Virtual Fringe show application runs June 18 – July 31

Organizers of the 2020 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival announce that their ninth annual festival will take place as planned on Tuesday, September 15 – Saturday, September 26, but major changes are required in order to address public health and safety concerns during the continued threat of COVID-19.

“Most important is that the festival be delivered in a safe manner,” explains Festival Producer Erica Fee. “We love our performers and our audience members and we will do all that it takes to keep everyone safe and healthy this year, so that we can enjoy in-person festivals in future years.”

Due to the known threat of an aerosolized virus being transmitted indoors, the Fringe is moving the majority of its shows online. Many other large 2020 fringe festivals have done the same, including Orlando, Minnesota and CincyFringe, often finding great success in attracting national and international shows to which their audiences wouldn’t have access otherwise.

“Among other benefits, the arts provide a platform for voices to be heard and allow communities to address difficult issues,” says Fee. “We needed to make sure that this platform exists this year in one way or another.”

To that end, the festival will feature a new, open-access, online Virtual Fringe, applications for which will run June 18 – July 31 at rochesterfringe.com. Shows that have previously applied for the 2020 in-person festival and are interested in virtual participation can simply log into their current applications and answer some additional questions.

“We at KeyBank are very proud to sponsor the Fringe, which has become an integral part of our community and a renowned celebration of the arts,” says Phil Muscato, KeyBank Rochester Market President. “The virtual performances featured in this year’s festival will be a wonderful celebration of Rochester’s creative spirit and will continue to bring incredible energy and notoriety to our great city.”

The festival itself will also curate some safely-enjoyed outdoor and drive-in shows, to be announced at a Virtual BIG REVEAL in August.

“Our mission remains the same: to provide platforms for artists and to make the arts readily accessible to audiences,” Fee adds. “We have all seen artists rise to the challenge of this pandemic, and I hope that they – and audiences – will be excited by this opportunity for even more creative exploration.”

The 12-day 2019 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival featured more than 650 performances and events – over 200 of them free – and broke all previous attendance records with more than 100,000 visitors.

From its five-day debut in 2012, the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival has become one of the fastest-growing and most-attended fringe festivals in the U.S.  It is also the largest multi-arts festival in New York State. As a bifurcated festival, it allows for a combination of headline entertainment curated by the non-profit Rochester Fringe Festival as well as an open-access portion programmed by the venues themselves. Renowned among the world’s 200+ fringe festivals for its spectacular, outdoor, free events as well as its large number of free performances in general, Rochester’s Fringe was also the first in North America to feature a Spiegeltent. From comedy to theatre, from music to dance, from visual art and film to spoken word, and from children’s entertainment to multi-disciplinary collaborations, the festival’s diversity also extends to venues that span the gamut from parked cars to grand theatres.


Rochester Fringe Festival connects and empowers artists, audiences, venues, educational institutions, and the community to celebrate, explore, and inspire creativity via an annual, multi-genre arts festival. It was pioneered by several of Rochester’s esteemed cultural institutions including Geva Theatre Center, the George Eastman House and Garth Fagan Dance; up-and-coming arts groups like PUSH Physical Theatre and Method Machine; and higher-education partners such as the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology. The organization’s overarching mission is to make arts readily accessible to audiences, as well as to provide a platform for artists to share their ideas and develop their skills, while stimulating downtown Rochester both culturally and economically.

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