From shuttle buses to cabanas to an official Fringe beer, there are plenty of things to be pumped about coming to this year's Orlando Fringe Festival.
This month, we sat down with Chantel Eubanks, Orlando Fringe's marketing manager, to find out about all the new venues, features and frivolities to look out for at the festival happening next month from May 17-30.
Chantel, although in her first year on Orlando Fringe's payroll, is no stranger to Central Florida's beloved theater festival. She began volunteering with Fringe back in 2013 when she was fresh out of college and looking for a way to get involved in the local arts scene. A quick Google search led to her long career with Fringe as a volunteer box office attendant, beer tent worker, venue captain and, now, marketing manager.
After two years of in-person Fringe cancellations due to COVID-19 (including the heartbreaking cancellation of the Winter Mini-Fringe Festival in January due to the rise of the Omicron variant), Chantel says that this year is the perfect year to be back in full force with expanded offerings and fresh experiences. Here's a breakdown of what's new:
- ORLANDO FRINGE HOSTS THE WORLD FRINGE CONGRESS: This year, Orlando was selected to host the World Fringe Congress, which means that Fringe leaders from all across the globe will be attending the festival to see how Orlando does Fringe!
- SHUTTLE BUSES BY GOPEGASUS: Festival-goers will be happy to learn that shuttle buses, provided by GoPegasus, will be available on the weekends. The buses will travel between Fringe's signature venues in Loch Haven Cultural Park to Comfort Suites Downtown, the festival's official lodging partner, and the festival's BYOV (bring your own venue) locations, which include The Abbey, Savoy Orlando and Stardust Lounge. The buses will also be part of GoPegasus' Art on Wheels program, which converts coach buses into "moving canvases" showcasing the works of local artists through wrap designs. Jet to and from the festival in style!
- CABANAS: You may know them from last year as "party pods," but they're back this year as cabanas! Guests can purchase luxury tents on the lawn with seating and bar service to enjoy the festival to the fullest.
- NEW VENUE: In addition to Orlando Fringe's primary venues in Loch Haven Cultural Park, Renaissance Theatre has been introduced as this year's purple and teal venues. The theater is a short three-block walk away from the main park location.
- ART VENDING MACHINES: As part of this year's Visual Fringe, Orlando Fringe will be partnering with Vexed Vending Machines to bring a community arts-based vending machine to the festival. To check it out, visit the Visual Fringe headquarters at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.
- ONLINE TICKETING SYSTEM: You haven't known true humiliation until you have struggled to find Loch Haven parking 10 minutes before your show starts, scared a few poor Fringe volunteers by sprinting up to the ticket booth, gasping, to buy a button, then sprinted down the hallway to realize that your show has started and you aren't allowed in (the author does NOT speak from experience). Fortunately, this year, you can save yourself those crucial two minutes by purchasing a button, ticket packs, cabanas and anything else Fringe-y you may need through Orlando Fringe's brand new online ticketing system. Check it out here.
- A BREW OF ONE'S OWN: Last, but certainly not least, Fringe will be getting its very own beer this year, crafted by local brewery Ivanhoe Park Brewing Co. specifically for the festival. It's a white stout that will be available exclusively at the festival's beer tent on tap and in cans. “I’m more of a cider drinker, but I have to say that this beer is probably one of the best beers that I’ve tasted," Chantel said. That's a good enough testimony for us to crack one open!
These new amenities and specialty products certainly make experiencing the festival easier and more fun, but the most thrilling part of Orlando Fringe will always be the artists and the opportunity to experience their fabulous performances.
Fringe is one of those rare, beautiful spaces where the divide between the audience and the performers is removed. Grab a drink at the beer tent with a show director to hear more about their vision or chat up an actress behind you in line for another show. Fringe is all about community, authenticity and diversity, and it's a festival where you can see shows rated "G to OMG," in the Fringe team's words.
What's the best way to experience this year's Fringe? Take a large leap outside your comfort zone, Chantel suggests.
“Be adventurous, go and see whatever show looks interesting," she said. "You can always make a friend or two in the line and the artists are so willing to talk about their shows.”
Tickets are on sale NOW for shows playing at the 2022 Orlando Fringe Festival, happening May 17-30, here.