Orlando Fringe moves downtown

ORLANDO — The Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival is making its way to downtown Orlando, gearing up to perform its the annual Winter Mini-Fest in January in its new headquarters at 54 W. Church St., formally the home of Mad Cow Theatre.

Orlando Fringe is heading downtown for its 7th annual Winter Mini-Fest, which will be held Jan 12-15 as a “curated festival where you can see some Fringe favorites and experience the best of what we’ve got to offer,” the Fringe team noted. “If you’ve been missing Fringe since our festival in May ended, you won’t want to miss this. Believe us, this is not just any mini-fest, it’s a grand opening!”

What is the Orlando Fringe’s New Venue?

Just before Winter Mini-Fest starts, Fringe will be officially welcoming the public to its new year-round venue at 54 W. Church St. on Jan. 11.

“We’ve been working hard to create a space that will serve our arts community and where you can show your Fringe 365,” the Fringe team noted. “So if you’ve been wondering what we’re up to and what’s in store, mark your calendars and stay tuned as we share updates leading up to our Grand Opening Bash in January.”

Orlando Fringe is taking over the space formerly used by Mad Cow Theatre. Last April, the City of Orlando approved a deal to allow Orlando Fringe to operate at the Church Street property. Mad Cow Theatre was served with an eviction notice last November, and their final season there ended last May.

Mad Cow had been subleasing the space since 2011. The City of Orlando had paid $480,000 for the space to be used by Mad Cow, with the agreement that the theater company would repay that money with 5% interest in four incremental payments. The City evicted Mad Cow after they still had an outstanding balance of $426,592 in 2021.

The city now has a multi-year lease agreement with Fringe for the Church Street space, which will become their permanent home to bring in national touring productions. Mad Cow is now considered defunct, although their website is still seeking donations as they search for a new home for future productions.

What Else Is Going On Now With Orlando Fringe?

Tickets for Winter Mini-Fest go on sale for Club Fringe members on Nov. 4, and Fringe is inviting anyone with a show, festival or weekly event that they would like to produce to contact them for more information about using the Church Street space. To learn more, fill out this link.

In addition, applications are now open for the 32nd annual The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival held May 16-29, 2023. “Whether you’re a seasoned theatre vet or a newcomer to the art, we encourage you to apply for the chance to produce your own show,” Fringe noted.

Applications close on Nov. 15.

What Is Orlando Fringe?

The 2022 Orlando Fringe Festival was held at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theater in Loch Haven Park, when there were more than 400 performances leading up to Memorial Day Weekend.

The Orlando Fringe Festival is the oldest Fringe in the nation, and in 2022 celebrated its 31th year. It was created in 1991 by Terry Olson (who is now the director of the Orange County Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs), 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 When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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