In its 10th year, the Fringe Festival faces a COVID challenge
The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival opens Tuesday, with over 425 live and virtual performances over the next 12 days. But after more than 18 months of COVID-19 caution, what will Rochester Fringe look like?
Will the pandemic blunt the rapid growth of this event, now in its 10th year?
“I see overall, definitely, an awareness, a reaction to some of the social advancements and social issues that have taken place, that have been raised recently,” said event producer Erica Fee. “But I also see a lot of joy here, and a happiness to be able to come together again.”
We will remember every day what we have been through and are going through. Masks will be mandatory for all indoor events, with proof of vaccination for spectators 12 years and older.
All over the world, fringe festivals tend to reflect the social concerns of the day. And this year, in addition to COVID, the Rochester Fringe shows will address recent and long-standing concerns, such as Black Lives Matter. Me too. The environment. Gender identity. Immigration.
“We really didn’t find that our venues tended to shy away from hosting these shows,” Fee said.
Some aspects of the Rochester Fringe will be familiar from years past, following a 2020 festival that was presented entirely online. Silent nightclub. Pedestrian access. Gospel Sunday. The intimate comedy of the women of Bushwhacked at the intersection of Gibbs and E. Main Street, nicknamed “One Fringe Place” for Rochester Fringe.
The free Pedestrian Drive-In movies at One Fringe Place return, with the “Drunk Bus” screening at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The independent film was actually shot in Rochester, which posed as Kent, Ohio. Rochester landmarks scattered throughout the film: World Wide News on St. Paul Street is somewhat costumed to make it look like it’s in Kent, renamed World Wide Food; The Rochester Institute of Technology is located at Kent State University. And, of course, most Rochesters will recognize the piles of snow that accumulate in city parking lots over the winter.
As some older venues in the East End District are not yet available, this year’s Rochester Fringe shows are spread out further. Released to Brighton and the new JCC CenterStage Theater. The glittering Spiegeltent, anchoring One Fringe Place, was unable to leave Belgium due to travel restrictions linked to COVID-19. In its place will be an Italian circus tent, with sides that open, letting in fresh air.
And there will only be one big free event on “The Five,” the grassy terrain off E. Main Street, previously known – and probably still known to most Rochesterians – as Parcel 5. Rochester’s Joywave hosted and is headlining a special event. gig for the last day of Rochester Fringe, September 25th. Joywave will be joined by a few national performers and some of the best the city has to offer in then-dancing rock band KOPPS, pop harpist Mikaela Davis and ukulele charmer Cammy Enaharo.
The full schedule is available on rochesterfringe.com. Go to “Find a show”, create a list of events by date, place and genre, then press the “Filter” button.