After two years of scaling back, virtualizing or outright canceling events, the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival (May 17-30; orlandofringe.org) has bounced back in a big way, bringing more than 70 delegates from around the world to Loch Haven Park for this weekend's World Fringe Conference.
Those representatives of far-flung Fringe Festivals will be joined by dozens of foreign artists, who are once again flocking to Florida from as far away as Sweden, Germany and Japan — not to mention the resurgent crowds of Canadians — for the longest-running event of its kind in the U.S.A. Brace yourself, because with over 100 acts performing across 14 days, 2022's Orlando Fringe is certain to be Central Florida's biggest cultural convergence since COVID-19 arrived.
To make room for all that entertainment, Renaissance Theatre has officially become home of the new Teal and relocated Purple venues, while downtown's Stardust Lounge (stepping in for Haös on Church) joins the Abbey and Savoy in offering "Bring Your Own Venue" performances. Hopping between all those venues on weekends should be easier this year, thanks to new free GoPegasus shuttles servicing the theaters and the free overflow parking lot at Lake Highland Prep. On top of the mainstage shows, be sure to check out Visual Fringe's dedicated gallery inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center; free international Kids' Fringe acts on weekends at the Orlando Garden Club; and free daily concerts and events on two Outdoor Stages.
Of course, this two-week creative carnival comes with a cost, and although the mandatory Fringe buttons still cost only $10, top ticket prices have increased to $15 (100 percent of which goes directly to the artists), plus a $2 per ticket fee. Drown your inflation-induced sorrows on the Festival lawn with Ivanhoe Brewing's exclusive Curtains Up white stout or a candy-themed cocktail while chilling in your own private cabana, or save money on snacks by donating $25 or more to Club Fringe for access to OMA's air-conditioned lounge.
The ABCs of Fringe: Post-Pandemic Edition
Whether it's your first Fringe or your 31st, you'll want to review our updated guide to getting the most out of the festival. Check out show details, festival policies and venue maps at orlandofringe.org/may2022, where you can also buy tickets, and read all Orlando Weekly's show reviews at orlandoweekly.com.
To make Fringe more accessible to all, ASL interpreters will be present at more than a dozen shows, and audio descriptions are available to blind or low-vision Fringe attendees for six shows this year; see orlandofringe.org/may/accessibility for details.
Bars and restaurants
Food stalls on the Fringe Lawn include everything from carnival-style fast food to high-end treats, along with the ubiquitous beer tent and a full liquor bar. There are also ample opportunities to stop for a drink or a bite to eat along Orange and Mills avenues and Virginia Drive. Go to orlandoweekly.com for reviews of hundreds of local restaurants, searchable by neighborhood.
Go first, because there's no re-entry if you leave a show. The ones inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center and the Orlando Repertory Theatre are the best — avoid the portables on the lawn unless you are desperate.
There are three (the main one in the Lowndes, plus one at the Rep and one at the Renaissance) where you can buy tickets in person, but you're better off buying online in advance; BYOV tickets must be purchased online. Tickets cost up to $15, and no matter where you buy, you'll pay a $2 service fee per seat.
The $10 button is a one-time purchase that funds Fringe's operations — ticket sales (minus the service fee) go directly to the shows themselves. Buttons can be purchased at merch tables or at a festival box office. Without a button and a ticket, no one over the age of 12 will be admitted to any show, so hang onto it.
Social distancing measures are no longer in effect in the Fringe venues. But still, secure your tickets early because popular shows are sure to sell out, and all sales end five minutes prior to showtime.
Join Club Fringe with a minimum donation of $25 to access the air-conditioned private lounge inside OMA, featuring free refreshments, phone chargers and other perks; visit orlandofringe.org/clubfringe for details.
During the festival, shows will be recorded and then available to view from June 3-17. As with "regular" Fringe, DigiFringe will return 100 percent of all ticket sales to the artists. A one-time DigiFringe digital "button" purchase will be required to view the online performances.
All Fringe shows have the option of offering $2 off to students, seniors, military and/or theme park employees. The only catch is that you must buy your tickets in person at a box office to get those savings.
Between the Lowndes and the Rep lies a broad grassy swath where you'll find the beer and wine tent, food vendors, an ATM, and a full liquor bar, not to mention a seething mass of theatrical humanity. The lawn opens at 5 p.m. on weekdays (noon on weekends) and closes at 1 a.m. nightly.
The hippest kids in town attend Kids Fringe inside the air-conditioned Orlando Garden Club (710 E. Princeton St.), which is packed on both weekends (Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) with free entertainment — puppetry, concerts, hands-on art activities — that parents will enjoy too. Capacity for indoor shows is limited; free tickets are distributed 15 minutes prior to each performance. Follow @kidsfringe on Instagram and Facebook for updates.
Even if you've paid for a ticket, once the doors close, you're not getting in. Arrive at least 30 minutes before showtime and leave plenty of time to park and walk to the venue; it may be on the opposite end of the complex.
It's always free to hang out on the lawn, where there's food, drink and local bands playing throughout the festival. Starting Wednesday, May 18, you can take in music, dance, comedy and spoken word every weeknight from 6-11 p.m. and weekends from 3-11 p.m.
Limited as always, with the Rep and Lowndes lots sure to be filled to capacity at all times. Magruder Eye Institute is open for Fringe patrons on nights and weekends; limited free street parking can be found along Mills and Orange avenues, Alden Road and Princeton Street. (Parking in AdventHealth's Alden Street garage is also gratis, but don't tell them Fringe sent you.) If you can, walk, bike, take SunRail or Lynx, or ride-share instead of driving.
Find the daily down-low at orlandofringe.org/may/daily-schedule. You'll also want to have a QR code reader handy for scanning the digital programs that are replacing dead trees, and for tipping the artists.
Follow the festival at facebook.com/orlandofringefestival, on Instagram (@orlandofringe) and on Twitter (@OrlandoFringe and the hashtag #OFringe31) for late-breaking announcements.
The Renaissance Theatre (where you'll find the Purple and Teal venues) requires either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 6 hours for entry. Tests are available for those who need one.
Each venue at the Fringe has a color-coded name. Blue, Orange, Pink, Brown and Yellow are all inside the Lowndes Center; Purple and Teal are inside the Renaissance Theatre; Green and Silver are at the Orlando Rep; and Gold is in the Orlando Museum of Art. BYOV shows are held at the Abbey (100 S. Eola Drive), Savoy Orlando (1913 N. Orange Ave.), Stardust Lounge downtown (431 E. Central Blvd.) and other site-specific locations. Make sure you leave enough time between shows if your venues are far apart.
Anything you see hanging on the walls inside the Lowndes — drawings, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, etc. — is part of Visual Fringe and it is for sale. Keep an eye on the daily schedule for Visual Fringe's workshops, classes and demonstrations, and take advantage of the various selfie backdrops.
Don't forget: hat, sunscreen, umbrella. It will be hot and it will rain. Be prepared!