Before You Apply

The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival: one of Rochester’s boldest festivals.

The Fringe in a Nutshell

Since its debut in 2012, the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival has become one of the most successful fringe festivals in the U.S., attracting more than 78,000 attendees in 2018. This multi-arts festival now boasts over 500 performances – more than a third of which are free – in 25+ venues in downtown Rochester, NY. Celebrating and inspiring creativity, the Fringe – which is partially curated by the festival and partially by festival venues – includes everything from theatre, music, comedy and dance, to children’s entertainment, spoken word, visual arts and so. much. more.

What is the Fringe?

The Fringe is an 12-day, all-out, no-holds-barred, multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts festival. It features international, national, and local artists. And it showcases theatre, comedy, visual arts, family entertainment, music, dance, physical theatre, musical theatre, opera, poetry, literature and experiences that have yet to be imagined. The Fringe is a proud member of the US Association of Fringe Festivals.

Born in Scotland, loved the world over.

In 1947, eight theatre groups crashed the newly established and curated Edinburgh International Festival. Uninvited and unwelcome, the groups performed anyway at venues they arranged themselves. The following year, Scottish journalist Robert Kemp coined the term “fringe festival” to describe these non-juried shows. The Edinburgh Fringe is now “the largest show on earth,” as it is nicknamed. The 2014 festival saw 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows in 299 venues and lasted the entire month of August. It grosses over £100 million, or $164 million USD, for the Scottish economy alone. Fringe venues run the gamut from proper theatres to a public restroom.

Pioneers of the Fringe

Rochester Fringe is a not-for-profit corporation pioneered by several of Rochester’s cultural institutions: Geva Theatre Center, George Eastman Museum and Garth Fagan Dance, as well as emerging groups such as PUSH Physical Theatre and Method Machine. Our Board has expanded to include the University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, Rochester Institute of Technology, Bond Shoeneck & King PLLC, Boylan Code, Mengel Metzger Barr, and Writers & Books.

Where Rochester Fringe Takes Place

Rochester’s East End serves as the Fringe hub, with food, drink, free outdoor entertainment, a ticket booth, street performances, buskers, and a party atmosphere. The Fringe footprint also includes several venues outside of the East End, such as the Central Library on South Ave, and venues in the Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA) including Writers & Books, MuCCC, and Blackfriars.

Types of Fringe Shows

ANY artistic project can potentially become a Fringe show, from a traditional theatrical presentation, to an immersive sensory experience, to an art exhibit — to any combination you can imagine! Fringe shows typically run about 60 minutes and have at max a 15-minute load-in and 15-minute load-out. With all due respect to the art of the set, costumes, and props, the Fringe celebrates the performance itself above all. Keep it simple! A four-hour rendition of Nicholas Nickleby might be a fine show, but it’s really not Fringe-worthy.

Fringe Venues

From parked cars to proscenium theaters, truly all of Rochester is a stage! Virtually any environment can be a venue, whether pre-existing or created as a Site Specific work. Our 2019 venues will be announced on March 1, 2019 when submissions begin. Venues choose the shows to make offers to based on applications, so be sure to use your application to really sell your show! Apply directly to venues through Fringe Backstage. To give you an idea, a list of venues from Fringe 2017 can be found at Fringe Backstage.

How to Apply

Submissions will open from March 1 (9am EST) through April 15 (11:59 EST). There is NO application fee for the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival. (We are one of the very few fringe festivals in the U.S. that have no charge to apply.) Create an account at, fill out the application, submit your show to venues, and then cross your fingers!

We follow the “Edinburgh Model”. Like the Edinburgh Fringe, all shows are booked by the venues themselves. Following your application, you will hear from your selected venues directly. The Fringe does NOT book shows into venues itself. Your negotiations will be with the venues themselves.

Communication with Venues

During the application process, you will enter in all of your contact details. You may hear from the venues via phone or email. You will receive an email alert when you have a new update to your application from a venue. Please ensure that emails from are *not* going into your spam folder.

One Show/One Venue

We have a one show / one venue rule. Once you confirm your show with a venue, you cannot perform that same, exact show at any other venue. In the Fringe printed guide and website, your show will be listed as playing at one venue only. If you are an actor in a play or a musician in a band, you may perform at more than one venue IF you are also in a totally different play or band. (For example, John Doe can perform in Romeo & Juliet at Blackfriars and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Geva, but the same exact production of Romeo & Juliet cannot be performed at more than one venue.) That said, any individual or group may submit multiple productions to the Fringe: simply use a different email address for each application.


Once you confirm a deal with a venue, there is a one-time Fringe registration/marketing fee that is required. (Please note that the fee is per production and *not* per performance or exhibition.) The maximum that one show can pay for registration is $150. For greater detail on possible costs, please see the Fringe Backstage page on Costs.

Independent Producers

Fringe is open to anyone! To apply, you must be able to put together a fully fledged show. You’re not just writing a script or only coming up with a concept: you have to actually produce your show! As this is a fringe festival, the shows are NOT produced by the festival, and the venues themselves receive your “ready to go” shows that you’ve created. It offers you freedom and creative license to mold your own ideas into a fully realized performance as your own independent producer!

Fringe 101

For those who are new to the process, the Fringe has a webinar with information on our submission process, a walkthrough of filling out the online application, venue details, how fringe festivals came to be, tips, quips and much, much more.