1. The Button: Anyone can relax near the outdoor stage at Loch Haven Park, visit the Visual Fringe art exhibition or participate in the weekend Kids Fringe activities. But if you want to see a ticketed show, you need to have a Fringe button — unless you are age 12 or younger. The button costs $9, and proceeds are used to run the festival. Buttons are available at festival ticket counters (cash only). If you lose that all-important button, be prepared to buy another one.
2. Tickets: Tickets for individual shows ($11 or less) are available in each of the four main venues: the Lowndes Shakespeare Center and Orlando Repertory Theatre, both at Loch Haven Park; Theatre Downtown, 2113 N. Orange Ave., and The Venue, 511 Virginia Drive. Ticket proceeds go straight to the festival artists, and credit cards are accepted. Be warned: Lines at ticket counters can be long, so it can save a lot of time to buy ahead at OrlandoFringe.org. (There is a service fee of $1.25 per ticket for online purchases; at the Fringe, the fee is $1 per ticket.)
3. Arrive at the festival early: There is no late admittance to shows, and there are no refunds. So, if you don't want to miss out (and waste your money), arrive early. Parking often can be a challenge. Although there is free parking at Loch Haven Park and street parking around Theatre Downtown and The Venue, be prepared to pay in a city garage or park farther away on the street and walk. Fringe officials say to allow at least 45 minutes.
4. Have a game plan: The two theaters not in Loch Haven Park are known as the Black and Gold venues. Pay attention when you buy your tickets. If you have shows in those venues, leave plenty of time to walk there from Loch Haven Park — 25 minutes is a safe bet. There will also be pedicabs available, but you might have to wait a few minutes for one. Remember to build time into your theater schedule for food if you're making a day of it. There are food trucks, along with a popular beer and wine tent, in Loch Haven Park.
5. Check the content: If you are bringing children, check show ratings in the Fringe program, sold at the festival, or online before you come. The ratings are FF (family friendly), which means appropriate for all ages; G (general audience), which means the show isn't geared toward children but is still appropriate for them; G-14, for parental guidance suggested, especially for children younger than 14; and M (mature) for shows with strong language, violence, adult themes or nudity.
6. Don't forget the non-theater fun: Kids Fringe, with arts-related activities for children, takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Visual Fringe, a huge art exhibition (with the works for sale) runs 6-10 p.m. weekdays and noon-8 p.m. weekends. There's more than art there; check out the artist-created mini-golf, where you play through works of art. On weekends, food trucks, vendors and live music will be on hand.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun