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Rochester Fringe announces 2018 lineup


The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival keeps growing. The 2017 Fringe broke its previous records, attracting more than 78,000 people — a 15 percent increase from the year before. And audiences packed Parcel 5 both nights of "Friday & Saturday on the Fringe" to see the US debut of French company Plasticiens Volants perform its "BIG BANG" show.

The Rochester Fringe is now expanding to 11 days. Fringe organizers held its Big Reveal press conference on Tuesday at Eastman's Hatch Recital Hall to announce the 2018 event's full lineup, including more than 500 performances. The 7th annual Rochester Fringe Festival (the second with KeyBank as its title sponsor) takes place Wednesday, September 12, through Saturday, September 22, at venues in and around downtown Rochester.

The Fringe in June announced this year's comedy headliner: English comedian, actor, and author Eddie Izzard will headline Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre on Friday, September 21, presenting his "Eddie Izzard: Believe Me" show.

At Tuesday's Big Reveal organizers announced that this year's "Friday & Saturday on the Fringe" spectacle will be enormous sing-a-longs with the London-based band Massaoke (literally massive karaoke) making its North American debut. Playing live hit music from the 1960's through today, the audience joins along en masse to sing karaoke guided by lyrics on a big screen.

More than 150 shows during this year's Fringe will be free, including a weekend of festival-curated entertainment on Gibbs Street, September 21 and September 22. This second weekend of Fringe includes more than a dozen bands and the third annual Fringe Street Beat. (Teams can now sign up for the hip-hop and all-style dance battle to compete for a $1,500 prize. Head to rochesterfringe.com to learn more.)

The Cristal Palace Spiegeltent and surrounding Spiegelgarden will again be set up at the corner of Gibbs and East Main, with Matt and Heidi Morgan — in their third Rochester Fringe appearance — premiering a new show. The daily show, "Cirque Du Fringe: Sideshow," is inspired by the Golden Age of American circus and bears a vintage vibe.

The first weekend's late-night, Spiegeltent show will be "Other People's Shows," a comedy featuring Rochester's Unleashed! Improv's interpretations of other Fringe productions based on their descriptions. The second weekend features "Shotspeare," a rowdy adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" that's also a drinking game.

Silent Disco — which has sold out for six years running — is back at 11 p.m. on both Fridays and Saturdays. And Disco Kids returns on Saturday, September 22, as part of a Kids' Day that will also include chalk art, a Cirque du Fringe matinee, and pumpkin-painting. The popular, free Gospel Sunday event, hosted by Reverend Rickey Harvey, also returns this year to Kilbourn Hall on Sunday, September 16.

Returning Fringe favorites include the Pedestrian Drive-in at the Spiegelgarden, "Dashboard Dramas," and five new and interactive "Bushwhacked Backyard" experiences which will rotate nightly.

The student-run art and music festival ArtAwake joins Fringe this year to take over the top floor of the former Changing Scene restaurant (First Federal Plaza) on the final day of Fringe. From noon to midnight, all ages can find loads of artwork and music as well as killer views of the city.

While the above events are curated by the Fringe itself, the majority of the festival's 500 performances are organized by the individual venues — artists and producers submit their shows to venues during an open call earlier in the year, and the venues select which shows will appear on their stages. The full schedule of events and tickets are now online at rochesterfringe.com.

This year's Fringe venues are The Avyarium in the Village Gate; Blackfriars Theatre; the Central Library; Eastman School of Music; First Federal Plaza; Garth Fagan Dance Studio; Geva Theatre Center; Java's Café; The Little Theatre; Lyric Theatre; Memorial Art Gallery; MuCCC; RIT City Space (near the Liberty Pole); the School of the Arts; Village Gate; and Writers & Books.

CITY Newspaper will have a more detailed look at this year's Rochester Fringe Festival in our Fringe Preview Guide, on stands and online Wednesday, September 5.