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Live Active Cultures

Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival to add three new venues in 2013

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In years past, it seemed many local theater groups shied away from staging performances in the middle of summer, perhaps out of fear sun-addled audiences wouldn't show. Refreshingly, this season there's been a profusion of independent productions, giving a welcome excuse to seek refuge in an air-conditioned auditorium.

A prime example is the current run of Mr. Marmalade at Orlando Shakes. This co-production between Renegade Theater (Grimmly Yours, Oedipus for Kids) and Howlers Theatre (A Behanding in Spokane) resurrects Noah Haidle's 2004 midnight-black comedy with disturbingly funny results. Four-year-old Lucy (Gwendolyn Boniface) is caught in a codependent relationship with her abusive imaginary friend, Mr. Marmalade (Cory Boughton), a foul-mouthed cokehead with a briefcase full of sex toys. Lucy bonds inappropriately with Larry (Miles Berman), a suicidal preschooler with anarchic invisible associates of his own, before spiraling into infanticide.

While the show certainly isn't your typical light summer comedy, Boniface and Berman admirably pull off playing children without getting too cutesy, and Boughton is terrifying as the title character. Jeremy Wood's direction is suitably gonzo, with some slight missteps (chiefly long, silent, momentum-sapping scene changes) but as experiments in excruciatingly uncomfortable absurdism go, it's damn entertaining. Besides, where else can you see a toddler being called a "f*cking c*nt"?

Well, at the Fringe, of course. I first became aware of Mr. Marmalade when I saw it mounted at the 2008 Orlando Fringe Fest, and seeing it this week made me eager for next May to arrive. The 2013 Fringe Fest is still more than nine months away, but already Fringe producer Michael Marinaccio is announcing (in this exclusive interview with OW) a major enhancement of the event's footprint.

"We had record-breaking numbers in ticket sales and attendance" in 2012, says Marinaccio, who joined general manager George Wallace in leading the festival this year. "We also thought expansion was a good idea because last year there were 80 groups involved in the Fringe, and there were 120 who applied, so we ended up turning 40 groups away."

Accordingly, next year's Fest will feature three new performance venues. First, the McLaughlin Rehearsal Studio on the second floor of Orlando Shakes will become a 50-seat theater with a wooden floor ideal for dance, replacing the outdoor Red venue. "There is some slight sound bleed from the Orange venue," concedes Marinaccio, "but it's way better than helicopters flying overhead or flooding," both common complaints in the tented courtyard, which will henceforth be used for seating, beverages and merchandise.

Second, Theatre Downtown will join the Fringe as the 111-seat Gold venue, where groups can present shows up to 90 minutes long. "We're the longest-running Fringe Festival in the U.S. It seemed logical that we join forces with the longest continually running theater space in Orlando," Marinaccio says, adding that the location is "an easy walk" from Fringe central. Orlando's most enduring playhouse is three-tenths of a mile from Loch Haven Park and will feature its own satellite box office, bar and free parking.

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