Tommi Talks

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Fringe Spotlight – Leesa Castaneda

This special Fringe Spotlight interview features Leesa Castaneda. Her show La Reina Yolanda will have 7 performances in the new White Venue (the Junior Achievement Center, formerly a BYOV). Though Leesa is actively involved with Greater Orlando Actors Theater (aka GOAT), this work is written, performed, and produced by Leesa herself. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? La Reina Yolanda is one woman’s life from childhood adventures to her battle with Alzheimer’s, as told by her daughter.  Sometimes the greatest journeys are the ones in our own mind.

The story is about my mother’s life. She was and always will be my best friend. My mom, Yolanda, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in her 60’s and it has been a long and difficult journey. She lived a roller-coaster life, sometimes hard and at other times truly wonderful. The writing process started at the end of 2014 right after my father died and she stayed with me for a week. She was like caring for a baby all over again. I got to spend that time taking care of her in every way and through that process and to cope I would remember all the stories she had ever told me. I would recount those stories to her and to my children as a way to bond with her and educate them. Since she has no idea who I am anymore it was a very emotional writing process but cathartic nonetheless and made me grateful to be her daughter.

What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist? The Fringe provides a unique opportunity for artists to present new works to local audiences that may not necessarily be a part of year round theater going.  It allows an opportunity for one of a kind works to be produced in conjunction with other like-minded artists and works.  In my case, this year the Fringe was the only place that I wanted to do my one-woman show. I wrote it specifically for the Fringe circuit.

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? Being a part of Fringe on multiple occasions has added and cemented friendships with other creative spirits and allowed me to stretch creative muscles I may not get to use in other venues and formats.

How long and in what ways have you been involved with Orlando Fringe? I have been a part of multiple productions at Fringe through Greater Orlando Actors Theatre (GOAT), with whom I am a board member and collaborative voice.  Past shows I have been in include STOP KISS, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN PORN and PANDEMONIUM. The last two with GOAT.

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron? Network with as many other shows and artists as possible.  Most of us are invested in ALL of us succeeding.  To me, that’s the true spirit of the Fringe.

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in? Well, Greater Orlando Actors Theatre is currently finalizing plans for the rest of 2017 and into 2018 and I’ll be a part of it all!

What’s next for you as an independent artist? I hope to travel LA REINA YOLANDA to other Fringes around the country.

Any Last Words? Yes: Come see my show and Long Live Fringe!

Leesa is no stranger to Orlando’s stages, having performed at Theatre Downtown, Bay Street Players, Mad Cow Theatre, Empty Spaces Theatre, Dark Side of Saturn and Greater Orlando Actors Theatre. To keep up with GOAT, visit their website and like them on Facebook

Make sure to follow La Reina Yolanda on Facebook for updates, show times, and tickets.

Fringe Spotlight – Mel Hergott – BoylesqueTO

Orlando Fringe is no stranger to hosting burlesque troupes if you remember last week’s post featuring Corsets and Cuties. This year’s festival will showcase 7 different groups of sexy performers to appease patrons more interested in adult level entertainment. For the second year in a row, Canada’s premiere all-male burlesque troupe, BoylesqueTO, will dance across Orlando Fringe’s stages in Mo’Manada! the sequel to last year’s show. You can catch them in the Orange Venue for 7 performances. 

Please tell us about your production company: The troupe was founded in 2008 in Toronto and, nine years later, we’re still going strong! Our star-studded line-up of hunks includes the ruggedly handsome James & the Giant Pasty, the devilishly sexy El Toro, the endearingly crass Wrong Note Rusty, the dangerously young and fresh Newfound Lad, and panty wrangler and chanteuse extraordinaire, Shagina Twain! And no BoylesqueTO show would be complete without our charming yet filthy host: #1 Canadian hottie and Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau (aka Ginger Darling).

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? In Mo’ Manada, studly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decides that the only way to save America after a tense year in politics is with a covert team of Canadian strippers specially trained in naked diplomacy, hand-to-butt combat, and international sex-pionage. Our lineup of red-hot Canucks includes: a chorus of dancing beavers that aren’t afraid to show some tail, a mountie-lumberjack romance that erupts in maple-syrupy goodness, French Canadian garcons with big… baguettes, a hunky hockey player eager to score, and many more saucy surprises!

What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist? After taking our show to the Edmonton Fringe Festival in 2015, the largest Fringe festival in North America, it seemed like the next logical step to bring our show to Orlando. It’s the second largest festival in North America, the largest in the United States and has a killer reputation. We were also intrigued by the rumours we’d heard that Orlando is “The Gay Fringe,” which we were delighted to discover were true! We fell in love with Orlando’s rich and vibrant LGBTQ community, and felt honoured to showcase our talents in front of majority queer audiences, foster meaningful connections and friendships with other queer performers, and see lots of shows with queer content. We were also welcomed with open arms by the Orlando burlesque community, which is made up of fierce and talented performers. We had an incredible time last year and are absolutely tickled pink to return!

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? Absolutely! Our run at the 2016 Orlando Fringe Festival was our second time taking our show on the road after performing at the 2015 Edmonton Fringe Festival and we learned a lot about how to be better artists, promoters, and producers. We even won the Marketing Award! We had such a great time in Orlando in 2016 that when it came time to think ahead to 2017, everyone was on board to return and develop a brand new show. This year marks our ninth anniversary as a troupe as well as our busiest year to date: we’re embarking on a 17-show, four-city tour from April to August that will see us performing in Toronto, Orlando, Ottawa, and Edmonton, as well as hosting monthly dance parties in our hometown of Toronto in between tour stops. Our success in Orlando last year most certainly helped us to develop our strengths as artists and show us what is possible with a little bit of hard work and dedication.

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron? Talk to people! Fringe Festivals are all about networking and word-of-mouth advertising, so get out there and chat up a stranger. You never know who you’ll meet! For artists, this means finding out where all the cool after parties are, who’s planning a field trip to Universal, which shows have comp tickets for performers, which performers are offering up guest spots in their shows, and who’s getting late night tacos at Tako Cheena! For patrons, talking to other artists and patrons is a great way to find out about which shows to check out and which artists are not-to-be-missed. BoylesqueTO spent countless hours every day of the festival last year dressed to the nines and chatting up folks on the Fringe grounds, in the beer tents, outside our venue, in the lineups for other shows–we even won an award for best marketing for our efforts! We met tons of wonderful folks this way, locals and out-of-towners alike, who gave us great advice and became fast friends.

Have you performed/produced at any other Fringes? We performed at the 2015 Edmonton Fringe Festival and the 2016 Orlando Fringe Festival. We are returning to both Edmonton and Orlando this year.

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience there? The Edmonton Fringe Festival is truly a marvelous festival to be part of. There are over 200 shows in ten days, and the city pretty much grinds to a halt during that week and a half so that folks can come out and see live performance of all stripes: burlesque, improv, storytelling, cabaret, dance, you name it and Edmonton’s got it! It’s not uncommon to hear of patrons who see upwards of five shows per day and take vacation time from work to go to the Fringe, and the support for artists from patrons is palpable, especially for out-of-towners! Additionally, the Edmonton Fringe Festival has strong media support, with both major papers reviewing all 200 shows before the end of the first weekend. Lastly, there is a strong artist community based around the Late Night Cabaret, a variety show hosted by artists for artists every night of the Fringe, and late night eats at Steel Wheels, the go-to 3AM pizza joint of choice for all performers after a long days of hustling on the grounds.

How does Orlando Fringe stand out? Orlando is very comparable in terms of having a strong artist community and excellent media support. We are grateful to Katie Thayer and Lindsay Taylor for organizing the Orlando Fringeship, a program for out-of-towners to connect with local artists and learn the ropes. We are also thankful for the support of the Watermark, which does a fantastic job of reviewing most shows by the end of opening weekend. These two components are integral to making artists feel welcome and supported.

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in? Can you tell us about those? We are performing our brand new show, Mo’ Manada, in our hometown of Toronto on April 23rd before taking it to the Orlando Fringe Festival in May and the Edmonton Fringe Festival in August. We are performing our flagship show, Oh Manada!, in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa on June 30th, the day before Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. We also throw Can Con, monthly dance parties in Toronto in support of our touring efforts that feature hunky boys go-go dancing to an all-Canadian playlist DJed by our very own Ginger Darling (aka DJ Orange Pekoe).

What’s next for your production company? We are excited to be celebrating ten years as a troupe in 2018! Most of our founding members are still in the troupe, and we look forward to writing a special anniversary show to celebrate the last decade.

Any last words? Don’t miss our brand new show, Orlando: we promise lots of laughs, lots of hunks, and lots of butts! And make sure sure you say hello to us if you see us on the grounds after a show. We’d love to meet you!

Many thanks to BoylesqueTO for bringing their show all the way down to Orlando and for the kind compliments on our festival! We love Canada (and burlesque)!

BoylesqueTO has an active social media presence, so be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on the Web

And keep a look out this weekend for a very special Fringe Spotlight entry. 


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