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Exploring Spiegelgarden, the Heart of the Fringe

December 20th, 2015

Acrobats Nelson and Goulia Pivaral dida breathtaking and romantic acrobatic performance for the Cabinet of Wonders. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
By Joanne Brokaw

The First Niagara Fringe Festival opened this week, with over 500 shows happening at more than two dozen venues over ten days. But the heart of the Fringe is the Spiegelgarden, located at the corner of Main and Gibbs Streets, across from the Eastman Theater. There are shows, artwork, food and more, including the centerpiece Spiegeltent, which is home to the Cabinet of Wonders, Princess Wendy’s Late Night Tease Room, comedian Jamie Lissow, Silent Disco and Brown Bag Disco.

I confess I’ve never been to the Fringe, now in its fourth year, but after I did the Remote Rochester tour this week I just had to go downtown for opening night festivities at the Spiegelgarden. What amazing wonders await you! Here are a few of the things happening at One Fringe Place…

The First Niagara 3D tribute to Sam Patch. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Tipping a hat to local history, festival sponsor First Niagara commissioned the interactive, 3D artwork that allows people to “walk a tightrope” across the High Falls gorge. There’s a photographer to capture an image. Sorry, I really had to insert myself into this story with own picture. It was too hard to resist the fun, and that’s as close as I’ll ever get to something that requires that much skill. There is no charge for the photo, which is then posted on First Niagara social media, tagged with #FringeDaredevil external link.

I took advantage of the opportunity to look like a daredevil at the First Niagara 3D tribute to Sam Patch. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Artist and sculptor Scott Grove is the creator of several installations at the Spiegelgarden, including the bicycle water sculpture “What if” and the Wall of Mirrors.


I spent a lot of time with Scott and his wife Nancy. Scott is responsible for artwork all around the city, including at the Public Market, Village Gate, and RIT. Not only do we share a love of Rochester history and out of the way places (Scott does restoration on Rochester’s historic buildings; he’s currently working in the Powers Building), he and Nancy have an endless supply of fascinating stories.

They’re both lots of fun, and that shows in Scott’s work. In fact, while showing me the Wall of Mirrors, I think Scott was having as much fun as everyone else playing at the wonky wall of skewed perceptions.

Nancy and Scott Grove enjoy Scott's installation, the Wall of Mirrors. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Scott’s offered to let Rochester Subway tag along when he’s working in the old buildings in Rochester, so watch for more stories about him. And if you go to the Naples Open Studio Trail art event external link in October, make sure to stop by his studio and say hello.

If you’re hungry or thirsty, the Spiegelgarden had food trucks and a bar under the stars. Chef and Bento Box were inside the garden on opening night, serving a variety of creative culinary delights.

Bento Box's Matt, Danny and Neff on opening night. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Bento Box’s Matt, Danny and Neff on opening night.

Bento Box's opening night menu. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Bento Box’s opening night menu.

Shane and Nik, at Chef's food truck. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Shane and Nik, at Chef’s food truck.

The menu at Chef's food truck, opening night. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
The menu at Chef’s food truck.

Come to the Spiegelgarden to just hang out. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
There’s no charge to enter the Spiegelgarden. There are tables and chairs, so feel free to go in, grab a drink or food and hang out. Or maybe play some giant chess.

After you’ve had something to eat and played a bit, stick around for the Pedestrian Drive In, where moviegoers can pick up a set of headphones and enjoy a film under the stars.


David and Helen Ferge from Ontario, NY came into the city on opening night to enjoy “Pitch Perfect”.

Davie and Helen Ferge drove in from Ontario, NY to take in a movie under the stars. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
There are some fun films showing during the festival, including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Princess Bride.” Seating is first come, first served – and it’s free!

The headlining acts take place in the Spiegeltent. Don’t let the one dimensional facade fool you. Inside there are wonders to behold.

The Spiegeltent, the hub of activity in the Spiegelgarden. Don't let the facade fool you. There are wonders to behold inside. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Originally created as traveling dance halls in the early 1900’s, only a few of these magical “Mirror Tents” still exist anywhere in the world today. It’s gorgeous, with wooden floors, stained glass windows, faceted mirrors, a velvet-draped ceiling and private booths fit for royalty.

xxx [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
But it’s at night when it really transforms, and you feel as if you’ve stepped into a place where magic is alive and anything is possible.

Cabinet of Wonders contortionist Sasha Pivaral [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
This is the home of the headlining act Cabinet of Wonders, a two-hour variety show filled with physical comedy, dance and acrobatics, all in an intimate setting and with beautiful music from Alexander Morgan external link. (He’s just released his debut album, “For The King”, available in iTunes. You’ll thank me for that information after you’ve seen the show.)

Aerialist Emily Tucker's performancepairs beautifully with the music of Alexander Morgan during this Cabinet of Wonders performance. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
Think Cirque quality acrobatics and smart, sassy Vegas-style comedy, but within arm’s reach. The Spiegeltent is that intimate; there are just four rows of seats, in the round, and then ringed with booths. It’s gorgeous and spellbinding.

Acrobats Nelson and Goulia Pivaral dida breathtaking and romantic acrobatic performance for the Cabinet of Wonders. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
The Cabinet of Wonders is hosted by husband and wife team Matt and Heidi Morgan. They’re the hosts of the Las Vegas show Absinthe, and they’ve created this show just for the Rochester Fringe.

Husband and wife team Matt and Heidi Morgan, the brains behind this smart, sassy comedy and acrobatics show. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
There are acrobats, an aerial dancer, a contortionist, a one-legged tap dancer, really funny comedy and amazing music. It’s really, really entertaining.

The Cabinet of Wonders, happening daily in the Spiegeltent. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
The Cabinet of Wonders runs daily throughout the festival. Tickets are $36.

The Spiegelgarden also plays hosts to more intimate shows, including Hot Tub: The Musical and Bushwacked. Both are the creations of seasoned improvisors Kerry Young and Abby DeVuyst. Set in a hot tub and a camping tent, respectively, these two shows have very limited seating.

Hot Tub, The Musical. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
When I asked Kerry why they chose a hot tub as a setting for the show, the answer was pretty simple: “Somebody gave us one.”  She explained that they’d been looking for a larger vehicle, like a camper or RV (they’re also responsible for Dashboard Dramas), and instead someone offered them a hot tub. Kerry said they’d use it for a show, deciding, “And it will be a musical.” Improvisation of the highest order. There are only 12 seats per show available.

Bushwacked has only four tickets available for each performance. Yup, there’s theater going on in that yellow tent in the corner of the Spiegelgarden.

The stage for Bushwacked. There's theater happening inside the little yellow tent. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
There’s a lot more to see at One Fringe Place – the Silent Disco takes place on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s a Brown Bag Disco on Friday, where for $9 you can have lunch (provided) and then dance your lunch hour away. City Newspaper is hosting a Trivia Night on Wednesday. Or you can just go in, grab a seat, and have a drink and hang out. The place is beautiful at night.

The Spiegelgarden at night. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
As for me, I’m hitting up some of the improv and comedy shows this week, and hopefully I’ll have lots of fun things to report! If I can keep up the pace, that is. There’s a lot going on and I don’t want to miss a minute.

You can find the entire Fringe schedule on the festival website external link.  I’d love to know what shows you’ve seen and what’s been your favorite part of the Fringe so far!

• • •

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This entry was posted on Sunday, December 20th, 2015 at 9:46 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Exploring Spiegelgarden, the Heart of the Fringe”

  1. Mickey says:

    Wonderful article, fantastic pictures! I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see this year but definitely going to try next time.

  2. The festival runs all week and ends next Sunday. There’s still lots of time and loads to see!




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