The 31st Orlando Fringe International Theater Festival opens May 17 with multiple changes, including new parking options, free shuttles to remote locations, more expensive tickets — and an exclusive Fringe beer.
More importantly, after two years of smaller or online-only festivals, domestic and international artists will come back strong this year, with performers hailing from 20 states and five countries.
“I’m thrilled to have all the national and international artists back,” said festival producer Lindsay Taylor. “It reflects who we really are.”
Private cabana rentals will also return, and a selection of shows will be performed in American Sign Language along with audio description for the visually impaired.
The longest-running Fringe in the United States, the festival features more than 100 short shows at Orlando’s Loch Haven Park and select surrounding venues through Memorial Day, May 30. Plays, dance performances, comedy, concerts, clowns, magic and more found. There are also weekend kids’ activities, a free visual art exhibit, and free music and other entertainment in the park, which is home to a variety of food and drink vendors.
Here’s a rundown of what’s new (or what’s new) to make the most of your time at the Fringe.
PREMISES : Major Fringe locations remain color-coded with a few changes this year. The Purple Room moves to the Renaissance Theater off Princeton Street, a few blocks from Loch Haven Park. I timed the walk; it took me about 10 minutes, keeping in mind that I’m tall and have a long stride. I was planning 15 minutes to be safe – and would adjust accordingly from there, depending on your own speed. The Renaissance Theater will also welcome a new room, in teal blue.
Off-campus sites also feature comprehensive show listings. Joining return locations The Abbey, at 100 S. Eola Drive, and Savoy, at 1913 N. Orange Ave., will be the Stardust Lounge at 431 E. Central Blvd.
CAR PARK: There is free parking at Loch Haven Park, but it fills up quickly. Other options include nearby businesses on Mills Avenue such as McCree General Contractors & Architects, Magruder Eye Institute, and AdventHealth Medical Group Urology, all of which have their lots available after 6 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends. (the AdventHealth bundle is only available on weekends). The Orlando Science Center garage is also available for a fee.
A new free option can be found by parking on land owned by Lake Highland Preparatory School at 1203 Alden Road. But how would I get to Loch Haven Park from there, you ask. Continue reading.
SHUTTLE BUSES : A new shuttle service will transport Fringegoers to and from the Alden Road car park and between the various off-campus venues. GoPegasus will provide buses on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There will be two routes, one stopping at the Renaissance Theatre, Savoy, Comfort Suites, Ivanhoe Brewing and Aden Road car park. The other will take you to the Abbey and the Stardust Lounge. Don’t forget to work travel time into your schedule if you plan to use the shuttles; each will run on a loop of approximately 45 minutes.
And the buses will be in the spirit of the festival — with special artwork and live performances on select routes, Taylor said.
“It’s super exciting that people can park in one place and drive to every place,” she said. “I think it’s long overdue.”
FOOD DRINK: Creative cocktails will be back on the menu at Fringe bars this year – inspired by the Candyland game, so they sound sweet. And for beer lovers, Ivanhoe Brewing has developed a special festival-exclusive white stout titled Curtain Up.
Things to do
A look at entertainment and sporting events in Orlando and Central Florida.
HUT : If you plan to drink and eat a lot, you might be interested in renting a shaded cabin in the park. The price includes four drinks, and a map on the festival website can help you determine whether you want a location in the action near the outdoor stage or one farther away for a quieter experience. Prices are $149 for a weekday rental after 5 p.m. or $249 for an all-day weekend rental from noon.
TICKET PRICES: Beyond the free offerings, seeing a show at the Fringe Festival is a two-step process. First, customers need to purchase a $10 button. This money supports the infrastructure of the festival. Then Fringegoers can buy as many individual show tickets as they want. This money goes directly to the artists. The maximum price for a show ticket has increased to $15 from $12 last year. Not all shows will charge the maximum, but many do. Some may offer a special discounted night, so keep your eyes peeled.
The increase was necessary, Taylor said, because the festival was becoming undervalued.
“It’s about tracking global ticket prices, following Fringes around the world, and giving more money back to artists,” she said. “It was something artists had been asking for for a long time.”
ACCESSIBILITY: One show this year, the Florida Deaf Theater Project’s comedy “Becoming Grandma Kat,” will be performed in American Sign Language at all performances. Fourteen other shows will offer ASL during select performances, while half a dozen shows will offer audio description of what’s happening on stage. This information is available in the show descriptions on the Fringe website.
MORE INFORMATION: Speaking of the website, it’s orlandofringe.org. Go there for the schedule, view descriptions and links to buy your button and tickets. And then Fringe like a pro.
Find me on Twitter @matt_on_arts, facebook.com/matthew.j.palm or write to me at [email protected]. Want more theater and arts news and reviews? Go to orlandosentinel.com/arts. For more fun things, follow @fun.things.orlando on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.