;There are certain scenes in certain dreams that involve animated versions of my own internal organs devouring themselves, emptying out a large white hollow for the staging of dead air dancing on nothingness. Are they a sign of soft-light-and-gauze happiness? No, they're generally just another reminder that Barbie forgot to eat and Ken had better call an ambulance. Oh, and yes, Ms. Carpenter, solitaire is the only game in town. Sigmund Freud, I need you. Like, now.

;;"I'm dying," I blurt a puff of underfed vodka into the face of a table-minder. "I mean, I'm trying to get my media pass for the Fringe Preview."


;"Uh, take this button and head all the way over to the right," he perks back, his face contorting into a pill of food substitute.


;Barbie did forget to eat tonight, actually, which should be fortunate, if only because the Fringe Preview's plate is full: Some 30 three-minute expurgations of alternative theatrics are on the docket, each intended to whet appetites for the big festival later this month, and I'm starving. But like most food, the Fringe always comes off a bit foreign to me, no matter how deeply I know that I need it. And this is raw food, though not at all like sushi. In short, I am not long for this low-rent art world.

;;"Oooh, did you pick your button?" quizzes impossibly thin politico Jeff Horn, pointing at the baby blue "Orlando Fringe Forever" entry button presently piercing my heart. "Because it totally matches your outfit."

;;Surely he's referring to my increasingly blue death pallor and not my often-worn blue Ben Sherman shirt, but I always assume the worst.

;;Inside the Orlando Repertory Theater auditorium, some suicidal dirge by the Smoking Popes is blurring an unlikely background for such an excitable Fringe melee. A sellout crowd of graduated drama-clubbers and the fags and hags that that implies punctuates a surprisingly blue-haired Fringe base, all gathered with their pens to mark yes or no in the program next to each of the featured shows.

;;"It is a little like sushi, then," I Neneh Cherry to my solitary self, squatting my buffalo stance into a seat in an empty row. "Don't you get fresh with me."

;;After a litany of passing glances from everybody I have ever met but forgotten their name, an older couple sits down next to me and starts engaging in one of those older-couple Fringe conversations that I'd probably rather not hear. By the time they've made it through ;9-11: The Musical and Sodom and Gomorrah, I'm scared they might suck me in.


;"What are you writing?" cross-eavesdrops the female half.


;"Oh, uh," I hide my work. "I'm a writer for the Weekly."

;;Following a series of Schneider/Truesdell accolades dredging up the good old days of my bad old rag, I'm envisioning my exit as a pink puddle of water slipping out under the row of seats in front of me. This may be even less fun than food.

;;I distract myself by alternately staring at the bondage boys in Frankie-Goes-to-Hollywood relaxed leather hats and the large lady with the large voice up front who keeps screaming things like, "Oh my God! I'm fucking dreaming!" at everybody she meets. A swirling symphony of wooziness that might be malnutrition (or maybe just overstatement overreaction) presses a nervous sweat out of the neckline of my shirt. It smells like booze.

;;"Don't kiss me," Fringie Margaret Nolan breezes by with an almost-hug. "I smell like beer."

;;Maybe I'm not alone, then. Anyway, the lights go down and the show begins. Well, it sort of begins. The opening section – a series of DVD projections for the out-of-town entries – is plagued by technical difficulties, meaning there is no sound. Plus-sized Sonny-and-Cher team Beth Marshall and Michael Wanzie try to save things with such assurances as "It's a lot funnier if there are technical difficulties" and "Nothing is funnier than a Jewish uterus" (an inside joke involving the muted So Kiss Me Already, Herschel Gertz! entry), but the crowd's moans are louder than even Wanzie's chablis mouth. For the most part, anyway.


;"Let's hear it for our technical director!" Marshall tries to buy some time.


;"And now, the architect of the Titanic!" Wanzie sells it back to her.


;One mailed-in dance troupe entry features a messy bout with lines of flour, drawing obvious narcotic inference.


;"That's nothing," gurgles Wanzie. "I've seen Doug do that in my back yard after a few lines!"


;The joke travels slowly through the older set – like a knock-knock through tin cans and string – with the lady next to me finally leaning in with a "What did he say?"


;"Limes," I squeeze back. Not funny at all.

;;The live portion is your standard run of few-prop dramas, gay-chorus pink robes and frightful lesbian dance troupes, all culminating in a bit of messy genius called Drip Paint in Motion in which symbolically disgusting white paint is dripped all over a girl's body. Nice.

;;Outside, during the intermission, I'm squeezing my way through the cigarette smoke and promotional exhaust of the evening's second act, contemplating my sneaky exit amid the props, bodices and hair extensions yet to come. And just when I think I can't leave because it wouldn't be very nice, a very nice girl named Anna approaches me with a camera to take my picture and a mouth to tell me that I look a lot like Miss Sammy, only cuter and with more hair.


;"Hardly," I hardly.


;And then, out of nowhere, she says it: the obvious "it" that will allow me – nay, force me – to leave unannounced.


;"Are you anorexic?"


;"No," I snap a rib off. "I'm dead."

; [email protected]
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