ORLANDO – It was all quite naughty at times, with a dash here and there of bad taste.
It was comedy and music, variety-show style, although there was a sense of bitterness as well – comedic bitterness, in any case.
“What a way to welcome in the holidays,” said the guest host, Michael Wanzie, “with a bunch of bitter, bitter, rehashed Fringe artists who didn’t get in.”
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 was in November. But for those craving an early Fringe binge, they got a big dose of it on Monday night during Merry Fringe-In Christmas, a holiday extravaganza and fund-raiser for the spring theater festival.
Held at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, it was an opportunity for Fringe artists to offer a glimpse of what they would be producing at the next festival – and for some of the artists who did not get chosen in the lottery system to offer a look at what audiences would not be seeing.
As with all Fringe shows, it’s all a mixed bag, said Wanzie, the artistic director at the Parliament House Resort.
“There’s a reason tonight’s show costs $10,” he gagged.
Michael Marinaccio, the producer of the festival, noted that this holiday-themed Fringe event was a first for the festival.
“We always do a fall fund-raiser, and historically, we do it around Halloween,” he said. “But there’s so much going on at that time, so we decided Christmas might be a better time of year, and it came after Lottery, so knowing who got selected, we figured we would have more fun stuff to announce.”
Wanzie and singer/comedian Mitzi Morris were the hosts of the event, which draw a solid crowd.
“This is amazing,” Morris said as she looked up at the audience.
“We’ve got a great show for you tonight, lots of cool acts,” Marinaccio said. “This is our first annual – a great crowd. I think we need to do this again next year.”
There are changes going on behind the scenes for Fringe, including the addition of three new venues where shows will be performed.
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 in 2012, with more sold-out shows – 60 — than ever before.
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. Theatre Downtown at 2113 N. Orange Ave., will be a new venue, and Fringe will also be adding shows at The Venue, 511 Virginia Drive., 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.
Fringe also continues to have friends in high places, said George Wallace, executive director of the Orlando Fringe.
”A couple of years ago, we did a Hard Rock commemorative pin, and we are proud to say we’ll be partnering again with Hard Rock Cafe on those pins,” Wallace said.
Marinaccio said Fringe decided a holiday fund-raiser in December would be a perfect way to get the community into an early Fringe mood.
“We wanted to kick off the holidays in Fringe style,” he said, adding that they also wanted to open up this event to those artists who didn’t make the Lottery this time. Several agreed to perform at the fund-raiser, Marinaccio noted.
“It’s a testament to those artists that they missed it and can still like the Fringe,” he said.
He added that the next festival in May could likely be the biggest and best one yet.
“We’ve already got 95 show in the Fringe Festival,” Marinaccio said. “It’s really exciting. We’re really looking at a 15 day festival this year, which is huge for us.”
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