ORLANDO – The 22nd Annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival won’t be held until next May, and the lottery for selecting which artists produce shows there doesn’t happen until November.
But in the meantime, there’s a lot of changes going on behind the scenes for Fringe – including the addition of three new venues where shows will be performed.
“We’ll have more than 90 shows next year,” said George Wallace, the general manager of Fringe.
Last May, the two-week long event known as the 21st annual Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival had its more successful year yet. Fringe achieved some records this year, with more sold-out shows than ever before.
In May 2011, Wallace noted, Fringe sold out 32 of its 70-plus shows. This year, they doubled that score.
“We oversold more than the year before,” Wallace said, adding that this was the main reason why Fringe opted to expand the number of venues where shows can be performed.
“We had over 60 sellout shows and I said we wouldn’t add more venues until we did that,” Wallace said.
To make money, the Fringe rents out the theatrical space at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center and at the Orlando Repertory Theatre in Loch Haven Park, to the artists who bring their shows to the festival. The Fringe organizers then charge $8 pins that the patrons need to purchase to get into any of the shows.
The artists are free to charge whatever they want for admission to their respective productions — usually at prices that range from $7 to $11, with special discounts being offered at some shows. The money generated from every ticket that gets sold is given back to the artists.
Because of the strong box office this year, Fringe decided to go ahead with its expansion, Wallace said.
“We just added three new venues, for next year’s Fringe,” he said.
One will be at Theatre Downtown, at 2113 N. Orange Ave. That’s just a few blocks away from Loch Haven Park, since Theatre Downtown is at the corner of Orange Avenue and Princeton Avenue.
“The great thing about Theatre Downtown is it is the longest continuous live theater in Orlando, and we’re the longest running Fringe festival, so it made perfect sense,” Wallace said.
Fringe will also be adding shows at The Venue. Located at 511 Virginia Drive., this is a new performing arts center in an 85-seat theater, founded by singer/comedian and performer Blue Starr, and the new home for her BabyBlueStar Productions.
Blue had one of the sellout shows last May at Fringe, “Blue & Todd: Too Drunk To Fringe,” a musical/comedy revue done in collaboration with artist Todd Kimbro.
Both of these new venues, Wallace said, are easy to walk to from Loch Haven Park.
“We wanted to expand, but not too quickly,” he said. “Everything is within walking distance. We’re also exploring transportation options, maybe with golf carts, to get people around. We’re currently working on that.”
Fringe is also closing down its Red Venue, which is one of two outdoor venues, this one in the courtyard right behind the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. The other outdoor venue is the stage in the Beer Tent on the grounds of Loch Haven Park in-between Lowndes and the Orlando Rep.
“There will be no more outdoor venues, except for the outside stage” in the Beer Tent, Wallace said.
The Red Venue will be moved inside the Lowndes Center, to the second floor, in a spacious rehearsal room known as the McLaughlin Studio.
“It was time to move back inside,” Wallace said, noting that artists were complaining about performing outside in the often sweltering summer heat, about the noise from medical helicopters transporting patients to the next door Florida Hospital, and about evening rain storms.
By moving inside, “There’s no more chance of getting electrocuted by lightning or having hhelicopters overhead,” he said.
Fringe shows typically run for just 60 minutes or less, because so many different shows are being performed daily. Two of the current venues, Silver and Orange, allow for slightly longer 90 minute shows. The addition of The Venue and Theatre Downtown will also provide for longer shows, Wallace said.
“At the Silver and Orange venues, we’ll keep it at 90 minutes, and at Theatre Downtown, we’ll allow 90 minute shows there, too,” he said. “The Venue will allow 75-minute shows.”
Finally, Fringe will be opening a new office on Alden Road, on Oct. 1.
“Our new office will be much bigger” than the current one on Amelia Street, Wallace said.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.