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Abby DeVuyst

On a Friday at Spot Coffee

Interview No. 101

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Where are you originally from?

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but have lived in Webester since second grade. I went to undergrad in Holland, Michigan and got my master’s at the University of Pittsburgh. I kept thinking about Rochester—my family and friends were all here, and it’s a hub for culture. I came back for awhile while I was job searching, and fell in love with the city as an adult. I’ve stuck around ever since!

What is your favorite part of living in Rochester?

The arts around here—anything you want to do, you can do it. People will watch you do things. The supportive, creative environment has kept me around.

Do you have any favorite/secret Rochester spots?

The sunken gardens around Highland are beautiful; I try to go there as often as I can. Mt. Hope is also full of beautiful places—it’s like a whole other world in there.

What’s the most unique or interesting event you’ve attended in Rochester?

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a murder mystery night every year, and I’ve been in it twice. It’s put on by Out of Pocket Productions. We’re there for eight hours at the Century House on East Ave. It’s so fun to spend eight hours doing interactive theatre with philanthropic people who are down to have a good time.

I’ve also been enjoying all the local museums opening up for late night events. I was so excited for the Geek Chic Prom at RMSC a few years back.

Do you have a favorite charity/nonprofit you like to support?

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as I mentioned before. I also like to support our library system (I’m a librarian by day). We offer tons of support services and resources that most people don’t realize are available at libraries. I used to work at Arnett in the city, but am full-time at the Brockport Public Library now.

If you had $100 and 2 hours to kill in Rochester, how would you spend the money/time?

I’d go to the MAG, then head to Village Gate for a progressive dinner. I’d visit Lento, Gate House, and Good Luck.

What is your personal coping mechanism for cold/gray weather?

Theatre. I see a lot of shows and act in a lot of shows. I could see a show every day of the week if I wanted to! I try to be selective about it.

Sometimes I just like to go walking out in the snow when it’s fresh and clean, and say, “This is my life now.” It’s a bit much after about three months, but at first, it’s nice. I spend a lot of time at warm hubs in the city.

What is your favorite Rochester memory?

Fringes. I spend most of my Fringe every year at the Spiegelgarden. There are all kinds of shows happening, plus food trucks and beer. You meet a lot of people all week long. People watch you act in a play for an hour and a half and they feel like they know you. They’ll come up to me to chat, not realizing I don’t recognize them too, but I’m always like, “I wanna know you, I wanna know what you liked!” It’s a lot of fun.

What makes Rochester unique?

It’s got that city feel, but without feeling like you’re just a number. It’s set up like a city with all the amenities, but it feels like a small town. I see people I know everywhere I go, and I feel like I can actually make an impact here. Plus the geography is really unique—you can go from an urban center to farmland in about a 15 minute drive. And we get all the seasons here.

What do you think could be improved?

I would like to see more of a push to integrate our rich history into everyday life. Something like, “This is a spot where X happened.” It’s easy to forget that Frederick Douglass was here because people just don’t know about it!

How long have you been involved in Fringe Festival?

I’ve been involved in Fringe every year since the first year—2012. I performed with my improv group that first year. I’m also involved with Bushwhacked and Dashboard Dramas. I used to act in the Dashboard Dramas, but now I write for it. These shows were both part of a ‘bring your own venue’ concept. Bushwhacked takes place in a pup tent and Dashboard Dramas takes place in a parked car. This year we have a show called Big Knockers: Debunking the Fox Sisters that will be taking place at Abilene and will feature all kinds of Rochester historic figures, brought to life in a cool, interactive way.

How would you explain Fringe to someone who has never experienced it before?

It’s an explosion of experimental theatre that’s all-encompassing, bold, and brave. People just get to experiment and do something strange. It’s always a blur but it’s so worth it and so fun.

What’s your favorite Fringe memory?

The first year of Dashboard Dramas, my character was pregnant and climbing around on the hood of the car. We had the cops called on us twice! Both Eastman campus safety and the real cops. The cops have actually been called on us every year during our Dashboard Dramas rehearsals. Those real moments are my favorite.

Tell us about some of the shows you’re involved with this year at Fringe.

I’ve mentioned Dashboard Dramas, Big Knockers, and Bushwhacked already, but I do want to highlight how Bushwhacked will be different this year. Our subtitle this year is “Crystal Magic Wonder Cabinet Palace Tent,” and it’s basically a spoof on all the names of the Spiegeltent circus shows from prior years. This year we’ll have 10 seats for Bushwhacked instead of only four, and it’ll be this hilarious DIY Spiegeltent.

I’m also in Twelfth Night at Blackfriars, which coincides with Fringe—it runs from September 1st through 24th. It’s an all female cast and we serve alcohol from a bar onstage, so it’s pretty cool.  

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Festival?

I’m looking forward to a bigger audience for Bushwacked, and a smaller venue for TheatreRocs. Ooh, and the big balloon opener! Plasticiens Volants.

Any advice for creatives in Rochester?

Go out and do things. Don’t be afraid. Audition even if you don’t think you’ll get a part. The arts community is so supportive and uplifting here—you’ll find your way. The doors will open if you put yourself out there.

Abby DeVuyst is a librarian by day and comedian/thespian at night who performs for Rochester Fringe FestivalFor more of Abby's perspective, check out our Instagram.