FRINGE 2013: Festival Review
CITY Newspaper's mid-week review of the 2013 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. Reviews, photos, and "Best of the Fest" critic picks.
FRINGE SEPTEMBER 19-28, 2013 FESTIVAL REVIEW HOW FARES THE FRINGE PAGE 3F REVIEWS FRINGE PHOTO BOOTH PAGE 4F PHOTOS BEST OF THE FEST (SO FAR) PAGE 6F AWARDS e don’t know about you, but we had an exciting, exhausting first weekend at the 2nd Annual First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. So far the City critics team has seen some amazing performances ranging from music concerts to spoken-word performances to theater shows to dance pieces. Well buckle up, CONTINUES INSIDE because it’s not over yet. DAILY BLOGS EVERY DAY OF THE FESTIVAL AT ROCHESTERCITYNEWSPAPER.COM CITY NEWSPAPER'S REVIEW OF THE 2013 ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL 1 HERE COMES WEEK 2 INTRODUCTION | BY ERIC REZSNYAK CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1F By all accounts Year 2 of the Fringe Fest has lived up to the expectations set after its wildly successful first year. While the Saturday matinee of headlining aerial dancers BANDALOOP was cancelled due to inclement weather, between 12,000 and 18,000 people turned out for the Friday night show by the troupe. (The discrepancy depends on whether you go by the Rochester Police Department or City of Rochester Special Events estimates.) Cirque du Fringe has completely sold out its run at the Spiegeltent at Gibbs & Main, and headlining comic Marc Maron got a great response at Kodak Hall. The City team has been bouncing around the 28 participating Fringe venues. While there have been some sparsely attended shows, for many shows houses were either full or close to it. Anecdotally I heard from one venue that ticket sales were up 25 percent from last year’s numbers. It was something of a gamble for the nonprofit organization running the Fringe Festival to double the festival’s dates from five days to 10 after just one year. But it looks like that dice roll has paid off. The audiences are there. The longer festival has allowed the festival to draw more touring acts that needed the longer event length to cover their costs. And, most importantly, the quality of the acts in general has improved tremendously from Year 1 to Year 2. I personally saw almost a dozen shows between Thursday, September 19, and Sunday, September 22, and only one of them left me totally cold. That’s a damned good ratio. In terms of lessons to be learned from the first weekend of Fringe 2013, I would encourage the venues — which program 2 F CITY ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL 2013 their own stages — to be more strategic when they book shows going into next year (assuming there is a next year, which there almost certainly will be). Some have already made some smart moves: the TheatreROCS Stage at Xerox brilliantly scheduled the Big Wigs drag show for immediately before BANDALOOP on Friday, packing the house with people who could just walk outside and watch the outdoor dance spectacle. But there were such a tremendous number of shows scheduled for Friday and Saturday night that some quality shows probably suffered simply from the exhaustive amount of competition. Meanwhile, the schedule was incredibly light on Monday and Tuesday. You’re likely to draw larger numbers in total on the weekends, but a good show could probably kill it when there’s basically nothing else playing against it. But that’s a concern for next year. For now we still have four more days of Fringe in front of us and dozens of performances. Make sure you check rochestercitynewspaper.com for daily reviews and photos from the festival. In the following pages you’ll find just a sampling of what our critics and photographers have covered thus far, plus their picks for the Best of the Fest (So Far). Disagree with our takes? Leave your own reviews in the comments section of all the articles. And one last thing: guys, let’s leave the laser pointers at home. This isn’t 1998, we aren’t in a movie theater, and those weren’t Jennifer Love Hewitt’s breasts you were circling. Those were dancers dangling from the side of a building, and your little electronic distraction really could have hurt someone. (If you attended BANDALOOP you know exactly what I’m talking about.) Behave, Rochester, or we won’t be able to have nice things. 2 CITY NEWSPAPER'S REVIEW OF THE 2013 ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL HOW FARES THE FRINGE REVIEWS FROM THE FIRST City Newspaper’s cultural critics have been blogging the 2013 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival since it started on Thursday, September 19, and will keep blogging it through its conclusion on Saturday, September 28. As of press time more than 40 shows from this year’s festival have been reviewed at rochestercitynewspaper.com. Below find edited versions of some of those reviews, all of them covering shows that will continue into Fringe’s second week. If you like what you read, check out the upcoming performances. More information about the shows and venues can be found at rochesterfringe.com. Make sure to head to rochestercitynewspaper.com every morning of the Fringe Festival for new reviews, plus photos and slideshows of our picks for each night’s upcoming shows. SPECIAL EVENT Cirque du Fringe I kicked off my Fringe Festival experience in spectacular style with the opening night performance of headlining act Cirque du Fringe, in the Magic Crystal Spiegeltent. First, let it be said, the Spiegeltent is a beautiful venue and completely worthy of the hype it has received. The circus-y vibe of the site is undeniable, with red and purple curtains draped across the ceiling. Everything is wood, from floor to walls, with rows of stained-glass windows and, as the name might suggest, mirrored highlights throughout. Seating is set up in theater-in-the-round style, with a small stage in the center surrounded by folding chairs on all sides and VIP booths around the outskirts. It’s stunning; even more so considering the entire thing was set up in a matter of days. Cirque du Fringe is the perfect show for the setting, and exactly what I was hoping for in an evening of Vegas-style circus entertainment. I will say the show itself was somewhat less risque than I was expecting (or, honestly, hoping), though the muscular pair of strength acrobats were very popular at my table. But there was nothing in the performance a 13-year-old couldn’t handle. Other acts from the night included quick-change artists, mesmerizing aerialists, stunt clowning from the blokes at 20 Penny Circus (their performances seemed to divide the group I was with, but I found them amusing and entirely in keeping with the somewhat dark tone the show was going for), some hugely impressive hula-hooping, a fluorescent juggling act set to Yello’s “Oh Yeah,” and a ringmaster who gave, as one of my cohorts put it, “quality side-eye.” Shows of this type often call for audience participants, and last night the performers lucked out with some extremely enthusiastic DAYS ones, several of whom managed to out-mug even those clowns. But the most jawdropping act of the night was fittingly saved for last: an astounding bit of balancing skill that has to be seen to be believed. It involved a very high platform, cylinders balanced on top of cylinders, and a tiny skateboard-sized apparatus. I’ll say no more. Cirque du Fringe performs every day throughout the festival. The show runs 80 minutes and includes a 20-minute intermission. It’s worth noting that on the night I attended, the show ran a little long, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on theater-hopping. Cirque du Fringe is performed in the Spiegeltent (corner of Main and Gibbs) nightly through Saturday, September 28, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, September 28. Tickets for the run have sold out, although rush tix may be available. — BY ADAM LUBITOW DANCE/MUSIC/VISUAL ART “Anomaly” I am going to attempt — and fail — to adequately describe the merits of the astonishing “Anomaly.” This collaboration between local performance troupe BIODANCE, local musical group Sound ExChange, and RIT professor and multimedia artist W. Michelle Harris was the most amazing piece I’ve seen thus far at Fringe 2013. It was so lovely to behold that I found myself dreading its inevitable conclusion. The performance is staged at the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s Strasenburgh Planetarium, and the venue itself is a critical component of the work. The show actually begins in the lobby, as a small grouping of futuristically dressed dancers perform strong, aggressive, yet elegant movements choreographed by Eran Hanlon. It then moves into the Planetarium’s dome theater for the bulk of the show, featuring a larger troupe dancing choreography by BIODANCE Artistic Director Missy Pfohl Smith. “Anomaly,” to me, was a brilliant merging of modern dance, classical music, and eyepopping visuals. Every element of this show reflected a great deal of thought and artistry. I’m hesitant to make assumptions about the intent behind modern dance, but in the five almost seamless pieces I picked up recurring themes about reaching for the heavens, flight, migration, community, and the cosmos -- all of which made perfect sense given the surroundings. I found myself reflecting on the concept that life on this planet, in a cosmic sense, is itself an anomaly. A beautiful, terrifying, delicate anomaly. The dancing was consistently graceful and inventive. I was repeatedly surprised, CONTINUES ON PAGE 4 F NEW REVIEWS & PHOTOS EVERY DAY OF THE FRINGE FESTIVAL AT ROCHESTERCITYNEWSPAPER.COM rochestercitynewspaper.com CITY 3F REVIEWS dancer, relative newcomer Roderick Calloway, stepped forward to the edge of the stage and CONTINUED FROM PAGE 3F executed a series of slow delighted, and inspired. The music by (again, slow is hard) extensions with a light Sound ExChange — the live string quartet grace, some supported only from a standing performed works by John Cage and Arvo leg in half-pointe. From the front row, Part — was the perfect accompaniment to however, the strain showed in his gaze and a the slow, sweeping movements. Finally, the slight twitch around his mouth, rather as if he projections by Harris were almost impossibly was staring into the muzzles of a firing squad. cool, varying from fascinating bisecting color But I’m being nitpicky. grids to kaleidoscopic backdrops that, when Next up was Vitolio Jeune, a fierce combined with a handful of helium balloons dancer and an audience favorite. Jeune and their shadows, made for a hypnotic and explodes onstage. Clad in an openenveloping visual element. buttoned, sleeveless shirt that whipped “Anomaly” is a true sensorial experience. around as he moved, If anything, the challenge comes in taking all fueling his dramatic of the performance aspects at once, especially stage presence, Jeune the dancing given the unique layout of the brought to mind both Planetarium. But for 60 minutes I found Puck and Caliban. myself enraptured in a brilliantly crafted Leaping with wild world of beauty, melody, and calmness. precision he was a “Anomaly” also plays Friday, September 27, and gorgeous tangle of Saturday, September 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the RMSC limbs sharply bisecting Strasenburgh Planetarium. Tickets cost $10. each other mid-air, an — BY ERIC REZSNYAK otherworldly creature; hunkering down, head thrust forward, DANCE he was earth-bound, energy temporarily constrained. Norwell’s choreography here is original and affecting By nature, the Fringe Festival varies widely in and there is no one better to set it on than scope and talent. Let’s just say, when it came Jeune, with his ability to hit those high to seeing Garth Fagan Dance on Saturday, altitudes again and again in his jumps. it was good to come in from the rain Garth Fagan Dance also performs Thursday, knowing I was about to see expertise. Fagan September 26, Friday, September 27, and and his right-hand man, Norwood “P.J.” Saturday, September 28, at 7 p.m. at Garth Pennewell, both gave the audience glimpses Fagan Studio Theater. Tickets cost $16. — BY CASEY CARLSEN of unfinished pieces that will premiere at the Joyce Theater in New York City next month. THEATER Fagan introduced his as an accolade of sorts to the contemporary woman, the woman who does everything and does it well, hence the name, “No Evidence of Failure.” The excerpt we saw was a solo for Natalie Rogers, a Bessie winner and longtime It seems entirely likely that audiences for “All company member who returned to the stage Your Questions Answered” at the Geva last year after a hiatus to run the Garth Fagan Theatre Nextstage will leave the theater Dance School. The dance was a lovely, lilting, with more questions than when they and conveyed a sense of busy multi-tasking. It entered. Namely: “What the hell did I just also provided ample opportunity for Rogers to see?” and “What kind of demented nutcase demonstrate her intricate, exquisite footwork is Greg Kotis, exactly?” and the full range of movement in her supple An evening of short comedic skits and upper body. I was especially taken by a musical numbers written by the Tony repeated phrase in which she reclined in an Award-winning creator of “Urinetown,” the excruciatingly slow penche, one leg extended show can only be described as: Non. Stop. high behind her as she tilted her upper body, Bananas. Covering scenes that range from a call-to-arms amongst refrigerator mold gaze and arm downward, reaching, reaching, that’s positively Shakespearean, to a warning reaching, before pulling up into a side leg about the potentially dangerous side to extension without changing her standing leg. that fresh baby smell, the show is made for I liked the excerpt from Pennewell’s new theatergoers with a twisted sense of humor. piece, “Gin,” even more than the other two And I’d count myself amongst that group. full-length works I’ve seen from him over the This is a production of the Geva Theatre last couple of years. It began with five dancers Conservatory, which allows young local spread out across the stage, performing theater talent to work with professionals in independently of each other, seemingly intent the business. All 10 members of the cast were on refining their own movements. Then one Garth Fagan Dance fantastic in a wide range of bizarre and overthe-top roles. I bet this show was an absolute blast to create. I particularly enjoyed Stella Kammel and John Cummings in a series of recurring skits involving… well, you’ll just have to watch the show to see how they connect. The show is definitely a little rough around the edges, but I found that only added to its charms. If you desire layers and deeper meaning from your theater, you can find it in philosophical discussions of whether audiences truly exist, or you can even ask Kotis himself, during a post-show discussion (during the show, naturally) which involves a live telephone call to Greg Kotis to answer exactly two questions from the CITY NEWSPAPER'S REVIEW OF THE 2013 ROCHESTER FRIN PHOTO B audience. But mostly, “All Your Questions Answered” is just great, silly fun. “All Your Questions Answered” also takes place Saturday, September 28, at 3 & 8:30 p.m. at Geva Nextstage. Tickets cost $16. NOTE: The production will continue running after Fringe Fest, through October 13. The Magic Crystal Spiegeltent at One Fringe Place. PHOTO BY — BY ADAM LUBITOW COMEDY Geva Comedy “All Your Questions Improv Answered” Friday night I went back to Geva for 4 F CITY ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL 2013 some comedy with Geva Comedy Improv’s “Zero Gravity, Zero Hope: An Alien Horror Show.” Unlike some of the group’s shows, this was an entirely scripted affair, aiming to combine horror and comedy into one 75-minute adventure spoof. Given that everything was scripted, you would think this could lead to a stronger and less impromptu performance. However, this alien-horror show aimed high and didn’t really deliver much in terms of laughs or scares. The strongest laughs were drawn from prop and stage set gags, not dialogue (aside from a nicely placed Netflix joke), and the show relied too heavily on generic elements of the genres without drawing humor from them. A fairly predictable 11th hour twist and a needless love story bogged down the adventure, which drew CONTINUES ON PAGE 6 F Jake Lasser, Frankie Alicea, and Sofia Lund in Theater in Blackfriars Theatre. PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN Kevin Sean Sweeney and Jeff Siuda in "The Author's Voice" at Geva's Nextstage. PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN R FRINGE FESTIVAL NGE 3 REV IEW S , PHOTOS , AND BEST OF THE FEST DAILY FRINGE BLOGS Every day of the festival at ROCHESTERCITYNEWSPAPER.COM OOTH Youâ€™re a real Eye Opener Guy Thorne and N'Jelle Gage in FuturPointe's "Psychopomp & Pageantry" at Geva'sNextstage. PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN Not the same old Rochester Selection 2929 Monroe Ave. | 585.442.0123 | Appointments Suggested Y LARISSA COE n Asylum's "Ole!" Performed at Levi Gangi of local folk band The Lonely Ones performed at Writers & Books. PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK Casey Jones Costello Sings Bing Crosby at Java's Cafe. Jillian Christensen and Suzanne Bell as Falstaff and Ned Poins in "Same Sex Shakespeare." PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN PHOTO BY LARISSA COE rochestercitynewspaper.com CITY 5F CITY NEWSPAPER'S REVIEW OF THE 2013 ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL 4 BEST OF THE FEST (SO FAR ) AWARDS | BY CITY NEWSPAPER FEATURES STAFF The City Newspaper cultural critics saw more than 40 shows at the 2013 Rochester Fringe during the course of its first weekend. Of those shows, we’ve selected a few performers or aspects that we found truly superlative. Here is a purely objective list of what we found to be the stand-out moments of the 2013 Rochester Fringe Festival thus far. For more on each of these selections, see the full reviews on rochestercitynewspaper.com. Best Supporting Actor Best Slapstick Singing Jeff Siuda in “The Author’s Voice” (Out of Pocket Productions, at Geva Theatre Nextstage, through Thursday, September 26) The cast of “Old Maid and the Thief ” (Empire State Lyric Opera, at RAPA’s East End Theatre) Best Tearjerker-to-Triumph Best Old-School Acting The Geriactors (Presenting Rochester Playwrights at Writers & Books, through Saturday, September 28) Best Up-and-Coming Performer Elyssa Ramirez in “Starting Here, Starting Now” (SUNY Geneseo Theater Department, at Blackfriars Theatre, through Saturday, September 28) “Hawa” by Arzouma Kompaore (Part of RIT Film & Animation Honors Show) Best Community Exchange “Rochester Stories: A Neighborhood Project” (At RAPA’s East End Theatre) Best Musical Discovery The Lonely Ones (At Writers & Books, through Saturday, September 28) Best Broadway Belting Best Bizarre Theatrical Barrage Janine Mercandetti and Robyn Fazio in “Waiting at the Crossroads Café” (At Blackfriars Theatre, through Thursday, September 26) “All Your Questions Answered” (Geva Theatre Conservatory, at Geva Nextstage, through October 13) Best Spectacular Spectacle Best Inventive Use of a Venue “Anomaly” by BIODANCE, Sound ExChange, and M.W. Harris (At RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium, through Saturday, September 28) Best Adult-Oriented Sketches Canary in a Coal Mine (Solo at The Space, through Saturday, September 28; part of the Big Vaudeville Hook Comedy Hour Friday, September 27, at TheaterROCS Stage at Xerox) Cirque du Fringe (At the Spiegeltent, through Saturday, September 28) Best Partnering Guy Thorne and N’Jelle Gage (FuturPointe Dance’s “PsychoPomp & Pageantry,” at Geva Theatre Nextstage) Best Humorous Dance “Parenthood” by PUSH Physical Theatre (At Kilbourn Hall, through Saturday, September 28) Best Touring Production Best Dance Newcomer “Ole!” (Theater in Asylum, at Blackfriars) Red Dirt Dance (“The Goldilocks Score and Other Dances,” at Geva Theatre Nextstage) Best After-Hours Entertainment Silent Disco (At the Spiegeltent, through Saturday, September 28) 6 F CITY ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL 2013 REVIEWS a Man.” Schantz has a pleasant voice, but the songs seemed out of place amongst the original CONTINUED FROM PAGE 4F poetry that made up the heavy inspiration from “Alien” and other majority of the program. deep-space films. The highlight of the afternoon was Colleen Science-fiction and its reliance on Powderly’s reading of her poem “Twice,” a special effects is not an easy genre for a local bittersweet ode to the loves of her life. Maybe performing group. Some of the best scenes that was Just Poets real strategy: the addition of were when the group used this limitation to its extraneous elements highlighted the fact that advantage for comedic effect (the space flying the poetry was the real star of the show. sequences, doors opening and closing, and the “Not Wallace Stevens” also takes place Friday, miniature astronauts landing on the asteroid September 27, 6 p.m. at Writers & Books. sequences, for instance). But, the limitations Tickets cost $7. — BY ADAM LUBITOW of a live stage, even with the impressive sound effects, worked against them in the horror area as well. Despite considering myself someone SPECIAL EVENT with a low scare threshold (I’m still terrified by “The Ring”) the scary elements, perhaps because the rest of the play didn’t take itself Last on the docket Saturday was the Silent seriously, never really amounted to anything. Disco, which meant I finally got to visit the Zero Gravity, Zero Hope: An Alien Horror much-hyped Spiegeltent that has become Show repeats Friday, September 27, and the focal point for Fringe this year. It’s a Saturday, September 28, at 10:30 p.m. at beautiful venue, and it’s great to see Fringe Geva Nextstage. Tickets cost $16. — BY WILLIE CLARK garner a much-needed center attraction for the duration of the festival. But, on to the disco. The idea of a Silent SPOKEN WORD Disco is really neat, even if it feels somewhat silly at first. Instead of your typical ear-splitting dance party, everyone in the tent had a pair of headphones. You could control your own volume (though I wish they went a little According to Just Poets member Roy Bent, louder) and pick between two live DJ sets. the group titled its Fringe Festival program Take the headphones off and you could carry of original poetry “Not Wallace Stevens” on conservations with the rest of your group. It because while Stevens is undeniably a great solved a lot of problems about the traditional poet, he’s one who’s “good on the page, but not on the stage.” It’s a characteristic endemic to poetry as a whole, and the Just Poets group hopes to change that by taking a hint from other art forms that have evolved over the years through the use of technology in order to become more enticing to modern audiences. I’m not sure the show Saturday at Writers & club experience (saving my hearing being one Books was entirely successful in that regard of them), and it also gave you two different sets — it very much resembled a traditional from which you could switch back and forth. poetry reading — but there were some good The one problem it could lead to poems to be heard nonetheless. is a somewhat more awkward dancing The group’s plan for spicing up the experience, since everybody isn’t on the same poetry consisted of a projected slideshow of page musically. I was a little nervous that stock images (one image to represent each would be what the event might turn into, poem) and live music provided by guitarists but fear not: as more and more people filled Bob Vosteen and Melvin Henderson. The in the tent and started dancing, the party slideshow didn’t add much, as I mostly found took right off with it. Needless to say, I’ll myself watching the readers and ignoring the be back to check it out again next weekend images entirely. While I expected Vosteen and when I’m off the clock and off the wagon. Henderson to play along with the readings, Silent Disco repeats Friday, September 27, and instead they only provided accompaniment Saturday, September 28, 10 p.m.-midnight at the as reader Celeste Schantz sang bluesy covers Spiegeltent. Tickets cost $5-$7. — BY WILLIE CLARK of “Summer Wind” and “Love Me Like Silent Disco “Not Wallace Stevens” FR IN GE CITY REVIEWS, PHOTOS AND MORE NEW EVERY DAY OF THE AJI ZONING & LAND USE ADVISORY 50 Public Market | 208-2336 AWAKEN: Qi gong, yoga, tai chi, fine art 8 Public Market | 261-5659 BOULDER COFFEE CO. 1 Public Market | 232-5282 CARLSON METRO CENTER YMCA 444 East Main Street | 325-2880 CITY NEWSPAPER 250 N. 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PLEASE NOTE: City Newspaper had no say in the selection of the Final 4; these were determined solely by the people, places, and things that received the most votes in our Primary Ballot. vote now through friday, October 18 TAKE THE SURVEY AT ROCHESTERCITYNEWSPAPER.COM ♠♥ ♣ ♦ ♠♥♣ ♦♠ ♥♣♦ ♠♥ ♣ •••••••••••••••••••••••••••• winners revealed in the October 30 issue of City Newspaper! •••••••••••••••••••••••••••• ♠ ♥ ♣♦ ♠ ♥♣♦ ♠♥♣ ♦♠ ♥♣ 8 F CITY ROCHESTER FRINGE FESTIVAL 2013