About Fringe

Questions. Answers. Really.

Year after year, we bring the world here.

Since its debut in 2012, the Fringe has drawn more than a half million visitors from all over the world to over 3,600 diverse performances and events. In fact, Rochester’s not-for-profit Fringe has become one of the largest and most successful fringe festivals in the nation, the largest multi-genre arts festival in New York State, and one of the region’s most anticipated festivals each year.

Downtown bursts to life in a no-holds-barred extravaganza.

The 2019 Fringe’s 12 days were packed with more than 650 performances and events – more than 200 of which were entirely free—featuring international, national, and local acts across dozens of disciplines. Music. Comedy. Theatre. Dance. Film. And a whole host of shows that bend traditional categories, from family-friendly to far-out. The festival’s diversity also extends to venues that span the gamut from parked cars to grand theatres.

Born in Scotland. Raised in Rochester.

Storytime: In 1947, eight theatre groups crashed the newly established Edinburgh International Festival. Uninvited, the groups performed anyway on the edges of the festival’s venues, and the Fringe was born with that initial act of defiance. Today, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is known as “the largest show on earth” with thousands of shows each August. The enthusiasm for the Fringe concept has spread to the U.S. and around the globe. Rochester’s Fringe is among 50 in the nation and that number’s growing quickly.

A one-of-a-kind for Rochester.

From our captivating East End Spiegeltent, venues and acts radiate out into the city in every direction. And the special way the Fringe lineup gets built each year is becoming the envy of other festivals, with its unique, bifurcated style. “Bifurcated”? Wait, before you Google that: It’s simply how we describe the dual nature of Rochester’s Fringe. Organizers present a handful of special events, but the vast majority are curated by the venues themselves from artists’ applications. That’s why the lineup is so astoundingly diverse and creative. Why you’ll see surprising new performances here for the first time. And why the choices for entertainment are vast.

Our festival has come to be known as “The Rochester Model” by the more than 200 fringe festivals around the world for its annual, free, outdoor spectacle performance by international artists. These immersive, often jaw-dropping experiences draw thousands of attendees, providing unparalleled access to the arts.

Grand Highlights from Fringes Past.

2012 and 2013: Renowned aerialists BANDALOOP dance up the side the 24 story Five Star Plaza highrise at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park at Manhattan Square

2014: CIRCUS ORANGE comes to Martin Luther King, Jr. Park at Manhattan Square

2015: GROUNDED AERIAL has the city staring skyward

2016: NYC’s STREB Extreme Action Company performs at Parcel 5; Patton Oswalt returns

2017: U.S. premier tour of France’s Plasticiens Volants dazzles Parcel 5, John Mulaney sells out Kodak Hall

2018: Eddie Izzard is comedy headliner; MASSAOKE rocks Parcel 5 in its North American debut

2019: Plasticiens Volants & MASSAOKE return with premieres; Mike Birbiglia makes Fringe debut

Where credit’s due.

Several of Rochester’s leading cultural institutions had a hand in make the Rochester Fringe happen, including Geva Theatre Center, George Eastman Museum and Garth Fagan Dance, as well as emerging groups such as PUSH Physical Theatre and Method Machine. The Board of Directors includes representatives from the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, Boylan Code LLC, the Eastman School of Music, Canfield + Tack, and Writers & Books. The Fringe is a proud member of the U.S. Association of Fringe Festivals.

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