Before You Apply
The Rochester Fringe Festival: one of New York State’s boldest festivals.
The Fringe in a Nutshell
Since its debut in 2012, the Rochester Fringe Festival has become one of the most successful fringe festivals in the U.S., attracting more than 750,000 attendees since its outset. This multi-genre performing arts festival now boasts over 500 annual performances – more than a quarter of which are free – in 30+ venues in downtown Rochester, New York. 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 Rochester Fringe Festival is the largest multidisciplinary performing arts festival in New York State. 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 2019 festival saw 59,600 performances of 3,841 shows in 323 venues and lasted the entire month of August. It grosses over £100 million 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 representatives from the University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, Rochester Institute of Technology, Bond Shoeneck & King PLLC, Boylan Code, amongst others.
Where Rochester Fringe Takes Place
The Fringe hub is located in Rochester’s East End, but venues are also found in the Neighborhood of the Arts, the Joseph Avenue area, Midtown, and at JCC Rochester, which is located on the Brighton/Henrietta town line. Good food and drink, free outdoor entertainment, street performances, buskers, and a fun and festive party atmosphere are
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 snappy load-ins and load-outs. 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.
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. . 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 and application that will go live here on Fringe Backstage on February 22nd.
How to Apply: Live, In-Person Shows
Submissions will open from February 13th at 9am Eastern through March 21st at 5pm Eastern this year. Starting February 22nd, create an account at backstage.rochesterfringe.com, fill out the application, submit your show to venues, and then cross your fingers!
Like the Edinburgh Fringe, shows are booked by the venues themselves. Following your application, you will hear from your selected venues directly. The Fringe does NOT book shows from these applications into venues. Your negotiations will be with the venues themselves.
There is NO application fee for the Rochester Fringe Festival. (We are one of the very few fringe festivals in the U.S. that has no charge to apply.)
Communication with Venues
During the application process, you will enter in all of your contact details. You may hear from the venues or from Fringe directly 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. On the Fringe 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 MuCCC and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the JCC, 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.
We know that, now more than ever, Fringe artists and venues need advice, support, and guidance. We will be with you every step of the way.
Due to the continued financial hardships caused by COVID-19, we have maintained reduced registration fees for this year. The one-time Fringe registration fee is *not* a source of revenue for Fringe or performance venues but rather a necessary cost to support performances.
The registration fee is ONLY due after a show has applied, been accepted, and has settled on a deal with a venue.
The fee has been structured to accommodate shows of all types and sizes:
For venues with 100 seats or more:
- One production with multiple, ticketed performances/exhibits: $125
- One production with free, non-ticketed performance/exhibits: $100
- One production with one ticketed performance/exhibit only: $100
For venues with 99 seats or less:
- One production with multiple, ticketed performances/exhibits: $75
- One production with multiple, free, non-ticketed performances/exhibits: $50
- One production with one ticketed or free performance/event only: $50
Online Shows (either live or pre-recorded): $25
Benefits of Registration
- Marketing, including show listing on RochesterFringe.com
- PR Support, including sample press releases, a media contact sheet, and guidance from our publicist
- Tickets for your show! That’s right – the Fringe runs a centralized box office – online, via phone, and in-person so that you don’t have to.
- Health & Safety - The Fringe will adhere to the latest guidelines and carry out whatever it takes to keep performers and attendees safe.
- Professional Development workshops and webinars to further your career and your show’s progress
- Arts Industry support – promotion to those from the arts industry who come to scout shows. Even America’s Got Talent has scouted in Rochester! We’ll also directly connect you with promoters who would like to speak with you further.
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!
For those who are new to the process, the Fringe will be holding a free webinar for those new to the process on Thursday, February 8th at 7:30pm Eastern. To register, click here. If you are unable to attend, an on-demand recording will be made available following the session, but please do regsiter in order to be sent that link. This will cover 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.
Want to Meet the Venues?
We will also be holding an in-person session so that prospective shows can meet venue managers! This will occur on Saturday, February 10th at 1pm at CenterStage Theatre at the JCC, 1200 Edgewood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618. Registration is not necessary, but is appreciated. To do so, please click here.