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Nick's Picks: The Fringe Recap

As giant inflatable sperm moved through the air in front of me at Parcel 5, I realized that attending the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival is truly a unique experience.

This display of sperm was a part of a larger performance, Big Bang, performed by French street theater troupe Plasticiens Volants. Billed as a grand spectacle, it did not disappoint.  Massive hand-painted inflatables, pyrotechnics, projected images, and a voice-over were used to tell the story of life, the earth’s history, and time itself. While Big Bang’s subject was philosophical and its performance deft, my enjoyment came from the simple elements of the show. Standing in awe with hundreds of other spectators in the middle of the performance while beautiful, massive inflatables floated by made for an unforgettable, full-on multisensory experience.

Unique events continued at the Fringe with Silent Disco. As its name suggests, the twist on this rave is that the venue is absolutely silent, aside from the noise of feet dancing on a wooden floor. Instead, everyone is given their own pair of neon headphones with three different DJ channels. At any given point there was a choice between contemporary electronic dance music, ‘90’s R and B, and ‘80’s pop. Like Big Bang, Silent Disco succeeds in its communal nature. The mix of people enjoying fun music in a beautifully colorful venue made for a euphoric atmosphere filled with energy.

The Fringe also features more conventional performances and events. Award-winning acts like The Eulogy and The Bicycle Men have performances scheduled for tonight through Saturday.

Unscripted improv shows have been a theme at the Fringe as well. From local acts to world-renowned groups like Second City and the Upright Citizen Brigade, the demographic of improv performers usually remains the same, young people trying to make it in the world of comedy. Rochester’s own Left for Dead Improv aims to change that standard.

Left for Dead describes itself as “eight baby-boomers and one genXer who are writers, scientists, bankers, artists, craftspeople, and technicians. They’ve experienced marriage, divorce, broken bones, depression, migraines, heart attacks, the loss of loved ones, as well as parenthood, grandparenthood and even great grandparenthood.”

In Left for Dead’s case, older does not mean boring or slow. Their fast paced show at Writers and Books whizzed between hilarious sketches with themes of sex, health, and family. While Left for Dead has performed at The Fringe before, this was the first time for their newest performer, Tricia Campbell.

“We’re looking forward to having a good time and giving the people in our audience a good time,” says Campbell. “We want to show people what improv is about, and what it can be, and that even people over fifty can do it, and do it well and have fun.”

Campbell also mentioned several strategies for performing improv and how they relate to everyday life.

“Improv reinforces that failure is not always bad, and it’s not always something that has to stick with you, you know, you can learn from it,” says Campbell “There’s always another show, another opportunity, and in your life, it’s the same way.”

After two great shows at the Fringe, Left for Dead is looking for more festivals and events to perform at. Visit its Facebook page at for updates and upcoming shows.

There are plenty of events left at the Fringe, including a headlining performance from comedian John Mulaney at Kodak Hall, Friday, September 22.

Visit for a full list of remaining events.

Follow Nick’s Picks on Twitter at @NicksPicks585.

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