Orlando Fringe, which just celebrated its 30th theatre festival this past May and announced that it would be returning to downtown with its winter event series, just completed a program audit with University of Florida’s CityLab  (Website) students and faculty.

CityLab is a three-year off-campus program run by the University of Florida’s Graduate School of Architecture that teaches students about architecture and urban theory and uses individual research opportunities with the City of Orlando serving as a learning laboratory.

Steven Grant, the Program Director and Professor of Practice-Themed Environments Integration at the University of Florida CityLab, reached out to Orlando Fringe with a proposal for collaboration for his summer semester and invited 20 students to attend the most recent festival to help solve obstacles the festival faces when drawing over 75,000 people to the Loch Haven Park area every year.

Before the festival, Fringe Marketing Director Brian Sikorski spoke to the students via Zoom and shared the history of the organization and the challenges Fringe has with producing an annual event on the scale as theirs, such as wayfinding, parking, staging, and overall layout. 

CityLab students were invited to help with the load-in and load-out of the festival to understand the festival’s logistics, volunteered, attended productions, and took in all facets of the Orlando Fringe before heading back to the CityLab studio, where they were divided into five interdisciplinary teams, each exploring a different aspect of the festival.

A month later, Sikorski returned for final presentations with Executive Director Alauna Friskics. “We were blown away by what we saw,” said Friskics. “There were some ‘Ah-ha’ moments when we looked at each other and couldn’t understand how we hadn’t thought of that yet.”

“My team worked together to propose a new experience called The FringeWalk that would connect The Lawn to a new venue that will be included in The Fringe as part of their larger expansion plan,” said student Alex Sansolo. “Through a series of installations, experiences, and improved wayfinding, our proposal intended to create an interactive and historical experience that would help unify and activate the expanding festival.”

“Our group wanted to bring people in, keep people engaged and create a common thread, said student Katie Kramer. “We also wanted to refocus on Kids Fringe. We thought about what was talked about most on the lawn; the bar! We created a family-friendly, Kids-themed bar with an area for a meet and greet with Fringezilla. The theme of the event was Neon Beach. Kids would be able to order their drinks such as ‘Bear Hugs on the Beach,’ and then they would be able to relax on a beach towel or float chairs. Our goal was to have fun and create fun ideas!”

“It was very rewarding for all,” added Grant. “The ideas and drawings produced exceeded my expectations.”

Both CityLab and Orlando Fringe have confirmed that they want to continue this relationship into future semesters.  

“The opportunity to work with a client to create feasible solutions enabled us to utilize the skills we have learned throughout the Themed Environments Integration program at UF’s CityLab,” said student Kaitlyn Graf.

Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of Bungalower.com

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