Editor’s Note: The 32nd Annual International Fringe Theatre Festival will be held May 16-29, 2023 at different venues in and around Loch Haven Park and downtown Orlando. Freeline Media will be previewing the shows right up to the festival date.
ORLANDO — Let’s say you’re a veteran Orlando Fringe fan and know there’s going to be plenty of zany comedies and high energy dance pieces, but you’re hungry for something darker, more complex and more challenging. How about a look at deadly cults, cruel victim shaming, and our obsession with true crimes? That could be just what you’re looking for.
You’re in luck this year, because Goth Chameleon Productions and its producing director, Orlando Shakes resident artist Timothy Williams, is delivering the show Multitudes: A Dream Play Solo Performance in One Act. Expect this production to have plenty to say about cults and why they ensnare so many people.
While researching the subject, Williams noted, he ended up with a lot to work with.
“We live in an age where technology has fanned the fires of extremism to such an extent that it has become almost impossible to find a balance between building a healthy community and looking out for ourselves,” noted Williams. “I wanted to document the struggle our egos face seeking identity in a landscape of conflicting ideologies and infinite truths.”
The production, which is Williams’ play writing debut, is described by its author as “a one-man satire of a true-crime docudrama that skewers our obsession with cults, the personalities who lead them, and society’s need to shame the victims who succumb to their manipulation.”
During the show, Williams will portray multiple characters, while also putting “a meta spin on the rocky landscape of hypocrisy and ideological fervor in this faux TED Talk on corrupted ensembles and malignant narcissism.”
Heavy stuff! Suitably intrigued, Freeline Media wanted to learn more about how Multitudes went from concept to full-scale Fringe production.
What’s the Background Story to this Play?
Freeline Media reached out to Timothy Williams to get the scoop on Multitudes.
Freeline Media: What’s the genesis of the show Multitudes?
TIMOTHY WILLIAMS: Two years ago a friend of mine suggested I write a one man show about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. After a year of reading books and streaming endless shows and documentaries about serial killers and cults, the seed of that specific gruesome chapter in our history germinated into an expose of the victim shaming that often accompanies sensationalized accounts of people who fall prey to frauds and megalomaniacs. The script evolved into a meta take on the topic, drawing from the theatre world’s recent scandals of documented abuse by producers, directors, and toxic actors in an industry that some might consider a cult in and of itself.
FM: True crime docudramas are all over TV today. What do you hope to convey about our obsession with true crime tales?
TW: There’s a voyeur in all of us. I think we have an innate tendency to passively distance ourselves from, while simultaneously entertaining, the very real possibility that we could wind up playing a role in one of those shows ourselves. It’s an existential rollercoaster of schadenfreude and thrill seeking. I think that’s why many of the documentaries steer towards sensationalism.
FM: Playing multiple characters is always an interesting challenge. How does the show approach that task?
TW: The most common method of performing multiple characters in a one man show is done by a central storyteller who switches from one character’s perspective to another over the course of the narrative, and I’m a big fan of executing that technique in rapid succession, as you might do when reading dialogue between several characters aloud from a book. There’s an opportunity there to showcase vocal and physical versatility while creating an illusion that requires the audience to actively participate in theater of the mind. Joshua Chiet provides musical themes, as well, and that helps to track the characters’ arcs throughout the play.
FM: Discussion of fanning the flames of extremism sounds like heavy stuff! Is the play hoping to find a middle ground for the audience?
TW: I’m always interested in finding a middle ground. Otherwise I’d be dabbling in certainty, which I believe to be the death of critical thinking and completely antithetical to the play’s intent.
FM: It sounds like you have a lot of creative ideas to get across in a one-man show.
TW: There’s a lot going on, but it’s all framed within sympathetic relationships and a story in which I hope audiences will be invested.
Where Can I See Multitudes in May?
Multitudes is being directed by Mark Ferrera, with original music composed by Joshua Chiet and audio/visual production design by John Valines. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at https://orlandofringe.virtuallyfringe.com/show/210809/Multitudes.
Multitudes is being performed at the Orlando Fringe Festival in the Yellow Venue at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St. at Loch Haven Park. Show times are:
- Thursday, May 18 at 9:20 p.m.
- Saturday, May 20 at 7:20 p.m.
- Sunday, May 21 at 3:20 p.m.
- Monday, May 22 at 7:55 p.m.
- Wednesday, May 24 at 7:40 p.m.
- Saturday, May 27 at 5:20 p.m.
- Sunday, May 28 at 4:50 p.m.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.