Fringe Festival is back with high-wire shows and return of the Spiegeltent – Democrat & Chronicle
This is the description of one show: “Cirque du Soleil meets Samuel Beckett with a dash of Month Python.”
If that doesn’t raise an eyebrow of curiosity, how about the opportunity to be part of the crowd attempting “the world’s largest juggling lesson”?
Or how about aerialist ballet dancing while wired alongside a high-rise? Or a sixth-generation circus family that now performs unimaginable overhead acrobatics to a heavy metal soundtrack — while incorporating a motorcycle on a wire 14 stories up.
Welcome to the annual Rochester Fringe Festival — 12 days of the innovative, the eccentric, and, most certainly, the eclectic in its mix of arts and music. In its 11th year, Fringe, as it is commonly known, is now among the institutions of Rochester’s many festivals, and one of the few festivals to be found in New York and elsewhere that did not hit pause during the first pandemic year. Instead, that year, the festival was virtual.
“There’s an energy and an excitement that feels like prior years, but I will say we’ve always had the energy and excitement, even with 2020 and 2021,” said Fringe Festival Producer and Chief Executive Officer Erica Fee.
However, this year, there will be a Fringe return to some of what was lost during the past two years. (2021 was a hybrid virtual and live festival.)
“We’re able to hold these big outdoor shows again and that’s really exciting,” Fee said.
Those free outdoor shows are what sets Rochester’s Fringe apart from dozens of brethren Fringe festivals across the country and world.
On the evenings of Sept. 16 and 17, Parcel 5 will host The Flying Españas, a family high-wire acrobatic team that has thrilled audiences from Disneyland to the Sydney Opera House. The gravity-defying acts include trapeze showmanship and an overhead motorcycle, navigating a wire 200 feet above the ground.
The performance also features aerialists in spinning wire cages well above the ground.
The New York City band, Mountain Girl, will provide a live soundtrack for the shows, which have 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. performances each evening. Some of the members of the Españas are the sixth generation of a circus family.
The Españas will be the first of two outdoor aerialist displays. The aerial dancers Bandaloop, which performed at the inaugural Rochester Fringe, will return for the finale weekend.
Bandaloop will again showcase its sky-high ballet alongside the downtown 21-story Five Star Plaza. The performances will be at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24.
With more than 500 performances at more than 30 venues, Fringe has a little something for everyone — theatre, dance, music, comedy. And another pre-pandemic favorite has returned — the Spiegeltent is back downtown and hosting multiple shows.
With its stained-glass windows, mirrors, and seating-in-the-round, the Spiegeltent harkens to a past era of nomadic live entertainment.
“It is able to transport you to another time and place in a way other temporary venues aren’t able to,” Fee said. “Spiegeltents were built in the late 1800s, early 1900s as traveling music halls in Belgium.”
The Spiegeltent will serve as host to the always popular “Shotspeare,” which merges the Bard and booze, as well as “Cirque Du Fringe: Afterglow,” a world-premiere comedic performance created for Fringe by the festival stalwart regulars, the Las Vegas couple Matt and Heidi Morgan.
“The festival and Erica Fee specifically give us some much space to create the show that is inspiring to us,” Matt Morgan said in an email about the Fringe appeal. “The music, the artists, the themes all come from an organic place of discovery. It’s an awesome space to create from.
“The other element that keeps us coming back are the audiences. Having come to the fringe since 2015 we have obviously created a relationship with the people who come see the shows. … We love these crowds here in Rochester. Smart, sassy, loving and intelligent. Everything you want from an active audience experience.”
The surrounding Spiegelgarden will again be the stage for activities for kids and evening films.
Those are just a small sampling of the artistic dim sum during the 12 days of Fringe. Here are a few others:
· The Biodance performances at the Theater at Innovation Square on Sept. 13 and Sept. 17. A multi-sensory performance, Biodance is described as: “Drawing from the elements of nature in the midst of catastrophic climate change, this show invites immersion in both the beauty and destruction all around.”
· Juggling instructors Ted Baumhauer and Jeff Peden are inviting all ages to the roof of the Strong Museum parking garage on Sept. 24 at noon as they try to set the Guinness record for largest juggling lesson.
· “Stupid Ed” from Taiwanese-Canadian comedian Ed Hill. Running Sept. 16 – 18 at Geva Theatre’s Fielding Stage, this is an hour-long follow-up to Hill’s comedy special “Candy & Smiley,” on Amazon Prime. “Comprised of introspections about Ed’s relationships with the female figures in his life, the show explores the values that a first-generation Taiwanese Canadian immigrant has learned from his motherland, Canada,” the show’s promotional materials say.
· Popular drag queen Ms. Golden Delicious will bring her adult show “The Perfect. Fabulous Life of Ms. Golden Delicious” to the downtown Focus Theatre Sept. 16 – 18. The show will be a debut, described thusly: “One of New York’s most entertaining queens debuts her hilarious, raunchy, and thought-provoking one-woman show: a half-lip synced, half live-sung drag extravaganza tailor-fit for drag enthusiasts, theatre fans, and anyone who isn’t boring!”
Tickets are required for many Fringe shows and can be bought at the website rochesterfringe.com. They can also be purchased by phone at (585) 957-9837, or in person at the venues. There also will be a Fringe Box Office available certain hours at 1 Fringe Place, or the corner of Main and Gibbs streets. The box office will be open daily.
Parking is available at downtown garages and lots, as well as along downtown and nearby streets. Many venues are within walking distance of each other.
The outdoor shows have no protocols, nor do those inside the Spiegeltent, though masking is recommended. Each venue has established its own protocols, and they can also be found on the Fringe website.