ORLANDO – Eighteen years ago, Michael Marinaccio came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida, and set out to become an actor in the local theater scene.
He’s done quite a bit of live performing ever since, including 17 shows over the past 15 years at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, a program he loves being a part of.
“Without the Fringe, I would never have become the artist I am today,” Marinaccio said. “It’s a huge part of my soul. I came to Orlando when I was just barely 19 years old, I went to UCF, and I started doing work professionally outside of UCF that first year. My first Fringe was in 1997. In those 15 years I’ve done 17 shows. I doubled up a couple of years.”
Today, Marinaccio accepted a new, and very different, role with the Fringe, when the festival’s board of directors announced that it had hired Marinaccio as its new executive director.
“I am extremely excited to have Mike on board the Fringe team, and I look forward to working together to present the best Fringe Festival in the United States,” said George Wallace, the Fringe’s general manager. “He is well known in the arts community and an outstanding choice.”
Marinaccio replaces Beth Marshall, who is now the producing artistic director of Beth Marshall Presents. To find her replacement, the Orlando Fringe Board of Directors set up an advisory panel that included volunteers, staff, artists and audience members who were recruited to help develop the role of the next producer. A search committee comprised of six community arts leaders and two members of the board of directors then had the task of interviewing candidates.
Marinaccio said he decided to apply for the job because he’s been a part of Central Florida’s theater community, and the Fringe, for so very long.
“It was a long process, about two months, with lots of separate interviews — and finally it’s become a reality,” he said. “It’s a little surreal, still. I feel like it’s been 15 years in the making, because I’ve been an artist at Fringe for that long.”
And not just the Fringe. Marinaccio has been a veteran of some of Orlando’s best known centers for live shows.
“I’ve worked at Mad Cow Theatre since the very first season, almost as long as Fringe,” he said. “I started working at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre since 1998. At the Orlando Repertory Theatre, their second year of existence I was working there. I’m actually still in runs for a show, ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ at the Rep right now.“
That means Marinaccio has worked with just about everyone in Greater Orlando who has ever been an actor, director, writer, producer, stage manager or designer for years – not a bad resume for a Fringe director.
“I’ve got connections all over this community, and I think that’s a big part of what helped me to sell myself to the Fringe board and the search committee,” he said. “There are no secrets — everybody knows me.”
Fringe President David F. Baldree also praised the choice, saying “Michael is a wonderful addition to the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival team. We are excited for him to get started.”
Marinaccio said he knows he’s taken on an awesome task.
“I think the responsibility of the producer is the producer is always different than when Beth first took the job,” he said. “Before Beth, it was not only doing George’s job and Beth’s job, but having to find the venues, so I don’t think it’s going to be as time intensive or as insane as the position has been in the past. That being said, there are still lots of artists to coordinate and time slots to coordinate. “
The Fringe Festival will be held next May at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and the Orlando Rep at Loch Haven Park.
Marinaccio said he understands that selling the Fringe to general audiences will be one of his top priorities.
“One of the biggest things I want to achieve as producer of the Fringe is not so much making changes to the Fringe,” he said. “I’ve been involved in it for 15 years, I don’t want to change the Fringe, I love what makes it the Fringe. What I really want to do is not so much change the Fringe as change the perception of the Fringe. I still think there’s a perception of the Fringe that goes back to our beginnings, and people who go to the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre don’t go to Fringe because they think it’s amateurish. They think all we have is amateur theater, which is so not the case. We’re 21 years old.”
The 2012 Festival opens May 16 and ends May 28. For more information, log on to www.orlandofringe.org or call 407-648-007.
It has hosted between 75 and 80 shows in past years – quite a lot of productions to oversee, Marinaccio acknowledged.
“I’m just juggling a lot,” he said. “I think having kids has kind of prepared me for everything in life. I think that for the first couple of years after my second son was born, I was home with the kids all day while my wife was working a full time job. Having two kids in diapers prepared me for everything.”
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.