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People We Love 2020: Our annual list of people making Orlando a better place



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Orlando is overflowing with talented performers who long to shine on stage. But in order for them to stand in the spotlight, there has to be someone backstage like Orlando Fringe Festival executive director Alauna Friskics, who has made it her lifelong mission to make sure those artists get the opportunity to be seen. "I knew from a pretty early age that I wanted to run my own theater someday," she says, "and use my left brain/right brain to help artists create their art easier."

Ironically, the event that Friskics now leads is the one that originally brought her to town from the Midwest in the late 1990s. Family members who lived in the area and volunteered for Fringe invited her to visit during spring break of her senior year, and Friskics says she "fell completely in love with it immediately," volunteering "from sunup to sundown." She moved to Central Florida after graduation, and she's been an active member of our performing arts community ever since.

Before succeeding George Wallace as the Fringe executive director in 2017, Friskics came to prominence as the founding executive director (and first employee) of the Garden Theatre, whose 2008 rebirth helped drive Winter Garden's decade-long resurgence. "I was welcomed with open arms into that community," she recalls of her dozen years there, "and being able to create something that they were falling in love with, by helping to rebuild and restore the theater, was just a dream come true."

Although she's appeared in shows herself, her heart lies in supporting others' creative efforts. She cherishes her ability to help cultivate artists and producers in their early careers, pointing out how many now-familiar local artists have "cut their teeth [and] begun their theatrical careers here at Fringe."

Although her work with Fringe and taking her daughter on hikes and to birthday parties keeps her too busy to spend much time out and about (other than trips to Kabooki Sushi, her favorite) she loves the energy of the city. "Orlando is made up of some really cool people doing innovative and collaborative things, and it's fun to be a part of projects that build community." (

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