South Street businesses lend a hand to Fringe Festival’s queer-friendly cabaret [WHYY: PRESS]

Sep 13, 2023 | In The District, Press

Photo credit via Johanna Austin/WHYY. 

Since 2018, Late Night Snacks has been returning to the Philly Fringe Festival as various iterations of a pop-up cabaret series that changes daily with a rotating cast of performers.

Curator John Jarboe has been bouncing Snacks around Philadelphia for six years, including putting it online as a virtual experience for two years during the pandemic.

The latest iteration has landed on South Street, taking over about a third of a 20,000-square-foot empty storefront at 2nd and South streets. Dozens of performers will arrive onstage by sliding down a spiral slide while used clothes form a rainbow banner across the windows, and an “in-house doctor” will provide lip sync performances as therapy sessions.

As LGBTQ+ and drag culture is being threatened by legislation, school boards, and even a bomb threat, Jarboe wanted Late Night Snacks to be a safe place, “soft and generous” for trans and queer people.

She dubbed it “The Closet.”

“It’s fun to say: ‘Now, everyone, we’re all coming out of the closet,’” she said. “Whether you came here thinking you were straight, or just an ally, by the end of the night we’re all coming out of the closet.”

The neighbors on South Street have welcomed it with open arms.

“They’re popping in, like: ‘Thank god you’re here,’” Jarboe said. “’This is the weird stuff that should happen on South Street.’”


“It really fits with our mission. South Street has always been creative, edgy, and inclusive,” Johnston-Zimmerman said. “Despite it being the least built-out of all options, because it’s completely gutted on the inside. But everybody was up for the challenge, and that included the property owner.”

The neighboring businesses chipped in, too.

“We have over 35 community partners,” Jarboe said. “Fleishman’s Fabrics is giving us the fabric. AIDS Thrift provided all these clothes so we could hang them on the windows. Yowie, that hotel across the street, they’re housing our artists.”


Originally published by WHYY.
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