Orlando, Florida, February 17, 2020 – Today Orlando Fringe announced details surrounding the upcoming 30th Annual Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival taking place in-person May 18-31 in Orlando’s Loch Haven Park. Orlando Fringe is the longest-running theatre festival of its kind in the United States. Last year, festival organizers cancelled the in-person festival due to the effects of COVID-19. Orlando was one of the first Fringe festivals on the circuit to take their annual event online in 2020. “Arts play a crucial role in our community’s recovery,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at the online ceremonies in 2020. “Fringe is always a space where we leave our troubles behind.”
“Hearing first-hand from artists about how hard the pandemic has hit them was the biggest driving force in moving forward with our festival this year,” said Fringe Executive Director Alauna Friskics. “Getting artists back on stage while maintaining high standards of safety and sanitation is the top priority for us.”
Friskics explained that Fringe has welcomed back artists that were deferred from the cancelled 2020 festival and reduced the fees that all artists pay to take part in the event. She also outlined multiple ways the festival is shifting to subsidize money back to artists.These actions reduce some of the barriers that an artist may face when planning on mounting a production at Orlando Fringe.
Fringe also outlined changes that festival-goers will see when they attend the much-loved festival later this spring. Organizers have reduced the seating capacity in each of the festival’s performance venues, customized by venue, to allow for distancing.. “We are operating in full compliance with safety guidelines. We’re tracking these guidelines day by day to see how many patrons can safely attend each show,” added Friskics. “We want to fill as many seats as we can, but safely.” Fringe is currently asking fans to make donations to purchase cardboard likenesses of themselves that will be placed in the empty seats of reduced capacity venues.
To provide extra space for patrons in lines waiting to enter a show, organizers have eliminated one of the festival’s venues to reduce congestion. The Visual Fringe gallery space that has lined the walls in years past has also been removed and replaced with an online visual art gallery. Outdoors on the lawn, marked areas and distanced seating will allow for relaxation between shows. Cocktail service will be offered to reduce travel. “We’re also eliminating any items that can be touched and passed around,” said Theatre Producer Lindsay Taylor. “That means no physical promotional flyers or programs this year.”
Strict mask-wearing will be enforced as well as extended sanitation and social-distance guidelines. “We hired a COVID Compliance Officer so we understand how to give audiences as many opportunities to experience the festival as possible at their individual comfort level. ” added Friskics. “We will come together safely and celebrate.”
Celebrate is precisely what Orlando Fringe wants you to do this year. Their theme for the festival is just that; celebrate. “When thinking about the message we wanted our thirtieth year to center around and looking back to last year and the hardships all of us faced, we simply want to celebrate,” said Fringe Marketing Director Brian Sikorski. “Celebrate not only our thirtieth, but the fact that we are still here, that 2020 is over. Celebrate artists, celebrate our volunteers, celebrate our patrons, sponsors, and anyone who believes in Fringe.”
Among the changes in this year’s festival are modifications to the Bring Your Own Venue or “BYOV” program. BYOV’s are area businesses that offer performances in their buildings and are included in the festival yet are not managed by the festival. Both Savoy and The Center, due to reduced audience capacity, will be unable to participate in Fringe this year, and Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park announced the closing of their physical location on June 17. Deferred 2020 artists from these venues are being offered spots to perform at The Abbey on Eola Drive, Fringe’s new BYOV for 2021. Also joining the BYOV list for 2021 is HÄOS on Church, the Church Street venue from Fringe veteran Blue Starr, who last participated as a BYOV at The Venue on Virginia Drive in 2019.
Orlando Fringe is optimistic that the upcoming festival will provide a safe experience for patrons to attend while also raising as much money as possible for the performing artists. Yet festival organizers know that not everyone will feel comfortable attending the festival in person and have announced a new program titled, DigiFringe that brings Fringe to patrons wherever they are in the world. “We are recording every single show at this year’s festival and inviting other artists to present works if they aren’t able to travel to Orlando,” said Taylor of the new program. DigiFringe, in partnership with The Imagination House, will start on June 4 and run through June 18. “DigiFringe will allow people to virtually attend Orlando Fringe even if they’ve never been able to do so in the past,” added Sikorski.
All these increased safety measures require adding to the Fringe strong volunteer team. “This year more than ever we need volunteers to help lift up the Festival. Join us if you are interested in joining the Fringe family.” added Friskics.
To raise funds for the upcoming festival, Fringe fans can make a donation on behalf of Orlando Fringe to the United Arts Campaign for the Arts. All donations made to this campaign now through April 30th will be matched by 15%. As an incentive to those who have not donated in the past, contributions from new donors will be matched by 30%.
Information about the festival and its many programs are found at orlandofringe.org