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.
The award-winning solo performer Peter Michael Marino is returning to the Orlando Fringe with “Show Up,” which uses his decades of solo performance to, as Peter notes, “turn the often vilified clichés of the genre on their clichéd heads.”
Peter is the creator/co-producer of SOLOCOM, which has launched more than 400 comedies at The People’s Improv Theater, including his acclaimed solo comedy “Desperately Seeking the Exit.” In “Show Up,” Peter said he plans to exploit “an arsenal of Post-it Notes to compile and transform the challenging and enlightening real-life audience experiences into a single vibrant life-story that’s daring and unique each time. Chance elements are increased as audience members are engaged to cue sound, design the set, and direct.”He promises Fringe audiences a “wild, unpredictable ride” that also comments on social anxiety, depression and performance challenges.
“Ultimately,” he said, ” ‘Show Up’ demonstrates that the value of truth in autobiographical performance is totally subjective. And there’s a party.”
Freeline Media reached out to Peter and learn more about his show.
Freeline Media: Is “Show Up” a new show, or one you’ve been developing for a while.
Peter Michael Marino: “Show Up” has been in development for the past ten months or so. I’ve been performing it at various venues here in New York City, plus a short run in Buffalo, so I could see how it worked with an out-of-town audience. My director, Michole Biancosino, and I worked for a while on the sort of experimental structure of the show, since it’s partially improvised and semi-scripted. The themes of social anxiety and depression pepper the material, so it was really like putting together a puzzle that could be re-assembled with different pieces for each individual performance.
FM: When you say improvisation, does that mean each show will be different?
Peter: Yup. Many folks have been coming back to see the show over and over because at least half the show is completely different each time. So while there’s a structure and narrative for the whole show, within the show I create a 30-minute improvised solo show based on the real-life experiences of the audience — like their personal revelations, family issues, childhood traumas, love life snafus and stuff. The audience is also in charge of the sound cues and set design, which determine the direction of the show-within-a-show, so in a way, they’re directing the show. Even the lighting person provides improvised lighting “offers.” It’s a fun, risky opportunity for me as a performer to have these crazy chance elements. And I like the fact that it will be different every time. Keeps me on my toes.
FM: Social anxiety and depression — heavy topics for Fringe. Where are you going with those two?
Peter: Yeah, they’re heavy topics, but I tackle them in a comical way. I think that social anxiety and depression are important issues to be addressed — and I’m being completely transparent about my own mental health struggles. Though “Show Up” is a comedy, there are moments of vulnerability and honesty that I hope others can relate to. Nothing has made me happier than complete strangers saying, “OMG. You’re talking about my own struggles up there!”
FM: Solo shows are pretty popular at Fringe. What are the challenges, and rewards, of being a one-man theatrical band?
Peter: Well, solo shows are kind of my thing since I teach, produce and direct them for a living. I’ve done two solo shows at the Orlando Fringe in the past – “Desperately Seeking the Exit,” which was a rock-an- roll storytelling show, and “Late with Lance!” — which was a solo talk show spoof. I did plenty of ensemble work over the years, but I keep finding myself drawn to the solo show genre … especially comedy-based shows. I suppose the challenge is just truly believing in your work, since so much of a solo show is personal. And believing that your story will affect others in some way. And keeping up your stamina. The reward is knowing you’ve touched and entertained people by sharing your story. Honestly, the biggest challenge is being a one-person-actor-writer-producer-stage manager-marketer. Would I prefer handing out postcards with a cast? Absolutely! And since I battle social anxiety, the very act of “selling” myself to total strangers can be daunting. But I try to think of it as a task; and nothing makes a socially anxious person like me happier than having a task to complete.
FM: After Fringe, where does “Show Up” go from here?
Peter: I’m heading back to New York City and doing a few performances in July at the 59E59 Street Theater in their annual “East to Edinburgh” series. And then, like over 3,000 other shows, I’m taking it to the mother of all fringe’s, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This will be my fourth time performing there and I’m really looking forward to seeing how “Show Up” plays for a European audience. They tend to like any kind of audience participation, and they’re familiar with the solo show genre, so I have a feeling it’s going to be a blast for all of us. I mean, I get to do a new solo show every day for 24 days. I’m already thinking about what “Americanisms” I have to adjust over there. I’m not sure they have Life Alert over there, and sadly, I talk about feeling the need to get Life Alert soon. Hey, when you hang out by yourself a lot, ya need a lifeline.
“Show Up” is being performed at Blue Venue, and show times are:
* Thursday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m.
* Saturday, May 20 at 8:30 p.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m.
* Tuesday, May 23 at 10:30 p.m.
* Wednesday, May 24 at 7 p.m.
* Friday, May 26 at 5:30 p.m.
* Saturday, May 27 at 5:45 p.m.
To buy tickets, log on to Orlando Fringe. To learn more about the show, visit Show Up The Show or Peter Marino.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Koby’s New Home”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.