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Fringe Festival starts off with a "bang"

by Alexandra Weaver- Lifestyles
Tue, Sep 19th 2017 07:00 pm
Photo by Alexandra Weaver/LIFESTYLES EDITOR
Eye in the sky: The gigantic green inflatable eye was present throughout the whole show, including one of the most dramatic moments. The center inflatable, which had been used to project images was lifted up to reveal the cosmos.
Photo by Alexandra Weaver/LIFESTYLES EDITOR Eye in the sky: The gigantic green inflatable eye was present throughout the whole show, including one of the most dramatic moments. The center inflatable, which had been used to project images was lifted up to reveal the cosmos.
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Though the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival has only been established since 2012, it has become a cultural centerpiece in Rochester. The 10-day festival takes place in downtown Rochester at a variety of venues, more than 25 this year. The festival includes more than 500 events, some of which are free. The events encompass a wide variety of topics, with everything from pumpkin painting, topical plays like “Anatomy of a Black Man” and as well as musical events featuring local bands.

Fans of the theatre are in luck, as there are many different plays covering a huge range of topics, from hot-button political issues like immigration to the timeless theme of love. There are even 24-hour plays that are written, directed, and acted out by Rochester residents.

Like all festivals, the Fringe Festival attracts a fleet of food trucks. The mobile steel kitchens sell wraps, health food and other eats. There is even a food cart that sells exclusively grilled cheese sandwiches, from the classic American cheese on white bread to spinach, spicy mustard and goat cheese on wheat.

The underlying theme of almost all events is art, as Rochester is known for its arts and theatre scene. Fringe Festival gives these integral Rochester communities a chance to showcase themselves, as well as a chance for acts from other areas to entertain the locals.

Regardless of the type or origin of the event, there is truly something for everyone in the vast event calendar.

“The weirdest thing that I’ve seen that I can actually talk about is probably Cirque du Fringe,” CJ Lyons, a recent college graduate who is working at the Fringe Festival, said.

As unconventional as the events may be, Fringe Festival attracts a myriad of different people. The crowd that gathered on Friday, Sept. 15 for the Plasticiens Volants show, Big Bang, was a fantastic example. College students, families and elderly couples alike all attended the event. One student, Srajan Shetty, had just arrived in Rochester from India that same day. He is starting school at SUNY Cortland.

Arianna D’Angelo was there with her family. She and her husband had attended Fringe Festival before, and were bringing their young children along with them for the first time. They had come to see one of their friends play with their band and decided to stick around for the rest of the event.

Plasticiens Volants is a French performance company that was created in 1976. Since then, the group has grown from two to 30 people. Their shows incorporate gigantic inflatables, which are controlled by “actors” who manipulate them with strings, and marionettes that they use to cast shadows against the large center inflatable. Other storytelling tools include projected images, music, balloons and smoke.

At Fringe Festival, Plasticiens Volants performed “Big Bang,” a creative interpretation of the Big Bang. The scientific explanation of the origin of life is often seen as a cold, lifeless way to explain how life and existence began. Plasticiens Volants portrayed it in an artistic, lively fashion.

The show began with a request for people to move into the center of Parcel 5. The performance was immersive, as the actors brought the inflatables through the audience and encouraged them to participate.

“A nostalgia for life, I saw the vague shape of my body absorbed by time, seeking to place itself towards the north of the north pole,” the ethereal voice which narrated the show said.

When the show began, it was as dark as the young universe. The only light came from the projection on the center inflatable, which changed from the jagged green EKG line of a healthy heart beat to a single eyeball, blinking. The eye scanned the crowd. Suddenly, the eye morphed, its brown iris shifting to the grey face of a clock. Eerie, slow violin music began to play. The clock turned into the planet Earth. The eye disappeared and the planet remained as two fetuses began to converge on the Earth. The Earth turned into a human face and the projection zoomed. The projections continued from there.

After some more wind-up, the music began to take on a techno-twist and inflatables that looked like conch shells emerged from behind the center inflatable. They slowly traveled upward and toward the crowd as the music became increasingly intense. Pictures that resembled the discovery of the New World were projected against the center inflatable, and marionettes that resembled imperialists and natives flashed back and forth against the projection as the music transformed into a macabre organ tune. A trail of Easter Island Heads followed.

The inflatables met and lined up. A gigantic green eyeball was up front. The inflatables “stood up,” with the eyeball on top. The eye separated and a spotlight followed it. The music toned down, and back at the center inflatable, a blue bacterium-looking inflatable was revealed. Its gigantic flagella appeared to be swimming through the air as it moved toward the center of the crowd.

All around, the plain, colorless inflatables began to unfurl, revealing the vibrant mouths and body parts of various single-celled organisms.

The show continued as the inflatables transformed in front of the crowd, narrating the story of life and the universe. Throughout the whole show, the green eyeball stayed onstage. It stayed with the audience as an orb with prehistoric-looking foliage emerged and grew. It stayed as large three dimensional pyramids covered in a spiral zapped large white balloons until they popped.

At the very end of the performance, the green eyeball was united with an identical green eyeball in the center of the stage. The two floated together, almost appearing to kiss or nuzzle each other.

The performance was certainly avant garde, leaving much much up to interpretation. This allowed the audience, as all art does, to draw their own meaning from the symbols involved.

What exactly does it all mean? Perhaps we’re not supposed to know, because it’s life.

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