5.5.16 Editor’s Desk

5.5.16 Editor’s Desk
Billy Manes
Billy Manes

It was a sweaty, stinky mess lingering beneath swaying light bulbs and an odd sense (scent?) of danger – bathrooms not necessarily included. At least that was the hurry-up-and-wait feeling that I got upon my arrival via tarnished spaceship in Orlando in 1997, plopped down in the middle of theater festival without a theater or air conditioning. The Orlando Fringe never existed on pretense, though, so postscript stands second only the euphoria of the moment, right next to that strange guy looking at you like you’re a strange guy, then laughing and the barriers being broken on stage. Orlando and Fringe were a match made in heaven. In the late ‘90s, the Fringe stood in stark contrast to the Lou Pearlman boy-band brigade seeking to whiten the city’s teeth. It was Haight-Ashbury more than hating ass-berries, and as such, it was the de facto cultural clutch the city needed.

Make no mistake, the Orlando Fringe is this town’s matted underdog made good. For every quizzical glance into maladroit disorders and kinky extroversion, there have always been bright eyes staring toward trails of glitter lighting up the path to the colors of its venues, the talent of its participants, the magic of theater on a shoestring. It’s a messy affair, but most good things are. It’s also the place where performance comes from: within not without. And as such, Orlando’s Fringe festival, the longest winding road in this country (if you don’t count actual roads but only the histrionic ones), it’s earned its place in Central Florida’s kaleidoscopic pantheon.

This week, we don our best fake silver flake to celebrate a quarter century of theatrical excess under financial duress, pancake under hot lamps. Under the current stewardship of executive director George Wallace and producer Michael Marinaccio, the project – the atmosphere – continues to grow into itself in the most astounding, obnoxious and inviting ways. Humor is just a wink and a nudge away, but so are the one-man-or-woman-shows, the performance art, the dance, the classical form. Fringe has grown into a behemoth force rivaling the little-black-dress-pearl-clutches of the “society” scene. Fringe loves Orlando. Orlando loves Fringe.

One of the most inspiring parts of putting this issue together was seeing it through its historical lens; we spoke with several of the principals that got this little red wagon motorized, and none among them had a bad word to say. Yes, it’s work. Yes, it’s hell. Yes, there is always somebody unwrapping a piece of hard candy while pissing themselves next to a screaming baby just five minutes after show time. But far above the cacophony of people being people in crammed spaces has always been the joy of sharing – specifically sharing art from the fringes of society, art you may not otherwise see.

And though Fringe may have grown into a somewhat different beast over its quarter century – we now have Kid’s Fringe, beer tents, air conditioning, all of Loch Haven Park (quick, somebody say “Shakespeare!”), food trucks, buttons, controversy and lore – it’s still beating at the same heart rate, still carrying theater into uncomfortable and hilarious altitudes. We’re still all Fringe geeks. Some of us may be older now, but it doesn’t really matter. Once the lights go down, we’re all miscreants with a dramatic edge bordering on lunacy. We’re all living on the Fringe.

Clearly, that’s not all that your friends at Watermark are doing this issue; there aren’t enough dark rooms to house our emotions. Inside, you’ll find stories about two different Harvey Milk celebrations – one in Sarasota, the other in Orlando – just in advance of Milk’s birthday on May 22 (shared, for the record, by this editor). You’ll also find some disturbing news about the growing scourge of so-called bathroom bills and how they relate to Florida and the rest of the country. Clue: It’s not always good, though sometimes logic prevails.

We speak with Eugenie Bondurant about her Hunger Games experience that plucked her from striped dresses on the runway to actual body-painted stripes for her role as Tigris. (You have two minutes to make a Euphrates joke; I couldn’t). We talk to William Harper of ASAP about his impending exit from the philanthropic organization, muddle through the national politics of the now regarding the infighting in the Democratic primary parade, applaud the congressional delegation that has our backs on discrimination and check in with Real Radio 104.1’s Sabrina Ambra for some discussion of how mosquito bites turn into breasts. Life lessons, then. We all need those!

Mostly, though, we celebrate Orlando Fringe and all it has brought to the Central Florida community, gay and straight. You’re not living until you try to be alive, and Fringe reminds us of that yearly.

As a bonus, you’ll find our Wedding Guide sandwiched in these pages in a standalone, glossy fashion, should your romance choose to blossom in that direction. Love! We, like Orlando Fringe, are growing up, out and fabulous. Will you marry us? You better, or we’re telling your mom!

More in Editor's Desk

See More