Scott Shepherd, Kate Valk, and Ari Fliakos
in The Emperor Jones
(© Paula Court)
Scott Shepherd, Kate Valk, and Ari Fliakos
in The Emperor Jones
(© Paula Court)
August finds Philadelphia theater artists engaged in a beehive of activity as countless actors, directors and designers prepare for the 11th annual Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe (August 31-September 15).

With over 200 events throughout the city, the festival is a massive celebration of the performing arts. This year the Live Arts has a particularly impressive line-up. New Paradise Laboratories is presenting the Philly premiere of its bawdy, gender-bending 2007 Humana Festival entry Batch: An American Bachlor/ette Party Spectacle (August 31-September 15). Meanwhile the popular Pig Iron Theatre Company will treat audiences to the world premiere of Isabella, a radical re-imagining of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (August 31-September 15).

The Festival includes a strong contingent of New York artists, led by the award-winning Wooster Group, who will be performing the company's acclaimed production of Eugene O' Neill's The Emperor Jones (September 5-9). Also arriving from Gotham is the experimental company Elevator Repair Service with Gatz, its seven-hour stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (September 8-10). These shows are poised to emerge among the festival's hottest tickets, so get your orders in as soon as possible.

Also sure to attract big audiences is the world premiere of the Riot Group's Hearts of Man (September 5-8), which focuses on an accused sex offender and is penned by Adriano Shaplin, author of Pig Iron's Barrymore Award winner Hell Meets Henry Halfway and the provocative Pugilist Specialist.

The innovative company Lucidity Suitcase International returns to the Live Arts Festival with the world premiere of Flamingo/Winnebago (August 30-September 8), which is a road-trip tale about a young man who sets off to find his past in the American West.

Finally, for dance fans who want to experience the festival without leaving home there is Jérôme Meyer & Isabelle Chaffaud's site-specific work Kamerdans (August 31-September 14). For a mere $100, the Netherlands-based troupe will stage their 30-minute piece in the cozy confines of your home or apartment.

Outside of the Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe, the pickings are unbelievably slim. However, the Shakespeare in Clark Park offers up a free, outdoor production of the Bard's tragedy Romeo & Juliet (August 1-5). Director Tom Reing's production focuses on a community divided, with Matt Saunders' set of dirt and metal standing in stark contrast to the pastoral beauty of the production's park setting.