For all its pomp and circumstance, the true magic of a Fringe Festival is often found in simplicity. In humanity. In the communal gathering of spirits experiencing the same thing, if only for an hour. Such is the case with “The Memory Palace Live,” which had the first of its two performances on Thursday evening at Kilbourn Hall in the Eastman School of Music.
“The Memory Palace” is a podcast about the past, and Los Angeles-based host Nate DiMeo is an archaeologist of sorts, a master storyteller and writer who transports his audience to a world that was, creating a wistful, poignant journey for his listeners. Attendees of “The Memory Palace Live” experience all of the podcast’s usual stories, accompanied by simple staging of DiMeo at a desk mic and later, a podium mic (“this is the part where I stand over here,” he jokes). A backdrop screen projects simple animations, vintage photos, and stop motion video to illustrate his nine vignettes. A brass quintet from the Eastman School of Music accompanies for a little while onstage, and the rest of DiMeo’s eloquent mood-setting music is played from recordings.
The opening bit is all about George Eastman, told in an eerie new way for Rochesterians. (In between, DiMeo mentions he’s had a white hot.) DiMeo has created several Rochester-focused pieces, including a free, on-site listening experience open to the public through Saturday at High Falls, and another that he’ll release in a future episode.
Thursday’s live recording did not have a sold out audience — a shame for all who missed a moving, mythical listening adventure with DiMeo. For a show that started more than a decade ago as a passion project and escalated to an international sensation and Peabody Award nominee, “The Memory Palace” is a sharp and relevant podcast for every human who has a history, and one of this year’s strongest Fringe offerings.
“The Memory Palace Live” will be performed again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 21, at the Eastman School of Music: Kilbourn Hall. $28. Appropriate for 13 and over.