Fringe Festival brings diverse talent to Rochester

First Niagara hosted the Rochester Fringe Festival between Wednesday Sept. 19 and Sunday Sept. 23 in Rochester, N.Y.’s East End. Started as a spontaneous celebration of live performing arts in 1947, fringe festivals are now staples in American cities such as Chicago, Ill., Orlando, Fla., New York, N.Y. and now Rochester.

After three years of planning, Rochester contributed to the festival’s tradition of showcasing local talent.

In true fringe fashion, festival attendees had the opportunity to choose which shows they wanted to attend. With over 180 events at 20 different venues, it was impossible to see everything in five days.

The wide variety of event locations gave visitors a chance to experience more of Rochester. During walks across town, festival patrons enjoyed the city’s collection of sidewalk sculptures and street performances.

Both the Eastman School of Music and Manhattan Square Park provided central areas for visitors to learn more about events or relax between shows. There was a main stage at the Eastman hub, which functioned as a place to preview the bigger acts including “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” from Geva Theatre and “There’s Always Time for a Cocktail” from Center Stage.

One disappointing aspect of the festival was that many of the free shows were located in the Little Cafe or Little Theatre, two very cramped venues. The multiple a cappella groups would have been more enjoyable if large groups didn’t have to stand outside the building to hear them. Hopefully, the organizers will plan these shows better for future festivals.

Fringe included two shows featuring Geneseo community members; a performance by Geneseo Bhangra and the musical “PICk Love.” Performing alongside other local universities including Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Rochester, both Geneseo acts nestled right into the artistic celebration.

Geneseo Bhangra performed Saturday Sept. 22 and brought the same energy and enthusiasm to Rochester that it does to its campus shows.

Although the routine may have been familiar for those who have already seen the group perform, the dance was still vibrant and fresh. It was also an important opportunity for the new members to show off their abilities. Overall it was hard to distinguish the veterans from the newcomers.

Despite having to work on a smaller and unfamiliar stage, Geneseo Bhangra’s performance at the Fringe Festival gave Rochester locals a taste of Geneseo talent. Though there were a few indifferent expressions, the performance, as a whole, was a strong demonstration of the team’s ability.

With two shows on Thursday Sept. 20 and Saturday Sept. 22 and a free workshop on Friday Sept. 21, “PICk Love” was a highpoint of the festival. Featuring a cast from New York City, the lighthearted show showcased music composed by Geneseo alumnus Michael Radi ’10. Radi wrote the original book, music and lyrics for “PICk Love” as part of his Edgar Fellows Honors Program project in fall 2009.

Both Thursday’s and Saturday’s showings of “PICk Love” were well attended, hinting that this emerging musical likely has a promising future.

With a variety of talent, from a cappella to poetry readings, light shows to drag queens, the Rochester Fringe Festival showcased what the city art community has to offer. For a city that already prides itself on its vibrant and diverse art scene, the festival was a long time coming.