Fringe Day 12: That's a wrap 

click to enlarge KSENIYA KALAUR.
The 12th annual Rochester Fringe Festival closed down Saturday with a burst of its signature diversity. The Street Beat breakdancing completion at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Park at Manhattan Square. The omnipresent comedians, musicians and drag queens.

And in what has become a feature of Rochester Fringe, shows accessible to the city’s large deaf population. On the final day of the festival, that was Luane Davis Haggerty, principal lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. “Catharsis Time 2.0” at the Focus Theater offered a handful of Rochester people sharing their embarrassing stories for an audience, mostly for laughs. Haggerty is not deaf. Nor was most, if not all, of her audience. But inclusion need not be the biproduct of a show of hands: “Is anyone here deaf?” Haggerty performed her entire routine in ASL – American Sign Language – while another cast member spoke for the hearing crowd.

click to enlarge KSENIYA KALAUR.
If anything stood out as a particular theme throughout the 12 days, Producer Erica Fee suggested “more international shows than ever before.” That included headliners such as the Brazilian acrobats of Circolombia in the Spiegeltent, and the hot-air balloon hijinks of Cirque Inextremiste on Parcel 5.

And perhaps the most-unique performance this year was the quietest one. “Monuments” by the Australian conceptual artist Craig Walsh. Three giant faces of Rochesterians, 20 meters high, seen as videos projected onto trees in a park across from The Strathallan. Faces – moving almost imperceptibly, sometimes suddenly blinking – and serenely staring back at the people who had come to see them. While most Fringe acts project from the stage to their audiences, it is the audience that is asked to come to “Monuments.” People, like visitors to an art museum, drawn into their own thoughts as to what was being expressed by these thoughtfully silent heads.

“It drops my blood pressure 20 points,” Fee said, “every time I see it.”

Three Rochester people have already been videoed for the return of “Monuments” at next year’s Rochester Fringe. —JEFF SPEVAK

The Great Gig in Kilbourn
"Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and More" | Final performance

For the most part, the audience at sold-out Kilbourn Hall looked as though the only music it has heard more than Pink Floyd’s 1973 album "The Dark Side of the Moon" is “Happy Birthday.”

This year is the 50th anniversary of "The Dark Side of the Moon." A talisman of a long-gone, album-oriented age, the audience of former teenagers who made "The Dark Side of the Moon" one of the biggest-selling albums of all time came out to re-live the music at Kilbourn. In fact, too many of them came out: in what organizer John Covach called “a ticketing snafu,” 456 tickets were sold for the show in a venue that seats 420 people.

So, if you didn’t get in, here’s what you missed:

Covach heads the University of Rochester’s Institute for Popular Music. The Institute was founded in 2012 and in addition to lectures on popular music, reconstructs the music of historic rock bands. In past years it has explored, among others, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.

On this night it was Pink Floyd’s turn. What Covach calls “The League of Extraordinary Uncles” — students, staff, faculty and UR alumni — presented "The Dark Side of the Moon" in its entirety.

“This is a real band playing this music for you,” Covach told the audience before the start of the show.

From the opening and closing beat of a heart, just as it is heard on the album, the lush show unfolded with six or seven musicians onstage at any one time, and sometimes three backing female vocalists. Perhaps only the most-intense fans of Pink Floyd could pick out the differences between the original recording and Saturday’s performance.

Covach assured the audience that everything it would be hearing came straight from the stage. And that was technically true: Thanks to sampling techniques, onstage there were no laughing lunatics, the ring of an old cash register, or giant clocks striking the hour, all signature sounds from "The Dark Side of the Moon."

The lead vocals were mostly handled by Mike Norton, a longtime piece of the local tribute scene, including as The Doors’ Jim Morrison. Ivan Demarjian, a tenor saxophonist from Gloucester, Mass., re-created the jazzy sax solos on pieces such as “Money.” Allison Eberhardt, a UR alum from New Jersey now living in Rochester, brought the crowd to its feet with the caterwauling, wordless vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

And it wouldn’t be Pink Floyd without a trippy light show. Primitive revolving figures and patterns were projected onto the back of the Kilbourn stage, oozing their way onto the side walls of the venue.

And yet, in its entirety, "The Dark Side of the Moon" is barely over 40 minutes. So The League of Extraordinary Uncles tacked on some bonus Pink Floyd tracks, including “Have a Cigar,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Comfortably Numb” and “Another Brick in the Wall,” with the audience singing along to, “We don’t need no education.”

Perhaps waiting for future performances by The League of Extraordinary Uncles is early Pink Floyd psychedelia such as “Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun.” But there’s probably not enough acid on campus to pull off that one. —JEFF SPEVAK

click to enlarge From left, Marissa Engel, Peter Doyle, and Ajamu Brooks in "Politically Incorrect at the Thrift Store" written by Julia Beth Lederman and directed by Danny Hoskins. - LEAH STACY.
  • From left, Marissa Engel, Peter Doyle, and Ajamu Brooks in "Politically Incorrect at the Thrift Store" written by Julia Beth Lederman and directed by Danny Hoskins.
All in a day's work
"The 24-Hour Plays" | Final performance

To quote J.M. Barrie, "all of this has happened before, and it will all happen again."

Well, sort of.

Each final Saturday of Rochester Fringe finds a crew of folks — this time, it was 24 ambitious souls — buckling down at Writers & Books for 24 hours to write, direct and perform five one-act plays in two back-to-back shows. It begins on Friday night, when the actors arrive to audition, armed with a prop and 'costume' of their choosing. The directors then pick their actors, and the writers stay up all night to craft a plot that incorporates the chosen cast. According to the program notes, it was 6:26 a.m. in the morning when the scripts were printed and rehearsals began.

click to enlarge LEAH STACY.
It's incredible, really, what can be accomplished in that amount of time.

Stories fantastical and on-the-nose, with lines both memorized and improvised. It's hard to criticize the technicalities of such a tight turnaround, but simple to applaud the standout moments from a few of the actors. In particular, Danielle Raymo passing out googly eyes to the audience; the banter between Peter Doyle and Ajamu Brooks; and in perhaps the most moving act of the evening, the trio of Stephanie Roosa, Shawnda Urie, and Adryanna Elmendorf.

"The 24-Hour Plays" is a fun tradition, and one that should be experienced at least once by annual Fringe-goers. Hats off to this year's 24-hour team, and as always, the hardworking producers Alexa Scott-Flaherty, Dan Herd, and Chris Fanning for their ongoing dedication to the creative scene. —LEAH STACY

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