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…
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 .
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.
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 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.
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.
The headlining acts take place in the Spiegeltent. Don’t let the one dimensional facade fool you. Inside there are wonders to behold.
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.
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 . (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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . 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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Tags: Abby DeVuyst, Absinthe, Bento Box, Brown Bag Disco, Cabinet of Wonders, Chef, comedian Jamie Lissow, David and Helen Ferge, Eastman Theater, First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival, Fringe Festival, Joanne Brokaw, Kerry Young, Matt and Heidi Morgan, Mirror Tent, Naples Open Studio Trail, Princess Wendy's Late Night Tease Room, Rochester, Rochester Fringe Festival, Rochester NY, Scott Grove, Silent Disco, Spiegelgarden, Spiegeltent, tightrope chalk drawing illusion
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