;Once the pesky holidays are out of the way — and my multicultural calendar reflects the cutoff as Jan. 6 for the Festival of Kings — the momentum builds toward the cluster of festivals that starts with the sprawling ArtsFest in February and ends with the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival in May. To participate in these highly social affairs — either as a volunteer or as a butt in a seat — it takes preparation, coordination and commitment. Time to get ready.;;
; Organized by United Arts of Central Florida, ArtsFest is really a fund-raiser kick-off disguised by the presentation of hundreds of arts events in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties. It's like a cultural buffet of what the community has to offer, with free samplings to entice donations that benefit UA's overall mission. Ultimately, it can be an opportunity to afford the treat of a ballet, opera or theater performance. Access to the events can be tricky at best, confusing at worst, and here's the new deal: This year, tickets will be available only online from Redchairproject.com, starting 10 a.m. Jan. 26; first come, first served. There is no cost for any event, but each user is limited to four tickets (it can be to one performance or several, for a total of four). If that's not enough, you'll have to log on from a different computer to order more, also four at a pop. Because there are 244 events at 54 locations, and the portion of tickets dedicated to ArtsFest varies, it's imperative to jump in early to get in on the action. (Feb. 1-11 at various venues; www.unitedarts.cc; tickets at www.redchairproject.com);;
; Now in its fourth act, the PlayFest at Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival has whittled down and solidified its production model. Over 10 days, new plays are presented as full performances, readings and workshops; plus there are seminars, master classes and special events. Similar to Fringe in its organization, fest-goers must make a one-time purchase of a $5 button. Tickets to any of the events can then be bought for prices that range from $3 for readings to $8 for workshops and upward from there. In one oddity, no button is required to see the OSF's production of Crime and Punishment, brought back from last year's lineup; admission is the typical OSF cost of $20-$35. Tickets are already on sale. (Feb. 23-March 5 at Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival; 407-447-1700; www.shakespearefest.org);
;;Florida Film Festival
; There's but a week left to sign up as a volunteer for the 16th annual Florida Film Festival, which is well-known as one of Orlando's best ways to have a cool social life — at least for 10 days — and possibly come face-to-face with independent film celebrities. That is, of course, unless some cinephile Santa already delivered on the $700 Platinum Pass. Erica Matyas is in charge of organizing volunteers, which numbered approximately 180 last year, for three main categories: marketing, ushering and guest services. Matyas says, "Anyone who is willing to work hard and have fun, with great benefits" is welcomed. (The main benefit is that your badge gets you into any film on a stand-by basis when you're not working a shift.) Download the volunteer form at www.enzian.org, and make sure it arrives in Erica's hands — by mail, drop-off or fax (407-629-6870) — by Jan. 19. She'll be back in touch. Stay tuned to the FFF website for the announcement of the schedule and ticketing information. (March 23-April 1 at Enzian Theater, Maitland, and other venues TBA; ;407-629-1088; www.floridafilmfestival.org);;
;Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival
;; Volunteering at the Fringe is another way to stimulate a boring life, and they always need help, especially from those who are computer-savvy. A search for a volunteer coordinator is underway, and in the meantime, if you're interested in helping with the 16th annual extravaganza — a continuous 12 days of theater, music, dance and other performances — go to www.orlandofringe.org and follow the prompts to send an e-mail expressing your interest. For each hour worked, volunteers receive one Fringe buck, and four bucks buys a ticket for a show. There's good news in that they are switching to a whole new ticketing system; many of us had the frustrating system crash in the middle of a transaction in 2006. The best feature of the upcoming system is that purchasers can print their own tickets and completely avoid a crush at the will-call counter —leaving any other crushes to take place in more convenient locations. The schedule and ticketing information will be released in March on the website. (May 17-28 at Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival and Orlando Repertory Theatre; 407-648-0077; www.orlandofringe.org);;
;; Last week, we mistakenly reported that Stuart Nichols and Richard Lamberty took gold at the OutGames in Montreal. While the ballroom dancers no doubt flashed their feet of gold, they finished there in fourth place.
;;— Lindy T. Shepherdarts@orlandoweekly.com
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