"The Surprise," a vividly told story of relationships and family dynamics set against the background of Southeast Asia, took the top prize — best show — in the Critics' Choice Awards at this year's Orlando Fringe Festival.
Martin Dockery, a Brooklyn-based performer, wrote and told the true story of how he learned about his Vietnamese half-siblings while his relationship with his German girlfriend crumbled.
The Fringe itself remains unjuried — anyone whose name was drawn in last fall's lottery was eligible to present a show. And Fringe executives did not play a part in selecting these award winners, which were chosen by an independent panel of theater reviewers.
I voted on the panel, representing the team of Orlando Sentinel reviewers that critiqued the festival's shows during its recent run at Loch Haven Park. Other voters were Seth Kubersky, critic and columnist for the Orlando Weekly, and Elizabeth Maupin, longtime Sentinel theater critic who retired from the newspaper in 2010.
This marked the second year the awards were handed out in categories honoring both shows and performers.
Local productions and performers honored included best drama "Reincarnation Soup," moving stories with a Vietnamese point of view, by Viet Nguyen of Orlando; best dance show "Bless Me Father, for I Have Danced," with more than 30 local actors and dancers performing Broadway-style musical numbers; and "Ennui," a demonstration of acrobatics and more by the troupe from Circus Arts in Polk City.
"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," a 2010 Broadway musical by Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers, took the best-musical award. It was produced for the Fringe by Orlando-based By the Way (BTW) productions and featured a cast of local actors.
Former Central Floridian Chase Padgett, who now lives in Portland, Ore., won for best original work with "The All-New Nashville Hurricane," co-written with Jay Hopkins and performed by Padgett. The show, which premiered at the 2012 festival, was completely rewritten.
Besides Dockery, other out-of-town winners included Stewart Huff, of Winterville, Ga., who wrote and performed best comedy "Donating Sperm to My Sister's Wife," and Jem Rolls, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, who won best solo show for "Jem Rolls: Off the Tongue."
Both performance awards were also given to nonlocals.
Jon Paterson, based in Edmonton, Alberta, won for his delivery of Daniel MacIvor's "House," interlocking stories about a man who can't seem to win at anything. Erika Kate MacDonald, of Northampton, Mass., won for "Tap Me on the Shoulder," her original show about how she found her voice through rap music.
2014 Orlando Fringe Critics' Choice Awards
• Best show: 'The Surprise,' by Martin Dockery
• Best original work: 'All-New Nashville Hurricane,' written by Chase Padgett and Jay Hopkins, performed by Padgett
• Best comedy: 'Donating Sperm to My Sister's Wife,' written and performed by Stewart Huff
• Best drama, 'Reincarnation Soup,' written and performed by Viet Nguyen
• Best musical, 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,' presented locally by By the Way (BTW) Productions
• Best dance show: 'Bless Me Father, for I Have Danced,' book and music by Juan Cantu, choreographed by Eric Yow and Daniel Hunalp
• Best solo show: 'Jem Rolls: Off the Tongue,' poetry by Jem Rolls
• Best variety show: 'Ennui,' presented by Circus Arts
• Best female performance: Erika Kate MacDonald, in 'Tap Me on the Shoulder'
• Best male performance: Jon Paterson, in 'House'Copyright © 2015, CT Now