Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theatre

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

This dissertation marks the first historical and administrative overview of the Orlando International Fringe Festival. The Orlando International Fringe Festival (OIFF) is America's oldest still-operating fringe theatre festival. This two-week performing arts and immersive cultural event features uncensored, unjuried, accessible, and inclusive performances on indoor and outdoor stages. The Festival subverts traditional commercial theatre models by giving 100% of ticket proceeds back to its artists. Originally held in Downtown Orlando, it now resides at the Loch Haven Cultural Complex of Orlando where it overcame struggles common to arts organizations such as the beer truck scenario, a sustainability issue linking an organization’s health to the number of individuals whose loss would bring about project failure.

The OIFF plays an influential role in a network of over 200 fringes worldwide, all of which can trace ties back to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the globe’s first fringe which began in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947. To understand the ethos of the OIFF, it is helpful to trace its roots back to the festivals that inspired it: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the fringes of the Canadian circuit. This study positions the OIFF as a utopian-leaning alternative to traditional commercial models and answers the question What is Fringe? by examining the OIFF through experiential, logistical, and ancestral lenses.

Even though the OIFF enjoys a reputation for being a leader in the world-wide fringe network, partners with Fringe World Congress, holds leadership positions with the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, and helped to found the United States Association of Fringe Festivals, it has been unjustly neglected as the subject for academic analysis. In its first year, the OIFF featured 28 shows with an attendance of approximately 2,500. It now spotlights more than 150 producing companies with attendance surpassing 74,000 and boasts a local economic impact exceeding $3.2 million. Traditional theater models are experiencing a downward spiral, however the OIFF survives and puts over $400,000 into the hands of its practitioners annually. It is time for scholars and administrators to take note of alternative models and to take the Orlando International Fringe Festival seriously.

Date

11-9-2021

Committee Chair

Fletcher, John

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