Exclusive interview with new Orlando Fringe executive director Alauna Friskics

click to enlarge Alauna Friskics talks to OW about her new role as executive director of the Orlando Fringe.
Alauna Friskics talks to OW about her new role as executive director of the Orlando Fringe.
The Orlando Fringe Festival recently announced the hire of Alauna Friskics as the organization's new executive director, replacing George Wallace. Alauna has been working as executive director of the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, which she helped develop from renovation into a $1.4 million venue. Friskics will transition into her new position at Fringe over the next couple of months, but she's been part of the festival for nearly 20 years.

We conducted this exclusive interview with Alauna, in which she shares thoughts on her predecessor and the task ahead of her as Fringe's new executive director:

Orlando Weekly: What was your first encounter with Orlando Fringe?
Alauna Friskics: I first came to the Fringe for spring break my senior year of college. My dad and stepmom had moved to Orlando and discovered this little theater festival they thought I would like. My dad was the original beer tent manager. That year, in 1998, I volunteered hundreds of hours. I was hooked.

What are some of the roles you've held with the Fringe over the years, and how has the Festival impacted your career path?
I was a volunteer (1998), volunteer coordinator (1999), producer for Mission IMPROVable shows (2000-2001; I lived in Chicago and brought this show to the Festival), financial manager/co-producer (2002), and producer for shows, or billet for out of town artists (2003-). One year, I volunteered to make the awards so I ordered a lot of 100 used bowling trophies from eBay. I took them all apart and reconstructed them with Barbie heads, doll clothes, glitter, pipe cleaners, etc. Each trophy was personalized to the category.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments during your time with Garden Theatre, and was it difficult choosing to leave there for the Fringe job?
With the Garden Theatre I've had the unique opportunity to create an arts presence, and in turn help build a community into a vibrant hotspot. When I arrived in West Orange County in 2006, this community was eager and ready for arts and culture. Winter Garden has such a rich history, some residents going back four, five, even six generations. This community opened its arms to this idea of a performing arts venue and supported the vision. I am proud to be a part of growing the organization to a $1.4 million budget in less than nine years. I am proud of taking artistic risks, and having a brave and capable board of directors who support and love this theater. I am proud that the Garden was the economic catalyst for the rebirth of this historic downtown.

The Garden Theatre has been a part of my core identity for over a decade. Choosing to leave an organization that I built from the ground up is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.

How do you feel George Wallace has defined the Fringe executive director's role, and in what aspects do you plan to either continue or deviate from the example he set?
As a friend and colleague, I have known for a long time that George Wallace is a talented and capable arts leader. I believe George has grown the organization in all the right places. I am excited to build off his success and see where we can take it from here. When I was involved in the past, Fringe was a completely different organization. It's grown on every level. That is what excites me. I have a lot of listening and learning to do from the board, staff, volunteers, audiences, and the community. I am sure a million new ideas will pop up. It's just a question of harnessing those ideas and creating a solid plan that is right for the organization.

What will it be like working alongside your former roommate, artistic director Mike Marinaccio?
Mike and I have been great friends for a long time. Working with someone I know so well will allow us to jump right in. We already have a communication shorthand in place. We respect and know each other. It means we can hit the ground running and not have to waste time getting to know each others' nuances.

Do you have any specific goals you'd like to accomplish as Fringe executive director during your first Festival? Over the next five years?
There are many similarities in the Garden and Fringe. Both nonprofits have experienced tremendous and rapid growth, and are both positioned for continued success. For anyone who knows me, they know I am most excited to pore over the finances. Nerdy, but true.

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