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Kevin on the Radio: WXXI’s “Connections: The Writers Panel”

Radio debut? No problem.

Today, I was asked to join “Connections with Evan Dawson” on Rochester’s WXXI. The panel consisted of Eric Grode, NY Times writer and Newhouse School adjunct professor, and Andrea Levendusky, a local freelance writer and soon to be published author.

We bulldozed through many topics (e.g., how to improve as a writer, the arguments for and against teaching cursive, what are our favorite “eggcorns“), we answered phone calls, and even shared a few laughs. Before I knew it the hour was gone. Over. Boom. Just like that. And there I was, pouting, like a child given chocolate for the first time: YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE THIS AWAY.

Anywho, I had an amazing time. Thanks to Evan Dawson for the incredible opportunity. Now… who wants to start a podcast with me? Anyone? Hello?

You can stream the broadcast here: Connections: The Writers Panel

Connections_News_Highlight (more…)

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Thursday Night FRINGE: “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Local Band, The Lonely Ones

Thursday night’s local music and live theatre double header at Writers & Books was among my favorite evenings at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. Local folk-indie-awesome band, The Lonely Ones, performed a diverse and wonderful set of original compositions, followed by the excellent, MUST SEE University of Rochester TOOP production of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, “The Importance of Being Earnest” which, literally, brought the lattice down.

Let’s start with Earnest.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” @ Writers and Books

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

To be clear, I will pledge my support to student productions until the day my proverbial curtains close. That said, they are usually a mixed bag of quality, plagued with director inexperience, bland overstatement, and poor (pick of the crop) acting.

I’m happy to announce that University of Rochester TOOP’s (The Opposite of People) production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” rivals some of the best theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe this year. Ian Van Fange, only a sophomore at UR, directs Oscar Wilde’s extravagantly clever script into a tight, well performed play that had the nearly sold-out audience invested from start to finish, crying with laughter. When I spoke with Van Fange, congratulating him on the wonderful production, he gave all the credit to his actors. And I can see why. His cast was certainly amazing.

Daniel Mensel (as Algernon Moncrieff) and Michael Tamburrino (as John Worthing, J.P.) are impeccable together, eliciting a contagious chemistry that never quits. These two young actors jump into Wilde’s shoes brilliantly. Were they born to play these roles? Maybe. All we know is what we can assume: Mensel and Tamburrino were born to play many more roles after this.

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

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FRINGE Tuesday Night: “UR Diversity of Dance” and “Coffee with God”

Tuesday can be a wild card weekday. In business, it is generally known as the slowest day of sales; in art and performance, it can be the perfect night to capture an audience overwhelmed by weekend hysteria. The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival didn’t lose a beat last night. Both events had BIG turn outs, one of which sold out. FRINGE: even midweek isn’t safe anymore.

UR Diversity of Dance @ RAPA

The University of Rochester Diversity of Dance kicked off its one and only show last night at RAPA, featuring over eight diverse performances by UR groups and clubs. I saw a little bit of everything: music-less compositions, breakdancing, bellydancing, improv—even UR a cappella group After Hours came by and threw in a few heart pumping songs.

These ladies (pictured below) set the bar high for all who followed. Listed as Dance Performance Workshop (which I think is a class at UR), the ensemble merged and adapted styles, dancing to a sound score that was super interesting: a speech by motivational speaker Eric Thomas.

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UR Stylez is freestyle breakdancing club, and last night they brought the proverbial house down. A blend of “freestyle, freezes, power moves, rocks, and footwork into one unique thing,” the UR Stylez guys (and gal) hit the ground and didn’t look to stop.

I caught up with UR Stylez b-boys Noah Woolfolk, Minsoo Kim, and TinChan Lao after the show. “We could’ve gone all night if they let us.” Be on the lookout for UR Stylez around the University of Rochester for some October performances. (more…)

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FRINGE Days 3 & 4: Jay Pharaoh, “Intrepid,” and a Laptop Orchestra

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival continues its Tricycle tromping path throughout the city of Rochester. I’ve come to terms: as a Fringe audience member, I’m never quite sure what I’m going to see. This weekend my limits were stretched. I was witness to SNL stand up, a laptop orchestra, an hour long, prop-free, one-man show and more.

A Little Business at the Big Top

guide_photoA Little Business at the Big Top is a one man show, currently playing at the Geva Theatre and features accomplished performance actor David Gaines. He is a Fringe veteran who travels the world performing solo shows. Sans stage props, David Gaines prompts imagination. The man is pure electricity, the mime child of Steve Martin and Charlie Chaplin.

While at first, for me, the lack of dialogue and set design was a hard pill to swallow, but a few minutes into the show my brain filled in the details (like the food fight scene on Hook!), and all of a sudden the scene flooded in. I saw the circus tent, the animals, the tight rope. My imagination hasn’t seen this much action in ages. Thanks, David. It was truly magical!

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Rochester Laptop Orchestra

On the total opposite end of the technology performance spectrum was the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, hosted by Eastman and University of Rochester students. What is a laptop orchestra exactly? I’m still trying to figure that out. To the show’s detriment, composition explanations were riddled with enigmatic jargon that left me scratching my head. All this to say, I still had a really great time (even if I wasn’t always aware of what was going on).

The hosts incorporated ballerina dancing, drum circles, facial mapping, and more. Here’s a video of the orchestra creating music through genetic mapping. What were they mapping? A disease. Pretty cool stuff.

My favorite part of the performance was the facial mapping sequence: depending how the users would move their faces, piano notes would play. (more…)

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FRINGE Day 2: After Hours A Cappella and Tricycle Madness in Manhattan Square

After a dreamlike introduction, a diffident storyline, and a long journey through the crowds of Manhattan Square, Fringe Festival’s Friday night headliner, Tricycle by Circus Orange, awoke its impatient and testy audience with a spectacle filled finale, leaving them speechless and in awe.

For instance, this happened:

Courtesy of the Rochester Fringe Festival

Courtesy of the Rochester Fringe Festival

Wait. Wait. Let’s back up. There’s more to tell. Much more. Let’s start earlier in the day, shall we?

DAY 2

After Hours A Cappella at Bernunzio Uptown Music

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After Hours always puts on a great show. I’ve never been clear, however, if their sound and style can sustain audiences beyond the academic, rarefied walls of the University of Rochester.

The first thing I noticed was that the show was almost sold out. So that is good. The second thing? These undergrads are amazing. Top notch voices, diverse song selections, innovative compositions.

From “Stand by Me,” to Little Mermaid‘s “Kiss the Girl,” to “Teenage Dream,” After Hours commandingly covered a range of popular genres, feeding their captivated audience with an overflowing trick-or-treat bag of ear candy.

After the gig, I met the crew and asked the gentlemen “Why a cappella?” (more…)

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Rochester Fringe Week on The Number Kevin!

The most wonderful time of the year (for Rochester) is here: the 3rd annual Rochester Fringe Festival. Ahh, I’m so excited.

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Spiegeltent, Cirque Du Fringe, Circus Orange, Jay Pharaoh, local theater, local music–over 300 performances!

The best part is that I get to go to all of it. I’m pleased to announce that, this year, The Number Kevin is one of the official bloggers for the Fringe! Yes, I just referred to myself in the third person. Things are going to get weird. Trust me.

So stay tuned! All this week, and a few days more, I’ll be posting everything Fringe. Where to go, what to do, who stole what show, what events are happening from the University of Rochester as well as other colleges, and, finally, who has the best beer.

Quick Snaps for Last Night

Fringe officially kicked off last night with the Mardi Gras themed, wow-inducing Cique Du Fringe at the amazing Spiegeltent. (Excuse the grainy pics, my phone can not give the Spiegeltent justice. See it for yourself. It is a one of a kind atmosphere).

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After the Spiegeltent show, some friends and I happened upon Eastman students playing jazz at Press Coffee. I don’t know who these hep cats we’re, but they were slaying it. (more…)

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Sharing Saturation Through DeLillo’s “White Noise”

Over summer, my wife and I visited the most photographed lighthouse in the world. We didn’t question the claim’s validity. We just went with it. The lighthouse stop was part of our New Hampshire and Maine last minute road trip. It was a good trip. We slept in the car and jumped in the water and ate a lot of seafood. We were in York when we heard about it: “The most photographed lighthouse.” Just up the road, said the internet, a few miles from where you are.

So we jumped in the car and found it. Instinctively, my first thought was, Yes, this looks like a lighthouse. It’s cute, scenic, impressionable. It is all the things lighthouses are and should be.

I didn’t want to take a picture.

Rather, it seemed better to be the guy who visits “Most Photographed” type places, and doesn’t take pictures. The concept would make for a good blog. But as I stood there watching dozens of tourists snapping their film and tapping their screens—a fervent mixture of new and old technology, crunching, shaking, iPhones uploading moments through invisible data, data that I too could claim!—something crept up inside me, like a tremor, and before I knew it, there I was, unceremoniously taking a picture.

So here’s the picture:

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It wasn’t until later, while reading a novel by Don DeLillo, that the lighthouse was *uhem* illuminated once more inside my head. As I’ve come to understand, DeLillo is a cultural critic; his novels address society’s many obsessions and explores what roles these obsessions play in our lives, as well as how they define us. Death, technology, consumerism, media, crowds, for instance, these are common motifs DeLillo highlights with excellent vision and irony.

His novel, White Noise, takes a look at these motifs and addresses them in terms of family life and the suburbs (also there’s an Airborne Toxic Event). Here’s what a book cover may look like: (more…)

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Interview: Gar Mickelson, Kaleidoscope Community Services

I walk into 2nd Street Commons, a nondescript building in downtown Coeur d’Alene (CDA), Idaho, sandwiched between a dive bar and a closed gun shop. Once inside the first thing I realize is that I have no idea how to categorize the premises, though I try: a coffee shop without a coffee bar, a living room without a TV, a pub without the liquored smell of vomit, a church without a program. There is no schema that fits, and I love it.

People are simply scattered. They look weary, but comfortable, at ease, respite. Some folks relax on the couch while others bustle up and down hallways, in and out of the kitchen.

It is here where I meet Gar Mickelson. He wears a bright smile, gives a big hug, and introduces me to everyone. “This is my friend Kevin,” he says. And everyone I meet makes me feel like family. They, too, give hugs and handshakes.

Gar gives a tour of the facility. As we walk along I continue to meet people, a mix of volunteers and visitors. Some are cooking, cleaning, painting, hauling. The volunteers are passionate and dedicated. Because I am cynical this is all odd for me. I’m waiting for the hook, the agenda, the money making scheme, something to take me out of this fairy tale of genuine coexistence.

We walk into a new room, “Excuse the camping gear,” Gar says. “We’re holding that for someone who was forced to leave his camp site.”

“For free?” I ask. “You’re holding it for free?”

“That’s what we’re all about here, Kevin. ‘Come and be for free.'”

I really want to give Gar another hug, but that would be too weird. So instead, we head into his office, and I ask him a few questions about how Kaleidoscope Community Services started, when it started, and what the heck this place even is.

What is Kaleidoscope Community Services? What is 2nd Street Commons, and how long has the CDA location been established?

Kaleidoscope Community Services is a private, faith-based non-profit corporation based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. KCS exists to bridge the gap between community needs and community resources, and we do this in a variety of ways.

KCS opened the 2nd Street Commons at the end of January, 2014. Since that time we’ve had over 100 volunteers from 10 different churches, served almost 500 gallons of coffee, served almost 1000 meals, and have gone through approximately 6 miles of toilet paper…  (more…)

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Rapid Recap: 2014 Digital Rochester GREAT Awards

Tonight, some Rochester tech entrepreneurs are feeling really great.

The 2014 GREAT Awards just let out, and what an honor it was to attend, to be surrounded and inspired by successful entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and rising stars. Digital Rochester, a non profit that brings “technology professionals together within the community,” hosts this swanky event every year. Here’s a succinct vision from the GREAT website:

To recognize and celebrate the Greater Rochester community’s entrepreneurial spirit in technological achievement for advancing commerce and resource conservation.

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The official program began with one of the more entertaining (if not best) opening videos I’ve ever seen for a stuffy, prima facie, awards ceremony, “The Fresh Prince to the Future of Technology.”

After some comical chatter, delicious dinner, and tasty tweets (eating and tweeting), the awards ceremony kicked off. There were eight award categories and twenty-four finalists in all.

Here’s a quick list of those who won: 

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Rochester, NY

My Rochester Bucket List

In less than nine months I will (most likely) be moving away from Rochester, NY. I’ll graduate from UR with two degrees and will be looking for jobs in the West Coast/Northwest. (That is, of course, unless an amazing opportunity affords me to stay).

While Rochester has been an absolute bastard at times (a garbage plate, if you will), the city has no doubt grown on me. I’m at the point where I kind of like it. Who’da thought? People here are genuine, there’s an art culture just waiting to explode, and while Rochester lacks a thriving socio-environment for young professionals—no friendly downtown district, poor upkeep of natural resources—I get the sense that Rochester will be an incredible place to live in about five years.

Downtown projects are looming, tax breaks are given for new businesses, public transportation is getting better, and (my fav) Costco is coming. Plus, Global Warming.

So why not stay?

Because mountains. And the Pacific. I’m a West Coast kid, and I can’t help it. Home is home. But right now, this next year, I want to enjoy Rochester and Western New York as much as possible.

So here it is, my Rochester, NY Bucket List:

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1. See a performance at the Eastman Theatre

The beautiful and rarified Eastman Theatre (1922) hosts over 700 performances a year. Wow! Why haven’t I seen one yet? Oh yes, classical music is expensive. Can’t we just do one night of local punk bands? Just one night?

2. Enjoy a Haunted Hayride

As a Halloween fanatic, I was impressed, last year, with the level commitment I saw Western New York dedicate to the holiday. Unfortunately I had just moved across the country and couldn’t even afford a hayride. This year? Oh yes. It is happening.

3. Visit Buffalo for authentic Buffalo chicken wings

I mean, I’m here?

4. Tour the George Eastman House

Before switching apartments, I lived just down the street from old George (Kodak guy). Yet, because of busyness, I never got a chance to tour his old stomping grounds. I did attend a summer concert in his backyard, however. Seems like a cool place, a mini-Hearst Castle. (more…)