The Orlando Fringe Festival kicks off tonight; check out the two Full Sail-related productions

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Like live theater? Comedy? Musicals? Dance? The Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival, which runs May 16 to 28, has it all.

At Fringe festivals, anything goes.

The Orlando Fringe, like other “Fringe” festivals around the U.S. and the world, is based on the idea that artists should be allowed to show their work in an uncensored, unjuried environment and earn 100 percent of the ticket sales.

A sampling of this year’s productions include a rap performance of the Victorian classic, “Little Women” (“Lil’ Women”), a one-man comedy featuring a supernatural investigator (“Dirk Darrow: NCSSI”), and a homicidal Annie (“Annie Todd”).

Two shows created by Full Sail faculty, staff and students illustrate the diversity of Fringe offerings.

One is a historical musical named “Pearl,” based on a real 19th century Parisian courtesan, Cora Pearl, whose benefactors included Prince Napoleon, cousin to Emperor Napoleon III.

The other, “A Long Time Ago: The Eighties Strike Back” is a retelling of the original Star Wars trilogy through the rewritten lyrics of popular ’80s songs.

“The Fringe is a great way to see theater outside of a stuffy environment,” said Simon MacDonald, who works in Career Development.

MacDonald, who wrote all of the songs in “A Long Time Ago,” is a SAK comedy player, along with Adam Bellas, a software architect for Full Sail’s Information and Media Technology department. Bellas plays Darth Vader, while MacDonald plays Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Creative Writing student David Brescia plays the roles of Governor Tarkin and the Emperor in the show.

Examples of songs are “We Built Cloud City” (based on Starship’s “We Built this City”) and “Go Chewbacca Baby” (based on the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby”). The show is presented in a rock opera/musical format.

While “A Long Time Ago: The Eighties Strike Back” is obviously a parody, “Pearl” is a serious exploration into the life of the charismatic, yet ultimately tragic, Cora Pearl.

“Pearl” was researched and written by Associate Course Director Jill Craddock with scoring and musical direction by EBMS graduate Mike Wiest. Full Sail University students and staff members receive a discount on the Wednesday, May 23 show.

Craddock describes Cora Pearl as “kind of like the Kim Kardashian of her time but interesting.”

Far from being considered a scandalous figure at the time, “People would look to her for trends,” said Craddock. “She would have dinner parties and keep any number of people entertained.” She was also quoted in newspapers. “They could not get enough of her in the French press and the English press,” she added.

Pearl was reportedly well read and skilled with horses and acted and sang. According to Craddock, Pearl invented the popping-out-of-a-cake trend. A complex figure, Pearl spent lavishly and excessively and was financially bailed out by her “patrons.” She also inspired jealousy.

“Napoleon was so enamored of her that he was jealous,” said Craddock. “He wanted her all to himself.”

Other Full Sailors involved in “Pearl” include EBMS student Dave Martin (assistant producer), EBMS student Rebecca Cain (actor), Career Development Advisor Rachele Travaglini (producer) and SPT grad Jeremiah Stenberg (stage manager).

“We are most excited because one of the primary sources of research, Cora Pearl’s direct descendent, is flying in with family from Virginia,” said Craddock.

Craddock describes the music in the show as “classic Broadway” and plot-driven and said attendees can expect to see great acting and singing and a unique piece of history.

As far as “A Long Time Ago: The Eighties Strike Back,” expect to see not only a retelling of Star Wars, but endless references to other ’80s pop culture icons, like Billy Idol/Han Solo, Chewbacca/Teen Wolf, hair bands, leg warmers and video game characters.

“Everything from the ’80s is put into a grinder and then sprinkled over Star Wars,” explains Bellas.

The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival takes place May 16-28 at Loch Haven Park. Most plays are performed multiple times throughout the festival. Tickets for most individual Fringe shows are around $10; additionally, Fringe attendees must purchase a button ($8, one-time purchase) for admission to any of the performances and venues within Loch Haven Park. For show descriptions, times, ticket purchases, and more info on “how to Fringe,” go to Orlandofringe.org.

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