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Notes from the Fringe 2016: The countdown begins!

December 8th, 2016

Cirque du Fringe: MIRACLE CURE & Other Wonders from the Vagabond Caravan. [IMAGE: Provide]
By Joanne Brokaw

Rochester’s arts and entertainment community is in the final stages of preparation for the 2016 First Niagara Fringe Festival external link, which takes place Thursday, September 15 to Saturday, September 24, all across Rochester. There will be more than 500 performances at more than 25 venues in and around the city. And 170 of those performances are totally free!

Last year, I had the chance to cover Fringe for RocSubway, and not only did I enjoy the festival, I got to explore Rochester in a way I never had before. It also helped dispel some myths I’ve held onto about safety and parking and meandering around the city at night.

This year, I’ll be reporting on Fringe from inside the festival: I’ve got a role in the wildly popular Dashboard Dramas! Set inside cars parked in the Spiegelgarden, there are four ten-minute plays happening simultaneously, with two spectators in each car. When each play is over, the audience rotates, until they’ve seen all four plays in about 50 minutes.

A scene from Dashboard Dramas II, in 2015. [IMAGE: Provide]

This is a whole new experience for me. (Fringe seems to really take me out of my comfort zone). I’ve done a few small acting things, but I would hardly say I’m experienced in theater. Not by a long shot. But I do improv, and I love it, and a lot of the people I’m working with in this are people I know from the improv community, and I’m grateful for the chance to try something new.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, unlike last year, when I spent countless hours wandering around downtown, talking to people and taking photos and finding odd stories that I wrote about here and on my own blog external link including riding in the bucket up the outside of the Powers Building with artist Scott Grove to inspect the facade – I won’t be able to do that this year. But I’ll file some reports from backstage whenever possible. In fact, make sure you follow me on Facebook external link for pics and updates!

And I’m still hoping to catch some shows. On my long and growing list?  Jeffery Sweet’s “You Only Shoot The Ones You Love”; Alison Arngrim’s “Confessions of a Prairie B;+@h”; “Eulogy”; “Planchette”; “Sneeze”; and “OneYmoon”. And I’ll try and see as many of the improv and comedy shows as possible.

Too many amazing shows!! Too little time!! What a great problem to have!

Anyway, time is ticking towards opening night, and tickets are selling out for some of the more popular shows (Dashboard Dramas was sold out before the Fringe guide was even printed). Here are a few things you won’t want to miss:

Cirque du Fringe: MIRACLE CURE & Other Wonders from the Vagabond Caravan external link

From the folks who brought you last year’s amazing and spellbinding “Cabinet of Wonders”, this year’s headlining event at the Spiegeltent offers another mash up of burlesque comedy, eye-popping circus performance acts, and live music. I haven’t seen this yet, but I don’t hesitate to recommend it. The show is for ages 13+, except for some matinees for ages 5+.

Remote Rochester external link

The city streets look different from above, in a glass tube. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
This is one of the coolest things I did last year and I highly recommend it. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. It’s not a tour of Rochester; it’s interactive street theater. It’s about you. And us. And community. And…oh,just buy your tickets and trust me on this one. One tip: make sure you wear comfortable shoes and don’t bring anything you won’t want to carry for two hours. It’s not strenuous, but you are on your feet for a long time-walking, standing…dancing…

Silent Disco external link

This was one of the most fun things I did last Fringe. Everyone gets headsets, which they can tune to one of two DJs, and then dances their hearts out. Take off the headphones? And it’s pretty quiet in the tent. It sells out, so don’t wait to get tickets.

Comedy

There are more than 500 performances happening throughout the festival, and you can use the show finder on the Fringe website to filter for whatever you’re looking for: drama, dance, music, art, etc. I do improv and have a bunch of friends in various improv, stand up, and sketch productions, so I’m going to be a bit selfish here and suggest these; check out the Fringe guide for details:

  • Left For Dead Improv
  • Thank You Kiss Presents CARELESS WHISPERS
  • Canary In A Coal Mine
  • Unleashed! IMPROV Presents: OTHER PEOPLE’S SHOWS
  • Stages of the Game Teen Improv Troupe
  • RIT Improv: On the Fringe (this is a free show)
  • Make Us Laugh Comedy Show
  • Stand-up Through the Ages
  • Polite Ink. Sketch & Improv Presents: Off The Cuff
  • Cletus’s Critter Corner
  • Mystery Company “Flatfoot, Floozies, and Murder

There’s also tons of free stuff going on throughout the festival. Here’s a link to all of the free events external link, but a few to watch for:

Friday and Saturday on the Fringe external link

Opening weekend, enjoy free performances by STREB Extreme Action Company, live music, a Saturday dance battle, food trucks, a beer garden, and more.

Gospel Sunday external link

This uplifting and brilliant afternoon of gospel music takes place in the Eastman Theater. It’s free, but it fills up fast, and they do have to turn people away when it’s at capacity.

Gibbs Street external link

Music, food, and lots of fun stuff throughout the festival. Last year, I met a groundhog up close and personal. If you keep your eyes open, you might meet some of your favorite characters from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Spiegelgarden external link

The Cabinet of Wonders, happening daily in the Spiegeltent. [PHOTO: Joanne Brokaw]
The Spiegelgarden, at the corner of Main and Gibbs Streets is the hub of activity for Fringe Fest. You’ll need tickets to shows, but it’s free to come and just hang out in the garden, enjoy the art, have something to eat, lounge around the fire pit, or take part in trivia night.

Pedestrian Drive In external link

Bring some popcorn and a lawn chair and sit under the stars in the beautiful Spiegelgarden to watch a film on the outdoor screen. You have to leave a deposit for the headphones, which you’ll get back when it’s over.

Pick up a Fringe Festival guide and use it in addition to the website. There’s so, so much to see and do you’ll need both to help you plan your Fringe adventures!

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