Say farewell to the 2014 Orlando Fringe Festival (photo by Seth Kubersky)
After thirteen days (seventeen if you count previews) of artistic overindulgence, the 2014 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival comes to a close over the next 30 hours with this year's final Patrons Pick encore performances. While shows continue through Tuesday night, the festival lawn vendors have folded their tents, and many international artists have already departed, making this an appropriate time for my annual Orlando Fringe wrap-up.
Patrons' Pick Awards
This year's Patrons' Picks, which are determined solely by ticket sales, included a few of my favorite shows from the 62 (and counting) I experienced at this year's festival:
- BYOV: Ride Along – 5/26 – multiple times
- Green: Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson – 5/26, 11am
- Silver: There’s No Place Like Home - 5/26, 12:45
- Brown: Taking Out the White Trash – 5/26, 2:30pm
- Red: Reincarnation Soup – 5/26, 4pm
- Pink: Chase & Stacey Present: Joyride – 5/26, 5:30pm
- Orange: Bless Me Father, for I Have Danced – 5/26, 7pm
- Yellow: God Is a Scottish Drag Queen II - 5/26, 8:30
- Blue: Judy Garland: Is It Just Me or Is It Just Me? – 5/27, 5pm
- Purple: Aqua Saga - 5/27, 6:30pm
- Black: Varietease - 5/27, 8:00pm
Critics' Choice Awards
Fringe is a non-juried festival, so it can't hand out qualitative awards on it's own. But for the past couple years, I've been honored to serve on a Critics' Choice Award panel chaired by former Orlando Sentinel critic Elizabeth Maupin. Along with current Sentinel critic Matt Palm, I helped pick our official choices for the best Orlando's 2014 Fringe had to offer.
- Best show, The Surprise, Martin Dockery
- Best original work, All New Nashville Hurricane, Chase Padgett
- Best comedy, Donating Sperm to My Sister's Wife, Stewart Huff
- Best drama, Reincarnation Soup, Viet-Dung Nguyen
- Best musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
- Best dance show, Bless Me, Father, for I Have Danced
- Best variety show, Ennui
- Best solo show, Jem Rolls Off the Tongue
- Best female performance, Erica Kate Macdonald, Tap Me on the Shoulder
- Best male performance, Jon Paterson, House
From the fair weather to the friendly faces, this was one of my favorite Fringes of the past decade. While there were few A+ productions that truly knocked me out on every level, there were plenty of solid B+/A- efforts, and only a couple shows so bad that I regretted seeing them. Most importantly, the 2014 Orlando Fringe was successful overall for the participating artists, with over 34,000 tickets sold, returning more than $270,000 to the performers; both numbers are about a 10% improvement over last year.
Of course, I wouldn't be me without making a few suggestions for improvement ahead of the 2015 Orlando Fringe:
- Parking: Free parking is at a premium around Loch Haven at the best of times, but when the Orlando REP blockades their lot on weekends -- leaving dozens of empty spots -- the situation gets downright desperate. It's understandable reserving some spots for the REP's cast and crew, but their patrons shouldn't have priority in a public lot over everyone else.
- Website and App: The Fringe website has made great leaps since the integration of TicketLeap online ticketing, and it's nice that a free mobile app was made available for 2014, but both have major usability issues, especially on iPhones. All I want is a way to see what's playing right now, and to compare schedules of selected shows to plan my itinerary.
- Outdoor Stage: Jessica Pawli booked a much-improved lineup of entertainment for the free outdoor stage on the festival lawn, but I rarely caught it because showtimes were mostly communicated via social media. Schedules of events posted at the stage and box office would help drive more patrons find the offerings.
- Show Lengths: Artists have to submit their show running times early, sometimes months before their show is complete, and I'm all for economy of time. But I was disappointed this year by how many performances were 15 or more minutes under their published length; my 2014 Irony Award goes to the show with "60 minutes" in its title, which ran just over 40.
- Volunteers: Fringe's volunteers are the heart of the festival, and most are some of the best folks you'll ever meet. The problem is that there are too few of them to fill all needed shifts, especially during the second weekend. I make an annual tradition of repeating this suggestion: make the "Fringe bucks" volunteers are paid in redeemable for booze, and they'll have more help than they can handle.