In my role as executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, I regularly get asked why South Florida doesn’t have a fringe festival. If we can support one of the largest and most important art festivals in the country, why aren’t we able to support a fringe?
It’s an interesting question. Multiple people have attempted to create a local fringe throughout the years, some getting further along than others, but unlike Orlando, which has a thriving Fringe Festival, none so far have taken off.
The short answer is geography.
Looking at the various successful Fringe Festivals across the country, they all seem to be located in a relatively central cluster of venues. Our nearest neighboring Fringe is the Orlando Fringe Festival, located in the Loch Haven Park area, where the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and Orlando Repertory Theatre sit across a park from each other. More importantly, both venues have multiple spaces, allowing for multiple events happening at the same time.
The closest thing to a local fringe was Miami Beach’s Sleepless Night, a 13 hour event occurring on the Saturday evening and Sunday Morning that daylight savings ends – with performances and art events happening all throughout the Beach, concentrated primarily in the Lincoln Road area. But as amazing as Sleepless Night was, it was unsustainable and looks unlikely to return. While some of the venues for Sleepless Night were traditional performance spaces, only the New World Symphony Center has multiple performance spaces, and its spaces are designed for musical performances.
The rest of our theatres are primarily spread out over a considerable geographical distance, and few have multiple spaces – most of those being the major performing arts centers. Few have multiple small sized spaces.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. The Jewish Cultural Arts Theatre is hosting their own Jewish Fringe Festival this April: a week of short plays and stand-up comedy, though they’re primarily performing in their traditional space in the Michael Ann Russell Jewish Community Center.
And there’s always a chance some enterprising person will find the right combination of local galleries and other non-traditional spaces that could make a Fringe Festival take off.