Fall, as the word implies, is naturally a time of decline and decay. Our autumnal instinct is to hoard acorns and retreat into our dens for hibernation. Especially in 2012, you'd expect everyone to spend the season stockpiling Spam and shotgun shells inside bomb shelters built out of Glenn Beck's counterfeit gold bricks, what with the imminent Mayan apocalypse and all.
Someone forgot to tell Orlando's theater community that they're supposed to be buttoning up, because as you can tell from this issue's Fall Guide, productions are popping up all over. Central Florida's stages are sprouting with a profusion of old favorites expanding into brand-new venues and fresh faces in unexpected places.
The biggest new-stage news of the fall must be the completion of Mad Cow Theatre's long-anticipated move from Magnolia Avenue to a newly renovated complex on West Church Street. A former Hooters across the street from the 57 West high-rise now houses a pair of custom-designed stages, which should afford a significant upgrade over Mad Cow's sightline-impaired former pasture. The move was made possible by significant subsidies from the city and generous donations by Harriett Lake (who lends her name to one of the new auditoriums) and other patrons. Hopefully that means the troupe will now be on firm enough financial footing to consistently pay their performers in a timely manner. We'll discover if the years-long moving process paid off Oct. 6 when Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George premieres at a grand opening gala; that musical will be joined by drama The Road to Mecca, which inaugurates the smaller stage on Oct. 19.
Baby BlueStar might not have powerful politicians and deep-pocket donors backing her, but that didn't prevent her from recently opening the Venue, a new performance space of her own on Ivanhoe Village's Virginia Drive. With volunteer assistance, Blue transformed a former yoga studio into an intimate theater – complete with a dancer-friendly elevated wooden stage – in only "seven weeks and 29 days." I recently attended a pre-opening preview; despite its still missing a few niceties (like a curtain) I was impressed by the property's potential and positive vibes, enhanced by the house-party feel of the front lobby's full liquor bar. The Venue is currently hosting VarieTease's The New Show (8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, through Oct. 13), featuring a fresh cast of daring dancers delivering Blue's signature lip-sync delirium. Other upcoming acts include an Addams Family-inspired dance show from choreographer Willy Marchante's Casting Shadows Productions (Sundays and Mondays, Oct. 7-22), the Gender F#cks "drag king revue" on Thursdays (starting Oct. 4) and Peek-a-Boo burlesque on Fridays.
Hedwig Schmidt, eponymous transgendered heroine of the punk rock cult favorite Hedwig and the Angry Inch, has been a familiar face in Orlando since s/he was first indelibly embodied here by David Lee 10 years ago. More recently, the East German exile was portrayed by Joshua Eads Brown at the Abbey and Parliament House. Hot on the platform heels of that production comes another, this time from a fledgling company, Dark Side of Saturn, in an unconventional venue: Majestic Theatre & Lounge, better known as Revolution Nightclub (Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, Oct. 5 through Nov. 12). Ordinarily I'd shrug at yet another version of the same show being staged so soon. But I'm intrigued because (after a few false starts) director Tara Corless has cast Brian Thompson and Dorothy Massey, two of my old Rocky Horror Picture Show cohorts, in the leading roles. Speaking of Rocky Horror, if you're in the mood to toss some rice, now's the time: Ofir Eyal is retiring this Halloween after a decade directing CityWalk's Rich Weirdoes shadowcast.
Finally, across town at Orlando's other gay-friendly venue, producer Michael Wanzie has booked a diverse lineup of characters into the Parliament House's Footlight Theatre, starting with his continuing series of Celebrity Match Games (7:30 Saturday, Sept. 29, and 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15), which recently featured Florida House candidate Linda Stewart and Jackie "Queen of Versailles" Siegel. That's followed next month by The Queen and I (8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6-27) a fairy-tale reboot by Liz Langley, past OW contributor and our fave Floridian sex author. And on Saturdays in November (Nov. 3-17), Wanzie breaks the Footlight's camp-comedy mold with The Temperamentals, an off-Broadway drama about early gay-rights organizers in the Eisenhower era – think Milk meets Mad Men.
Whatever your theatrical taste, Orlando's stages have something to interest you all fall – until the cavalcade of Christmas crap comes along.