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Rochester Fringe presents the spiritual journey of 'Remnants' 

click to enlarge An image from "Remnants." - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • An image from "Remnants."
The instructions from our guide, Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, were simple enough.

“We ask that you try to stay in the moment, rather than on a screen.”

A tough ask in the 21st century, when virtually all we need to know is right at hand. This was “Remnants,” a tour of what remains of Ellison Park’s history. Reconstructed history, mostly the modest Fort Schuyler.

But this exploration is interested in something much deeper than what these 100 or so visitors could hold in their palm on Monday, the seventh day of the Rochester Fringe Festival.

This was a multidisciplinary stroll. The day’s heavy rain wasn’t enough to wash away the dance. “It does get muddy,” someone was telling one of the dancers. “Depending on where you dance, it does get muddy.” And the rain didn’t silence the music, an accordion and acoustic guitar.

Irondequoit Creek, which cuts into the edge of Ellison Park, almost out of sight of the Frisbee golf course, was the starting point for this tour.

“Remain present in your body,” Pasquarello Beauchamp warned as the audience stared into the deep crevice that’s home to the creek.

The slate rocks over which the water flows were the stage for purple-clad dancers to explore the bark of the surrounding trees and touch the roots. Even the roots from trees that had died and fallen into the water.

Then the audience migrated to wood benches roughly hewn from tree trunks, and sat beneath trees that spread their limbs protectively overhead. Trees that look old enough to have witnessed this story when it wasn’t a story, but real life. The narrators of “Remnants” were telling a story that opened long, long before Fort Schuyler. The story of the giant turtle that became North America.

“Remnants” is designed to be that kind of spiritual journey, once the phones are silenced. “We consume way too much, and that’s not good for Mother Earth,” Trish Corcoran, one of the show’s creators, reminded the audience.

Who are the heroes of this story? The Onondowaga (Seneca) people, the victims of genocide at the hands of the ancestors of so many of the people who came to this performance Monday. Who are the villains of this story? George Washington, among those who ordered these settlements to be burned. Right down to the fields of corn.

Yet the Onondowaga persevered. They turned that scorched corn into soup.

‘A Night of Stars’ flies Fringe to the moon

The modern sensibility of The Theater at Innovation Square might not have been the best choice for Sunday evening’s “A Night of Stars,” a celebration of the great crooners of the mid-20th century.

Umberto’s Clam House, in New York City’s Little Italy, would be the proper setting. Where impressionist Frank Torchio could step over the body of mobster Joe Gallo, gunned down by rival gang members, to present the beautiful music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

That’s the dichotomy of the era. Maybe all eras. As The Rat Pack worked the Vegas strip for your entertainment, all kinds of nefarious underpinnings were at work that night.

Umberto’s would have been a more intimate spot anyway for this evening of music. There were about twice as many people in the audience in the spacious theater as there were onstage. Which might have been fine if the USC Marching Band was playing. But this was a dozen players of the Russell Scarbrough Orchestra.

Otherwise, a fun night. Backed by the excellent big band, Torchio walks the line between presenting the music as a tribute or as a Rich Little impression. Dean Martin is introduced as, “direct from the bar,” and Torchio plays it just as Martin did, with cocktail glass in hand.

But Martin was also the only singer that night that Torchio played in character. For the rest of the evening, he was Frank Torchio interpreting Tony Bennett’s “From Rags to Riches.” Jimmy Durante’s “Start Out Each Day with a Song.” Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo.” Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife.”

A big sampling of Sinatra, including “The Lady is a Tramp” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” Throw in a few cornball jokes, and even some comedians: George Burns, Rodney Dangerfield and Jackie Mason.

You know them all.

Well, maybe not this one: Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre collaborating on “As Time Goes By.” Then a second pass through on the song, this time with the likes of Walter Brennan, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.

Walter Brennan? Why not?

“A Night of Stars” returns to the Theater at Innovation Square 6 p.m. Saturday.

This article has be updated to correctly identify the Seneca nation as the Onondowaga, and not the Onondaga, as was previously stated.

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