Organizers of the 2019 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival (Tuesday, September 10 – Saturday, September 21) announced almost their entire lineup at this morning’s BIG REVEAL press event. With more than 550 performances and events in 20+ Rochester venues over 12 days, it is one of the premier fringe festivals in the U.S., as well as the largest multi-arts festival in New York State.
“We couldn’t be prouder to support this event that celebrates creativity and community like no other in Rochester,” says KeyBank Rochester Market President James Barger, adding that KeyBank renewed its festival sponsorship earlier this year. “We are invested in making this community a better place to live, and believe that the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival adds immeasurable value to our quality of life. We are ready to ‘leap a little’ this September!”
The theme of this year’s Fringe – “Leap a Little” – is meant to encourage attendees to try something new, and reflects both the accessibility and diversity of the Fringe.
“We truly have something for everyone at Fringe,” says Festival Producer Erica Fee. “The variety of offerings is so incredible and so simple to sample that we want to inspire visitors to perhaps step out of their comfort zones – even just a little!”
More than 150 free performances and events make taking that leap a little easier, starting with all of the outdoor, Fringe-curated offerings on both weekends of the festival.
Fringe Finale Weekend will feature the return of the U.K.’s MASSAOKE, which made its U.S. debut at last year’s Fringe. This year, the sing-along sensation will perform its signature rock-anthem show, MixTape, on Friday, Sept. 20, and its Massaoke: Night at the Musicals show – the North American premiere – on Saturday, Sept. 21, the final night of Fringe. Both free performances will take place on a new stage on Chestnut Street, with both Chestnut and East Avenue closed to traffic.
The Spiegelgarden, a pop-up, outdoor lounge at One Fringe Place (corner of East Main and Gibbs Streets), is the place to meet up with friends. In addition to the Theatre Bar, food trucks, box office, etc., it also features free KIDS DAY activities (Saturday, Sept. 21). Pedestrian Drive-In – free, nightly big-screen movies using Silent Disco headphones – returns, kicking off with a special showing of RBG, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary. Other films include The Favourite, Avengers: Endgame, Grease, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor, as well as an annual ImageOut: The Rochester LGBT Film & Video Festival program. A new partnership with Rochester’s Puerto Rican Festival will kick off Hispanic Heritage Month on Friday, Sept. 15 with the film Residente, themed food trucks, and more.
Other free Fringe favorites – including the exciting, all-styles dance battle featuring teams from all over the Northeast called Fringe Street Beat (Saturday, Sept. 21) and Gospel Sunday (the best of the Rochester gospel scene in Kilbourn Hall on Sunday, Sept. 15) – will also return.
All venue-curated performances and events at The Little, RIT City Space, and Java’s Café are also free as well as family-friendly.
Turning to ticketed events, Fringe’s 2019 comedy headliner is award-winning comedian, actor, director and author Mike Birbiglia in An Evening with Mike Birbiglia in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre on Friday, September 20 at 7:30 p.m. (previously announced on June 4). “Birbigs”’ credits include Broadway (The New One, for which he just won the 2019 Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Solo Performer”), Netflix (My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Thank God for Jokes), and films (Sleepwalk with Me, Don’t Think Twice). As an actor, Mike has appeared on Inside Amy Schumer, HBO’s Girls and Broad City, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and Showtime’s Billions, as well as in the films Trainwreck, The Fault in Our Stars and Popstar. Mike’s book, Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. In 2017, he was honored with the Kurt Vonnegut Award for humor.
Fringe will also present The Memory Palace Live at Kilbourn Hall on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 19 & 21. The Memory Palace is a monthly, Peabody-nominated podcast by Los Angeles’ Nate DiMeo, whose transporting works bring fascinating nuggets of history to life and average 250,000 downloads per episode. Recently an artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, DiMeo will present an unforgettable evening of stories, music and pictures – some drawn from Rochester’s own history – as well as a free, site-specific podcast at High Falls.
New in the Spiegeltent this year will be the fifth world-premiere comedy/variety show created especially for Fringe by Las Vegas masterminds, Matt and Heidi Morgan. Sure to be another smash hit, Cirque du Fringe: D’illusion stars illusionist Rod Raven – hilariously portrayed by Matt himself – and his eccentric assistant Heidi, along with a jaw-dropping cast of top international cirque artists. The Morgans will also bring a brand-new Shotspeare show for late-night entertainment to the Spiegeltent, this time a bawdy remake of Othello that is sure to put the “lit” back in “literature.”
Another late-night, Speigeltent favorite, Silent Disco, returns for four weekend performances, along with fellow, daytime sell-out for pint-sized partiers: Disco Kids.
In the Spiegelgarden, a brand-new, interactive show by the same barmy ladies responsible for last year’s Bushwhacked Backyard will debut: Bushwhacked British Bake Off, along with its sister show: Bushwhacked Boozy British Bake Off. Kerry Young and Abby DeVuyst promise the ultimate in improvised, comedic baking battles – with or without adult beverages.
A new Fringe partnership with Gateways Music Festival has resulted in A Celebration of the Life of Paul J. Burgett Through Music at Eastman School’s Hatch Recital Hall on Saturday, September 14 at 3:30 p.m. Burgett was a beloved board member of both organizations, and a driving force in the success of these and so many other wonderful community initiatives. Through sounds, words and visuals, this performance will feature some of the music Paul loved most – from classical to jazz – played by the Gateways Brass Collective.
Also new to Fringe this year: the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2019-20 season opener, Scheherazade .2, is part of the Fringe. This exciting, specially created program features four, adventurous, living composers, as well as world-renowned violinist Leila Josefowicz soloing on John Adams’ dramatic title piece that was written especially for her.
“We are – above all – a true community festival run by a Rochester non-profit with local board, staff and support, and each year, we work hard to engage more and more of the community we serve,” adds Rochester Fringe Festival Board Chairperson Justin L. Vigdor.
The vast majority of Fringe performances and events are booked by the venues themselves from applications received from shows during the submission process (March 1-April 15). Fringe welcomes two new venues this year: Nox Cocktail Lounge (Village Gate) and Joseph Avenue Arts & Culture Alliance. As the Alliance’s site (the historic Congregation B’Nai Israel synagogue) is still being renovated, the organization will use two other neighborhood spaces: Avenue D Rec Center Gymnasium and Lincoln Library Community Room. The Fringe’s other independent venues are: The Avyarium, Blackfriars Theatre, Eastman School of Music, Garth Fagan Dance, George Eastman Museum, Geva Theatre Center, Java’s Café, Central Library of Rochester, The Little, The Lyric Theatre, Multi-use Community Cultural Center (MuCCC), RIT City Space, RMSC’s Strasenburgh Planetarium, School of the Arts, and Writers & Books.
Information and tickets for all shows are now available via rochesterfringe.com. The printed Fringe Guide and app will be available in July. The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival will be announcing additional shows at a later date.
From its five-day debut in 2012, the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival has become one of the fastest-growing and most-attended fringe festivals in the U.S and the largest multi-genre arts festival in New York State. Renowned among the world’s 200+ fringe festivals for its large-scale, outdoor, free-to-the-public performances – including the U.S. premieres of Canada’s Circus Orange (2014), France’s Plasticiens Volants (2017), and the UK’s Massaoke (2018) – Rochester’s Fringe was also the first fringe festival in North America to feature a Spiegeltent, which is now an annual attraction. From comedy to theatre, from music to dance, from visual art and film to spoken word, and from children’s entertainment to multi-disciplinary collaborations, the festival’s diversity also extends to venues that span the gamut from parked cars to grand theatres.
Rochester Fringe Festival connects and empowers artists, audiences, venues, educational institutions, and the community to celebrate, explore, and inspire creativity via an annual, multi-genre arts festival. The not-for-profit, 501(c)3 corporation was pioneered by several of Rochester’s esteemed cultural institutions including Geva Theatre Center, the George Eastman House and Garth Fagan Dance; up-and-coming arts groups like PUSH Physical Theatre and Method Machine; and higher-education partners such as the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology. The organization’s overarching mission is to make arts readily accessible to audiences, as well as to provide a platform for artists to share their ideas and develop their skills, while stimulating downtown Rochester both culturally and economically.