Cannonball Festival returns in 2022 to take creative risks

Cannonball Festival
Almanac will debut a world premiere at the Cannonball Festival this year. Pictured are (from left) Darren Rabinowitz, Mae West, Lauren Johns and Nathan Alford Tate.
John C Hawthorne

This past weekend officially marked the start of the Cannonball Festival, and if you haven’t yet checked out Almanac Dance Circus Theater’s annual extravaganza, 2022 may be the time to dive headfirst and see what it’s all about. 

The Cannonball Festival features more than 300 performances of over 65 shows, spanning circus, dance, theater, film, and more—and it’s happening throughout the month of September, with the final day being the 30th. 

As part of the ever-growing and annually loved Fringe Festival, this second go around for Almanac’s extravaganza is an independently run Fringe Hub—but this year will also feature programming at the nearby Icebox Project Space at Crane Arts from Sept. 1-18 for the first time ever. 

So, what is the creative festival all about? According to an official release: Cannonball presents risk-taking independent artists in back-to-back performances next to delicious lounge spaces, fostering creative collisions and community conversation. The festival disrupts traditional arts presenting models by centering artist-to-artist curation, pooling and redistributing resources to provide small-scale, high-impact production opportunities for wild, under-resourced performances, and building a sustainable arts ecosystem from the ground up.

Cannonball Festival
Pictured are (top) Darren Rabinowitz, Ben Grinberg, (bottom) Lauren Johns, Mae West and Nathan Alford Tate.John C Hawthorne

Last year, the artful activation featured 28 unique works over 21 days for 150 performances in a single venue during Fringe. And during its inaugural run, 2,500 people came out to witness the works, which overall won three Fringie Awards. In 2022, Cannonball is offering even more production and presentation opportunities for independent artists from Philadelphia, and locals can witness it for themselves by purchasing tickets.

“There’s a magic you can feel in the air when you are standing in the Cannonball Beer Garden, enjoying a beautiful Philadelphia September night, surrounded by the energy of independent artists – risk takers who leave it all on the stage, sharing their particular visions, crafted with love and intention – and art-dazed audience members,” said Almanac Company co-founder Ben Grinberg in a statement. “It’s a space that we are purposely crafting to build community connections, start conversations, and to buzz with the energy of Fringe.” 

One highlight for this year is the Overboard Cabaret, a free nightly program featuring music, cabaret, side shows, circus acts, storytelling, strange anthems, pirate lords, ecstatic participatory rituals—and almost everything in between. Located in the Maas Garden Bar, anyone interested can check out the Cannonball website for the details of each night’s cabaret, as well as Cannonball’s mainstage shows, community events, workshops, and more. 

Cannonball Festival
Peter Nicholls in Tribe of Fools’ You Shouldn’t Be Doing What You Are Doing On That Ladder.Dallas Padoven

Another highlight comes from the Naked Empire Bouffon Company where “two fabulous tricksters celebrate USA’s love affair with Puerto Rico” in ‘The Most Important Place in the World!’ As the official description for the show states, with in-your-face physical comedy, lip sync, puppetry, outrageous costumes, and an anything-goes relationship with the audience, the show invites you into a joyous and disturbing whirlwind of biting anti-colonial satire. 

‘High Noon’ is another showcase worth mentioning, and this activation comes from Ninth Planet. Brought to you by a group of interdisciplinary Black queer and trans artists, this show highlights a take on America’s “poisonous lust” for the Lone Ranger by using live electronic and folk music, archival video, dance and poetry. 

Other highlighted performances at the Cannonball Festival include a new piece from Almanac, works by the recipients of the Cannonball BIPOC New Work Presentation track, and a line-up of works ranging from comedy, dance, theatre, circus, and more, a release states. Through hybrid experimentation, deep narratives, and open environments of circus learning, Almanac gives audiences access to a little bit (or a lot of) everything so they can experience the vicarious thrill of performance without barriers.

And additionally, audiences visiting the IceBox space can enjoy nightly gatherings at PunchBuggy Brewing. While at the MAAS Building however, a nightly beer garden will be open. And both spaces are within a 10-minute walk of each other allowing audiences the ability to enjoy multiple performances nightly if they wish.

Cannonball Festival
Stamptown at the Cannonball Festival.Cannonball Festival

But there’s also more incentive to check out the Cannonball Festival this year—a blind date. 

According to the official website, with Cannonball’s Blind Date Experience, you’ll be paired with another audience member for an experience that goes beyond lights up and lights down — and might cause a few (platonic, or not) sparks of its own.

The Blind Date experience includes a ticket to the selected performance, drink tickets to enjoy in the MAAS Garden Bar, and more. Philadelphians who partake in the experience can arrive early to grab a drink or snack with their date, and also interact with some pre-show discussion prompts. After the show, the date continues with discussions about what you just saw, plus, post-show discussion questions written by the artist. If you both choose to do it again, you’ll get a discount on future tickets, and a chance to win a special prize at the end of the fest.

Tickets are only available for selected performances (qualifying shows are available online), and if interested, when on the webpage, select the performance time and choose the $35 Blind Date option at checkout.

For information on the Cannonball Festival, visit