Excitement builds hours ahead of Rochester Fringe Festival

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — At the corner of East Avenue and Gibbs Street sits the unofficial One Fringe Place. From Sept. 12 through Sept. 23, it will serve as the hub for the music, shows, and art filling over 30 venues around Rochester.

“They range from the Eastman Theater to four parked cars, where there are short plays,” Founder and CEO Erica Fee said.

Currently the producer for The Rochester Fringe Festival, Fee was living in London and working at the original fringe festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“I always thought that Rochester would be a perfect place for a fringe festival,” she said. “Actually, the University of Rochester thought the same thing. It was one of things where a few people have the same idea at the same time.”

Twelve years later, performers from France and Columbia join folks from right here in the Finger Lakes to put on all kinds of multidisciplinary performances.

“They tend to highlight new work,” she said. “So we have emerging artists to superstar artists, often trying out new things, often mashing up with others.”

One of the more traditional offerings are plays. Local theater company The Company Theater has two in The Fringe this year. The Company Theater was founded in 2021, and had its first Fringe run last year with “Sellouts.”

“And that actually did sell out, we sold out our whole three-performance run,” artistic director and co-founder Carl Del Buono said.

This year, they doubled the fun with two shows. The first is called “Only the Dead,” and is a period piece that follows a husband and wife during World War I.

Their second play is called “A Jewish Woman Walks into a Maloca.” This follows a New Yorker’s journey in Peru while she (repeatedly) tries the spiritual-yet-psychoactive drink Ayahuasca.

These two offerings couldn’t be more different, which is something that Del Buono said is part of the fun of Fringe.

“There’s literally something for everyone — circus acts, comedy, music, theatre, opera. Like, it’s crazy,” Del Buono said, laughing. “Rochester’s nuts.”

With one of the biggest Fringe festivals in the country, it’s safe to say folks in Rochester are nuts for The Fringe. About a quarter of the performances are free, and most others sit at under $20 per person. For paid shows, tickets can be purchased online or in person at the Fringe Box Office at One Fringe Place.