In the last two weeks of May, the city of Orlando, or more exactly Loch Haven Park, became the home of The Orlando International Fringe Festival. If you don't know what Fringe is; you probably have never been to a theatre or seen a play that's written and produced by local and international creative people. Or maybe you don't know because you do not live in Orlando. That's not a good enough excuse, because Fringe Festivals are held all over the world. At least thirty in different cities in the United States. You can use the excuse that you didn't attend last year's event or even this year's because of COVID and I understand, however, this organization took every precaution to ensure the patrons felt safe inside any of the theatre venues.
The Orlando Fringe Festival has been around for thirty years. This is quite an accomplishment for anything in the Central Florida area that is not theme park-related. The theatre venues this year were set up to accommodate all the pandemic restrictions while giving the festival the feel it so richly cultivates. Last year the festival took place solely online and they felt the financial and physical burdens it creates for such an interactive environment. No one walks away from Fringe without feeling like they took part in an experiment in culture, diversity, and social commentary.
I had the opportunity to see a few of the plays this year. As the festival runs for two weeks and the plays ran daily even though they all were not available on the same day, the options were there to see as many shows and also enjoy the free festival entertainment outside.
One can only imagine the painstaking process there is in writing, getting selected to present and then start the process of set design, costume design, as well as finding the perfect performers to present the play in all its glory. Now add the additional complication of the pandemic and the restrictions put on the cast, crew, and audience.
I spoke with one such creator and his comment that resonated with me the most is getting a read on how the audience was receiving his production. Spending his time backstage only listening to the actors and the responses from the audience was difficult. Sure he heard the laughter coming from the audience, But would it have been louder, longer, and less restrictive if the entire audience wasn't wearing a mask? Could the actors get positive feedback as well?
Sure, once the lights go on and the play begins the actors can only gauge the tempo and rhythm of the play by the reactions or queues that tell the actor he or she hit the mark. So I think this group of festival participants deserve another round of applause for going all in and letting their instincts do the work.
I also want to mention like all other things COVID-related, the financial burden to the craters had an impact. Many did because of social distancing restrictions and a sold-out show was not sold out because there were seats that could not be filled due to the social distancing guidelines. That was something I did not realize until I sat in the audience and saw for myself. At one show I was the only person sitting in a row of five seats.
Unlike previous shows, this year the team at Fringe recorded one performance from each participant's show. For two weeks from June 4th to June 18th, anyone interested in seeing what you missed can log into https://virtuallyfringe.com/digifringe and help the production crew and actors as well as enjoy some good old adult shows. The cost is about the same as going to the movies. Yet in the luxury of your home, you can watch a performance in your pajama bottoms and help the artists. Please make sure to thank them by leaving a contribution for their creativeness.
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