Plasticiens Volants Come to Rochester Fringe
When organizers of the 2019 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival (Tuesday, September 10 - Saturday, September 21) announced their lineup at last Monday morning's BIG REVEAL press event, they left out their biggest show of all - the festival's annual, free, outdoor spectacular at what's called Friday & Saturday on the Fringe.
"We revealed more than 570 events and performances, but we've saved the best for last," says Festival Producer Erica Fee. "We're thrilled to announce an amazing treat for Rochester!"
On Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14, the festival will present the return of French street theatre company Plasticiens Volants, which made its U.S. debut at Fringe two years ago with a show called BIG BANG to more than 20,000 enthralled audience members. This year, the internationally renowned group will turn downtown into a giant aquarium with another U.S. premiere: Pearl: Secrets of the Sea. Using their giant inflatable puppets, Plasticiens Volants' two, 8 p.m. performances will begin with a 15-minute promenade, as sea creatures - including a 60-foot whale - "swim" down Chestnut and Main Streets. Then, at Parcel 5, a dramatic story involving a gigantic sea serpent, an enormous octopus, and a precious pearl will unfold for audiences of all ages.
'The Rochester Fringe Festival continues to be one of Upstate New York's most unique events, and we're proud to welcome Plasticiens Volants back to the Finger Lakes region," says New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi. "Events like this prove that there are endless opportunities to find what you love in New York State, and we hope this inspires visitors to plan a unique, memory-filled vacation.'
"We are thrilled that French theater company Plasticiens Volants returns to Rochester Fringe again this year with their enchanting and poetic large-scale street performances," adds Cultural Attaché Laurent Clavel, head of the Visual & Performing Arts Department in Cultural Services of the French Embassy. "Street theater is an excellent way to bond a community and we are proud to help support this project."
More than 150 of the 570+ performances and events announced last week are also free. Those include Fringe Finale Weekend's return of the U.K.'s MASSAOKE, which made its U.S. debut at last year's Friday & Saturday on the Fringe. This year, the sing-along sensation will perform its signature rock-anthem show, MixTape, on Friday, Sept. 20, and its Massaoke: Night at the Musicals show - the North American premiere - on Saturday, Sept. 21, the final night of Fringe. Both free performances will take place on a new stage on Chestnut Street, with both Chestnut and East Avenue closed to traffic.
The Spiegelgarden, a pop-up, outdoor lounge at One Fringe Place (corner of East Main and Gibbs Streets), is the place to meet up with friends. In addition to the Theatre Bar, food trucks, box office, etc., it also features free KIDS DAY activities (Saturday, Sept. 21). Pedestrian Drive-In - free, nightly big-screen movies using Silent Disco headphones - returns, kicking off with a special showing of RBG, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary. Other films include The Favourite, Avengers: Endgame, BlackKlansman, The Big Sick, Grease, Bridesmaids, and Won't You Be My Neighbor, as well as the annual ImageOut: The Rochester LGBT Film & Video Festival offering (My Big Gay Italian Wedding) and ASL Film Night's Hear What I'm Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary. A new partnership with Rochester's Puerto Rican Festival will kick off Hispanic Heritage Month on Friday, Sept. 15 with the film Residente, themed food trucks, and more.
Other free Fringe favorites - including the exciting, all-styles dance battle featuring teams from all over the Northeast called Fringe Street Beat (Saturday, Sept. 21) and Gospel Sunday (the best of the Rochester gospel scene in Kilbourn Hall on Sunday, Sept. 15) - will also return.
All venue-curated performances and events at The Little, RIT City Space, and Java's Café are also free as well as family-friendly.
Turning to ticketed events, Fringe's 2019 comedy headliner is award-winning comedian, actor, director and author Mike Birbiglia in An Evening with Mike Birbiglia in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre on Friday, September 20 at 7:30 p.m. (previously announced on June 4). "Birbigs"' credits include Broadway (The New One, for which he just won the 2019 Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Solo Performer"), Netflix (My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, Thank God for Jokes), and films (Sleepwalk with Me, Don't Think Twice). As an actor, Mike has appeared on Inside Amy Schumer, HBO's Girls and Broad City, Netflix's Orange is the New Black, and Showtime's Billions, as well as in the films Trainwreck, The Fault in Our Stars and Popstar. Mike's book, Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. In 2017, he was honored with the Kurt Vonnegut Award for humor.
Fringe will also present The Memory Palace Live at Kilbourn Hall on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 19 & 21. The Memory Palace is a monthly, Peabody-nominated podcast by Los Angeles' Nate DiMeo, whose transporting works bring fascinating nuggets of history to life and average 250,000 downloads per episode. Recently an artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, DiMeo will present an unforgettable evening of stories, music and pictures - some drawn from Rochester's own history - as well as a free, site-specific podcast.
New in the Spiegeltent this year will be the fifth world-premiere comedy/variety show created especially for Fringe by Las Vegas masterminds, Matt and Heidi Morgan. Sure to be another smash hit, Cirque du Fringe: D'illusion stars illusionist Rod Raven - hilariously portrayed by Matt himself - and his eccentric assistant Heidi, along with a jaw-dropping cast of top international cirque artists. The Morgans will also bring a brand-new Shotspeare show for late-night entertainment to the Spiegeltent, this time a bawdy remake of Othello that is sure to put the "lit" back in "literature."
Another late-night, Speigeltent favorite, Silent Disco, returns for four weekend performances, along with fellow, daytime sell-out for pint-sized partiers: Disco Kids.
In the Spiegelgarden, a brand-new, interactive show by the same barmy ladies responsible for last year's Bushwhacked Backyard will debut: Bushwhacked British Bake Off, along with its sister show: Bushwhacked Boozy British Bake Off. Kerry Young and Abby DeVuyst promise the ultimate in improvised, comedic baking battles - with or without adult beverages.
A new Fringe partnership with Gateways Music Festival has resulted in A Celebration of the Life of Paul J. Burgett Through Music at Eastman School's Hatch Recital Hall on Saturday, September 14 at 3:30 p.m. Burgett was a beloved board member of both organizations, and a driving force in the success of these and so many other wonderful community initiatives. Through sounds, words and visuals, this performance will feature some of the music Paul loved most - from classical to jazz - played by the Gateways Brass Collective.
Also new to Fringe this year: the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's 2019-20 season opener, Scheherazade .2, is part of the Fringe. This exciting, specially created program features four, adventurous, living composers, as well as world-renowned violinist Leila Josefowicz soloing on John Adams' dramatic title piece that was written especially for her.
"We are - above all - a true community festival run by a Rochester non-profit with local board, staff and support, and each year, we work hard to engage more and more of the community we serve," adds Rochester Fringe Festival Board Chairperson Justin L. Vigdor.
The vast majority of Fringe performances and events are booked by the venues themselves from applications received from shows during the submission process (March 1-April 15). Fringe welcomes two new venues this year: Nox Cocktail Lounge (Village Gate) and Joseph Avenue Arts & Culture Alliance. As the Alliance's site (the historic Congregation B'Nai Israel synagogue) is still being renovated, the organization will use two other neighborhood spaces: Avenue D Rec Center Gymnasium and Lincoln Library Community Room. The Fringe's other independent venues are: The Avyarium, Blackfriars Theatre, Eastman School of Music, Garth Fagan Dance, George Eastman Museum, Geva Theatre Center, Java's Café, Central Library of Rochester, The Little, The Lyric Theatre, Multi-use Community Cultural Center (MuCCC), RIT City Space, RMSC's Strasenburgh Planetarium, School of the Arts, and Writers & Books.
Information and tickets for all shows are now available via rochesterfringe.com. The printed Fringe Guide and app will be available in July.