- MICHAEL MARINACCIO
The crustiest among us might suggest that arts festivals are like theme parks and birthdays: great ideas we louse up by letting children participate. If that’s where your curmudgeonly head is at, you should probably see someone. In the interim, you’ll be mollified to learn that the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival isn’t about to become a kids-only affair anytime soon.
“Last year, my focus was to substantially improve and aggressively market Kids’ Fringe,” says event producer Michael Marinaccio. His rationale, he says, was to “attract an audience that had been intimidated by the Fringe, or who had seen us as a festival of only adult shows.”
With admissions to the Fringe’s child-oriented offering rocketing from 1,700 in 2011 to almost 10,000 last year, he reports, a big “Mission Accomplished” banner can be hung. And now it’s time to distribute the growth more equally across the age groups – especially as the regular, adult-targeted Fringe managed to expand last time too, even as the emphasis was on the rugrats.
So … anybody for a round of golf? Six holes of mini-golf, to be precise, designed by local artists and playable by visitors to the new Visual Fringe gallery. (Yeah, we know mini-golf isn’t just for us grown-ups … but we sure do play it better after a few beers.) The golf course, Marinaccio says, lends an interactive element to the Fringe’s first-ever dedicated gallery space – a 13,000-square-foot warehouse at 1427 Alden Road that he hopes will become “a destination unto itself, rather than just a gallery.” Weekend art bazaars masterminded by Visual Fringe producer Vadim Malkin will help further that goal, offering art sales, workshops, live performances, food-truck delicacies and installations.
Visual Fringe is just part of the festival’s high-profile expansion into Ivanhoe Village. There’s also a brand-new performance venue right across the street: the Black Venue, located inside the Venue, the recently opened arts space run by veteran Fringe performer Baby Blue. (Yes, the venue in the Venue is the Black Venue, and it’s hosted by a woman named Blue. Now say it all after a few beers.) Meanwhile, there’s another new stage closer to the Fringe’s Loch Haven home: Theatre Downtown has become the Gold Venue, hosting shows during the run of the festival for the very first time. (In the past, the theater has presented “Best of Fringe” encore runs after the festival proper ended.)
Back in the thick of Loch Haven, visitors to the Fringe’s famous Green Lawn will encounter two beer tents instead of one, as well as a mini disco, a cardboard theater, a busking stage and a widened vendor selection that includes “over 60 made-to-order gourmet burgers,” Marinaccio promises.
Oh, and Kids’ Fringe keeps growing too, with injections of new blood from the Blue Man Group’s “Street Team” and venerable Orlando effects-vocalist Michael Winslow (yes, the Police Academy guy). But even if the mere sight of anyone under 18 repulses you, the good news is that you’ll have plenty of beer and burgers to nurse while you recline on your rapidly aging tuchis and mutter, “You kids stay off my Lawn.” Grump.