Fringe 2011: Always be prepared 

Your survival guide for Fringe Fest

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ABCs: The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival presents shows in two buildings: the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the Orlando Repertory Theatre (aka the Shakes and the Rep), both located in the Loch Haven Park campus at Mills Avenue and Princeton Street. Between them lies a broad grassy swath dubbed during Fringe fest the "Green Lawn of Fabulousness"; here you'll find the beer and wine tent, food vendors, an ATM, a Poetry Vending Machine, and a seething mass of theatrical humanity dropping names, flyers, items of clothing and their Rs. Check out show details, festival policies and venue maps at, where you can also buy tickets.

Bathroom: The largest and busiest restrooms are usually the ones near the round Patrons' Room in the Shakes and in the hallway near the Silver venue at the Rep. If all the stalls are full, find the often-overlooked facilities near the Blue venue in the Shakes and outside the Green venue at the Rep. And go first, because there's no re-entry if you leave a show.

Beer (AND WINE) tent: Buy a ticket at the ticket tent, then trade in your ticket for a beer at the beer tent. This is good to know before you stand in line at the beer tent. Eco-geek? Bring your own reusable cup.

BOX OFFICE: There are two: one in the lower lobby of the Shakes and one in the back lobby of the Rep. Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays, 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends.

Button: The $8 (cash only!) button gets you into all the shows and funds the Fringe's operating costs - ticket sales go to the shows themselves - and it can only be purchased at a festival box office, not online. It's a one-time purchase, but without it you will not be admitted to any show, so don't lose it. And when you leave, keep it on; businesses around Loch Haven have been known to surprise customers with a "Fringe discount." 

Cash: Bring it with you. While the box office and some vendors accept plastic, the all-important buttons and beer and wine tickets are cash-only, and the on-site ATM tacks on expensive fees and gets cleaned out fast on weekends.

Cocktails: Not sold on the grounds; liquor lovers will have to step out of the park to satisfy their thirst. See our map of local watering holes below.

Don't forget the Rep: The Shakes has more venues but the Rep has less foot traffic, more restrooms and a quicker box office line. It's a great place to lounge between shows.

Food: This year the Green Lawn of Fabulousness will feature barbecue, Greek food, vegan Asian food, "American/soul" food, kettle corn, ice cream, coffee, cupcakes and deep-fried "peanut butter-and-jelly clouds." What you won't find is a lot of light, healthy fare: Even the vegan food comes with a helping of oil and salt. For health's sake, try packing a salad or eating off-campus.

Flyers: Take flyers from artists; one of the best parts of Fringe is the conversations that come out of those exchanges, and you can tell a lot about a show by the person promoting it. But remember, glossy handbills mean only one thing for sure - the show producer has money to burn. Listen and ask questions.

Karma: Drop a few bucks in the "Tip the Fringe" jar. It's good karma.

LATENESS: The one hard and fast rule at Fringe is no late entry; even if you've paid for a ticket, once the doors close you're not getting in. Arrive at Loch Haven Park at least 30 minutes before your showtime and leave plenty of time to walk to your venue; it may be on the opposite end of the complex.

Parking: You'll hear as many theories as there are spots - which is to say, quite a few, but not enough. With multiple Florida Hospital construction projects, the elimination of many Mills Avenue spots in front of Loch Haven Park and various street-widening projects in the surrounding neighborhoods, this year more than ever it pays to arrive early. It may be best for your mental health to bite the bullet and pay to park in the Orlando Science Center garage. If you absolutely refuse to pay, get there before 10 a.m. to try and park in the Shakes lot, or explore Alden Road above Orange Avenue and hoof it. Better yet, ride your bike. There are ample bike racks available.

Secret Make-out Spot: We're not saying how we know this, but the best place for a secret make-out session is the Mennello Museum grounds after dark. Romance!

Tickets: Popular shows will sell out, and the box office lines can move slowly. Save yourself some hassle and buy online with a credit card. You'll pay the same $1 per ticket processing fee whether you buy in person or online; the only catch is that the discounts offered by some shows aren't valid on Internet sales.

Twitter: Follow @OrlandoFringe on Twitter. Brian Feldman is 2011's official Fringe tweeter, constantly posting insider scoops and retweeting reviews and tips. Somehow he manages to convey the Fringe experience in 140- character blips.

Weather: Don't forget a hat and/or umbrella. Until Fringe wises up and moves seating off the central lawn into the shade, prepare to bake while sipping your beverage; and until the sun falls out of the sky, there will be afternoon rain showers in Central Florida. If you get drenched despite best efforts, duck into the Orlando Museum of Art to buy a dry T-shirt or a new bumbershoot.

Some restaurants and bars near Fringe 2011


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