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Bastille Day Features Free Performance and Raining Tastykakes

Eastern State Penitentiary's Bastille Day Celebration Features Free Theatrical Performance as Thousands of Tastykakes Fly From the Prison's Towers -- The Bearded Ladies bring the spirit of revolution to Eastern State's Bastille Day celebration --

June 21, 2017

Eastern State Penitentiary is teaming up with The Bearded Ladies, an experimental cabaret troupe, to present the French Revolution in a spectacle of song, dance, and raining Tastykakes for the penitentiary’s annual Bastille Day festival, to be held Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Continuing with the annual theme of oppression and revolution then and now, the Bearded Ladies will connect past and present with a topical commentary on our political climate today. Guests can expect a show that is, as the Beards say, “both intellectual and accessible, entertaining and meaningful, stupid good and just plain stupid.”

This playful reenactment of the storming of Bastille will be emceed by the voice of Paris herself, Edith Piaf (portrayed by John Jarboe, Artistic Director of The Bearded Ladies), and will include appearances by Joan of Arc, Benjamin Franklin, Vladimir Putin, and a six-foot-tall French Baguette. The script will touch on Philly public school education, the American Healthcare Act, racial injustice, alternative facts, the travel ban, and the border wall.

The performance will begin at 5:30 p.m. in front of Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue, and will culminate in a reenactment of the storming of the Bastille. French revolutionaries will storm the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary) and capture Marie Antoinette (portrayed by Terry McNally, co-owner of London Grill and Paris Wine Bar). The show will reach its climax as Marie mockingly cries, “Let them eat Tastykake!” and more than 2,000 Butterscotch Krimpets are flung from the prison’s towers onto attendees below.

This event is free and open to the public. For those interested in a better (French Bourgeoisie) view, exclusive VIP seating is available. VIP tickets include reserved seating, Kronenbourg 1664 and other refreshments, heckling from the lower classes, and revolution goodie bags. For more information, the public can visit

Other Bastille Day Activities:

  • Sunday, July 9, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Community Workshop: Protest Sign Making
    The Bearded Ladies Cabaret and Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site invite all Philadelphians to a Bastille Day pre-party. Guests will sharpen their metaphorical pitchforks for the big revolution, hang with Edith Piaf and the Bearded Ladies, and make protest signs, ribbon dancers, and other props for the show on July 15. Plus, they'll get a sneak peak at the revolutionary dance and learn some secret cheers! This event is free. No reservations required. Materials will be provided free of charge.
  • Saturday, July 15, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: French Family Carnival, presented by Univest Bank
    Guests can enjoy music, games, and entertainment on Fairmount Avenue, including an inflatable slide, cornhole, Tastykake eating contest, water balloon toss, jumbo Jenga and Twister, face painting, and arts & crafts. All activities are free. No reservations required.
  • Saturday, July 15, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.: Twilight Tours of Eastern State Penitentiary
    Following the performance, the penitentiary will reopen for rare twilight tours. Twilight tour admission is $8 online at Not recommended for children under seven.
  • Saturday, July 15, 6:30 p.m. to close: French-Themed Specials at Fairmount Restaurants
    Following the performance, select Fairmount restaurants will come alive with French-themed entertainment as well as food and Kronenbourg 1664 specials. Participating locations include London Grill, Paris Wine Bar, Urban Saloon, and Fare.

Bastille Day is produced by Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, written and performed by Bearded Ladies Cabaret, and sponsored by Tastykake, Kronenbourg 1664, and Univest Bank.

About the Bearded Ladies:
Bearded Ladies Cabaret is a troupe of artists who insist that art can be both intellectual and accessible, entertaining and meaningful, stupid good and just plain stupid. They fuse cabaret and theater to tackle the politics of gender, identity, and artistic invention with sparkle and wit. Bearded Ladies are always live. They sit on your laps and tell you a story. They have recently finished a sold out collaboration with The Philadelphia Museum of Art called Color Me Barbra. Other work includes ANDY: A Popera (with Opera Philadelphia), Bitter Homes and Gardens (with PHS), No Regrets: A Piaf Affair, Wide Awake: A Civil War Cabaret (with The Kimmel Center), Beards Are For Shaving: A 007 Cabaret, and Marlene and the Machine.

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious criminals, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The penitentiary is open seven days a week, year round. When purchasing online, admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students and children ages 7-12. When purchasing at the door, admission is $16, $14, and $12, respectively. (Not recommended for children under the age of seven.) Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

For more information and schedules, the public should call (215) 236-3300 or visit


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2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner