There’s been murmurings of paranormal activity in the Central Library downtown for more than 80 years. In 2012, the A&E show “Ghost Hunters” even came to investigate for their episode “Due Date with Death.” Building on this, the staff put on three back-to-back readings Sunday afternoon, leading attendees down into the rarely-seen basement stacks at Central Library's Rundel Memorial Building, to sit in the hallways among dusty bookshelves and hear spooky stories of both the library and Rochester. Three staffers did the storytelling — an unnamed man portraying 1800s abolitionist, author and self-proclaimed medium Isaac Post; Brandon, who told goosebump-inducing accounts of modern day hauntings on Route 259 tied to the Underground Railroad; and city historian Christine, who told the chilling origin story of the ghost they believe haunts the library, Laura Young.
The haunting dates back to August 1902, when Young was believed to have drowned in the adjacent Genesee River, her body found caught in the aqueduct several days later. Her husband, Andrew, was acquitted, but the couple had been fighting over supposed infidelity. Rochester’s rich history — Abolition, Suffrage, and religious movements — lends itself to many such stories, and hopefully this show will become not just an annual staple at Fringe, but an accessible event several times per year.
“Spooky Stories in the Stacks” will not be performed again during Fringe 2019.
While Susan B. Anthony is a household name for gender equality, there are many other women throughout history who played a role in the fight for women’s rights. The Claflin sisters, Victoria and Tennessee, were entrepreneurs and independently wealthy heiresses due to their father’s career as a snake oil peddler. They founded a financial firm and radical newspaper in New York City, and had liberal values when it came to love and marriage (especially Victoria, who had a public open marriage and believed in free love). In 1872, at age 34, Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first woman to run for office for President of the United States.
Before that, however, she asked for Susan B. Anthony’s endorsement. Rochester native Brad Craddock’s comedic one-act — which features the sharp, entertaining cast of Shawnda Urie, Laura Taylor, and Suzanne Bell — examines the day when Woodhull requested Anthony’s support, and the ensuing battle. Both Saturday and Sunday’s shows sold out (the SOTA venue is on the smaller side), so grabbing tickets ahead of time is advised. There are also other shows in the venue that coincide, so noise levels were an issue at times, but the performers adjusted as best they could.
“The Fighting Girl’s Guide to Politics” will be performed again at 6 p.m. Wednesday, September 18; 9 p.m. Friday, September 20; and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, September 21 at School of the Arts: Club SOTA. $12. Appropriate for 13 and over.
Local comedian and comedy show producer Woody Battaglia has coordinated nine shows throughout Fringe, each one featuring five or six comedians performing stand up, a closing headliner and intermittent commentary from Battaglia himself. In the intimate Club SOTA venue, the shows feel like they could be happening in a dive bar - Sunday night’s also sounded that way - and create an immediate sense of intimacy between audience and performer.
Sunday’s lineup featured Rochester native Madelein Smith (a surprise addition, as she was visiting from New York City), Anna Eggleton, Amy Stephens, Hilary Bluestein-Lyons, Betty Wolfanger, and headliner Ilhan M. Ali. The heavy-hitting female lineup was decidedly raunchy, but elicited plenty of laughs from the crowd throughout the night. And though female comedians are rare in the industry, Rochester seems to have a decent show of talent in this particular area. Thanks again, Susan B. Anthony. To see the full lineup for each evening, visit Woody Battaglia’s Facebook page.
“This Year’s Models” will be performed again nightly at 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday, September through Saturday, September 21 at School of the Arts: Club SOTA. $15. Appropriate for 18 and over.