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Have you been to the Fringe?

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival blows minds at venues all over the city.

If you build it they will come, and when you’re talking about festivals—whether it’s an international celebration of jazz or a weekend of barbequed ribs and the blues, lilacs at Highland Park, or roses in historic Maplewood—Rochester builds it all the time.

One of the city’s most successful new festivals isn’t about food or flowers, it’s all about fringe.

Humorist Dave Barry will appear at Kodak Hall, Eastman Theatre on Friday, September 27.

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival returns for its second year from September 19 to 28 after an acclaimed 2012 inaugural season. With over 32,000 attendees, 120 different productions, and more than twenty venues in and around downtown Rochester, last year’s event was one of Rochester’s most successful first-time festivals and one of the most notable Fringe festivals in the nation.
And it’s only getting better with age.

“Quite simply, the 2012 festival was an overnight success four years in the making. We were building from the ground up and introducing a concept that, while successful elsewhere in the world, was new to upstate New York,” says Erica Fee, festival producer. “Now, we’re trying to top our very successful inaugural year with something even more successful. And we think we’re about to do just that.”

The Fringe Festival is an eclectic mash-up of visual and performing arts, including theater, comedy, music, and dance featuring artists from Rochester and around the world. This year’s event has been expanded from five to ten days of all-out, no holds barred entertainment that’s far from mainstream yet aimed squarely at the masses. 

Aerial dance troupe Bandaloop is back by popular demand after fascinating more than 10,000 spectators last year. The acrobatic dancers will perform two free shows of vertical choreography on the side of the twenty-one-story One HSBC Plaza.

This year’s ticketed headliners are Pulitzer Prizewinning humorist and newspaper columnist Dave Barry and comedian Marc Maron, who produces WTF with Marc Maron, arguably the most popular podcast in history. Both will perform at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

Okay, pretty awesome. But what about this Spiegeltent everyone’s talking about?

In short, it’s one of the world’s most fabulous performance venues. Originally constructed in Belgium around the turn of the twentieth century, only a handful of these legendary tents remain, and one of them is coming to Rochester. The lavish Magic Mirror Tent is crafted from oak and adorned with velvet, mirrors, and stained glass to create an ambiance of awe. Featuring a spacious interior bar and the Spiegelgarden, an accompanying outdoor beer and wine lounge, the tent will act as an truly unusual artistic space and 2013 festival hub.

Now imagine this decadent and glamorous Spiegeltent transformed into a giant dance party with a Fringe twist: you can’t hear a sound. Just turn on a set of headphones and join the Silent Disco. Or enjoy a sassy, sexy, funny medley of burlesque and cabaret with a hint of Vegas and lots of edge. The world premiere of Cirque de Fringe showcases aerial displays and feats of juggling, magic, and balance, created exclusively for the Rochester Fringe Festival.

The Fringe is a not-for-profit corporation pioneered by several of Rochester’s cultural institutions: Geva Theatre, George Eastman House, and Garth Fagan Dance, as well as emerging groups such as PUSH Physical Theatre and Method Machine. Numerous local colleges, philanthropic organizations, government entities, and businesses also sponsor and support the event.

“There is simply something for everyone,” says Fee. And I think that this sets us apart from anything else in Rochester.”

The Rochester Fringe Festival is a cultural cocktail sure to quench every thirst.  Visit to learn more.

Jenn Bergin is a freelance journalist and creative consultant. She lives in Rochester, works in Manhattan, and travels to obscure points in between. 

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