All the must-see shows and hidden gems at 2022 Rochester Fringe Festival 

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The Rochester Fringe Festival was one of the few annual festivals that managed to hang on through the early years of the pandemic, embodying the maxim of “The show must go on!”

But this year’s lineup of some 500 shows at more than 30 venues, including the return of some festival-favorite big acts, is reminiscent of the pre-pandemic Fringe. From theater to music, dance to daredevils, and improv comedy to immersive art, the festival has something for everyone.

Here’s a sampling of some must-see shows and hidden gems playing at Fringe, which runs from Sept. 13 through 24. For the full list of shows and everything there is to know about the festival, check out the complimentary Rochester Fringe Festival Guide inserted into this month’s CITY.


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“Cirque Du Fringe: Afterglow”
Spiegeltent, 7:30 p.m.
Real-life husband and wife Matt Morgan and Heidi Brucker Morgan are real-life clowns whose “Cirque du Fringe” variety shows have become must-see fixtures at Fringe. At times irreverent, raunchy, and weirdly romantic, these Las Vegas legends push the boundaries of circus and theater (when they last played Rochester in 2019, they used their newborn baby as a prop). Audiences familiar with their acts will recognize some recurring characters — such as America’s favorite inebriated royalty, Princess Wendy — but the comedy is never recycled. Expect something fresh and fun. Thirteen shows throughout the festival. Tickets range from $30-$36, except for the $22 kids’ matinee. DAVID ANDREATTA

Public Water Supply
Rochester Music Hall of Fame, 7:30 p.m.
Public Water Supply is a refreshing Rochester country band that seemed to come out of nowhere, but its members are stalwarts of the local scene. Frontman Iggy Marino has punched up the bands Walrus Junction and Nobody’s Marigold with his presence, guitarist Karis Gregory has led the soul band Baker Street Music, and vocalist Adrianna Noone is a dynamic singer-songwriter in her own right. As a quintet, Public Water Supply brings southwestern vibes and danceable hillbilly energy. The result is irresistible. Tickets $15. DANIEL J. KUSHNER


“Dirk Darrow: Magic of Future Past”
Geva Theatre Center, 8 p.m.
Duck Dodgers of the 24½th century has nothing on Tim Motely as Dirk Darrow, the time-traveling, Prohibition-era, psychic detective whose magic show against a backdrop of film-noir and futuristic sci-fi settings has amazed fringe festival fans around the globe. Charge up your flux capacitor because this show is a 1.21-gigawatt experience that transcends time and will keep you on your toes. Eight shows. Tickets $13. DA

“At Home with Garth Fagan Dance”
Garth Fagan Dance Studio, 7 p.m.
Garth Fagan Dance is a world treasure that we have right here in Rochester — with groundbreaking dance and movement performers, choreographers, and teachers. While others get to see them perform as they tour, in Rochester we also get to visit with them up close and personal in the studio. These Fringe dates are a chance to meet the new dancers and see new choreography and works-in-progress, and to do so at an important time of transition for the company. Sept. 14 through 16 and Sept. 21 through 23 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 17 and 24 at 3 p.m. Tickets start at $20. MONA SEGHATOLESLAMI

click to enlarge Marcelo Maccagnan. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Marcelo Maccagnan.
“Marcelo Maccagnan: Night Tales”
The Theater at Innovation Square: The Stage, 8 p.m.
Brazilian-born bass player Marcelo Maccagnan brings his energetic brand of jazz fusion to the Fringe Festival in support of his new album, “Night Tales.” A virtuosic talent and a mercurial composer, Maccagnan tickles your ears with acoustic and electronic sounds that will make you want to dance. This is jazz for the active listener. Tickets $15. DK


“When the Souls Rise”
Mount Hope Cemetery - North Entrance, 7 p.m.
This homegrown dance homage to Halloween from the perspective of departed souls has been performed at many festivals in many places since its inception in 1990. But it has never been played amid the eternal resting places of departed souls — until now. (Cue eerie whistling sound and a crack of thunder!) Mount Hope Cemetery is the perfect backdrop for this gorgeous evening of dance, music, and phantasmagoric wonder. The creatives behind the show are Anne Harris Wilcox, a University of Rochester dance professor, and Ward Hartenstein, a composer who has been in the local arts scene for 40 years. Three shows. Free. DA

click to enlarge Miss Latinx Rochester Pride Nicole Conde performs as part of Fiesta at the International Plaza. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Miss Latinx Rochester Pride Nicole Conde performs as part of Fiesta at the International Plaza.
Fiesta at the International Plaza
The International Plaza, 5:30 p.m.
Earlier this summer, Nicole Conde was crowned the very first Miss Latinx Rochester Pride at the International Plaza on North Clinton Avenue. She returns to the site of her coronation to share the performance stage with Latin jazz from the JazzTet, RIT’s music and dance group Alma de Mexico, and a parade showcasing members of the Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester. This free mini-festival within a festival kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month in style. MS

“One Man’s Trash: A Repurposed Circus”
The Theater at Innovation Square: The Stage, 7 p.m.
This show isn’t trash, but it does take place in a junkyard. In true Oscar-the-Grouch style, acrobats, aerialists, and clowns emerge from behind bins and beneath trash cans for a lighthearted adventure with subtext about recycling and reuse, and finding your own fun. Three-ring circuses are so passe, but a three-garbage-can circus sounds pretty cool. You can also catch the show on Sept. 16 and 17. Tickets are required and start at $18. JM

“The Flying Espanas: Flippin Metal Circus”
Parcel 5 on Main Street, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Public spectacles are a staple of the Fringe Festival, but there are none this year quite like this show. Death-defying acrobats swinging on the trapeze and riding motorcycles on a high wire overhead accompanied by a live soundtrack isn’t something you see every day in downtown’s premier open space. The Espanas, who have been wowing audiences with their aerial act since 1975, don’t look down. You won’t either. Music by the New York City-based band Mountain Girl. Four shows. Free. DA

“C’est Pas La, C’est Par La”
City Blue Imaging, 84 Scio St., 8:30 p.m.
This immersive show, whose names loosely translates from French to “It’s Not Here, It’s Over Here” or “It’s Not That Way, It’s This Way,” is a communal exercise in how crowds move. An empty space is filled with miles of string woven like a spider web, and spectators become actors who untangle it. In the process, they form small communities. The show, from France and inspired by a South Korean pro-democracy rally, has gotten rave reviews all over the world. Word has it that the string, once collected, will be set ablaze outside the host venue, City Blue Imaging, which burned to the ground two years ago. That’s gutsy. Two shows. Free. DA

“Charming Disaster: Our Lady of Radium”
The Spirit Room, 6 p.m.
A multimedia goth-folk performance based on the life of pioneering scientist Marie Curie, who discovered radium and devoted her later years to searching for ways to use radioactivity in medicine — sign me up! The performance consists of original songs that explore everything from the folklore of the mountains in which radium ores were mined to duels, alchemy, radioactive decay chains, scandal, and more. Other performances have been scheduled for Sept. 14 at 9 p.m. and Sept. 15 at 6 and 9 p.m. Tickets start at $15. JEREMY MOULE

click to enlarge Mary Goggin in "Runaway Princess." - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Mary Goggin in "Runaway Princess."
“Runaway Princess: A Hopeful Tale of Heroin, Hooking, and Happiness”
The Spirit Room, 7:30 p.m.
This one-woman show has been a hit everywhere it has played and won multiple awards in the process. Mary Goggin tells the true and inspiring story of her Irish Catholic upbringing, drug addiction, and prostitution on her way to carving out a life of what she calls “ultimate joy.” Her biting sense of humor and ability to play multiple characters make this show a must-see. Four shows. Tickets are $15. DA

“Band Geeks”
School of the Arts, 4:30 p.m.
Chances are your memories of your school band experience are buried somewhere in your consciousness. Do they make you smile? Cringe a bit? A Rochester Fringe-favorite comedy team (Kerry Young and Abby DeVuyst of “Bushwacked”) and musicians from the local chamber orchestra Cordancia have teamed up to mine those fond and awkward musical memories for some laughs. Trumpeter, composer, and middle school music teacher Matt Osika has created original music for the production, and the comedy is based on stories from oboist and Cordancia co-founder Kathleen Suher. Appropriately enough, the show is being held in a school gym. Tickets are $12. The band boosters march again Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. MS

click to enlarge Ashley Jones and Darren Stevenson of PUSH Physical Theatre in "Generic Male." - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Ashley Jones and Darren Stevenson of PUSH Physical Theatre in "Generic Male."
“Generic Male”
JCC CenterStage Theatre, 7 p.m.
The beloved hometown troupe PUSH Physical Theatre combines dance, theater, and storytelling like few other performance companies do. If there’s a helpful comp, it’s Pilobolus and its visceral, fantastical brand of dance. But part of what makes PUSH so special is its honesty, and its willingness to tackle serious social and psychological issues. In its latest production, “Generic Male: Just What We Need, Another Show About Men,” the group takes on toxic masculinity with an astonishing blend of humor, drama, absurdity, and beauty. What does it mean to be male today? PUSH will get you thinking in the right direction. The 13-and-over performance is reprised on Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 24 at 8:15 p.m. 15, $20. DK

“Thank You Kiss Presents: Slippery Slopes”
The Focus Theater, 9 p.m.
Local sketch comedy troupe Thank You Kiss brings a blend of skits, improvisation, and video to its performances. The SNL-style content ranges from relationship humor to social commentary and surreal musings (like what the figures in Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” paintings are going through in their daily lives). “Slippery Slopes” is alluded to in sketches titled “Medieval Insurance Man,” “America’s First Shock Jock,” and “Sexy DMV.” Group members Marc D’Amico, Megan Mack (producer of WXXI’s “Connections”), John Forrest Thompson, and Beth Winslow have studied and worked at renowned comedy theaters including iO, The Second City, and The Annoyance, and the group is a winner of The Missouri Review’s prestigious Miller Audio Prize for Humor. The 60-minute show repeats on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. $15. REBECCA RAFFERTY


School of the Arts, 6 p.m.
Taken out of context, the description of “Steven knows what you’re thinking and wants to prove it” sounds ominous, but “ExperiMENTAL” is a reality-bending interactive mind-reading experience. Whether Steven is really ready to dig into the dark corners of people’s psyches notwithstanding, audience participation is integral to this performance. Organizers say your individual thoughts and decisions make every performance a unique event and that you should bring a friend, a secret, and an open mind. In other words, embrace your inner enigma and have fun with it. The show is 13 and up. Tickets are required and cost $12. Performances also take place at 9 p.m. on Sept. 15, 16, and 17. JM
click to enlarge More Fire Glass Studio teams up with fivebyfive for a collaborative performance. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • More Fire Glass Studio teams up with fivebyfive for a collaborative performance.
“More Fire”
The Theater at Innovation Square, 5 p.m.
The contemporary classical ensemble fivebyfive is undoubtedly the local group most dedicated to performing the works of living composers. With its new performance at Rochester Fringe, the quintet deepens that reputation but with some unexpected collaborative partners: glass-blowing artists from More Fire Glass Studio. As the musicians perform pieces inspired by glass, the artists create objects live, via Zoom, from the safety of their studio. All ages show. $15. DK


Ellison Park, 5 p.m.
This free performance is no simple walk in the park, even though it’s set in Monroe County’s Ellison Park. Creators Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, Trish Corcoran, Andrea A. Gluckman, Greg Woodsbie, and Stella Wang have woven together dance, music, photography, visual art, and storytelling to conjure human and ecological memories of Ellison Park, once the site of a colonial-era trading post and fort. The performance is intended to serve as a walking art installation, and the audience will be encouraged to move through the performance space to watch the dance, view photographs, and more. Tickets are not required. If you can’t make this date, catch earlier shows at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 and 18. JM

“We Will Give You Wings”
Roc City Circus, 6 p.m.
This year marks Roc City Circus’s Fringe Festival debut. If you’re into trapeze artists and other aerial performers, this performance is tailor-made for you. The story follows a heroine as she collects “feathers of wisdom,” gained through navigating love, joy, sadness, and reflection. Her prize is inner strength. Aerial acrobats are dedicated, awe-inspiring performers and as an added bonus, Roc City Circus has upstate’s only flying trapeze. This event screams Fringe, so why not give the new folks a chance. Additional performances are scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 18, and 6 p.m. Sept. 23 and 24. Tickets are $15. JM


“A Night at the Cabaret”
The Spirit Room: Bar Room, 9 p.m.
Is this the Fringe equivalent of slow jams? Soprano Sophia Mostafa of Rochester is making her return to the festival and will once again serenade audience members with art songs and arias. Jeff Spevak, WXXI arts and life editor, wrote of Mostafa’s 202o Fringe performance that she “sings with conviction, with a dramatic timbre that projects a gravitas that demands the listener’s attention.” Mostafa is scheduled to perform again at 7:30 p.m. on Sept.21 and 6 p.m. Sept. 22. Tickets start at $14. JM

“Gilbert and Sullivan’s Improbable New Musical: Less Miserable”
JCC CenterStage Theatre: Hart Theater, 7 p.m.
It’s a madcap idea that’s just right for the Rochester Fringe Festival: What if the kings of operetta, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, were around to rewrite the smash-hit musical “Les Misérables” in their own very imitable style? In its 45th year, the local Gilbert and Sullivan troupe Off-Monroe Players take on the American premiere of this show, which first appeared in 2019 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Musical lovers are sure to enjoy this wonderfully indulgent bit of fun.
Performances are also scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 and 2 p.m. Sept. 18. $8, $10. DK


click to enlarge Bruce Molsky. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Bruce Molsky.
Bruce Molsky
Eastman School of Music: Hatch Recital Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Folk musician Bruce Molsky specializes in the kind of down-home, backwoods sound that’ll warm your heart and get your toes a-tappin'. A fiddler, guitarist, and banjo player with a passion for the songs of Appalachia, this Grammy-nominated artist has released albums in the double digits and has won the appreciation of fellow musicians such as singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz and guitarists Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, and Chris Eldridge. Don’t let this concert fly under your radar. $20. DK

“If These Walls Could Speak”
St. Joseph’s Park, 6 p.m.
The skeleton of St. Joseph’s Church frames one of the most unique public parks in Rochester. It will be the location of what organizers call “an experiential, multi-sensory, site-specific dance performance” within the ruins by Natalia Lisina — she’s a member of the BIODANCE troupe — and other artists. The participatory performance will blend dance, music, and spoken word to explore themes of memory and loss. Tickets start at $15 for this performance (and a previous one on Sept. 14) and are required. JM


“My Evil Twin”
Geva Theatre Center, 9 p.m.
Real-life identical twins and Rochesterians John and Jim Demler star in “My Evil Twin,” a charming musical that serves as a comedic memoir about their lives and relationship with one another. Both Demlers possess mellifluous bass-baritone voices that boom without losing any musicality. Composer Eric Sawyer and writer Harley Erdman fill out the story as the two singers navigate their connection as well as their rivalry. The first performance of the 13-and-over show is on Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m. $18, $20. DK

click to enlarge Musekiwa Chingodza plays the mbira at this year's Rochester Fringe Festival. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Musekiwa Chingodza plays the mbira at this year's Rochester Fringe Festival.
“Hungwe: Mbira Music of Zimbabwe”
Eastman School of Music: Hatch Recital Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Zimbabwe’s mbira, or thumb piano, is an instrument with a long history and a pleasantly melodic percussion sound. This show is a chance to hear a master of the instrument, Musekiwa Chingodza, with his longtime collaborator, Jennifer Kyker of the Eastman School of Music, and singer-percussionist Memory Makuri, who often encourages listeners to join in by clapping, singing, and dancing. You can connect with this music as medicine, sacred experience, or just beautiful sounds. Tickets are $10. MS


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park: Five Star Plaza
The Oakland, California-based troupe BANDALOOP made a big impression at the 2012 and 2013 Rochester Fringe Festivals, when the pioneer of “vertical dance” used the side of the Five Star Bank building on Chestnut Street as its performance space. This year marks the first time since the 2013 festival that Bandaloop will perform, and the spectacle of spectacles is sure to draw a heavy crowd to neighboring Martin Luther King Jr. Park, where audience members will be able to get a clear view of the performers deftly maneuvering their way around Rochester’s sixth-tallest building. It sounds like daredevils combining mountain climbing, aerial arts, and modern dance — Fringe vets will tell you the BANDALOOP is a must-see. But here’s the best part: The 20-minute performances, which are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 and 24, are free. JM
click to enlarge A still from the documentary "Ethel." - IMAGE PROVIDED
  • A still from the documentary "Ethel."
“Ethel” — Live to Picture with Empire Film and Media Ensemble
Kilbourn Hall at Eastman School of Music, 7:30 p.m.
Miriam Cutler is a prolific movie and TV composer, whose specialty is documentaries. Her music is heard in “RBG," “Love, Gilda,” “Lost in La Mancha,” and a number of docs featured on PBS and HBO. In 2013, she wrote the music for Rory Kennedy’s documentary about her mother, Ethel Kennedy. Any way you slice it, the experience of seeing the Empire Film and Media Ensemble (EFAME) accompany movies live to picture (like they did with the documentary “The Biggest Little Farm” a few years ago) is pretty special. Plus, the composer will be here in person for the performance and a talk at Eastman. Admission is free for the movie and the music, conducted by EFAME Artistic Director Grant O’Brien. MS

DivaZ: A Musical Tribute to Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Tina Turner
School of the Arts: Allen Main Stage Theatre, 8:30 p.m.
Zahyia is one of Rochester’s best, most charismatic soul-R&B singers, at once fiercely emotive and impossibly smooth. Formerly with the band Vanishing Sun and a compelling original solo artist in her own right, Zahyia pays homage to three of the most important voices of the 20th century, with backing from The Benevolent Mischief Arkestra. A guaranteed powerhouse performance that repeats at 9 p.m. on Sept. 24. Tickets are $21 and the performances are for ages 13 and older. DK


The Largest Juggling Lesson Ever (Maybe)
Strong National Museum of Play Garage – Top Level, 12 p.m.
Busy parents know all about juggling kids, work, school, schedules, and meals. But keeping three balls in the air is something else. Local jugglers Ted Baumhauer and Jeff Peden attempt to teach you how at this once-in-a-lifetime event in which the instructors look to break a world-record with the largest juggling lesson that ever was. Everyone who attends will get three juggling balls. If you don’t think that’s cool, then there’s no hope for you. DA

Bebop to Bach
Spiegelgarden, 12 p.m.
As much as I love attending shows and experiencing the art that others create, I have to admit I sometimes have trouble sitting still when not making music myself. So I love that there is this opportunity for kids and adults alike to make some noise with homemade musical instruments. Supplies will be on hand to build an instrument, and then we’re all invited to join in this performance by a group led by Harley School’s strings teacher Kelly Stevenson, starting at 12:15 p.m. in the Spiegelgarden, at the corner of Main and Gibbs across from Eastman Theatre. MS
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