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Fringe 2011: Always be prepared

Your survival guide for Fringe Fest

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ABCs: The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival presents shows in two buildings: the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the Orlando Repertory Theatre (aka the Shakes and the Rep), both located in the Loch Haven Park campus at Mills Avenue and Princeton Street. Between them lies a broad grassy swath dubbed during Fringe fest the "Green Lawn of Fabulousness"; here you'll find the beer and wine tent, food vendors, an ATM, a Poetry Vending Machine, and a seething mass of theatrical humanity dropping names, flyers, items of clothing and their Rs. Check out show details, festival policies and venue maps at orlandofringe.org, where you can also buy tickets.

Bathroom: The largest and busiest restrooms are usually the ones near the round Patrons' Room in the Shakes and in the hallway near the Silver venue at the Rep. If all the stalls are full, find the often-overlooked facilities near the Blue venue in the Shakes and outside the Green venue at the Rep. And go first, because there's no re-entry if you leave a show.

Beer (AND WINE) tent: Buy a ticket at the ticket tent, then trade in your ticket for a beer at the beer tent. This is good to know before you stand in line at the beer tent. Eco-geek? Bring your own reusable cup.

BOX OFFICE: There are two: one in the lower lobby of the Shakes and one in the back lobby of the Rep. Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays, 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends.

Button: The $8 (cash only!) button gets you into all the shows and funds the Fringe's operating costs - ticket sales go to the shows themselves - and it can only be purchased at a festival box office, not online. It's a one-time purchase, but without it you will not be admitted to any show, so don't lose it. And when you leave, keep it on; businesses around Loch Haven have been known to surprise customers with a "Fringe discount." 

Cash: Bring it with you. While the box office and some vendors accept plastic, the all-important buttons and beer and wine tickets are cash-only, and the on-site ATM tacks on expensive fees and gets cleaned out fast on weekends.

Cocktails: Not sold on the grounds; liquor lovers will have to step out of the park to satisfy their thirst. See our map of local watering holes below.

Don't forget the Rep: The Shakes has more venues but the Rep has less foot traffic, more restrooms and a quicker box office line. It's a great place to lounge between shows.

Food: This year the Green Lawn of Fabulousness will feature barbecue, Greek food, vegan Asian food, "American/soul" food, kettle corn, ice cream, coffee, cupcakes and deep-fried "peanut butter-and-jelly clouds." What you won't find is a lot of light, healthy fare: Even the vegan food comes with a helping of oil and salt. For health's sake, try packing a salad or eating off-campus.

Flyers: Take flyers from artists; one of the best parts of Fringe is the conversations that come out of those exchanges, and you can tell a lot about a show by the person promoting it. But remember, glossy handbills mean only one thing for sure - the show producer has money to burn. Listen and ask questions.

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