The troop from "Phantasmagoria" is coming to the Orlando Fringe Festival.
The troop from “Phantasmagoria” is coming to the Orlando Fringe Festival.

ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and this year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
Veteran stage actor, director, playwright and drama professor at Valencia College John DiDonna is bringing a familiar production to Fringe this year: “Phantasmagoria,” his original creation about a circus-like troop that recreates classic tales of terror from the back pages of literature. Freeline Media talked to DiDonna about what the Phantasmagoria troop will be doing for the Fringe audiences this year.
FM: You’ve been producing new Phantasmagoria productions on a yearly basis. Is the Fringe production an original piece, a revival of an earlier one, or a combination of both?
John: A little of both! In keeping with our first touring show “Wicked Little Tales,” this second one is a “best of” — but in that is a complete reworking of the originals! New scripts, new staging, new approaches, new puppets and some brand new dances!
FM: How is Fringe Phantasmagoria different from your annual October productions?
John: Well for one, it is only one hour long, so it is a shortened version. Plus we are performing in the Margeson, which is a new space for us we have had to learn. I think it is also the excitement of getting the show up in 20 minutes before! Hah! And of course, bringing it to a new audience.
FM: Your Fringe production is listed as a “family friendly” show. Considering the often dark and eerie themes you use, is this a “kinder, gentler” Phantasmagoria?
John: Not at all. We recommend our shows for all ages usually — 7 and 8 and up. The horror we do is literary horror — the type of horror tales kids should be introduced to rather than just butchery and blood from slasher films, etc. — which I also love but is not part of Phantasmagoria. The idea is to transport them to another world.
FM: How do you think this Phantasmagoria production fits in with the overall zaniness of Fringe theater?
John: Oh, there is so much wonderful stuff in Fringe, from comedy to drama to sketches to dance to burlesque to porn that anything and everything is wonderful to present!
FM: After Fringe, what’s up next for the Phantasmagoria troop?
John: Well, we have not stopped more than two weeks in the last two years. We have appearances scheduled all throughout the summer, plus a longer version of “Wickeder Little Tales” playing Ocala in July, and then a possible booking the very next week as well in another Florida town — then of course we gear up for our October show. We looked at the calendar for October and we are performing constantly either at events or at our own show — some days we have three scheduled appearances and shows. Loving every minute of it! There are a number of venues still talking to us about ideas. . . so we are keeping each moment Whimsically Macabre!

“Phantasmagoria” is being performed in the Orange Venue (the Margeson Theater at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center) on the following dates:
* Saturday, May 21 at noon
* Sunday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m.
* Saturday, May 28 at 7:30 p.m.
* Sunday, May 29 at 9:30 p.m.
To learn more, check out the website at

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at

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