More than 100 ticketed shows? Additional venues outside Loch Haven Park? An expansion of Visual Fringe?
Yes, it's a huge year for the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, known affectionately as "The Fringe." Its 22nd edition is the biggest yet. But don't worry: We're here to tell you what's new and give you a brush-up on how to make the most of the 14-day festival.
The Fringe opens Wednesday with a preview of visiting national and international acts. It ends Tuesday, May 28, with a comedy wrap-up show. In between, there will be a whole lotta theater, music, comedy, magic, acrobatics and even hypnosis.
You're likely to catch Frank and Fran Hilgenberg behind the bar or serving food at Theatre Downtown, the Fringe Festival's new Gold venue. Part of Orlando's arts scene for years, the theater will be a full-fledged part of the Fringe for the first time.
"The Fringe has gotten better and better over the years," Frank Hilgenberg says. "We're thrilled."
The second new venue is called The Venue. For the Fringe, its assigned color is Black. It's owned by dancer, and frequent Fringe participant, Blue. (We know, it's color confusion. Try to keep up.)
Both venues have bars, and Hilgenberg plans to have food available.
"We'll have some light bites if people need a snack," he says.
A lottery determines who presents the shows at Fringe, and ironically, Hilgenberg's theater company was not picked. He's a good sport, though, and says he's happy to host other groups: "Overall, it's a good thing."
His only concern is that as soon as the festival ends, he has only 10 days to prepare to open his own show, Tennessee Williams' "Tiger Tail."
"Immediately, we'll start building sets," he says. "We have a tight turnaround, but it's going to be worth it."
Pedicab-company owner Luke McHenry knows the Fringe. Now, he's part of it.
"I'm superexcited to be participating in any capacity," he says. "Growing up in Orlando, it's part of the culture."
The six cabs from his company, Rydes, will shuttle theatergoers from Loch Haven Park to the outlying venues. There won't be a fee; he's counting on gratuities.
"The more generous, the better," he adds, laughing, "but we're just thrilled to be part of it all."
Riding in the oversized human-powered tricycles could be great for people-watching.
"I hope people see it as a mini-show," McHenry says. "People won't necessarily need the rides; they want rides. It's part of the fun."
The Fringe always has offered more than just theatrical performances. But this year, there's a new activity to try: Mini-golf. The family-friendly version of Tiger Woods' game is coming to Visual Fringe in an artistic manner.
The six-hole course will be created by artists, which is appropriate because the Visual Fringe is the festival's annual art exhibition and sale.
The Visual Fringe has been greatly expanded this year, moving to a 13,000-square-foot warehouse on Alden Road. A new weekend market will feature food trucks and live music.
For the mini-golf, a different artist will be responsible for each hole and can pursue whatever inspiration strikes — as long as it fits on a 5-by-7-foot green.
Set designer Bonnie Sprung, of Altamonte Springs, jumped at the chance to participate.
"I hate golf, but I love putt-putt," she says. "I've always thought it would be cool to make a putt-putt course."
Her portion of the course will resemble a "funky, stylized theater," she says. She's still working on the golfers' obstacles.
"Maybe a chair," she muses. "Maybe an actor!"
This year, the Kids Fringe will get a boost of superpowers from Captain Techno. Adults know him as Michael Winslow, the "Police Academy" and "Spaceballs" actor who can produce a seemingly endless variety of sounds with his voice — most of them funny.
He tours with his unique talent and is stopping by the festival to not only do his own comic show but to pitch in at the children's event.
What's Captain Techno's superpower? "Music is energy," Winslow says. "A good energy."
Traveling with Winslow is Eunice Olumide, a Scotland native known as "Sweetz." She'll be rapping and spinning music on the festival's outdoor stage, among other performances. Winslow met her at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where she established Youth on the Fringe, a program to involve children in the arts.
"It was especially for the local community there," Sweetz says. "I set it up so they were part of what's going on."
Involving the community is the mission of Kids Fringe, which last year attracted nearly 10,000 visitors. The free activities for children take place weekends at the Mennello Museum. Other performers include Davey Rocker and the Barnyard Jam, Mr. Richard, IBEX Puppetry, Voci Dance and Dog-Powered Robot.
Although it's his first time performing at the Orlando Fringe, Winslow says it already has impressed him.
"This festival's growing. This is a great place," he says. "You get a little bit of everything here."
More Fringe coverage
Reviews of shows will be posted daily at OrlandoSentinel.com/fringe and run in the Orlando Sentinel's print edition. iPad users can get more information on the festival in a special edition of our Go See Do iPad magazine, available Wednesday at the app store.