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30 Years of Orlando Fringe Memories: 2019, the 28th Festival

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In 2016, I celebrated the 25th Orlando Fringe Festival in a series of articles describing the theater festival leading up to the milestone each year. This year, in honor of the 30th edition of the oldest Fringe Festival in the US, we’re going to continue this series every month with a column leading to the big 3-0 in May.



A group of people flying kites in front of a building: A planned collaboration between Orlando Fringe and Orlando Ballet to use the dance group's new space, Harriett's Orlando Ballet Center, did not materialize.


© Orlando Sentinel
A planned collaboration between Orlando Fringe and Orlando Ballet to use the dance group’s new space, Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Center, did not materialize.

Along with other art groups in central Florida, the Orlando Fringe found a helping hand in the Orlando city government in the months leading up to the 2019 festival.

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State legislation had gutted the artistic and cultural distribution of the year; Organizations received only 6% of the funds they qualified for in the annual budget process. You read that right: 6%.

The City of Orlando rose, donating $ 235,728 to Orlando Fringe and 18 other groups.

“Through this investment we can further our commitment to the thriving and growth of our cultural organizations,” said Buddy Dyer, Orlando Mayor.

And the edge thrived and grew in 2019.

“It was really the best full year ever,” said General Manager Alauna Friskics. The number of visitors rose by 3.5% to almost 75,000 people – although there was no unforgettable presence on the fringes. Barbara Solomon, a longtime fringe producer with a booming voice that could be clearly heard in Loch Haven Park, died of cancer in the fall.

Solomon was named “Mayor of Orange Avenue” after the title of a 2009 Fringe show she appeared on.

Even if the lawn was less colorful without Solomon, the actors saw more green. The 2019 fringe artists posted ticket sales of $ 446,227, and the average profit per artist also hit a new high.

Visual artists sold more art and made more money. Cash sales rose 17% to hit $ 117,000. And you want a really big number? Marketing Manager Brian Sikorski reported that the Fringe’s social media accounts had been viewed more than 10 million times.

So what was it about?

Well, Neil Arthur James’ high-octane South Gothic fable entitled “Dandy Darkly’s All Aboard!” won the Top Critics’ Choice Award. Other critically acclaimed shows included Jeff Jones’ Disney parody “The Animatronicans: Under New Management,” the return of Eric Pinder’s comic “Driving Miss Cherry Blossom,” Steve Schneider’s soap opera parody “Black Wood,” and the downright bizarre But entertaining Mochinosha Puppet Company “Space Hippo” which I – with memorably unusual characters like Food Robot and Lizard Man – called “the stuff Fringe is made of”.

Theater-goers also flocked to parodies of the films “Mean Girls” and “Showgirls”.

Oh, there were serious shows too. The “girl” from Beth Marshall Presents has done a lot of research on growing up women in America. Paris Crayton III was hailed for his appearance on “Spare the Rod” about his troubled childhood.

There was serious business behind the scenes too.

The Fringe has reached an underserved section of the theater community with a new interpretation program for American Sign Language under the direction of Mandy Longo.

Six shows featured sign language translation as part of the pilot program – which also turned the interpreters into fringe performers.

“I need to convey that it’s a tall, stocky man with a deep voice who speaks, or it’s a sweet southern beauty – in addition to the movement of language,” Longo explained. “Our job is to be the same person as the character who is speaking. It is a challenge. “

The Fringe also debuted a “Safe Spaces” program directed by associate producer Lindsay Taylor. Performers and volunteers have been asked to sign agreements to ensure they treat people with respect. Volunteers also received training on how to connect patrons to counseling services if the festival’s artistic content annoyed them with remembering past traumas in their own lives.

Fringegoers were made aware of the Services through pre-recorded announcements. Director Laurel Clark said this was a perfect solution for serious shows like “The Hammered Dog” about an abusive relationship.

Clark was also a Critics’ Pick winner, by the way. The longtime fringe champion was named best director for her work on “Hammered Dog” and the bubbly “Shirley Valentine”.

While the Fringe has nurtured new talent in the past, its 2019 shows helped a new theater.

The West End Theater opened in Sanford in September. One of the ways it got its name: The venue has hosted encore productions of Fringe favorites like the Josephine Baker organic musical “Josephine” and Chase Padgett’s ode to music “6 Guitars”.

With cheekier shows, the burlesque troupe Corsets & Cuties – another group of Fringe regulars – would also find a home in the theater if the Fringe spread their love.

To find links to the original 24 columns in this series on a single webpage, search Google for “Orlando Sentinel Fringe Memories”. The newer columns can be found at OrlandoSentinel.com/arts. Find me on Twitter @matt_on_arts or email me at [email protected]

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Janet Smith