The War at Orlando Fringe

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 — Last year, the production company Phoenix Tears Productions had a sold out hit at the Orlando Fringe Festival with their show The Witches, and this year they’re back with The War, which Megan Markham describes as “a site specific immersive show that is unlike anything else at the festival.”

The War is being performed in front of The Orlando Museum Of Art, where the setting takes us into the future: the War of 2098. Megan, who plays The Aristocrat in the show and also serves as the theater company’s public relations director, said Phoenix Tears hopes the Fringe audience finds this to be “another incredible piece of experimental theater.”

Phoenix describes The War as a drama where sound is as crucial as the performances.

“Pop on a pair of headphones and join time traveling research company SCROLL as they attempt to discover what truly happened during The War of 2098,” the production company notes on its website. As audiences gather outside OMA, “silent disco technology renders a rich 360 soundscape while physical actors and interactive historians will put you right into this sci-fi world.”

The War was previously performed at Creative City’s Immerse 2018 and at Orlando Fringe 2019, and because audio is vital to the show’s effectiveness and impact, the company’s is advising people to expect some violence and sudden loud noises during this immersive audio show.

“An interactive audio drama, to us, is when a fully realized soundscape is played over headphones while audiences move through a physical landscape,” the company notes. “In our audio dramas a physical guide interacts with audiences, pulling them along on the journey and often requiring their assistance in some way. Through the use of soundscapes we make our worlds fully immersive without any noise pollution.”

What’s the Background Story to this Play?

Freeline Media reached out to Megan to stake out the battle lines in The War.

Freeline Media: I simply must know – how did you pick the year 2098? Any significance there?

Megan Markham: We tried to find a year that felt far off (outside most of our lifetimes) but near enough the the actions of current events directly impact that future. It is a dystopian sci-fi so 2098 was 80 years from when we wrote it (2018) which felt like a good near future choice. 

FM: How did you develop this unique immersive show?

MM: In 2016, Mallory Vance and I started conceptualizing site specific theater. We got the idea of immersive audio dramas from walking tours we had been on and thought—what if we gave that a fantastical setting? So our first show series Stardust was born (which we still perform at KidsFringe!) After that we wanted to pivot to something political and give our audio designer Amanda Markham a new challenge with a war zone concept. This idea is how the show you’ll see was born. 

FM: Anything audiences should be prepared for as they catch the show?

MM:  This is a darker story and an interactive experience. You move around outside of the Orlando Museum of Art, you are in the action, on the front lines of The War and at high tea with the political leaders. There are warnings for some homophobic characters, death, and dark themes.

FM: What goes into planning, rehearsing and performing an “audio drama”?

MM: The process is really three parts — writing, recording and physical rehearsal. With The War, I conceived the piece and wrote outlines and Vance wrote the dialogue. For some of our shows this is the writing process or in some (like The Witches), I write a concept and script waiting for us to have time in the Phoenix Tears schedule to produce it. Then we go into casting and recording voice actors. We have a home studio and we have a vocal director who keeps the physical show and script in mind. Then Amanda Markham edits and does all of the audio design magic that I don’t understand but when we get the audio back from her we are always amazed and The War is no exception. Then it’s a matter of rehearsals and performance. For 2023’s staging of The War we’ve hired four directors for the different sections of the show because the piece is all about different points of view and false histories so we are collaborating with actors and directors to put together a cohesive piece. 

FM: The Orlando Museum Of Art certainly has a spacious front walkway. How did you select this spot for your show?

MM: We did this show in a slightly different way outside of the Orlando Rep back in 2019 but we have gotten better technology and done 5 audio dramas since then in a variety of venues so we know what we need in a space. The OMA front walkway easily houses the three different vignettes we have in the show. We use every bit of the space from the Miriam Garden to the bike rackse! 

Where Do I Join the Battlefield Up for this Show?

The War will be performed as part of the Orlando Fringe Festival in front of The Orlando Museum of Art, N. Mills Ave., in Loch Haven Park. To purchase tickets, visit the Orlando Fringe website.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at

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