Orlando Fringe becomes ArtSpace

ORLANDO — As of now, it has a name: Fringe ArtSpace.

The Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival, which is taking over the space on Church Street formerly used by Mad Cow Theatre, just gave its new space that name.

“After a lot of deliberation and discussion about what to call the space, we felt this name represented what we want for the future of the venue,” Fringe noted in a news release.

What is the Fringe ArtSpace?

Fringe ArtSpace will open on Jan. 11.

“The focus of Fringe ArtSpace will be to build up and inspire the arts community by developing a safe space for artists to create and share their work with fellow arts lovers,” Fringe noted. “This will be a multi-functional place where you can view traditional theatre, participate in learning experiences, and where you’ll find affordable rehearsal and performance space.”

Fringe ArtSpace is opening in time for the 7th annual Winter Mini-Fest, which will be held Jan. 12-15. The mini-fest will also serve as a grand opening ceremony, as Orlando Fringe officially welcomes the public to its new year-round venue at 54 W. Church St. on Jan. 11. A Grand Opening Bash is in the works.

“There’s still so much to share about Fringe ArtSpace, so keep an eye out for more updates,” Fringe noted. “You can be a part of Fringe history when we unveil the space itself.”

What is the History of Fringe ArtSpace?

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 “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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