The latest status report from the Orlando International Fringe Festival follows the famous "good news/bad news" template. The good news is that the festival's operating shortfall may be slightly less than the $35,000 that was reported two weeks ago ("Fringe fallout," July 29). The bad news is that the potential miscalculation was only possible because the event's books had fallen into such alleged disarray in the first place.

According to board member (and past board president) Ana Handshuh, she and her colleagues have been busy re-creating the Fringe's financial records of the entire last year, working to reconcile a host of incomplete and otherwise spotty information. Some hidden assets have been discovered, though not nearly enough to lessen the importance of the emergency fund-raising initiatives now under way. (One of them, "Fringe 250," is a drive to find 250 sponsors who will kick in $100 each to help the festival right its own ship. Ten such pledges have already been received, Handshuh says.)

The auditing process has commenced without the assistance of recently departed executive director Ed DeAguilera. According to Handshuh and other board members, he won't return their calls to address lingering "irregularities." Orlando Weekly, however, found him easy to track down, and he denies receiving any calls or e-mails whatsoever from Fringe representatives.

"I don't think they would know what to say to me," DeAguilera muses. "I wish them a world of luck, and I hope they do very well. `But` it's not my show anymore."

Meanwhile, those whose show it still is gathered Aug. 8 to hash out the future of the 10-day performing-arts festival. The biggest news to emerge from the Fringe board's annual retreat is that the 2005 event will definitely not be divided between downtown Orlando and Loch Haven Park, as was this year's edition. Which locale gets to host Fringe in toto is yet to be decided, dependent on a variety of factors both financial and procedural.

The Fringe is also negotiating with Beth Marshall, who was hired as associate producer this year, to become executive producer . The executive-director position created for DeAguilera is likely to be discarded, with a "development director" instead sought to generate income and sponsorships. And a professional accounting service may be retained to handle monetary duties during the 2005 event.

A fund-raiser, "Taste of the Fringe," is planned for Aug. 31 at the Manor Gallery, with samplings of food, beverages, art and entertainment. The annual "10 for the Fringe" program of short plays will follow in October, and will be endowed this year with a Halloween theme. As those coffer-filling undertakings near, the Fringe board is consulting with organizations like United Arts to institute a more reliable set of processes and procedures for the festival to follow.

"We're not insolvent," Handshuh clarifies. "We were burned at the wrong time. Not that there's ever a good time to be burned. But we're making sure it doesn't happen again."


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