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Arts & Culture


Stage in a suitcase

Four Fringe favorites who got their start in Orlando describe life on the Fringe Festival circuit

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

TJ Dawe

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Padgett, whose Orlando-birthed 6 Guitars has become “one of the most successful solo shows in the history of the Fringe circuit,” is returning home with an all-new version of his 2012 show, Nashville Hurricane. He credits Dawe, former Orlando Fringe producer Beth Marshall, and his mom, who signed him up for the Edinburgh fringe festival during a family vacation in the U.K., with encouraging his initial efforts.

Stand-up comic turned guitar-strumming soliloquist Strickland is back with Papa Squat’s Store of Sorts, a sequel to last year’s Ain’t True and Uncle False. Strickland “had no idea what the hell a Fringe was” when he attended Indianapolis’ in 2009 as an audience member; he came away thinking, “I cannot be as bad as some of them.” Since 2010, he’s played Fringes in Edmonton, Canada; Indianapolis, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Minneapolis.

Like all itinerant entertainers, Fringe artists fall into a certain routine on the circuit. “Summer is marked in two-week time increments,” explains Padgett. “Every two weeks there’s another festival, so the whole pattern starts over again. … Opening weekend is usually like a fun burst of energy.”

“I’m a bit of a worrier when it comes to scheduling,” says Strickland, explaining that sticking to a structure is important: “Every day when I get up, the first thing is I figure out what shows are on the schedule and what lines I’m going to work.” Even with a plan, the cycle can be draining. “It’s weird to sleep in a different bed every two weeks,” says Padgett. “You’re never at home. … Just at that point where you would feel comfortable, you have to go to a different city.”

It’s sometimes challenging for friends and family to truly understand the Fringe life. “My parents would have chosen something else” for his career, Strickland says wryly, adding he feels a “sense of ‘what the hell is this thing that you’re doing,’ but that’s not new for me.” However, most are generally supportive, Padgett has found: “Not all of them really understand what a Fringe is [and they] don’t fully understand what it means to travel and tour, [but] I’ve never had anyone that I really loved or cared about look down on me for doing it.”

The Fringe touring experience can be tough on personal relationships with non-Fringers, however. “I had sort of the best and worst experience at once,” Dockery recalls, in 2009: “Connecting with audiences as never before on stage, and then fighting with a girlfriend who wanted nothing to do with my show off stage. Needless to say, she and I are no longer together, while the Fringe and I are still in the midst of a wonderful relationship.” Padgett concurs, offering, “It’s really hard to maintain any sort of real romantic relationship if you are on the road in a different country for four or five months straight.” Dockery overcame the issue by encountering his current girlfriend on the Fringe circuit in London, Ontario, in 2010. “Having someone to share the road with gives me a foundation that I can lean on when living out of a backpack for half the year.”

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