ROCHESTER FRINGE 2018 Preview – 500+ Shows Many Free

Rochester Fringe 2018 is one week away, and I can’t wait!  One of my absolute favorite festivals, Rochester Fringe 2018 will fill the city with art, performances, concerts, and invite the audience to become part of the show. Rochester Fringe is the largest multi-genre arts festival in New York State, and one of the fastest-growing and most-attended fringe festivals in the entire country. Rochester Fringe 2018 offers more than 500 performances and events this year – over 150 of which are free of charge – in 20+ venues across the downtown area. The Spiegeltent is going up, performers are coming in, and the city is ready to put on a show. Continue reading for all the details about Rochester Fringe 2018, taking place September 12-22, and click here for my personal experience at the festival.

Rochester Fringe 2018 - Massaoke

Massaoke – Photo courtesy Rochester Fringe 2018

From Rochester Fringe’s Press Release

Organizers of the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival (Wednesday, September 12 – Saturday, September 22) announced the seventh annual festival’s entire lineup and invited Rochester to “Join the PARTY.” For the first time, Rochester’s Fringe will span 11 days, up from 10 for the past five years, and it will open on a Wednesday evening.

Among the free events will be Fringe’s annual, giant, outdoor, spectacle performances at Friday & Saturday on the Fringe, September 14 & 15. This year, Parcel 5 will once again host an incredible, interactive experience making its North American debut: Massaoke.

Rochester Fringe 2018 - Massaoke

Massaoke – Photo courtesy Rochester Fringe 2018

What started in a London basement in 2011 has exploded into a global phenomenon. Massaoke is a live band that plays the best-loved “hairbrush” anthems (i.e. the ones you sing into your hairbrush) from the 60’s to today while the crowd sings along, guided by big-screen lyrics. There’s no dreaded karaoke spotlight – just a euphoric celebration in which everyone sings and dances their hearts out in a communal experience that sells out at the Edinburgh and Adelaide (Australia) Fringes, the Glastonbury Festival, and many more. Massaoke is currently touring the major U.K. festival circuit.

“Part of our mission is to bring exciting, different, renowned outdoor experiences to Rochester, and we think Massaoke is exactly that,” explains Fringe Producer Erica Fee. “We’re expecting Parcel 5 to feel like one last, great, summer party!”

Plasticiens Volants Rochester Fringe 2017

Plasticiens Volants above Parcel 5 during Rochester Fringe 2017, photo by Erich Camping

Other Fringe headline acts include one of the world’s top comedians, Eddie Izzard, performing his Believe Me show for one night only in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre on Friday, September 21 at 7 p.m. (announced last month).

The Cristal Palace Speigeltent will reappear at One Fringe Place (corner of Gibbs and Main Streets) along with a new, world-premiere Cirque du Fringe created and hosted once again by Las Vegas duo, Matt Morgan and Heidi Brucker Morgan. This year’s Cirque du Fringe: SideShow is a fascinating blend of curiosities and feats of human performance inspired by the golden age of American circus, mixed the couple’s signature comedic shenanigans. It features thrilling performances by world-renowned acts, including: hair-hang aerialist Samantha Pitard, cyr wheel performer Yasu Yoshikawa, and Bindlestiff Family Cirkus co-founder Keith Nelson. Live music is provided by Sxip Shirey, a NYC musician and composer known for working with found objects and computer-modified instruments.

Cabinet of Wonders Rochester Fringe 2015

Cirque du Fringe – Rochester Fringe, photo by Dave Parfitt

In the adjacent Spiegelgarden, Fringe favs Pedestrian Drive-In (free big-screen films using Silent Disco headphones), Dashboard Dramas (rotating plays in parked cars), and the Immersive Igloo (sound and light experience inside a giant, glowing igloo) return. NEW this year: an actual backyard attached to Abby DeVuyst and Kerry Young’s Bushwhacked tent show that creates five, new, interactive Bushwhacked Backyard events. Rotating nightly will be: Bushwhacked Backyard BONFIRE (improvised firepit comedy), Bushwhacked Backyard BBQ (improvised cook-out comedy), Bushwacked Backyard BATHTUB (improvised hot-tub comedy), Bushwhacked Backyard BURIAL (improvised, comedic wake), and Bushwhacked Backyard BETROTHAL (improvised but legal wedding or vow renewal and reception comedy. Couples may apply at

Spiegeltent at Rochester Fringe

Spiegeltent at Rochester Fringe, photo by Dave Parfitt

Late-night in the Spiegeltent on weekend #1: Other People’s Shows, a crowd-pleasing comedy that features Rochester’s Unleashed! Improv’s on-the-spot interpretations of other productions based on their Fringe Guide descriptions, plus wacky contests and other shenanigans.

For weekend #2, Fringe imports Shotspeare, a raucous adaptation of the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet that’s equal parts classical theatre and drinking game. With the tagline, “We Put the Lit in Literature,” Shotspeare has been a smash hit in New York City, Las Vegas, and the Adelaide Fringe.

Shotspeare Jon Brooks

Shotspeare coming to Rochester Fringe 2018, photo by Jon Brooks

A total sellout for six years running, Silent Disco returns for late-late night fun in the Spiegeltent. Dayside: the return of 2017’s sold-out events, Afternoon Tea and Disco Kids.

Gospel Sunday, a free event featuring the some of the best Rochester gospel music artists hosted by Reverend Rickey Harvey, returns for its sixth, standing-room-only year at Kilbourn Hall on the Fringe’s only Sunday: September 16th.

The second weekend of Fringe (Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21 & 22) offers free entertainment on Gibbs Street, including more than a dozen bands, and the third annual Fringe Street Beat. This hugely entertaining hip-hop and all-styles dance battle attracts crews from all over the Northeast to compete for a $1,500 prize (teams may sign up at Fun for the whole family, it’s also part of Kids Day on Saturday, Sept. 22 – the final day of Fringe – which includes Chalk Art, Disco Kids, a Cirque du Fringe matinee, Pumpkin-Painting and more.

Gibbs St Rochester Fringe 2015

Gibbs St is home to free entertainment at Rochester Fringe, photo by Dave Parfitt

Also on the 22nd, ArtAwake – the University of Rochester’s annual student-run, art-and-music festival – joins Fringe this year and takes over the former Changing Scene restaurant on the top floor of the First Federal Plaza. All ages can enjoy hundreds of artworks and live music for free from noon to midnight.

The vast majority of Fringe productions, performances, and events are booked by Fringe venues themselves from applications submitted to them by artists in April. This year’s venues (including site-specific spaces) are: The Avyarium in Village Gate, Blackfriars Theatre, Central Library (3 spaces), Eastman School of Music (3 spaces), First Federal Plaza, Garth Fagan Dance Studio, Geva Theatre Center’s Fielding Stage, Java’s Café, The Little (3 spaces), Lyric Theatre (3 spaces), Memorial Art Gallery, MuCCC, RIT City Space (250 E. Main St. by the Liberty Pole), School of the Arts (5 spaces), Village Gate, and Writers & Books. The Fringe itself adds: Gibbs Street, Gibbs St. Main Stage, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Parcel 5, the Speigeltent, and the Spiegelgarden. Genres are: comedy, dance, kids’ fringe, multidisciplinary, music, spoken word, theatre, and visual art & film.

Lyric Theatre Rochester Fringe 2015

Lyric Theatre Venue at Rochester Fringe, photo by Dave Parfitt

“The 2018 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival will be bigger and better than ever,” says James Barger, KeyBank Rochester Market President. “This will be our second year as title sponsor and we are so proud to help support this unique celebration of art and culture in our city. We urge everyone to come downtown and Join the pARTy!” Tickets for all shows are on sale at now at, along with a searchable (by venue, date, and genre) schedule and full descriptions.

Rochester Fringe 2017

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.