Interviews with Fringe's most anticipated artists

Sentinel Theater Critic

It's the 17th annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival (phew!), the 12-day celebration of everything onstage — plays, musicals, dance, comedy, music, performance art and just about anything else that moves.

We talked to some of the Fringe's most anticipated artists, and here's what we found.

'A Brief History of Petty Crime'

We asked writer-performer

Jimmy Hogg:

Tell us about your show. A Brief History of Petty Crime chronicles my years as a typical teenage miscreant — so it's a comedy. But it centers around one night out that goes horribly wrong, nearly resulting in imprisonment. And like its predecessor Curriculum Vitae, it's fast-paced, physical and almost all true.

What do you like about the Orlando Fringe? Last year I was surprised and delighted to find such a vibrant theater scene in the least expected of places. There's also a good mixture of local, national and international artists, and as one of the internationals I was made to feel very welcome by patrons and fellow artists alike, which is exactly why I decided to return this year.

How would you describe the Fringe for someone who's never experienced it? Fringe is a very inclusive, accessible festival. There is something for everyone, whether you're a theater-going veteran or a first-timer: A little bit of research and you're sure to find something to float your boat.

'Shadows in Bloom'

We asked writer-performer

Gemma Wilcox:

Tell us about your show. Shadows lurk, jealousy seethes, plants talk, seeds grow... Follow the life of Sandra and her complex relationships. Twenty new, exciting characters, audience interaction and the point of no return for a young woman on the edge of her independence.

What do you like about Fringe? I love the fact that every theater is in walking distance, and that there is an incredible outdoor food, drink, social area in the

center of everything where you

can mingle and meet other

performers and audience members. I love the buzz of the Fringe atmosphere, with everyone talking about this show and that show and poring over their programs about what wonderful work of art to see next!

How would you describe it for someone who's never experienced it? A delicious, exciting, multiflavored artistic buffet at your disposal for 12 days straight! Extremely affordable tickets, tons of fun, a wonderful community and the opportunity to see some performances that will blow your mind!

'American Squatter'

We asked writer-performer Barry Smith:

Tell us about your show. American Squatter is the true tale of a well-documented teenage rebellion. I moved from Mississippi to California to live with my dad when I was 14, only to find that he's obsessed with cleaning. When it comes time for my teenage rebellion, I decide to be very, well, not clean.

What do you like about Fringe? I performed in 10 Fringe festivals last year, and Orlando was my favorite Fringe for meeting and getting to know other artists.

How would you describe it? Imagine gathering a bunch of incredibly creative people together and telling them that they can do anything — anything — they want to do onstage: drama, puppets, music, comedy, dance, yodeling, banjo playing, juggling, monologues, rolling around in paint. Anything goes at a Fringe festival — and tickets are cheap,

so you can take chances and see things that you've never even imagined.

'Totem Figures'

We asked writer-performer T.J. Dawe:

Tell me about your show: It'smy life story, the big picture, the things I've never talked about in any of my other autobiographical shows: my religious upbringing, my imaginative life as a kid, dreams of being an actor, stumbling onto writing, stumbling onto the Fringe circuit, my creative process, my heroes, the stories I keep coming back to. It's about the patterns in my life.

What do you like about the Fringe? Its compactness. All the venues are in two buildings, with a beer tent and food vendors between 'em. People park their cars, walk back and forth, see shows, drink and talk to each other. Also, there's an incredibly strong theater community here. The theme parks help a lot of actors pay the rent, and they're left with the burning desire to put on something that satisfies them artistically. And I especially love the two-minute pre-show thanking-the-sponsors announcements.

How would you describe it? You might see the best play of your life, or the worst. For less than 10 bucks a shot. Another thing is, people usually write their own shows. The plays are very personal expressions of the participants' interests. So you get a window right into the core of someone, unfiltered by a board of directors or financial backers or any kind of organizational superstructure. Which might make it the best show you've ever seen. Or the worst.

'New Rochelle'

We asked writer-performer John Ryan:

Tell us about your show. New Rochelle mixes elements of campy '60s sitcom TV with classical tragedy, sort of a cross between an episode of The Donna Reed Show and Medea. Janine Klein plays Vicki Wilson, a seemingly happy housewife desperate to keep her home life perfect while her husband lusts over a sassy waitress; her cheerleader daughter finds herself in an unfortunate "condition"; and her son tries to figure out why he is so infatuated with Rock Hudson.

What do you like about the Fringe? As a young artist, I love that the Fringe provides an accessible venue for my work to be seen by such a diverse array of people. I also get exposure to and feedback from all sorts of smart, talented people.

How would you describe it? The Fringe is by far the coolest event in Orlando. I look forward to it more than Christmas.

'Dysfunctional Fables'

We asked producer Fred Berning:

Tell us about your show. Dysfunctional Fables is a funny and touching 60-minute musical cabaret featuring distinctively modern twists on traditional tales. The stories include "The Gingerbread Boy," "Demeter and Persephone" and "The Three Little Pigs." The show creatively recounts these familiar tales in bold new ways with exceptional musicality and style.

What do you like about the Orlando Fringe? As a producer I believe that the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival provides an excellent opportunity to present theatrical works with artistic merit that might be financially risky in a traditional commercial theater setting. It's challenging, it's fun and, even though great talent from around the globe participates in the festival, I think it's a great opportunity to showcase and experience some of the most amazing talent right here in Orlando.

How would you describe the Fringe for someone who's never experienced it? Something is constantly happening to catch your attention, whether it's planned entertainment, stimulating discussion or the parade of performers promoting productions. Oh, and if that's not enough, there's always at least one show that promises nudity.

'Alice in Wonderland'

We asked writer-composer-performer

Alex Ferguson:

Tell us about your show. Alice in Wonderland was the first musical I completely scripted and composed. My goal was to base it as much as possible on Lewis Carroll's original novel. Thanks to the support of Daack-Evanicki Productions and lots of supportive friends and family, my show is being produced and fully directed and performed by students.

What do you like about the Fringe? The Orlando Fringe is a great place for writers to show work that might not otherwise be produced. I really love the venues that work with the Fringe Festival. It gives people a chance to visit some of the most unique theater spaces in Central Florida.

How would you describe it? "A place to get lost in." It is a hodgepodge of some of the most versatile artists, performing and writing theater pieces for a variety of audiences.

'Mr. Fox'

We asked writer-performer Greg Landucci:

Tell us about your show. No doubt Mr. Fox will strike a chord with the Disney crowd (or anyone who has ever been punched in the nose while wearing head-to-toe carpeting). Mr. Fox is about a young man's dream of being a rock-radio morning man, his superior training in radio school and his unwitting rise in the mascot world.

What do you like about Fringe? I loved my experience at the Fringe last year. The local theater companies brought so much energy, passion, dancing and nudity to the stage. Orlando is definitely the most razzle-dazzle Fringe I've been to (I mean that in a good way). And, of course, the beer tent is spectacular.

How would you describe it? There's great energy and atmosphere and there are tons of great shows to see. The Fringe makes theater accessible. It's theater for people who don't like going to theater.

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