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After 27 years of building one of the city’s signature cultural events, Philadelphia Fringe Festival’s co-founder will step down as president and producing director.
Nick Stuccio plans to leave FringeArts on April 1, 2024.
Stuccio, a former Pennsylvania Ballet (now Philadelphia Ballet) dancer, launched the Fringe Festival in 1997 with 60 groups performing over the span of five days in the Old City neighborhood. Since then it has become one of Philadelphia’s marquee arts events. This year, the festival featured more than 300 shows over four weeks, attracting about 35,000 attendees. Philly Fringe also has year-round programming in the FringeArts building on the Delaware River waterfront.
“Twenty-seven years is a long time,” Stuccio said. “It’s enough. There’s something internal to me that said, ‘It’s time.’”
Stuccio said he had a similar premonition as a dancer.
“I thought at that time it’s the best job I’ll ever have,” he said. “And it was a great job. But something told me it’s time to look for a new challenge. I’m having that same exact feeling now.”
Stuccio said he plans to stay in Philadelphia and pursue arts consulting work while developing a long-term idea that he is not yet at liberty to discuss.
Stuccio started the Fringe Fest to be a platform to support the work of performing artists, without a plan for what it would become. Over the years he raised $10 million in capital funds and $25 million in donations. The festival annually makes about $1 million in ticket sales.
In the almost three decades of its existence, Fringe has become an important moment on the cultural calendar, and many artists debut shows that they plan to tour. Audience members who typically do not go to theater the rest of the year will go to Fringe. Some out-of-town festival loyalists make travel plans to be in Philadelphia in September, knowing they will see theater not available anywhere else.
The colloquial descriptor, “Fringey,” is widely understood in Philly.
“They’ve done a lot of audience building over the last 25 plus years, and we’re able to take advantage of that,” said Ben Grinberg, co-founder of Cannonball, a hub festival that operates within the Philly Fringe Festival. “If someone doesn’t know anything about the performing arts in Philly, they might still have heard that word ‘Fringe’ and know what that means.”