LGBT-themed performances take center stage at theater festival

LGBT-themed performances take center stage at theater festival

10Fringe1_346434249.jpgTo other theater festivals around the world, the 19-year-old Orlando International Fringe Festival is known as “the Gay Fringe.”

“That’s OK,” says local theater producer, director and actor John DiDonna. “Ticket sales prove there’s a huge local audience for gay-themed shows.”

And boy, do they sell! LGBT content is extremely popular at this 12-day (May 20-May 31) extravaganza of plays, musicals, dance groups, puppet shows, jugglers, musicians, comedians, and storytellers. In 2006, there was even some underground grumbling that the Fringe—which is known for being edgy and counterculture—was, ironically, “a little too gay.” That year, gay-themed shows sold the most tickets in six of the eight venues, winning coveted Patrons’ Pick designations. Since then, gay-friendly plays have made up at least half of the festival’s Patrons’ Picks.

“It’s cyclical,” states Fringe executive producer Beth Marshall. “Even if a show isn’t so-called ‘gay-themed,’ it still has a lot of gay all up in there,” she laughs.

“I’d guess the festival is, honestly, about 50% gay,” Marshall mischievously surmises with another laugh.

This year, the Fringe boasts productions from 8 states and 5 nations, a total of 75 different offerings. Here are some of the LGBT friendly shows worth checking out:

10Fringe2_557776099.jpgAngels: The Epic Modern Dance Ballet—Orlando dancer Ciara Cibulsky combines lesbian themes with another popular Fringe mainstay, modern dance.

Annie Todd: The Demon Orphan of Fleet Street—Who doesn’t love a musical mash-up parody? This one is brought to you by the Greater Orlando Actors’ Theater.

Copping a Craigie—Hilarious Fringe legend Dave McConnell takes the lead in this play about a loveable thug who goes gay-for-pay on Craigslist.

Dancing Nude—One of the few shows this year offering full-frontal, which means it’ll sell a lot of tickets to men with opera glasses.

Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical—The Warren Acting Company takes on the beloved song-and-dance-and-porn show.

Dirty Stuff—Funnyman Jonny McGovern of Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show brings his latest one-man offering to the Fringe.

Divine Will­—A Christian is addicted to porn, or a pornie is addicted to God; take your pick.EveryonesACritic_988886815.jpg

Fringe of Nature—This gets included just because it’s the weirdest show, which is an accomplishment! Performance artist Brian Feldman takes six people on an overnight camping trip to Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Hell Freezes Over—Orlando comic Jeff Jones brings the sequel to last year’s Patrons’ Pick Welcome to Hell, featuring legendary gay actors Doug Ba’aser and Elizabeth Murff.

I _____ You—The Orlando Youth Alliance offer a cabaret of songs and thousands of dollars of audience prizes to benefit this local LGBT youth organization.

Janine Klein, Gay Bar Star—Straight flame dame Janine Klein presents her popular Parliament House show.

Lucky 9—He may not be gay, but he’s cute and mind-bendingly brilliant. Canadian monologist TJ Dawe should never be missed.

Lumineux—The sexy dancing girls of Voci and installation artist Doug Rhodehamel team up.

Lyssa—Adorable young Fringer Alex Ferguson whips out his updated version of the Greek classic Lysistrata. Expect some serious lesbian vibes.

Organizational Oppression—Activist Alan Bounville undresses a bit to tell of his introduction to queer politics.

Rent—The Orlando Youth Theater take on an abbreviated version of the super-homo musical.
The Box Set—Acclaimed makeup and hair artist Mychael Peters will perform his magic in front of a live audience.

The Cody Rivers Show Presents Right Back Where We Finished—Don’t miss the genius of Canada’s comic contortionists. The NY Wire says it’s like “seeing Waiting for Godot performed by Chinese acrobats.”

Third Time Lucky—Canadian comic Paul Hutchinson is self-acclaimed “queer as a three-dollar bill.” This handsome charmer won the 2008 Fringe Faggy Award.

Tod Kimbro: Robots Stole My Piano—This Orlando singer/songwriter is always extremely popular. One performance will show you why.

Up the Wazoo—Entertainment legend and ancient curmudgeon Wayburn Sassy says this is his last show. Local LGBT audiences will miss Dewey Chaffee’s hilarious, homophobic alter-ego.

VarieTEASE—Sexy-amazing choreographer baby Blue coordinates another of her breathtaking extravaganzas full of drag and dance.

XXXPlicit—This Washington performer promises a filthy, queer cabaret following the life of his character Lady Wow Wow.

10Fringe3_137710027.jpgFringe Facts
The festival spent its first 14 years making theaters out of empty offices and storefronts throughout downtown Orlando. For the last 5 years, everything has been situated in the Shakespeare and Repertory theatres in Loch Haven Park, making ample use of almost all theaters as well as a few rehearsal halls. This may seem less counterculture, but it also put an end to the days when shows were shut down by faulty equipment, leaky roofs, and failed air conditioning. This upgrade also means the audience is always within walking distance of their next show.

The place is filled with people in costumes doing strange tricks, so even just dropping by the event seems like seeing a show.

Attending is easy, if you know 10 simple facts:

  1. The Fringe is extraordinarily popular, so it’s always best to get there early to find parking. You can use all theater lots, the Science Center lot (you have to pay here), or Mills Avenue.
  2. Showing up early gives you access to the beer tent, food vendors, and merchandise of the “Green Lawn of Fabulousness.” One of the absolute best parts of the 12-day festival is the camaraderie and spectacle of the lawn. Shows sell out based on word of mouth, so talk to people; ask them what they loved. Being early also gives you time to find each venue—they’re all color-coded—though you’re never more than a five-minute walk from any show.
  3. There are often free shows at the Green Lawn of Fabulousness. There’s Visual Fringe, where you can purchase artwork. You can even bring your children to Kids’ Fringe.
  4. You will need an $8 button to buy tickets or attend a ticketed show. This button pays for the administration of the huge festival.
  5. Programs are $1, but you may be able to snag one at recycling displays throughout the grounds.
  6. Tickets are up to $10. The artist gets the full income from your ticket.
  7. You will need to buy your ticket well in advance of show time. You can go online at You an also purchase them at ticket booths at the Shakespeare or the Rep. There is a $1 ticketing charge for every ticket; this goes to the ticketing company.
  8. Lines for shows sometimes form one hour before showtime. It’s never boring waiting; these are also great places to converse about shows.
  9. Once you buy a ticket, it cannot be refunded. However, you can likely find someone to sell to just by letting people know.
  10. Once a show starts, they cannot let you in. Because there are 75 shows in the festival, things need to run like clockwork, so be on time for the fun of the Gay Fringe!

If these 10 rules seem daunting, there is always a Fringe volunteer or festival veteran who would be excited to answer any question. More information is also available at

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