Everyone has a September 11 story -- whether it's an eerie
coincidence, a "where I was when I found out," or a "my neighbor was there" --
but perhaps none can tell the story of that fateful day quite like someone who
was in Manhattan when the Twin Towers collapsed. Steven Fetter, who grew up and
worked in the city, has a story like that.
My Sunday at Fringe began with "Next Fall," a Geoffrey
Nauffts play directed by Thomas Markham and staged at
TheatreROCS. The show is about a group of family and
friends struggling to reconcile differences in faith and sexuality.
Hallie Flanagan is not a well-known name today, but in the
1930's she was vastly influential as the director of the Federal Theatre
Project, a WPA initiative that sought to employ actors, writers, designers, and
other out-of-work theater professionals by assigning them to "theater
enterprises" throughout the United States, many in areas that had never seen a
live play before. The project was a great success, but to New Deal-hating
politicians, subsidizing "culture" -- including plays that seemed to have a
leftist political message -- was an unpatriotic waste of money.
I started off day three of Fringe by catching a screening of
the little-seen documentary, "Muddy Track" at the Dryden Theatre -- the
only Fringe event held at that venue this year. Scheduled as part of the
Dryden's series on the films of Bernard Shakey (the
pseudonym used by musician Neil Young in his little-known career as an
independent film director), the screening was retrofitted to fit the Fringe
lineup and the film makes a great addition.
It was sort of a bummer that only about a dozen people
attended the first staging of "The A-is-for-Abortion Play" at the TheatreROCS venue, which can hold an audience of 700. The
meager attendance might be explained by Fringe-goers wanting to spend their
Saturday afternoon on more uplifting productions, but the show's subject is an
ever-important one -- and this point was hammered home a few times in the course
of the story.
Every year at the Fringe, I look forward to attending the RIT
Student Honors Showcase, the annual event held at The Little Theatre that
highlights student work from RIT's School of Film and Animation. It's always
fun to see what the talented group of up-and-coming filmmakers are up to, and
this year's program didn't disappoint.
PUSH Physical Theatre, the brainchild of artistic
directors and founders Darren and Heather Stevenson, has a satisfying
repertoire built from the local company's 16 years in existence, but it's
always exciting to see a new piece. The Fringe audience Saturday night at the School
of the Arts' main stage was shown the world premiere of "0's and 1's," a work
still in progress.
Left for Dead Improv split
my guts with its astute deadpan and quick wit. In front of a packed house at
Writers & Books, the group took shots at individual stories whose
characters had maxed out on their quirk quotient.
Admittedly, I was never a huge fan of "Little House on the
Prairie." But I knew enough about the show that I got the joke each time Alison
Arngrim (who played Nellie Oleson) referenced it
during her debut Rochester Fringe Festival performance of "Confessions of a
Prairie B;+@h" at School of the Arts.
I started the second day of Fringe with a chamber quartet, The
Chanson String Quartet to be exact, who played pieces focusing on death so
gingerly and gently that the audience in the near-empty Xerox Auditorium (the
TheatreROCS Main Stage) didn't quite know where or when to applaud. The group
played Camille Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre," naturally, and one of my favorites
-- didn't think I had one, did you?
are more than 170 free performances and events during this year's First Niagara
Rochester Fringe Festival. So if you're looking for a night on the Fringe without
stretching your wallet, there's likely a program out there for you.
Get to know Rebecca, Leah, Adam, David, Frank, and Jake
There were almost too many performance choices on opening
night of the Fringe (a good sign, of course, for the festival's fifth year). After attending the opening night party where we toasted to the success of 500
shows taking place over the next 10 days, I headed to School of the Arts on
My first evening of Fringe began at School of the Arts, where
RAPA presented Dramatic Space's
debut production, "Somnium." The zany adventure story
started with the premise that a small group of scientists had observed that
there was more to CERN's discovery of the Higgs Boson "God Particle" than
The Spiegeltent strikes me as a steampunk spaceship sent down
to teach us the art of the spectacle. In an unrelenting fast-paced show, a sold-out
crowd was treated to Cirque Du Fringe -- jugglers, contortionists, dancers,
acrobats, slapstick comics, one guy who balanced 10 spinning plates on sticks
the way I saw it done on the Ed Sullivan Show, and two maniacs with crossbows.
Well, that was a beautiful way to start my 2016 First Niagara
Rochester Fringe Festival. A buzzing crowd filled the Strasenburgh Planetarium
for a resurrection of "Anomaly," which premiered to acclaim
at the 2013 Fringe, and has already sold out its 2016 run.