The Rochester Fringe Festival debuted in 2012, under the artful direction of Erica Fee. I’m not sure anyone anticipated the overwhelming success of that first year, which drew over 30,000 attendees. Skipping ahead to last year, the event grew in attendance to close to 70,000 attendees and more than 500 performances at 25+ venues.
For those unfamiliar with Fringe, its website shares the history of the remarkable event, noting that “In 1947, eight theatre groups crashed the newly established and curated Edinburgh International Festival. Uninvited and refused entry, the groups performed anyway on “the fringe” of the Festival, and the Fringe was born. The Edinburgh Fringe is now aptly nicknamed “the largest show on earth.”
This year’s Keybank Rochester Fringe Festival promises to be the biggest and most exciting held in Rochester yet, with over 500 performances. As one of its hallmarks, about a quarter of the shows are free to attend. And with the extraordinary variety, including comedy, theatre, music, multi-media, film, spoken and kids’ performances, there is truly something for everyone!
Although, below, we share a few highlights that may be of particular interest, be sure to peruse the enormous list of offerings, searchable by date, genre, venue or age appropriateness by clicking on “Sept. 14 – 23” in the upper left hand corner, right below the words “Ticket and Shows.”
- Sept. 15 & 16 from 5 to 11 pm each day – Plasticiens Volants in BIG BANG – U.S. Premiere Tour! World-renowned French company Plasticiens Volants makes its US premiere tour with BIG BANG. Featuring giant inflatables, this extraordinary show combines huge floating creatures with projected images, music, and pyrotechnics to tell an unforgettable story. Free event. All Ages.
- Sept. 22 at 9:30 pm – Chris Beard Tribute To B.B. King – Rochester blues guitarist Chris Beard presents a one-time-only tribute to the music of the late, great B.B. King. Beard, a modern blues guitarist and singer, is the son of Rochester Music Hall of Fame blues musician Joe Beard. $18, for age 18 and over.
Sept. 16 at 5 pm, Sept. 20 at 6:30 pm – Come As You Are – A cast of featured storytellers will look back on times when they’ve had to change who they are to be accepted by others, in spoken word. $6, age 13 and over.
- Sept. 23 at 1 pm – Diversity Theater: Building Community Through Storytelling – Sharing our stories connects us and builds community. Share your story about an adventure, relationship, personal challenge, or just getting through the day, and see it enacted on stage by Playback Theatre actors. Free, age 13 and over.
- Sept. 14 at 6 pm, Sept. 16 at 3:30 pm, Sept. 17 at 7 pm and Sept. 23 at 4 pm – Elephant Grass: An Afrofutur-Mystic Tale – Sci-Fi Dance Theater. A Guy & N’Jelle Thorne original dance-centric performance art experience of philosophical nuggets and choreographic swagger. $15 for adults, $10 for students with ID and kids under 12. All Ages.
- Sept. 16 at 2 and 9:30 pm – Elvira, The Immigration Play – A new work by Jessica Carmona, based on the life story of Elvira Arellano. The play centers around an imaginary encounter between a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent and Elvira. $15. All ages.
- Sept. 23 – Trials: 2:30pm – 4:00pm, Finals: 4:30pm – 6:00pm – Fringe Street Beat – Fresh, regional talents participate in 3-on-3 team battles, facing off on the dance floor for a chance at winning the title of Fringe Street Beat Champions and a cash prize of $1500. DJ Fleg brings the beats. From break dancing to all-styles, teams bring their A-game for the preliminary trials held right on Gibbs Street, before the finals an hour later. Free. All Ages. (Interested in competing? Registration: Sign-ups start NOW by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Remaining competing-teams slots will fill starting at 11:30am on Gibbs Street. $5 per team.)
- Sept. 15 at 8 pm – The Galileo Band–Movin’ & Groovin’ – Come listen and/or dance to some great feel-good music, designed (at a minimum) for head-bobbing to the beat and (at a maximum) for getting down on the dance floor! The Galileo Band plays the happy music of yesteryear, like “Soul Man” and “Groove Tonight,” as well as today’s hits by Adele, Bruno Mars, and more. Free. 18 and over.
- Sept. 17 at 2 pm – Gospel Sunday – Reverend Rickey Harvey of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church hosts an afternoon of sacred song by some of Rochester’s best gospel artists. Be uplifted by the all female gospel choir, AKOMA; the contemporary stylings of Judah, the 2017 national ambassadors for Gospel Music Workshops of America; and the full-throated glory that is Elim Sanctuary Choir under the direction of Jasen Monroe. Free. All ages.
- Sept. 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22 at 7 pm, Sept. 23, 17 at 2 pm – Garth Fagan Dance – Enjoy new works and works-in-progress up-close and personal from multi-award-winner Garth Fagan and Bessie Award-winner Norwood Pennewell, as well as spectacular revivals from the rich, 47-year history of internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance. $20. All ages.
- Sept. 15 and 16 at 10:30 pm – Collard Green Curves – The Nurse Bowick Story: “JUST A TASTE” – Depicts the life of Theresa Lou Bowick, a misguided obese girl growing up so consumed with self-hate, overeating, misinformation, and distrust that it catapulted her into a life filled with unbelievable curves. Get ready to laugh, cry, and pray during this one-hour taste of an incredible, funny, tear-jerking performance. $15. 13 and over.
- Sept. 23 at 8:15 – La Muralla – La Muralla is synonymous with salsa, a musical genre that fuses Puerto Rican and Cuban sounds. The dynamic vocals of Johnnie Vega, Rafi Martinez and Luis “Guiso” Rivera are backed by a vibrant horn section, tight percussion, and impressive piano and bass. Free. All ages.
- Sept. 22 at 8 pm – Light Blue Gospel Blues Extravaganza – Progressive blues with rock and gospel overtones makes Light Blue a unique experience. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear gutsy guitar solos, keen keyboard riffs, harrowing harmonica work and a rapturous rhythm section – all in the beautiful and intimate setting of the Lyric Theatre. $10. Age 18 and over.
- Sept. 22 at 5:30 pm – MDC/Dangerous Signs presents “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe – The Tell-Tale Heart” is a famous short story by American author Edgar Allan Poe about a nameless man who kills an old man for a really strange reason, which we won’t give away here. The nameless man tells the story of the murder to prove that he is not insane. Dangerous Signs will perform “Tell-Tale” using American Sign Language, spoken word, music, mime, and dance. Free. 13 and over.
- Sept. 19. 20 at 9 pm, Sept. 22 at 8 pm, Sept. 23 at 6 pm – Mo-to-the-oncle – Winner: Best Actress, 2017 Pittsburgh Fringe. There’s a time and place for a monocle: 2017 and a Bronx high school are neither of them! MO-TO-THE-ONCLE is a solo comedy that follows the story of Detroit, Jr., a Bronx teenager who is forced to wear a monocle to school after his dad loses their vision insurance. $10. Age 13 and over.
- Sept. 14 at 8 pm, Sept. 20 at 8:30 pm – A Night at the Cotton Club – Jazz quartet A Few Bad Apples has been performing in the Rochester area for more than 20 years, including at the Park Avenue Festival, the Clarissa Street Reunion, and the Jazz At Emmanuel concert series. The veteran quartet features saxophonist Marvin Williams, Bill Watson on piano, bassist Chris Northington, and Tony Hiler on drums. $10. All ages.
- Sept. 23 at 9:30 pm – Prime Time Funk – Prime Time Funk is a 10-piece powerhouse of passionate musicians from Western New York. Together they write, arrange and perform a world-class combination of funk, jazz, blues and R&B that’s difficult to categorize but easy to feel. Free. All ages.
- Sept. 16 at 12:30 pm – Roc Bottom Slam Poets at the Central Library – Formed in 2013 under the direction of Lu Highsmith, the Roc Bottom Slam Team is Rochester’s first adult slam poetry team. This diverse group includes eleven dynamic poets from all walks of life who deliver gut-wrenching, real-life messages and impact their audiences with feelings of resilience, determination, and hope. Free. Age 13 and over.
- Sept. 16 at 8:30 pm – We All Write Presents: Birth Write – Join this powerful collective of Black women writers, performers, educators, and artivists as they curate Black women’s experiences through creative verse. This transformative hour-long narrative provides insight into the richly nuanced tapestry that is woven through the souls of Black women. Presented by We All Write: Lu Highsmith, Reenah Golden, Selena Cochran, Kristen Gentry, and Tokeya C. Graham. $15. Age 13 and over.
- Sept. 17 at 3:30 pm – Thomas Warfield’s Concert of Hope and Compassion – Bringing together students, faculty, staff, friends, and audience members to celebrate humanity, Thomas Warfield’s vision is to nurture optimistic hope as a life-affirming and healing instrument. Learning to treat ourselves and others with compassion is the theme highlighted in the music, dance, theatre, poetry, and visual art. Free. All ages.
- Sept. 23 at 5 pm – Will Bee – R&B vocalist Will Bee has a fresh and eclectic sound with a commanding stage presence to match. He’s mastered the art of pairing vulnerable lyrics with electric melodies –channeling the influences of Prince, Brandy, and countless others. Free. All ages.