productions dare to challenge and entertain in every available space.

A vast assemblage of local, national and international talents provides unique opportunities to experience a mind-boggling array of artistic endeavors. Ticket prices are routinely affordable – there are discounts and memberships you can subscribe to online, where you can also purchase tickets read more about the festival and featured acts.

Fringe Fest’s reputation for world-class arts attracts a young(ish) creative crowd – about 30,000 people participate, who see an average of 5 shows each. This year, both East Falls and Germantown neighborhoods are hosting exciting performances for mature audiences.

EAST FALLS: Trolley Car Theatre with Juniper Productions presents “Destiny is a Careless Waiter.”

True love’s course runs amok at the hands of a slapdash server in Julie Zaffarano’s delightful one-act comedy. Two other short plays round out this bill of lighthearted drama set — where else? — at a cafe just like Trolley Car, of course. We, the audience, are like eavesdropping extras, enjoying our appetizers as the action unfolds….

A Philadelphian (by way of Cleveland), Julie’s playwrighting career began with a Murder Mystery fundraiser she was working on. She couldn’t find a script she liked, so she wrote one herself. “I had a blast writing that play and relished every performance,” she told us, “I realized that there were hundreds of stories inside me that were screaming to get out.”

We saw one of Julie’s plays earlier this year, a comedy featuring mother-daughter tension over a pleasant dinner out. The characters snipped at and danced around each other, with juicy, personal dialog – it was like overhearing someone’s cringe-worthy conversation with a payoff at the end. For Fringe Fest, all three short plays make similar use of Trolley Car’s cafe setting.

The title play was inspired by an actual incident, when Julie was celebrating dinner with friends. The guy at the next table took a knee and proposed to his date, who had been surprised by a diamond in her dessert. Afterward, she couldn’t help wonder all the ways that scenario could’ve gone horribly wrong. “Destiny is a Careless Waiter” was born.

The play is a favorite, but Julie has a special love for “Hotter than Thoreau,” which explores the crazy things we’ll sometimes do to make people like us – even pretending to be something we’re not.  “It’s a fast-paced, roller coaster ride that ends in an unexpected destination,” she added, “I can’t wait to see how (director) Lexa Grace and her talented cast transform my words from paper to the stage.”

Scenes from “Destiny” on stage at the Trolley Car Cafe

Julie’s pumped to be a Fringe Fester, too! “Fringe Festival is one of the most exciting times of the year – new work, rough and raw, in creative spaces – risk taking – pieces you won’t see anywhere else,” she explained, “The only part I don’t like is that there are so many pieces and so little time to get to them!”

And live performances are so important. “Attending shows encourages the creation and development of artists and their work, so that art continues to grow and thrive. Philadelphia is a hub of developmental theater. The Fringe is like a buffet – opportunities to taste something different, challenging, crazy – that might become a favorite.”

Speaking of filling up on Fringe Fest: there’s food here, too! Trolley Car’s creating a special menu just for the event, including a “Destiny” cocktail featuring gin (a nod to Juniper Productions, of course). Come feed your tummy and your soul!

Seating starts at 6pm, the three plays together are about an hour long. Dinner is served at 7:30. Before heading home, maybe pop into nearby In Riva or Le Bus for a nightcap? Or take a walk by the river where the bridges are super scenic in any light…

Fringe Fest doesn’t swing our way every year, what a great chance to support the Arts & local business. Don’t stop with dinner theater — come see what the kids are doing in Germantown’s Fringe Fest production, “The Miseducation of Generation Never.”

Destiny is a Careless Waiter
Three short plays by Julie Zaffarano; directed by Lexa Grace. Featuring: Ellen Cohn, Chauncey Meeks-Owens, Christopher David Roche, and Sisi Wright.
Tickets just $15.
Sunday & Wednesday evenings
Sept 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22 (6pm – 7:30pm)
$15 admission (plus food/drink purchases)
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Trolley Car Cafe
3269 South Ferry Road
Open Everyday 7am – 3pm

***Profile of the Artist***

Photo by Paul Sirochman

Julie Zaffarano, Playwright
Current residence: Broomall
Marital status: Married to “devastatingly handsome” husband (Dave)
Children: Five
Grandchildren: Four
Education/Associations: Classes with PlayPenn, Cape May Playwright Symposium, Dramatists Guild, Witherspoon Circle, Philadelphia Dramatists Center
Motto: “Everyone’s life is a myriad of stories”
Shout Out:  Sonya Aronowitz (Juniper Productions) — “Sonya is a brilliant woman, a visionary bringing stories to new audiences in accessible spaces. I’m constantly amazed at her energy and insight.”

Follow Julie on her website:

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