ORLANDO – It’s wild.
Wednesday is the official kickoff day of the 20th Annual Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival.
And what is Fringe? It’s a collection of more than 70 live shows inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre and the Orlando Repertory Theatre, both located at Loch Haven Park at 812 E. Rollins St. in downtown Orlando. Tomorrow at 5 p.m. Fringe officially kicks off when the Beer Tent opens and rock musician John Lowbridge starts performing on the outdoor stage.
Then at 6 p.m., there’s a ribbon-cutting ceremony. City Commissioners Patty Sheehan and Phil Diamond will be on hand, and Mayor Buddy Dyer has already proclaimed this “Fringe Week” in the City Beautiful.
It’s the first of 13 days of Fringe fun, since the festival runs through May 30 into the Memorial Day Weekend.
To get into Fringe, just purchase an $8 2011 Fringe Button. The individual shows charge their own admission, and a full schedule of the events is available by logging on to www.OrlandoFringe.org.
For many of the artists, the excitement and adrenalin have been building all week.
“I’m just looking forward to relaxing and seeing a bunch of shows,” said director John DiDonna, who is working on two shows at Fringe this year, including The Grand Guignol Puppet Theatre’s “Punch and Judy,” which is being performed in the Brown Venue.
In typical Fringe fashion, this is a show for mature audiences, complete with adult language, sexual content, extreme bloody violence and, yes … puppet nudity.
“It’s actually been going very calmly right now,” DiDonna said on Tuesday. “That’s very cool. That doesn’t mean it will remain that way, though. We’re doing the final touches on the huge puppet stage we made. We have 24 different characters in the show, and each one needed its own puppets. So we’re going a little crazy.”
After a hectic schedule of rehearsals and last minute touches, DiDonna added, “I’m looking forward to the Fringe opening so I can relax.”
The Greater Orlando Actors Theatre, or GOAT, is producing “Pandemonium” in collaboration with the Emotions Dance Company in the Yellow Venue. A fairly non-traditional update of Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost,” it’s a mix of comedy, art, dance and music, with the tag line, “You may think you know the story – but you don’t!”
Paul Castaneda, the executive director of GOAT, called the production “ambitious, to say the least,” and said he was also looking forward to being a Fringe patron as well as an artist.
“I’m also looking forward to the puppet show that John DiDonna is putting up,” Castaneda said. “I’m looking forward to the beer tent. I’m looking forward to the vendors, as usual. I’m looking forward to being surprised at the shows. Fringe is just a smorgasboard. I’m looking forward to being exhausted over the next 13 days.”
Actor Jamie Cline wrote the play “The Supporting Cast” as the first production of his Think Tank Theatre Company. The show, being performed in the Brown Venue, follows Ben and Naomi as they try to get things right in the world of dating.
Cline said on the day before the official kickoff that the energy and electric charge of being a part of Fringe felt overwhelming.
“You can feel the excitement, there’s so many good things going on here,” he said. “It’s great to see new Fringe artists doing so many shows, and some veteran artists coming back. It really feels like this year has so much more electricity than any year in the past. I’m really excited for us this year, and for all of the artists in Orlando.”
Al Pergande wrote “Big Swinging Dick’s Topless Bar presents The Naked Drag Queen farting,” a comedy about a man who takes over a failing bar, and hopes to turn its fortunes around by making it into a strip club. It’s a Fringe show complete with female nudity, and is being performed in the Green Venue.
“This show was written specifically for Fringe,” Pergande said. “I’m trying to provide something for everyone. I got the idea on closing night of Fringe 2008. That was the year every show seemed to have gratuitous male nudity. A guy kept making out naked for no reason. So I said, ‘Let’s do a show called Big Swinging Dicks.’ Basically, it’s a love story. It’s set in Milwaukee in the 1960s. Dick has this bar. It’s his only livelihood. He’s tried everything to make it work, but now he’s desperate, so he wants to make it a strip club. It’s 50 minutes with musical numbers.”
And it’s Fringe.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.