Organizers of the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival announced today that its tenth annual festival will include more than 425 in-person and online performances and events – ranging from comedy, dance, kids’ fringe, and multidisciplinary shows, to music, spoken word, theatre, and visual art & film – from Tuesday, September 14 – Saturday, September 25, 2021.

“We are all thrilled to get the performing arts community back where it belongs: on stage in Rochester,” says Founding Festival Producer Erica Fee. “We’re committed to providing a safe AND sensational 10th anniversary Fringe!”

“The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival not only showcases the immense spectrum of Rochester’s home-grown talent, it has also cemented Rochester as one of the premier gathering spots for inspiring, fun, and exciting performers from across the world,” U.S. Senator Charles Schumer states. “That’s why I was proud to secure a Shuttered Venue Operator Grant for the festival to support it through the pandemic and keep it running in Rochester for years to come.” 

The 2021 festival will feature more than 120 FREE shows during its 12 days, including a special Fringe Finale at “The Five,” the City’s now-grassy, empty lot formerly known as Parcel 5. Fringe will host a mini music festival that will be curated and headlined by nationally renowned Rochester band, JoywaveSMOKESTACKS will take place on Saturday, September 25, from 4 – 10 p.m.  

"Given the insanity of the past 18 months, we felt it was important to put on a concert that’s free for everyone. We all deserve a moment to breathe, and we can’t think of a better place to celebrate our community’s resilience,” says Joywave’s Daniel Armbruster. “We’ve had this SMOKESTACKS event idea for a while now and we are grateful to the Fringe for helping bring this idea to life.” 

“I am thrilled that the City of Rochester and the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival have partnered again to bring another year of artistic excellence to Rochester,” adds Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “The festival’s growth and success throughout the years has served as an inspiration to fringe festivals across the country and around the world. I am so thankful we are able to safely celebrate the spirit of creativity right here in Rochester this September.”

As reiterated earlier this month, with the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant and corresponding increases in the number of hospitalizations among unvaccinated individuals, all performers, participants, staff, volunteers, and festivalgoers 12 years of age and older will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated in order to attend indoor shows at the 2021 Fringe. As of now, masks will also be required indoors, including for children under 12. The unvaccinated (including those under 12) must wear a mask at outdoor shows as well. Please note: Fringe will update its health and safety protocols as needed.

“The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival is an exciting and rapidly growing festival that continues to entertain audiences in the heart of downtown, and we are so excited to welcome them back this year for their 10th Anniversary,” says Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “Monroe County is a proud supporter of this festival, and we are grateful to the organizers for all their hard work in making sure that we can come together to celebrate Fringe and the Monroe County Bicentennial in ways that help keep us all healthy and safe.” 

Fringe had previously announced that the Cristal Palace Spiegeltent would return this year, but because the tent’s owners did not obtain the necessary work visas to allow them to travel from Belgium to the U.S., organizers have obtained a beautiful Italian Circus Tent that will live for all 12 days at One Fringe Place (on the corner of Gibbs and Main Streets, across from Eastman Theatre.) Due to its construction, it will also allow for better air ventilation, another safety precaution that Fringe is pleased to provide.

Inside, a new, Fringe-commissioned variety show created and directed by festival favorite Matt Morgan will make its World Premiere for 14 performances: Cirque du Fringe: AfterParty. The production will feature Morgan and co-hosts Mark Gindick and Ambrose Martos, both of whom performed with him in the acclaimed off-Broadway show, Comedy Trio Happy Hour. The three met at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College and have since performed all over the world together and individually with companies including Cirque du Soleil, Big Apple Circus, and Spiegelworld. Rounding out the cast are five very talented women: Ethiopian hula hoop artist Zenebech Kassa, Russian juggler Gena Cristiani, African-American acrobat Shenea Stiletto, and Ethiopian foot juggler Elsabet Belayneh Marake, with live music by NYC’s sought-after DJ A-Ball, who was part of 2019’s Cirque du Fringe: D’Illusion

“The story idea behind AfterParty is a wedding reception that totally gets out of hand, and I mean swinging-from-the-chandeliers wild,” explains Morgan. “This show will be a blast, and we’re so excited to debut it for LIVE Rochester audiences! 

Also at One Fringe Place, Silent Disco, which the festival introduced to Rochester in 2013, will return for all four, weekend late-nights. It will be home to Fringe’s 10th annual, free Gospel Sunday, an afternoon of the best in local gospel music hosted by Rev. Rickey Harvey, on Sunday, September 19 as well. Also returning to One Fringe Place are two more free Fringe events: Pedestrian Drive-In – nightly “silent” films using Silent Disco headphones – and Kids Day, featuring a free Disco Kids, on Saturday, September 18. 

Returning sell-outs Dashboard Dramas (rotating plays in parked cars) and Bushwhacked Backyard: BONFIRE will both run at One Fringe Place throughout the festival, as will the debut of Bushwhacked Renaissance: Renew, Revive, Re-diculous, yet another wacky, improvised, and interactive comedy by Fringe favs, Kerry Young and Abby DeVuyst.

The annual Fringe Street Beat will take place on Saturday, September 18 in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park at Manhattan Square. All-styles dance teams will compete in semi-finals and finals for cash and bragging rights at this free, exhilarating event. 

Because several of the festival’s usual indoor venues won’t reopen in time, new venues stepped in to provide spaces for the hundreds of local, regional, and national artists who submitted applications in June to perform at the festival. Those new venues include the Dawn Lipson Canalside Stage at the JCC as well the indoor JCC Hart TheatreMade on State, a co-op for “makers” or creatives on State Street; The Spirit Room, also on State Street; the City’s outdoor La Marketa/International Plaza on North Clinton near Clifford Avenue; the new Sloan Performing Arts Center at the University of Rochester; and the Theatre at Innovation Square, the newly renovated Xerox Auditorium that seats 700, which will make its debut at Fringe. Returning venues are: Central LibraryEastman School of MusicGarth Fagan DanceJava’sJoseph Avenue Arts & Culture AllianceMuCCCNoxRIT City Art SpaceRochester ContemporaryRochester Music Hall of Fame, and The Little

“Artist-submitted venue shows account for the vast majority of our offerings and are a huge part of our overarching mission and that of fringe festivals around the world: to provide a platform for artists to share their ideas and develop their skills,” explains Fringe Board Chairman Justin L. Vigdor. “I can’t thank our venues enough for their participation.” 

Virtual Fringe returns this year, with 55 productions available on-demand as well as live-streamed. Also, several site-specific shows have brought their own venues: Aerial Arts Rochester’s Amplified in its new facility on Atlantic Avenue, and the multidisciplinary Remnants in Ellison Park. 

“All of us at KeyBank are very proud to be the title sponsor of the 2021 Fringe and to support this unique and inclusive celebration of art and imagination,” adds KeyBank Rochester Market Executive Phil Muscato. “Like the Fringe, KeyBank values the connections that bring us together, create shared experiences, and provoke thought and conversation. We are invested in making this community a better place to live and believe that the Fringe adds immeasurable value to our quality of life.” 

From its five-day debut in 2012, the 12-day KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival has become one of the fastest-growing and most-attended fringe festivals in the U.S.  It is also the largest multidisciplinary performing arts festival in New York State. As a bifurcated festival, it allows for a combination of headline entertainment curated by the non-profit Rochester Fringe Festival as well as an open-access portion based on the 74-year-old Edinburgh Fringe model. Last year’s Virtual Fringe offered more than 170 online productions, both live-streamed and on-demand, giving artists a platform and connecting audiences throughout our community and beyond. The 2019 Fringe featured more than 650 performances and events – over 200 of them free – in 25+ downtown venues and broke all previous attendance records with more than 100,000 visitors. 

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. It was pioneered by several of Rochester’s esteemed cultural institutions including Geva Theatre Center, the George Eastman Museum 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 not-for-profit organization’s overarching mission is to provide a platform for artists to share their ideas and develop their skills while also offering unparalleled public access to the arts. It strives to be diverse and inclusive, and to stimulate downtown Rochester both culturally and economically.