Orlando, Florida, September 17, 2021 – Orlando Fringe celebrated their 30th theatre festival this past May. Prior to the event, Steven Grant, the Program Director and Professor of Practice-Themed Environments Integration at the University of Florida CityLab reached out to Orlando Fringe with a proposal for collaboration for his summer semester.
Grant, a Fringe Fan and member of the Club Fringe Donor Program, and Adjunct Professor Brittany Gacsy proposed that their 20-student Project Development Studio at CityLab work with the Orlando Fringe. The aim was to help solve obstacles the festival faces when drawing over 75,000 people to the Loch Haven Park area every May.
Before the festival, Fringe Marketing Director Brian Sikorski spoke to the students via Zoom and shared the history of the organization and the challenges Fringe has with producing an annual event on the scale as theirs, such as wayfinding, parking, staging, and overall layout.
In the days leading to the festival, Orlando Fringe invited students from the class to help with the load-in and load-out of the festival to understand the festival’s logistics. They volunteered, saw shows during the festival, and took in all facets of the event that relate to their studies.
Back in the CityLab studio, twenty students were divided into five interdisciplinary teams, each exploring a different aspect of the festival. The proposals ranged from the practical to the abstract.
“The students tackled the project from many different angles since this studio is multi-disciplinary ,” said Professor Steven Grant. “We have students with degrees in hospitality, interior design, planning, architecture, civil engineering, and so much more.”
Grant invited Fringe to the studio to preview the work. “It was incredible,” Brian Sikorski said. “It was evident that the students understood what Fringe is, and it showed in their work.”
A month later, Sikorski returned for final presentations with Executive Director Alauna Friskics. “We were blown away by what we saw,” said Friskics. “There were some ‘Ah-ha’ moments when we looked at each other and couldn’t understand how we hadn’t thought of that yet.”
“My team worked together to propose a new experience called The FringeWalk that would connect The Lawn to a new venue that will be included in The Fringe as part of their larger expansion plan,” said student Alex Sansolo. “Through a series of installations, experiences, and improved wayfinding, our proposal intended to create an interactive and historical experience that would help unify and activate the expanding festival.”
“Our group wanted to bring people in, keep people engaged and create a common thread, said student Katie Kramer. “We also wanted to refocus on Kids Fringe. We thought about what was talked about most on the lawn; the bar! We created a family-friendly, Kids-themed bar with an area for a meet and greet with Fringezilla. The theme of the event was Neon Beach. Kids would be able to order their drinks such as ‘Bear Hugs on the Beach,’ and then they would be able to relax on a beach towel or float chairs. Our goal was to have fun and create fun ideas!”
Brian and Alauna loved the ideas presented, and are looking at how some of them can be implemented in time for next year’s festival. . “Fringe’s many facets allow for endless creativity, and we are open to taking these students’ projects and making them a reality. It’s great to have a creative dream partner in CityLab,” added Friskics.
“It was very rewarding for all,” added Grant. “The ideas and drawings produced exceeded my expectations.”
Both CityLab and Orlando Fringe have confirmed that they want to continue this relationship into future semesters.
“The opportunity to work with a client to create feasible solutions enabled us to utilize the skills we have learned throughout the Themed Environments Integration program at UF’s CityLab,” said student Kaitlyn Graf.