Another year, another Fringe Festival come and gone. This was, actually, my first Fringe. Last year, I had just moved to Orlando when Fringe was in full swing – I got off the Amtrak Auto Train in Sanford, drove to check out my new digs at the Weekly and then wandered over to Loch Haven Park to see what there was to see. I didn’t make it much further than the Green Lawn of Fabulousness, but that was OK since the Green Lawn is a show in itself.
I did manage to squeeze in a few “official” Fringe shows this year, but I had a hard time tearing myself away from the Green Lawn. Orlando, in general, is not the kind of place where you get the people-watching opportunities you get used to in other cities: Our neighborhoods are (mostly) not so walkable and so much of our socializing happens indoors. But for 12 days, the Green Lawn is a pop-up neighborhood in Loch Haven Park, complete with restaurants (food trucks and vendors, at least), a neighborhood dive bar (the beer tent), a cocktail lounge (the tiki bar), an art gallery (Visual Fringe), stuff for the kiddies (Kids Fringe) and (obviously) lots of live entertainment.
But more importantly, there are people coming and going from this temporary town center, stopping to socialize for a bit on the way to the next venue, flocking to it for lunch or dinner, meeting other people, patronizing the businesses. (Our favorite Green Lawn “businesses” this year, by the way, were Brian Feldman’s Root Beer Tent, up for one night only, and Tod Caviness’ Poetry Vending Machine.)
Two of the people who’ve been heavily involved in making Fringe come together every year, though, have announced that they won’t be back again next season – at least not in an official capacity. Producer Beth Marshall surprised some Fringe regulars on Sunday night when she announced her resignation from the festival, with which she’s been involved in some way since 1997, to focus on her own production company, Beth Marshall Presents. Marshall, who has been producing the festival since 2005, told the Orlando Sentinel that she may even produce a show for next year’s Fringe Festival. Anna McCambridge-Thomas, who has produced Visual Fringe, the festival’s unjuried art show, has also announced that she’s leaving after nine years to focus on personal projects.
“I had told Beth before the festival started this year that I had intended to make this my last year,” McCambridge-Thomas says. “I’m graduating, and I figured this would be a good one to do it, since the theme was graduation. The decision wasn’t that I didn’t want to be part of Fringe anymore, because I love it – I’ve wanted to leave for a few years, but I couldn’t because it’s so good – but I feel like I need to focus on some other creative endeavors.”
She says that, among other things, she’s writing and illustrating a children’s book; she also says that she’s recommended a successor to the board, but she doesn’t plan to completely abandon Fringe. “I don’t plan on disappearing,” she says. “I plan to be there next year to help with the transition … and I will probably still have work in the show, help hang it, sit at the volunteer table.”
McCambridge-Thomas says that this year’s Visual Fringe consisted of 128 pieces of art and raised more than $3,500 – all of which goes back to the artists.
Marshall posted on her Facebook page that this year’s Fringe sold and comped 23,470 tickets – 2,253 more than last year.
Don’t underestimate the paintings of artist Robin Pedrero – even if artwork that’s bright and decorative, rather than arresting, isn’t your taste, many of the paintings she has on display right now in Amalgamation, a show hanging at Avalon Island art gallery, are well-crafted, easy on the eyes and (dare we admit this?) uplifting. Pedrero, who says she responds to “what catches my eyes and heart,” works primarily in acrylics and India ink here, and her images are whimsical and singsongy – silhouettes of white birds (doves?) and creeping vines punctuate canvases washed in vivid splashes of color. Pedrero’s work is simple but done well, and it’s pleasing if not challenging. She shares the gallery with Aurora Rincon, whose figurative bronze sculptures are rough-hewn and weighty – a nice earthy complement to Pedrero’s paintings. (Through June 10, Gallery at Avalon Island, 39 S. Magnolia, 407-312-0708, galleryatavalon island.com, free.)