By Janae Gaddy, Class of ‘24
Photos by Luke Black (‘24) and Janae Gaddy
One of my favorite aspects of living in Rochester is its vibrant community. Whenever I have free time, I never have to look far for an enjoyable event to attend. This fall, I experienced the Rochester Fringe Festival for the first time, and it was a perfect tribute to the fun and creative nature of this city! The 11th Annual Rochester Fringe Festival ran from September 13th through the 24th and was packed with hundreds of events and performances. Here are the seven events that I attended:
Fiesta at the International Plaza
My first encounter with the festival began at the International Plaza, a new Latin-themed event space, a five minute drive from Eastman. At the plaza, we celebrated the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. This kickoff celebration highlighted Mexican culture and featured many instrumental and dance performances, food trucks, and a proclamation from the Mayor of Rochester, Malik Evans.
The fiesta was such a rewarding experience after a long day of classes. It was also an opportunity to appreciate a type of music outside of our normal curriculum and to celebrate a culture that heavily contributes to the richness of our community. Some of my highlights include watching performances by Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester and enjoying empanadas from one of the vendors.
Younger members of Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester performing in the International Plaza
C’est Pas Là, C’est Par Là
The second event that I attended was unlike anything that I had experienced before! The concept behind “C’est Pas Là, C’est Par Là” originated from Marseilles, France and it was brought to the United States by South Korean street artist Juhyung Lee. This event invited all community members in attendance to work together to untangle a massive web of nearly four miles of string. The Rochester Fringe Fest website writes, “Lee was inspired to create the show by a pro-democracy demonstration that he attended in Seoul, South Korea. He is interested in the concepts underlying large-scale performances, especially exploring the role of the individual within a group dynamic.”
“C’est Pas Là, C’est Par Là” was an incredibly unique social experiment and it was quite effective in its mission to bring our community together and to collectively work toward one common goal. It was so special to gather and connect with complete strangers and work on this project together.
Community members working together to untangle the four mile web of string
My third Fringe Fest experience was a screening of the 2007 movie Hairspray in the Spiegelgarden, a main center of the festival with a huge tent, directly across from our Student Living Center! Hairspray, one of many movies featured in this year’s festival, follows a high school student in 1962 Baltimore who becomes an overnight sensation on a dance show and fights for the show’s racial integration.
Hairspray was one of my favorite movies as a kid and I was so excited for the chance to rewatch it this fall. It is such a fun movie with a very catchy soundtrack and a powerful message. The Spiegelgarden had a great setup for an optimal viewing experience, with a large screen, personal headsets with adjustable volume, and comfortable outdoor furniture.
Movie night in the Spiegelgarden (look closely to see the personal headsets!)
The Flying Españas
The next day, I walked over to Parcel 5, a grassy clearing used for festivals, concerts, and food truck rodeos, to watch an amazing performance by The Flying Españas. The group put on four world premiere shows that combined daunting acrobatics with live metal music by Mountain Girl, a band from New York City. Acts included the “Wheel of Destiny,” a flying trapeze, and a motorcycle on a highwire. I had never been to a circus before, so it was a treat to experience The Flying Españas. They were very experienced, professional, and entertaining. It was truly nerve-wracking to witness some of these acts, and I have an abundance of respect for these performers and all the work that they put in to create a positive experience for their audiences.
The Flying Españas’ daring motorcycle act
The next event that I attended was Gospel Sunday in the Spiegelgarden. The two hour performance featured some of the best gospel artists in Rochester, and it was led by Reverend Rickey Harvey of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. Performers included the Glory House International Praise Team, Truly Committed, and the Dynamic Dixie Wonders. I have always loved Gospel music and had the opportunity to study its history last year in Professor Corey Hunter’s Gospel Music in America class at the River Campus. Seeing this performance brought my studies full-circle and gave me an even greater appreciation for the genre. The entire performance was full of energy, uplifting, and powerful.
Reverend Ricky Harvey and the Dynamic Dixie Wonders
My next experience took place in our very own Kilbourn Hall, where I watched a screening of a documentary on the life of Ethel Kennedy. ETHEL was both directed and produced by Ethel Kennedy’s daughter, Rory, and features family interviews and never-before-seen videos from the Kennedy’s private collection. The Empire Film and Media Ensemble, an Eastman student group conducted by Grant O’Brien, provided live music to Miriam Cutler’s incredible score.
I really enjoyed this documentary, as it was full of humor and educated me on Ethel Kennedy, whom I was not previously familiar with. The score complemented the documentary extremely well and my friends in the Empire Film and Media Ensemble gave an outstanding performance. The combination of the entertaining Kennedy stories, beautiful score writing, and high quality musicianship made for a wonderful experience.
Empire Film and Media Ensemble members before ETHEL live-to-picture performance
Fringe Street Beat
The last event that I attended was Fringe Street Beat at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, a popular gathering space, a 5 minute walk from Eastman. This exciting occasion brought together talented dancers in our community to compete in 3-on-3 dance battles for $1200 and the title of “Fringe Street Beat Champions.” The event, MCed by DJ ha-MEEN, featured many different styles within the hip hop genre and included beats by DJ Victorious. Fringe Street Beat was a perfect way to wrap up my Fringe Fest experience and to celebrate the gifts and talents of this community. The dancers were incredible, there was lots of energy from the crowd, and the DJ’s musical selections were excellent.
Community members gathering to watch 3-on-3 dance battle preliminary round
As an Eastman student, I am continually amazed by the City of Rochester and all that it has to offer. This community is full of wonderful people who are committed to enriching our city through their trades and art forms. This year’s festival was a sweet reminder of the many opportunities that come from attending school at Eastman, for which I am incredibly grateful. Until next year, Fringe Fest!