Tommi Talks

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Fringe Spotlight – Jason Skinner – Gladius Fight Club

Happy Valentine’s Day from Orlando Fringe! Our gift to you is this week’s continuation of the Fringe Spotlight artist series. I introduce Gladius Fight Club founder, producer, and director Jason Skinner. Last year he produced SHATTER in the Green Venue, and this year he is directing the show We Don’t Play Fight produced by Conquer Pro Wrestling.  

Did you make the 2017 festival lottery? If so, what is the title of your production and what venue will you be in? [Gladius Fight Club] is still deep on the wait list this year for another chapter of SHATTER, but CPW’s We Don’t Play Fight will be in the Orange Venue this year.

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? Conquer Pro Wrestling’s show We Don’t Play Fight has already had 3 one night events in 3 different venues since right after Fringe last year. We have performed in the Margeson Theatre at the Orlando Shakes, then followed up at the Garden Theatre, and most recently we were at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford. Now, we are back where it all started in the Margeson Theatre (aka the Orange Venue), and we get to do the show 4 times. We plan on giving the show some rewrites to make each show different with an ongoing storyline, but making it so anyone who sees it any given night gets the full story. As for the pro wrestling part, there will be all new matches for each show that will help drive the on going storyline that we will have in place.  Either way, audiences will receive an all new performance and experience if they want to come just once or to all 4 shows.

As for Gladius Fight Club, while SHATTER never completely sold out our venue any night, we did what we wanted to with that show which was to touch the audience’s hearts. Make them feel something, make them uncomfortable at times, and show them something beautiful. Many times I have been involved in shows since Fringe and I will see people afterwards and instead of talking about that current show I was involved in, they want to talk about SHATTER. I’m very proud of that, and even more so, we were nominated for 2 Broadway World Awards with Best Ensemble and Best Play.  It is hard to categorize SHATTER and shows that I plan on doing in the future, since there is no spoken word at all and it’s done entirely to music, but it’s not a ballet because it’s not just dance. The challenge is to tell a story without words, but make it a clear story so everyone will understand it, and we use physicality and just plain raw emotion to connect with our audiences. SHATTER: A Reflection of Imperfection was a great starting point and I’m looking forward to many more SHATTER stories as well as brand new stories to bring to Orlando Fringe and possibly other venues in the area in the future.

Please tell me about why you chose to apply for the Orlando Fringe festival. What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist? First of all, venues in the Orlando area are expensive, and it’s hard to take a leap of faith and fork over a lot of money and hope that you break even. But with Fringe, it’s affordable, and there is already a huge audience. Even with selling about half my tickets last year, I still made a little bit of profit. Fringe makes a big deal that they give all the ticket sales back to the artists, because it IS a big deal. Producing a show is expensive, but Fringe makes it affordable and they also make your show accessible because the audience is already there. All you have to do is grab their interest. Secondly, the Fringe community is very supportive of each other. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed. When I’m not performing, or directing, I’m doing my best to support other artists and see their shows. It’s a great community.

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? If so, how?Absolutely. I never thought a show that I came up with in my head would ever see the light of day, and now that I have one underneath my belt, I’m hooked; I’m inspired. I want to do as many as I can. To challenge myself but also to help enhance the world thru artistry.

How long and in what ways have you been involved with Orlando Fringe? I first jumped into Fringe as a performer, playing the title role in Macbeth for Sisyphus Productions in 2013 in the Gold Venue winning Patron’s Pick. The following year, 2014, I performed, co-directed, and was the fight director for Hungry: the Musical produced by Mad Madame Payne Productions in the Brown Venue.  In 2015, I was a performer and fight director for POE for Theatre Downtown in the Green Venue, winning Patron’s Pick. And last year, 2016, I produced, directed, and starred in SHATTER: A Reflection of Imperfection produced by Gladius Fight Club. And with directing CPW’s We Don’t Play Fight for the 2017 Orlando Fringe Festival, this will be my 5th straight year as an artist.

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron?Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Veterans have a world of knowledge from patrons to artists. Each experience adds to their wisdom. Each year I learn something new, as a patron, a performer, a director, and a producer. And remember, people want you to succeed, and they want to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in? Can you tell us about those? Well I’m always looking to produce shows such as SHATTER, if possible, I tend to be a performer with numerous local Orlando companies such as G.O.A.T., Theatre Downtown, Playwrights Round Table, and Mad Madame Payne Productions.  I’m also a Director and Fight Director for hire if anyone needs one. Right now, I’m mainly focused on a lot of new shows at my place of employment at the Holy Land Experience where I’m a performer. We have a lot of new shows including one I put together myself, but I can’t spill on any of that.

What’s next for your production company (or you, as an independent artist)? Anything top-secret you can hint about? Well unless a miracle happens with the wait list, the 2nd chapter of SHATTER will have to wait for hopefully the 2018 Fringe Festival. And if you saw the 1st SHATTER, it followed the story of The Man, but the 2nd chapter follows the story of The Woman, who was played by the fabulous Shanel Sparr, and that will be titled SHATTER: Sanctuary of Shadows. I also have a few other ideas bouncing around in my head, possibly a Gangster style show in the same format as SHATTER.

Any last words? Tommi is awesome! (For the record, I was told I couldn’t delete that sentence. I would never call myself awesome… 🙂 )  Come see We Don’t Play Fight in the Orange Venue. And see you at Fringe!

To follow Conquer Pro Wrestling, check out their Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/conquerprowrestling/

To learn more about The Holy Land Experience, visit: www.holylandexperience.com

Thanks for keeping up with our Fringe Spotlight Artist Series. Stay tuned for the next issue!

Fringe Spotlight – John DiDonna – Phantasmagoria

Come one, come all to our third installment of the Fringe Spotlight Artist Series. Today’s interview features John DiDonna, creator / writer / director of the “Victorian Horror Troupe” Phantasmagoria. The troupe began under Empty Spaces and is an offshoot of that, but now is called only Phantasmagoria. John also plays the role of Byron in the troupe. Phantasmagoria weaves and combines storytelling, large scale puppetry, projections, dance, aerial arts, stage combat, fire and so much more into their “tapestry” of horror! (Photo Credit: Barry D. Kirsch.) 

Did you make the 2017 festival lottery? If so, what is the title of your production and what venue will you be in? YES! This will be our SECOND Fringe as Phantasmagoria and we are very excited to be involved. We will be performing 5 shows in the Margeson Theater (Orange Venue). This is our NEW touring show (different than last years) and is titled “Wickedest Tales of All.”

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? Phantasmagoria is entering its 8th year of production in Central Florida and touring! We have been called “One of the most unique theater troupes in the country” by Good Day Atlanta! Our Fringe shows are a sort of “Best Of” where we reinvent and re-approach our most popular stories from over the years. This time around we are picking some very fun and DARK ones to share with the audience! From Poe (of course) to an extremely dark tale from Charles Dickens, to ghastly little nursery rhymes from centuries ago. . . and an amazing tale of Vampirism from India.  All different from the show we did at Fringe last year and on tour.  And of course dances, waltzes and a few surprises thrown in.

Please tell me about why you chose to apply for the Orlando Fringe festival. What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist? Fringe is a unique and amazing way to share in our COMMUNITY. All the artists and all the audiences in synergy for the duration of the festival. An amazing time, truly.

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? If so, how? It has certainly allowed me to do shows I have loved doing, and working with artists I love working with!

How long and in what ways have you been involved with Orlando Fringe? From the start – way before Phantasmagoria existed! In fact, when Fringe was downtown they used my venue Eola Theater one year (or was it two? So long ago I do not remember!).  It was this wonderful new venture in town!

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron? Go. Relish. Love. Enjoy and immerse. Take a chance on a show or two you normally would not, and dive into those you know you would love as well.

Have you performed/produced at any other Fringes? Which ones? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience there? How does Orlando Fringe stand out? I have not but we do tour our show to venues both in and out of state. We have a few requests from outside Fringes to submit, and we may very well do that!

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in? Can you tell us about those?  Phantasmagoria never stops performing! We perform 12 months out of the year multiple shows, mini shows, children’s shows, special events, touring shows, appearances!  After we premiere this new touring/best of show at Fringe we take it on a mini tour of cities around Florida as well as out of state to Baltimore.

What’s next for your production company? Anything top-secret you can hint about? We are already working on Phantasmagoria VIII which premiers at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center and plays most of October, as well as continuing some amazing shows and collaborations in various venues around Florida. We keep adding and developing, training and morphing into new forms. We love it!

Any last words? WE LOVE FRINGE!

If you like dark literature and unique storytelling, Phantasmagoria is the right show for you. And since they’ll be part of the May festival, you won’t have to wait until October to catch a glimpse!

For more information about Phantasmagoria events, follow them on Facebook

For information about booking, history, and photos, check out their website

Check back next week for the next issue of Fringe Spotlight Artist Series introducing local talent and fight instructor Jason Skinner. 


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