ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and runs through May 29. This year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
And this year, Megan Markham is doing two shows — well, sort of.
Megan and her Phoenix Tears Productions is presenting not one but two immersive audio dramas at Orlando Fringe.
She plans to sweep audiences into a fantastical world of pirates and fairies, armed with nothing more than a smartphone and a pair of headphones. Her game plan: to transform the area around Loch Haven Park into this magical world. By day, it’s “Stardust Kingdom,” and after darkness sets in, “Stardust After Dark.”
“These two shows both have two unique paths to follow and an audience capacity of 30,” Megan noted. “This small group will experience the world in an immersive and interactive way as we combine a podcast-like narrative audio track with live actors.”
In the daytime, audiences can take the journey into “Stardust Kingdom,” escorted by a pirate or a fairy, “as they learn important lessons on a heartwarming kid friendly mission to defeat an evil queen,” Megan noted. “The actors from the show will also be wandering around the kids fringe located by the fire museum this year, to gather audiences for 11am and 2pm performances.”
Then at night, “Stardust After Dark” will offer a different side of those same two characters, who will encourage audiences to join them in a celebration — and one that, as Megan noted, will be more adult oriented, rated 18-plus. It will also be full of pixie dust, rum, and the seductive call of a Siren, she added.
“Whether you choose to dance with the fairies or drink with the pirates, you are sure to have a unique experience in a dark show about human desire,” Megan noted.
So Freeline Media decided it was time to reach out to Megan to learn more.
Freeline Media: A day show — and a different night show. Intriguing. Do tell.
Megan Markham: We wanted to do a family friendly piece, but we also love the dark and macabre, so my co-writer, Mallory Vance, and I mapped out two shows with the same characters, a pirate and fairy, and a similar world. Last year we performed “Marian Lost in Fiction” in the Blue venue, which was a family friendly show and we loved having kids in our audiences. But we also now know that something dark can sell at Fringe, so we were excited by both possibilities. After all the planning, I wrote the kid friendly piece with my lovely 7-year-old sister in mind while Mallory Vance wrote the R-rated adventure. We edited and added to both scripts, and they ended up using the same characters with the night show taking place years after the day show.
FM: How do you create your magic world, and how is it audience-interactive?
Megan: The magical world is created in a few ways. All the audio is in a track that audiences press play on at the same time. This gives us the freedom of roaming the outdoors without worrying about noise pollution. Our show is site specific and walks the Orlando Urban Trail — including the wedding tree and a memorial gazebo covered in jasmine. Both locations were inspirations for Mallory and me and we tried to put their beauty into words when we wrote it. We also have a special effects makeup artist transforming our actors into magical beings. The interactive piece is mostly up to the audience. During the day families can expect fun games and heartwarming interactions with their guide. During the night show, there is significantly more … touching. But if you don’t want to participate in our interactions at night, we will have the option of opting out. If an audience member doesn’t want us to touch them, they’ll be given glow bracelets. We want to make this a fun, consensual experience so the glow policy will be taken very seriously by our actors.
FM: What’s more fun — the day show or night show?
Megan: Depends on the audience member. Families and kids will love the day show. People who are in to some of the darker and sexier things at Fringe, like last year’s “Edgar Allen” by the Coldharts or some sort of burlesque show, will prefer the night time. The fun part, too, is that within both shows there are two unique experiences, so the show has a lot of re-watch value. As an actor I prefer the daytime show because I love working with kids and it is super interesting to try and act out physically a script that I wrote but am not the voice for. The audio tracks were done by voice actors, not the physical cast, so it’s a fun challenge to guess what we all sound like in real life. In the end I think if an audience member reads the description, they know immediately which version of “Stardust” they are more interested in. But once you understand how our show works, you’ll be itching to see the other sides of the story.
FM: What’s the history of this show?
Megan: Mallory and I attended Creative City Project this past year, and one of the things we did was a walking audio tour. The mechanics of our show were heavily influenced by that one, but when we had finished the experience we both turned to each other and said “I want to do a narrative version of that.” We tabled the idea, as we had a lot of open projects, but when we didn’t win the Fringe lottery we remembered that narrative audio drama idea and started to flesh it out more. Once we had convinced our audio designer, Amanda Simmons, to join the team we were all in on the project.
FM: And after Orlando Fringe, where do you go from here?
Megan: As a company, Phoenix Tears Production has a lot of open projects. We pretty much always seem to. In August we are planning an interactive murder mystery. The murder mysteries are a lot different than this project and involve a loose outline and improv from the actors. We have done two of these in the past and they are an absolute ton of fun, especially since the other half of our team writes them so I just get to be in the show. After that we have a convention in Georgia we were invited to perform at in November with a murder mystery and cabaret. We plan on applying to Fringe again next year with the show “Wisherman” that didn’t make it this year.
As far as “Stardust” … we have no idea. We are in that phase of crunch time rehearsals and making edits to the track and we can’t even fathom past the festival yet.
Both “Stardust Kingdom” and “Stardust After Dark” are playing weekends only, Fridays through Sundays, with the following showtimes:
* Saturday, May 20 at 11 a.m.
* Saturday, May 20 at 2 p.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 11 a.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m.
* Friday, May 26 at 2 p.m.
* Sunday, May 28 at 11 a.m.
* Sunday, May 28 at 2 p.m.
“Stardust After Dark”:
* Friday, May 19 at 11 p.m.
* Saturday, May 20 at 10 p.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 10 p.m.
* Friday, May 26 at 11 p.m.
* Sunday, May 28 at 10 p.m.
For tickets visit Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..