Orlando Fringe Festival kickoff

ORLANDO — Tick tock.

We’re all just days away from the official kickoff to Orlando Fringe Festival. Get ready as the party is about to begin.

The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival starts on Tuesday, May 16 when the Fringe team will cut the ribbon and officially launch the festival that runs through Memorial Day on Monday, May 29.

The kickoff will be held in the Orange Venue (Margeson Theater) at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., which has been the home to Orlando Fringe for decades. The grassy field in Loch Haven Park will be transformed into a Food & Beer Tent and will host free outdoor concerts and other performances.

After the ribbon cutting, national and international artists will present 2-minute teaser performances to the audience. Then on Wednesday, the shows come alive.

The theme to this year’s celebration is Festival Beautiful, and it marks the 32nd year that this event has been held in Orlando, making this year as much of a celebration of the city that’s known as The City Beautiful as the arts.

“This year we’re celebrating the city we call home and all the wonderful things in it that make it beautiful, with our theme: Festival Beautiful,” Fringe noted in a news release.

This year’s 14-day arts festival, the longest-running Fringe Theatre Festival in the United States, will feature a lineup of 2,000+ ticketed performances and more than a hundred shows from local, national, and international artists. “Join us for 14 days of live entertainment, unique theatrical experiences, visual art displays, kid-friendly shows and activities, free outdoor entertainment, excellent food, beer and Fringe beverages, and more!” Fringe added.

What’s New at Orlando Fringe Festival this Year?

This has already been a landmark year for Orlando Fringe. In January they opened ArtSpace at 54 W. Church St. in downtown Orlando, while maintaining their existing office space at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. ArtSpace now hosts new productions each month, extending the entire Fringe concept all year long.

This year features several new venues. The Renaissance Theatre Company, 415 E. Princeton St., is their new Purple and Teal venues. Orlando Fringe also continues to expand with its Buy Your Own Venue (BYOV) partners, locations that are outside of the main festival area but have become part of the overall festival, including The Abbey at 100 S. Eola Drive, the Stardust Lounge at 431 E. Central Blvd., and the Savoy Orlando at 1913 N. Orange Ave.

Some things haven’t changed, including the main festival itself in Loch Haven Park at venues inside the Lowndes and the nearby Orlando Repertory Theater and Orlando Museum of Art.

The Lawn will feature free entertainment on the Outdoor Stage, food vendors and the popular Beer Tent. This year also features the return of Visual Fringe, Kids Fringe, the Visual Art gallery, live art demonstrations and more.

“The artists have full control over their performances — 100% accessible,” Fringe noted. “Ticket prices range from free to $15, which is a range that allows anyone from any walk of life to experience Fringe. We are an environment where everyone is treated with love and kindness. We welcome anyone regardless of their age, gender, color of your skin, religion, who you’re attracted to or anything else.”

All ticket sales go directly to the artists. “You, as an audience member, decide how successful a show is by purchasing ticket,” Fringe notes.

What is the History of Orlando Fringe?

So, what is Orlando Fringe? The Orlando Fringe Festival is the oldest Fringe in the nation. It was created in 1991 by Terry Olson, Andy Anthony and Rick Kunst, and held in 1992 in downtown Orlando. The concept was simple: a festival featuring multiple theatrical shows, mostly done in venues in empty storefronts. In 2004, the festival started to relocate to Loch Haven Park, and from 2005 on, the festival has been held entirely in that park and in nearby Ivanhoe Village. It’s the longest running Fringe Festival in the United States, a 14-day festival held in the spring.

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

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