Community theater takes center stage at Rochester Fringe Festival

In art, there is meaning and it is the community that shapes this meaning. Rochester is encompassing that idea in its Fringe Festival from Sept. 19 to Sept. 28. Fringe is an arts festival that is put on by community theater enthusiasts across the world at over 200 sites. Fifty are in the United States, according to the Rochester Fringe Festival’s website. The event brings together various theatrical media for the community to enjoy. Performances and displays range from plays to dance performances.

Patrons and performers, young and old, flocked to downtown Rochester on a Sunday afternoon while I was there.

When you glance at the Fringe events catalog, it’s a bit like looking at a brick wall of text because there are so many event choices each day for the duration of the festival. You could see anything from “gender-bending Shakespeare” to the Geneseo Bhangra team and other Geneseo performance groups. Geneseo Bhangra will be performing on Saturday Sept. 28 at the Rochester Association of the Performing Arts.

Naturally, The Lamron’s Arts & Entertainment Editor junior Chelsea Butkowski and I chose an event in the area we were familiar with, “Desert Rhythms Middle Eastern Dance Troupe.” That is, where we parked our car.

Slowly and aimlessly, we found our way. As we filed into the Xerox Auditorium, I saw the troupe, a group of women of multiple generations in traditional Eastern garb, anxiously waiting to approach the stage. They performed an array of choreographed dances featuring a solo sword dance.

Feeling adventurous, we ventured a couple of blocks down East Ave. At the next event, the Rochester Institute of Technology Poetry Slam held at the Little Theater Cafe, students from the local university put on a great reading.

After the slam, we crept into a performance by Leo Crandall, a cello-playing, guitar-slinging folk singer, at Bernunuzio Uptown Music guitar store. While his group adjusted their equipment in between songs, he gave us insight into his process and inspiration.

Returning to Geneseo, I was shifting around in place, mentally and physically.

In most cases, in going to performances, there is a clear distinction between the audience and the stage. Fringe scribbles these distinct realms. Performers who could have easily been patrons made the performances tangible and engaging. This is not to say that Broadway won’t do that for you, but when you take the spotlight off the stage and put it on the community, performers and patrons share a new sort of space.