I started my third day of the Fringe Festival by heading over to the Little Theatre to catch the RIT School of Film and Animation Student Honors Show. Speaking before the screening began, Administrative Chair Malcolm Spaull explained that the program was curated by faculty members to incorporate each type of film (narrative, documentary, experimental, along with 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animation), with works by students from every year of the program -- from first year BFA students to those in their final year of their Masters -- being represented. It was great seeing the work of this next generation of filmmakers, and there were some truly impressive pieces on display.
While I realize the show's true purpose is to let the student filmmakers see what their peers have accomplished (most of the audience seemed to consist of first year RIT students), since the show has been rolled into the Fringe Festival, it'd be great to make the event a little more manageable for theater-hopping festival-goers. Seeing a 5-hour block of time listed in the program surely kept more than a few people away. Though the program included an intermission, over two hours for each half is still fairly daunting -- as it was, I had to duck out early. Maybe next year, organizers could break it down even more, scheduling several shorter programs throughout the day, making this worthy program a bit more enticing to Fringers.
Unleashed! Improv's "Trending" aims to take the traditional improv show format and give it a fresh spin by incorporating some newfangled social media into the act. But as with most early technological advancements, the results were a bit buggy. The group had an assigned "webmistress" to sit off to the side of the stage, collecting hashtagged audience suggestions from Twitter, throwing memes up on a screen, and generally controlling the course of the show. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to have been much planning for how those components were going to be incorporated into the skits, often making them feel completely extraneous from what was happening on stage.
One particular sketch utilized live polling, in which the audience used their phones to vote on several choices provided by the webmistress about what direction the skit might take next. Great idea, but in practice this left the cast members frozen, waiting for their next move to come. And the last thing you want in an improv act is dead air. Still, there were some chuckles to be had, and hopefully with the first show now under its belt, Unleashed! Improv will be able to work these kinks out the next time around.
Unleashed! Improv will perform "Trending" again on Friday, September 26 at The TheatreROCS Stage at Xerox Auditorium. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.