HWS alumna Katherine Marino's one-woman show, "A Show with Cookies," will premiere at the Rochester Fringe Festival

With the right mindset, any aspect of human activity has the potential for high drama or uproarious comedy — or both. Any activity, even the most mundane or prosaic.

Like, say, making cookies.

At least when Katherine Marino does it. The 2012 Hobart and William Smith Colleges alumna is premiering her first solo performance — "A Show with Cookies" — for three shows in Village Gate's Avyarium during the upcoming 2019 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival — and the show is, indeed, about making cookies. In perhaps the most whimsical — and, occasionally, epic — of fashions.

The show, which combines mime, dance and circus arts like juggling, arose out of a variety show during last year's Fringe, the sold-out "The Extraordinary Muffin Theatre Spectacular," in which Marino created the character of a whimsical mime hostess. Her solo show brings that character back, a poofy-skirted hostess who's determined to make and share these cookies come what may, no matter what it takes — in the words of a promotional release, she's "a clown who just keeps picking up the ball no matter how many times she drops it." To tell more here would ruin the show — but suffice it to say it involves tray spinning, hat juggling and mountain climbing. (You read that right.) And at least one surprise.

"It kind of started with the things that I'm trained in — some circus skills, which is a mix of clown and mime and juggling," Marino said, as she ran through the show's acts with her creative team, Lynne Sánchez-Fries and Scott Slocum, in the Nu Movement yoga studio in Rochester. Add to that her formal training — she majored in dance at HWS — and her three years of experience with Rochester's PUSH Physical Theatre.

This is just one of Marino's multiple creative efforts as a solo artist. She has taught and performed her original material across the country, as well as in China and Canada — and in the past year, she has written multiple new acts (including "Cookies"), taken up management of The Molok Puppet Company, performed in her first film and produced and directed several new productions. Prior to her years with PUSH, she taught and studied in Argentina as a Fullbright Teaching Fellow.

So — why cookies? Other than the fact that, well, everyone loves cookies.

"I liked the idea of taking that everyday activity that everyone can relate to, and giving it to this character who's quirky and fun," she said. "I do consider the character to be a clown." And, like with most clowning, she noted, there's no fourth wall — the character is in her world of kitchen and hatrack, but she's also aware of the audience out there watching her and waiting for the cookies. One of the acts involves her trying to occupy herself, and entertain the audience — which will be circling the performance area, a show in the round — while the "cookies" are baking, and baking, and baking.

It's the kind of experimental, whimsical show that seems made for the Fringe Festival — a 12-day showcase of the creative spirit in Rochester, with over 570 performances and events — comedy, theatre, music, spoken word, visual arts, and cross-genre, multidisciplinary and unclassifable works. And the challenges of Fringe — she'll get something like 10 minutes to set up, for instance — are a great proving ground for "A Show With Cookies," which she's planning to take on the road. After the debut at Fringe, she'll be making those cookies at venues in Syracuse, Ithaca and Perry.

"I'm pretty lucky that I was able to premiere it and then do a tour after Fringe," she said. "I'll be able to continue developing it. It's a really nice place to premiere it here — the Fringe audience is welcoming, and people expect to see something different."

"A Show with Cookies" will be presented at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10; 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15; and 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, in The Avyarium at Village Gate, 274 N. Goodman St., Rochester (Suite D242). Tickets are $12 at rochesterfringe.com; remaining tickets will be available at the door one hour before performance.

Next week's Front-Row Seat will showcase some more upcoming Fringe Festival shows. Until then, find the complete list at rochesterfringe.com

48 years of folk

Fringe isn't the only performance festival coming up in the Rochester area. This weekend, Golden Link Folk Singing Society presents the 48th annual Turtle Hill Folk Festival, Sept. 6-8 at Rotary Sunshine Campus, 809 Five Points Road, Rush. In addition to evening concerts Friday and Saturday by the headliners, there will be daytime workshops, a Saturday afternoon contra dance, and late night singing and jamming. (Plus, rough camping is available for a small fee.)

The headliners perform 7-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Friday's performers:

• Debra Cowan, traditional and contemporary folk songs, unaccompanied and with guitar

• Annie & The Hedonists, four-piece Albany band incorporating jazz, bluegrass, blues, country and folk

• Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, a duo (Ungar on fiddle and Mason on guitar and piano) who came to prominence with their work on Ken Burns' "The Civil War" documentary. ("Ashokan Farewell" is an Ungar composition.)

Saturday's performers:

• Heather Pierson Acoustic Trio, ranging from New Orleans style jazz and blues to Americana

• Scott Cook, roots balladeer playing fingerstyle guitar and clawhammer banjo

• Richie and Rosie, the duo of Richie Stearns (a founding member of both The Horse Flies and Donna the Buffalo) and Rosie Newton, an integral part of the Ithaca old-time community.

Tickets are available at www.goldenlink.org, with a discount for Golden Link members. At the gate, tickets are $85 for the whole weekend, $37 for Friday night only, $18 for Saturday day only, $37 for Saturday night only, and $18 for Sunday only.(It's all free for kids 12 and younger.) Rough camping (tent or RV with no hookups) is $10 per site for the weekend; a bed in the bunkhouse is $15 a person per night. The venue includes nature trails, two playgrounds and mini-golf, and the festival will include food vendors (including gluten-free and vegetarian options).

New season for Rochester Folkus

And speaking of folk music, a brand-new season starts next Wednesday for Rochester Folkus, which brings folk, blues and bluegrass musicians to the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre, 20 Windsor St., Rochester. The third season starts Wednesday, Sept. 11, with the performance by the band The Cadleys, centered on the harmony vocals of John and Cathy Cadley in the great George-Tammy, Gram-Emmylou tradition. They perfrom traditional bluegrass, traditional mountain ballads, and contemporary songs by the likes of Alison Krauss.

The concert is at 7 p.m., followed by an opportunity for locals to offer a song if they wish. (Sign up before or during the feature.) Rochester Folkus shows are $10; reservations are not required but can be made at 585-325-4370.

Coming up in the Folkus season: Acoustic blues artist Andy Cohen on Sept. 25 and the duo of Leslie Lee and Steve Gretz on Oct. 9.