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Spotlight: Orlando Fringe kicks off 2024 with FestN4

Performers take the stage at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival's BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) preview show in 2023 at the Abbey in downtown Orlando.
Nicole Darden Creston
Performers take the stage at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival's BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) preview show in 2023 at the Abbey in downtown Orlando.

Orlando Fringe is kicking off its 2024 season next week with a four day winter festival called FestN4, formally known as the Winter Mini Fest.

Tempestt Halstead is the festival producer for Orlando Fringe.

She said if you’ve never been to one of their festivals before, FestN4 is the perfect introduction.

Listen to the full conversation in the player above.

Talia Blake: For someone who's never been to a Fringe Festival, what can they expect when they come to FestN4?

Tempestt Halstead: They can expect live entertainment. For FestN4, specifically, it is curated. You can expect high quality entertainment that has been hand selected by myself. We go out and scout at different Fringe festivals internationally and also nationally. We bring in acts that we think are going to do really well with our audiences or our community. We also bring back shows that have been in our previous festival who were slam dunks, (like) they sold out shows, or got a Critics Choice Award, or maybe they just flew under the radar, and everyone was talking about them, but not everyone could see it. You can definitely expect high quality, live entertainment. We also have drinks, so you can expect to just have a drink and hang out. Then we have a visual arts component. You can see art, and we have an art market so you can buy art from local artists. Then we have a kids Fringe portion. We have two shows, one of which are free and then one is only $5, that are all ages shows. So there's a lot to expect for FestN4.

Talia Blake: It sounds like there's something for everybody, no matter the age. Tell me about some of these shows that will be returning, so if people have been there before, what will they be able to see if maybe they missed it last time?

Tempestt Halstead: One show that I'm very excited about is the City Beautiful. It is a love story to Orlando. It tells the complicated history of Orlando through music, burlesque, and dancing. One of the awesome things is that the last few years, they sold out their run completely. We brought them back because they got into May's Festival and they're going to do 2.0. So this is the last time that you can see this show before going into May festival with a 2.0 version. I'm very excited that they're coming back. We have a Rat Man Happy Place is coming back, which is a local artist named Bruce Costella. He is incredible. He's written so many shows in Fringe Festivals. So he's coming back. We have another show called Grabbing The Hammer Lane. They got so much buzz, and they only had four day run at the beginning of our festival. By the end of their day, people were like, 'Wait, you're leaving? Why are you leaving? We need to see your show.' Bring the tissues for that one, because it will get you right in the heart. Then we have another show called The Family Crow: A Murder Mystery. They did really well two years ago at our festival, and everyone kept talking about what an awesome puppet show it was. There's a lot of slam dunk shows that are coming back.

(Video courtesy of Orlando Fringe.)

Orlando Fringe - Press Clip.mp4

Talia Blake: Among those shows that are returning, there are more than 20 shows being featured, what shows are generating the most buzz so far?

Tempestt Halstead: For me, because I'm generating that buzz, is (Rat Academy) this amazing physical clowny show where they play the last two rats in Alberta, Canada. One is a street rat and one is a lab rat. The street rat is teaching the lab rat how to be a real rat, and it's just so amazing. There's such great physical comedy artists and their timing is perfect, and their chemistry on stage is perfect. So I'm creating that buzz because I'm very excited for our community to see it. I'm excited for Men of Motown. I love Motown music. They were supposed to be at the May festival and unfortunately, they had to cancel at the very last minute, but I'm very excited to see them. I just love that kind of music. I grew up on that music with my grandma. So I'm excited for them as well. Then The Chair on the Door is another one from an emerging artists. I got to see them in Vancouver. They are solo performing artists and it really deals with how you handle things that you learned in your youth, and the lessons that you learned along the way. He grew up in a cult like situation. So as he kind of progressed through life, each thing taught him different ways to handle his childhood, and I'm just very excited for him to come.

Talia Blake: That sounds so exciting and it feels like such a unique position for you, because as you said, you're generating that buzz, but you also get to show the city that you live in and the city that you love some of the shows that you're most excited about.

Tempestt Halstead: Yeah, it is really a blessing that I get to do, what I get to do is I get to travel to all of these different festivals and bring back for our community. When I make those selections, that's who I have that in mind — the community. I just think, our audience base really loves this kind of artists, let me try and get that kind of artists here, or our local community maybe they want a new work to be showcased. So I'm really privileged.

Talia Blake: So FestN4 marks one year since Fringe moved into a new downtown Orlando art space. What have you learned since being in this new space?

Tempestt Halstead: I think that we have learned that it's okay to be flexible. We've had a festival for 33 years, which is such a mature thing. When you get into year round programming, it's such a different ballgame. You have to learn lessons from each individual production that came in. Then also, how do you still think about your festival and your patrons and giving its own quality time and quality attention? I think that because it's such in its infancy, taking that time to always reevaluate what worked, what didn't work, what is the community asking for. Are we giving it out to our community? How can we better listen to our community? I'm excited that we're still in this phase of learning, because then we know what our community needs and what us as an organization needs and how we can adapt and grow, and take lessons from Art Space and implement them into the festival too. There's always learning from both ends.

Talia Blake: Lastly, if people want to go to FestN4 where can they find information? When is it? Tell them a little bit about the festival?

Tempestt Halstead: The festival runs January 11 through the 14th at Fringe Art Space, which is downtown at 54 West Church Street. You can purchase tickets on our website at orlandofringe.org. All tickets are $15. You do have to have a festival button to enter into any show, which is only $3. You only have to purchase it once and it's good for the entire festival. You can find a full show listing of all of the shows that are going to be in the festival at our website. You can (also) read a little bit more details on them, what genres, photos, and all of that. Then we have a Teaser Show on January 10. This is a fun little night to tease our audiences with the shows that are going to be in the festival. They have three minutes to make an impact on you as an audience member. So they're giving you a nice little elevator pitch. Then we have some late night programming on the Friday and Saturday of the festival. So it is a Fringe produce cabaret. Then on Monday we have an amazing event that is happening that is a part of FestN4, but like kind of an extension of FestN4, which is a part of our educational program. It's called Fringe & EmpowerED. It's a workshop and conversation celebrating black artists. Our lovely associate producer Jordan Lewis has produced this event to give educational workshops, speaking engagements and things like that for Martin Luther King Day.

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.
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