Philly Fringe 2020: Zoom into out­er space with Ele­phant Room’

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The team of 'Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars': Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle, and Steve Cuiffo. (Photo by Maria Baranova.)
The team of 'Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars': Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle, and Steve Cuiffo. (Photo by Maria Baranova.)

Dennis Diamond, Darryl Hannah, and Louie Magic last appeared in Philly at FringeArts in 2013 with Elephant Room, their zanily absurdist magic show. Members of the secret magic society the Elephant Room performed their tricks out of a frowzy basement in Paterson, New Jersey. Now they return to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival with Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars, leaving the garden state behind for outer space.

Half magic, half sci-fi epic

The creators and performers of Elephant Room are Steve Cuiffo (as card specialist Magic), Trey Lyford (as Hannah, a former master of birds until he developed a severe allergy to their dander), and Geoff Sobelle (as mentalist Diamond). Lyford describes the new show as a musical “half magic show, half sci-fi epic.” Like the original Elephant Room, they will continue to explore hope, illusion, aspiration – all the while satirizing white maleness through the lens of magic.

The impulse to set a show in outer space came from their fascination with it, and a desire to work in a void after the prop-heavy Elephant Room. The magician characters were originally not included, but they found a synchronicity between magic and space travel. “They both want to bring the universe closer, are seeking the unknown, and trying to gain access to things that are greater than the human experience,” says Lyford. “In a dumb way.”

The show’s irreverent and unique take on the sci-fi genre appealed to FringeArts, which has programmed it in its Curated series. “Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars draws on a genre historically used as a vehicle for processing civic duty and public health concerns, by searching for alternative modes of existence,” say artistic producers Zach Blackwood and Katy Dammers. “The work mines the political and societal moment and distills public frustration into heightened (and sometimes interactive!) comedic experiences that drive toward new futures with a wink and a nudge.”

Though the piece was developed for the stage, COVID-19 has moved it to Zoom, where it will be a mixture of live and recorded performance, and offer opportunities for some fun, light-hearted audience interaction. “We’ve been trying to crack the nut in a way that doesn’t feel too expected,” says Lyford of the Zoom experience. “But at the same time, there’s just simple magic, like ‘hey pick a card.’ Kind of. Not that. But kind of like that.”

What, When, Where, and Accessibility:

Elephant Room: Dust from the Stars is offered through FringeArts Philadelphia Fringe Festival. September 23 through September 26, all performance at 8pm. All performances will be on Zoom and will offer closed captioning. For more information click here.

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