Trying to describe the 2017 Fringe Festival is challenging to say the least, but that fact is compatible with anything on the fringe – the outliers and exceptional occurrences that don’t fit neatly in the processed and prescribed events that we are served constantly and continuously. The Fringe Festival celebrates differentness, otherness, plainness and strangeness.
From huge spectacle shows where the audience is part of the performance, to the most personal and individual artistic perspective, to social commentary; from spoken word, to dramatic renditions, to music and dance celebration, there is an overwhelming amount of art, performance, and sheer fun to be found. And if you think that’s an overstatement, realize that there are over 500 shows or events from which to choose!
The history of the Fringe Festival states that seventy years back – 1947 – the theatre community in Edinburgh, Scotland launched its inaugural International Festival. Eight unlucky companies that didn’t make the main program decided that rather than mope about their rejection, they would put up shows on the outer perimeter of the festival – the fringe. This small band of performers thus gave birth to what is now the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe, and – if that’s enough to impress you – 200 independent fringe festivals across the globe, all independently run.
Rochester is very fortunate that its Fringe Festival Producer and Board President, Erica Fee, learned the ropes of the event at the mother of them all, the Edinburgh Fringe. Rochester runs it Fringe like Edinburgh, and its closest US counterpart
has been said to be Philadelphia. It’s a dual-part system, where the Fringe Festival itself curates the headline events like the Spiegeltent, the Spiegelgarden, and free shows on Gibbs Street, among others, while the venues that host smaller shows curate those themselves, having artists apply to stage at the various venues and negotiate rates.
The categories of art include Dance, Theatre, Music, and Visual Art. There is Comedy, Spoken Word, Film, and Kids Fringe. If you drill down deeper on any of these categories you will find a dazzling array of sub-genres, and niches, and specialties. There are hypnotists and sand
mandalas, Shakespeare and Theatre of the Absurd. There are student projects from RIT and others by professional artists from across the Atlantic and beyond. There are improv troupes and drag shows. There is electronic music, ukulele music, and a capella music. There is a play based on the memoir of Theresa Lou Bowick at The Fielding Stage at Geva. It’s called Collard Green Curves and chronicles its writer’s life from childhood obesity to healthy living. That’s just one example of many that provide entertainment with a strong emotional core.
Thirty venues host the phantasmagoria of imagination coming to The ROC from September 14th through September 23rd. Get your Fringe on Rochester!
If you’d like to live in the city and have a front row seat, contact me today!