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Adam reviews "Spoon River Rochester" and "Bushwacked"


Combining aspects of a flash mob, performance art, and historical ghost walk, the wonderfully eerie "Spoon River Rochester" adapts the text of Edgar Lee Masters' "Spoon River Anthology" with a cast of over 150 actors (including Mayor Lovely Warren) delivering poems from the work, each one an epitaph of a single resident of the titular, fictional small town.

Dressed all in white and shades of gray, faces painted pale, each holding a single candle, the performers are certainly striking to look at. I found myself wishing the performance took place after sunset, letting the darkness enhance the ghostly effect. The actors are positioned all along Gibbs Street, divided up into small groups. At the sound of a bell, one performer at a time from each of these group steps forward to deliver their monologue commemorating the life of the deceased citizen they're portraying. This staging allows the audience to choose how they wish to experience the performance: stop to listen to a specific actor and move on, station yourself in front of a group to watch the entire cycle, or meander through the groups catching snippets where you can. The one downside of the Gibbs Street location is that the actors down toward the East Avenue end of Gibbs are forced to compete with the generators from the food trucks stationed there, often drowning out the performers' words.

By far the best place to take in the performance is the garden area outside of Max of Eastman Place. Further from the din of Gibbs, the groups are positioned close enough that it's possible to hear multiple groups at once. From there, I was able to enjoy the chilling effect of hearing the many voices coming from all directions, mixing and blending together into a haunting chorus of the dead.

Later in the evening, I was lucky enough to catch the final performance of "Bushwacked," 30 minutes of exuberantly silly improv from comedians Abby DeVuyst and Kerry Young. Squeezing into a pup tent in the Spiegelgarden, I was transported, along with three fellow audience members, to Camp Bushwacked. There, our slightly daffy counselors instructed us on all the ways to have fun in the great outdoors. We sang camp songs, played instruments, and made sock puppets, which were then used to reenact the sordid history of the camp itself. In short, I laughed myself silly.

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