The Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival is underway through Memorial Day, mostly in and around Loch Haven Park at the confluence of Mills, Princeton, and Rollins Avenue. If you live anywhere in Central Florida and have never attended, that’s a damned shame!
First, in the interest of full disclosure, and certainly not because I would ever dream of stooping to utilizing this coveted ink to self-promote, I feel I owe it to the readers of this column to point out that I am involved with three productions at the Festival this year: The Lion Queen And The Naked Go-Go Cub, Dragness of God And The Naked Holy Ghost and 1969 Stonewall.
Since that necessary bit of journalistic integrity has been realized, I will go on to say that “Fringing” is my all time favorite Central Florida pursuit. I love attending the Fringe Festival more than anything and everything else I am privileged to be able to do living in the Greater Orlando area. Aside from the more than 700 performances of 130 individual shows of every type and description, there’s the Lawn of Green Fabulousness which sports a huge beer tent, a full liquor bar operated by Stonewall, an outdoor stage with ongoing free entertainment, a psychic, a poetry vending machine, and free bicycle valet parking; all surrounded by food trucks and refreshment vendors serving up grub to suit every palate and dietary discipline. A longtime personal favorite is the fried peanut butter and jelly at Peg & Pete’s Roadside Grille—in the big white truck.
The crowd—and we’re talking tens of thousand of attendees—is the most eclectic gathering of people you’re likely to ever to encounter at any one event. Fringe is a people watcher’s paradise. It’s a place where you are bound to see familiar faces as well as meet, chat with, and actually become friends with a few new acquaintances.
If you trust me on anything, you must trust me when I tell you Orlando Fringe is a Central Florida treasure and a true missed opportunity if you don’t attend. There are so many LGBTQ people there; it’s like attending a mini-pride event. Plan ahead: OrlandoFringe.org
This is one of those rare years where there’s an entire week between Fringe and the beginning of the Gay Days in The Magic Kingdom/One Magical Weekend/Riptide/Gay Days at Parliament House madness. Everyone insists on telling me I’m getting too old (58) to indulge in Gay Days–related partying the way I did in earlier years, but those admonishments do not resonate with me. I’ll be at it again this year. Out of fear of incriminating myself to the extent of possible arrest, I daren’t relate in any great detail my typical Gay Days exploits except to say (and at this point in time Charlton Heston comes to mind) they’ll have to pry that “bean” from my cold dead hands.
Nobody throws better parties than gay people! Nobody knows how to party better, longer, or more professionally than do we gays. I know it’s a stereotype but it’s one that is well deserved. We are the absolute pros of the party going set.
I am convinced that much of the hatred aimed at gays from the straight community is rooted in pure and simple jealously over the fact that we queer folk know how to have such a good time and are so often seen to be doing so. It doesn’t help matters any that these unfortunate heterosexuals see us doing so with relative ease and sensational style while they have to really work at it. Even then they only achieve a small measure of success, comparatively speaking, and joy is rarely in evidence.
Our community knows how to create and revel in sheer joy. We do so unabashedly at our parties, in our discos, when visiting theme parks or attending festivals, during our rallies and parades, at Sunday brunch, and especially at our pool parties. Straight people hate us for it.
Fringe. Memorial Day. Gay Days!
Party on my friends. If in the days to come you don’t see me on stage in a nun’s habit, perhaps you’ll see me on the dance floor. If you do, kindly help me up!
Michael Wanzie is a playwright and theatrical producer residing in Orlando. You may subscribe to his weekly WANZeGRAM performing arts & cultural e-newsletter by logging onto WANZIE.com.