The 2012 annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival broke box office records this year, and one play in particular appears to have wowed audiences. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
ORLANDO – Fringe is over for another year, but in the meantime, of those 90 shows that debuted at the festival last month, local theater companies may want to consider reviving some of them in the coming months.
One show in particular appears to have made a very strong impression on local audiences who attended the 21st annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival at Loch Haven Park.
Freeline Media, a strong supporter of the Fringe Festival and its artists, launched the first annual Freeline Media Best of Fab Fringe reader’s choice picks on May 25, inviting the online magazine’s readers to let us know their favorites in seven different categories.
The votes continued to roll in for several days after the festival ended on Memorial Day, and our readers selected their favorites in the categories of best comedy, drama, message play, variety show, one person show, family friendly show, and mature piece.
One play not only received an avalanche of votes, but actually won in two separate categories – an impressive achievement that demonstrated the clear talent that Carbon Productions of Casselberry brought to Fringe this year with “Mysterious Skin,” an adaptation of Scott Heim’s novel about how one event can affect the lives of two people in different ways.
The play, which had seven performances at Fringe this year, actually drew votes in three categories: best dramatic show, best message play, and best mature show. It was the clear winner in the Mature category, easily outdistancing the runner up, “Joan Crawford’s House Party” – which didn’t do too badly itself, having also attracted numerous votes as best variety show.
“Mysterious Skin,” though, received vote after vote in all three categories, and won the highest number as best dramatic play, edging out “9/11 – We Will Never Forget.” That was an impressive achievement, since “9/11” by Jason Nettle, also scored well in the category of best message play and best one person show.
Sometimes, though, there’s always one show that just seems to outdistance you. That was the case for “9/11.”
In the category of best message play, “9/11” was very narrowly edged out – by a lone vote, as it turns out – by “Connected: An Interactive Experience,” which invited the audience members on a journey through the use of story, movement, introspection, multimedia and interactive elements.
In the field of best variety show, both “9/11” and the musical comedy “Fosgate: Ferret Loan Officer” went neck and neck, but ultimately the highest votes got cast with “Blue & Tod: Too Drunk To Fringe,” the zany mix of music, dance, comedy, burlesque and stripping by Fringe veterans Blue and Tod Kimbro, which was also a Patron’s Pick selection this year.
The field of best comedy drew a huge number of different selections — more so than any other category, in fact. Ultimately, though, one production continued getting repeat votes, and that was “Mitzi Morris in Dazzled To Death,” which also took in several votes under the mature category.
Another category that attracted a wide variety of different selections was the best one person show, but a single name kept returning to the list: “Paul Strickland: Jokes, Songs, A Hat, Etc.,” a production that included comedy, music, storytelling and poetry.
One category, though, attracted the same selection over and over again, a virtual landslide, with only a few other titles tossed into the mix. In the field of best family-friendly production, the overwhelming choice was “Dog Powered Robot and the Subsequent Adventure,” the winner of nine awards in 2011, including “Best Fringe Show.”
That’s an impressive list, and hopefully some of the local community theater companies in Central Florida will be reading it and giving some strong consideration to bringing these shows back for a repeat performance. After all, what about the audiences that missed one of these impressive plays the first time around? Why not give them a chance to catch a few of them during a second run?
For one thing, don’t those votes cast all week demonstrate the wide appeal these productions have for a very large and enthusiastic audience?
In the meantime, Freeline Media extends its congratulations to all seven winners, and a hearty thanks to all those who participated in this first Best of Fab Fringe reader’s choice picks. Hopefully, each and every one of you will be back to cast more votes next year.
Thanks also to those who offered their thoughts, as well as votes, on some of the shows.
Freeline Media’s parent company, Freeline Productions LLC, owes its existance to Fringe. The production company was formed in November 2008 to produce an original play, “Hooked,” which had its premiere at the May 2009 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.

The Freeline Media Best of Fab Fringe Reader’s Choice Picks are:
1. Best Comedy: “Mitzi Morris in Dazzled To Death”
2. Best Drama: “Mysterious Skin”
3. Best Message Show: “Connected: An Interactive Experience”
4. Best Variety Show: “Blue & Tod: Too Drunk To Fringe”
5. Best One Person Show: “Paul Strickland: Jokes, Songs, A Hat, Etc.”
6. Best Family-Friendly Show: “Dog Powered Robot and the Subsequent Adventure”
7. Best Mature Show: “Mysterious Skin”

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