Bastille Day Preview

An afternoon of populist panache, this performance will put a song on your lips, bread in your hands, and a little revolutionary swagger in your step.

Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary is teaming up with The Bearded Ladies, an experimental cabaret troupe, to present the entire French Revolution in an hour-long spectacle of song, dance, beheading, and raining Tastykakes for the penitentiary’s annual Bastille Day festival, to be held Saturday, July 11, 2015. This "completely historically accurate" reenactment of the storming of the Bastille will be emceed by the voice of Paris herself, Edith Piaf, and will include appearances by Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Benjamin Franklin, and a six-foot French Baguette.

Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

This year's performance will tackle education, the departure of Mayor Nutter, the arrival of the Pope, and other recent Philadelphia phenomena, and it will feature confetti cannons, stilt walkers, a cardboard horse, and a catwalk so long it divides the whole of Fairmount Avenue.

Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

This FREE theatrical performance will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will culminate in a playful reenactment of the storming of the Bastille. Dozens of French revolutionaries will storm the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary), will capture Marie Antoinette (portrayed by Terry McNally, co-owner of London Grill and Paris Wine Bar) and, ignoring her mocking cries of “Let them eat Tastykake!” will drag her to a real, functioning guillotine as 3,000 Tastykakes are flung from the prison’s towers.

Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

The performance will take place on Fairmount Avenue, free and open to the public. For those interested in a better (French Bourgeoisie) view, exclusive VIP seating is available for a donation fee. VIP tickets include seating, beer and refreshments, heckling from the lower classes, and revolution goodie bags. Note: VIP tickets are NOW SOLD OUT.

Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

Following the beheading, local Fairmount restaurants will come alive with French-themed entertainment as well as food and drink specials, and the penitentiary will reopen for rare twilight tours at a discounted admission price ($8 online, or $10 at the door).

Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary

Grab a Super Soaker and storm the walls! Whether you’re a revolutionary or an aristocrat, there’s something for you in this celebration of all things French! Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!