Rochester has embraced its fringe side. Now in its fourth year, the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival has grown to be one of the largest multi-arts festivals in New York State, and one of the best-attended fringe festivals in the nation. Debuting in 2012, the festival drew more than 32,000 attendees across 5 days. The initial success prompted the fringe to expand to 10 days the next year, and that festival attracted more than 50,000 people. An estimated 60,000 individuals came out during the 2014 edition for more than 380 shows across 28 venues — and the performances themselves were starting to settle into the fringe concept. Shows taking place in parked cars and camping tents, giant tricycles pulled from a Terry Gilliam fever dream parading around Manhattan Square, Gibbs Street filled with more than 200 ghosts, venues filled for stand-up comedy, dance premieres, gospel choirs, and drag performers; artists have become more comfortable with pushing the traditional boundaries of a performance.
This year, the Rochester Fringe Festival will feature more than 500 performances and events, taking place Thursday, September 17, through Saturday, September 26, across indoor and outdoor venues in and around downtown Rochester.
The festival is put on by a nonprofit corporation spearheaded by some of the area's key cultural institutions, including Geva Theatre Center, the George Eastman House, Garth Fagan Dance, Eastman School of Music, and others. What makes Fringe stand out from other arts festivals is that participating venues curate their own shows. Acts applied earlier this year and the various theaters, galleries, cafes, and other venues picked the shows that fit them best.
Tickets for Fringe Festival shows vary per venue, typically ranging between $5 and $15 (and headlining acts typically have higher ticket prices). Still, there are dozens of completely free spectacles, including Grounded Aerial, one of this year's headliners, at the annual Friday on the Fringe in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Tickets for individual shows are available online at rochesterfringe.com, by phone at 957-9837, and in person at each venue starting an hour before show time. There will also be a Spiegeltent box office open at the corner of Main and Gibbs.
Fringe Fanatic Passes, which grant admission to all Fringe Shows (except for a few restrictions on several headliner shows), cost $190 and can be purchased online, by phone, or at the Spiegeltent box office.
For a full schedule of the festival, a list of venues, maps, and other information, see the official Fringe Festival Guide, included in this issue or visit Rochesterfringe.com.
City Newspaper will offer extensive coverage of the 2015 Rochester Fringe Festival. Look for daily blogs during the run of the festival, with photos, reviews, and our critics' picks for best of the fest. And make sure to pick up our Fringe Review in print in the September 23 issue.