Where can you hear goth/folk songs about scientist Marie Curie? Rochester Fringe, naturally | Art

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  • Charming Disaster’s Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris return to The Spirit Room for this year’s Rochester Fringe Festival.

Events that will attract thousands of people are fast approaching. But day two of the Rochester Fringe Festival was a night to celebrate intimacy.

Wednesday’s sale at The Spirit Room for eccentric duo Charming Disaster was nonetheless a few dozen. And for two Rochester-centric shows, nearly all 180 seats on the Fielding Stage at the Geva Theater Center were taken for “Inner Loops: Monologues About Place.” At Salina’s restaurant, a few dozen people turned up to watch three guys sitting at a table, joking engagingly on “Rochester Conspiracies: The Innerloop Podcast.”

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"Inner loops: monologues about place" gets a revival performance on September 17 at the Geva Theater Center.  - PHOTO PROVIDED

  • “Inner Loops: Monologues About Place” gets a revival Sept. 17 at the Geva Theater Center.

Appreciating the light after it’s gone

“Inner Loops: Monologues About Place” is a minimalist theater: seven actors, a cellist, a banjo player, three black boxes of about one square meter and a telescope. But the content is deep. Rochester actors Hilary Bluestein-Lyons, Brad Craddock, Jeremy Sarachan, Sejal Shah, Penny Sterling, Laura Thomas and Ted Wenskus each have about five minutes to explain themselves.

And yes, they were monologues on location. Bluestein-Lyons ruminating on her life as the architecture she lived in: “My life is a ranch house,” she says, simple layout, straightforward format. But beyond that, “houses are made for hiding.”

And the secrets come out.

The actors are assembled in different configurations for each story, sometimes without explanation of their presence: Two seated in front of one of the black boxes, playing cards, an action that never appears in the story that takes place a few meters away .

A black woman expresses the freedom she felt, represented by the greyhound on the side of the bus that takes her from Georgia to Rochester. Far from racism, sexism and a violent husband. “She runs away from her husband just because he beat her,” the neighbors say disapprovingly. But no, she fled to start her life over.

We hear how life is so many degrees of separation, often comical, as in the pain of riding a bike up Cobb’s Hill. But while these are stories of place, it quickly becomes clear that they are also stories of change and growth. This painful climb up Cobb’s Hill gets progressively easier with practice. Until even New Hampshire’s daunting Mount Washington, many more degrees of elevation, could be conquered.

A woman talks about losing weight and looking for a relationship that’s more than just holding hands. “Who wants ‘just right’?” she asks. There are poetic moments, as another woman describes how her father, looking through a telescope, said, “Every star has a story, like people. Some die out like a supernova, others simply disappear. “The stars are long gone before you can fully appreciate their light.”

The cosmos contains unimaginable degrees of separation, as does life from death. Even Leah Fox of the infamous spiritualists the Fox Sisters makes an appearance, accompanied by spooky cello sounds, suggesting ghost activity. Coming from a place we can never understand. Ghosts? As Leah says, “It seems like some people believe anything.”

“Inner Loops: Monologues About Place” returns to the Geva Theater Center for a 7:30 p.m. performance on September 17.

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The Innerloop podcast hosts at Rochester Fringe Festival 2022. - PHOTO BY JEFF SPEVAK

  • The hosts of The Innerloop podcast at Rochester Fringe Festival 2022.

The Innerloop and the Alien Autopsy Claims

Quick-witted, self-deprecating Shane Allen is joined by like-minded Justin Kesel and Mark Maira for “Rochester Conspiracies: The Innerloop Podcast” at Salina’s. “The Innerloop” is a true podcast; in the past, he has delved into Rochester history, including serial killer Arthur Shawcross, the Fox Sisters, and the ABC child murders. Gruesome territory – you could say it’s callous territory. There are real victims here.

“But it could be the worst,” Allen says of this Rochester Fringe show.

Almost an hour of stories and rumors about Kodak. Allegations, as one of the guys reminded us from time to time. These are all allegations.

Well, not all of them. Many of these chatter are established facts. We know George Eastman’s elephant hunt. There is an elephant’s head on a wall of his old house and an elephant’s foot turned into a piece of furniture. “It’s murder,” Allen said. “It’s like a worse version of ‘The Flintstones’.”

And we know about Eastman’s suicide. We also know that during World War II Kodak made hand grenades. The Rochester Military Historical Society has one in its museum in Village Gate Square. The panel goes one step further by saying – alleging – that the fuses were so impractical that they killed more American soldiers than the enemies they fought, because the grenades would detonate prematurely.

The Innerloop guys discuss Kodak’s possible involvement in the famous 1947 Roswell flying saucer crash. Kodak was allegedly involved in authenticating the autopsy film of an alien who died in the crash . Film that later disappeared, while in the hands of Kodak, for fear of the company losing its government contracts.

Allegedly. But maybe you saw the re-enactment of the film in the mid-1990s that was shown on television, and even at the Petit Théâtre.

And there’s the silent mumble that I-90 doesn’t quite reach Rochester because George Eastman pissed off someone in the state government. And Eastman’s alleged involvement in the “redlining” that kept the neighborhoods of its white workers white. Kodak’s alleged fear that new snapshot technology would ruin the art of photography, before deciding it could make photos a “snapshot” for the average family. How Kodak allegedly developed the spy plane photos. There would have been a nuclear reactor in the basement of a Kodak building. How Kodak’s alleged pollution of the Genesee River contributed to the unique taste of Genesee beer. And yes, Kodak’s interaction with the environment would have something to do with the death of animals in the nearby zoo.

Many, if not most, of these stories are complete nonsense. And the Innerloop panelists seem to begrudgingly agree.

But then an audience member takes the microphone and claims that during the Cold War, Kodak’s involvement in photographing spy planes made Rochester one of the top 10 targets of USSR nuclear attacks. And yes, to the Innerloop panelists, it did seem very plausible indeed.

“Rochester Conspiracies: The Innerloop Podcast” returns at 7:30 p.m. from Salina on September 21.

The Charming Disaster by Marie Curie

The Spirit Room brought back Brooklyn’s Charming Disaster. The goth-folk duo of Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris create songs that seem to be taken from Edward Gorey’s sketchbook, with costumes set aside by Tim Burton. Bisker plays ukulele and foot percussion; Morris plays acoustic guitar. They sing and sometimes whistle. And, dressed in black with pops of black eyeliner and weird accessories, they fit right in with the congenitally weird surroundings of The Spirit Room.

This year’s show reduced attention. “Our Lady of Radium” is a song about French-Polish scientist Marie Curie. The story of Pierre and Marie Curie is both romantic and tragic; in other words, the perfect story. As Charming Disaster tells, the couple met and fell in love while studying chemistry, eventually working on the study of radium mined in the Carpathian Mountains.

The songs evoke the death of Pierre; he was hit by a car. And the death of Marie by radium poisoning; this element they were working with was not as innocent as they thought. As the radium warned them at the start of the song cycle: “I will eat your soul.”

“Our Lady of Radium” is a sad and exquisite celebration of Curia. Countless other people also died of radium poisoning, after being exposed to radium while painting glow-in-the-dark numbers on watch faces. As Charming Disaster sings, radium turns your bones to dust.

Charming Disaster plays again at 6 and 9 p.m. Thursday and 6 p.m. Friday at The Spirit Room.

Jeff Spevak is editor and reporter for WXXI Arts & Life. He can be reached at (585) 258-0343 or jspevak@wxxi.org.

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