The 2022 Orlando Fringe Festival opens TONIGHT! With a wide variety of ticketed performances, a free outdoor stage, an eclectic visual art gallery, and kids’ activities; there’s simply too much Fringe to cover in a single article. Instead, Orlando Decoded will be publishing a series of posts about this incredible piece of the city’s cultural landscape. In this first installment, let’s dive into one of the fantastic ticketed performances available at this year’s event. Created by one of my favorite local theater companies, we’re exploring The Witches by Phoenix Tears Productions!
We were excited and honored to attend a special press preview of this awesome show! So before we get started, I want to say a big THANK YOU to both Orlando Fringe and Phoenix Tears Productions for inviting us out!
What is Orlando Fringe?
The Witches will perform at Orlando Fringe, a two-week theater festival focused on unjuried and uncensored works of performance art. While similar festivals exist all over the world, Orlando Fringe is the longest running event of its kind within the United States. Fringe Festivals are generally known for featuring alternative or experimental pieces of art, which makes Phoenix Tears a perfect fit for this event’s itinerary!
About Phoenix Tears
Are you familiar with Phoenix Tears Productions? If not, let me tell you about this one-of-a-kind, woman-led theater group! Based in the Orlando area, Phoenix Tears specializes in immersive performances, utilizing both physical and digital mediums to achieve their goals. While I’ve had the opportunity to attend several of their incredible shows, my favorites have been their “audio dramas.” This innovative storytelling style employs carefully designed 360° soundscapes, real-world environments, set pieces, and live actors to immerse audiences in creative worlds and narratives.
How Does An Audio Drama Work?
Much like 2020’s Infected and 2021’s Horror in Headphones, The Witches is a brand new addition to Phoenix Tear’s collection of audio dramas. In case you’re not familiar with this type of production, let me explain how it actually works. Audience members are given headphones containing specially designed soundscapes, including effects and talented voice actors. Live performers then guide participants through predetermined physical pathways (In this case, we’re traveling through both wooded and open areas in the Loch Haven Park courtyard) while pantomiming the action and interacting with set pieces, the environment, other actors, or even the audience themselves. It’s an innovative form of storytelling resulting in an exceptionally organic and realistic experience.
Taking place entirely outdoors, The Witches is an approximately 45-minute production (including time for post-show discussion) with opportunities for audience participation and interaction. In fact, the show is designed as a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure,” with three separate tracks and two possible endings.
In the prologue to summer, three witches cast a circle and perform a ritual with the hopes of ushering in their deepest desires.…In this interactive choose your own path style show, audience members choose a witch to follow after this ritual goes horribly wrong.
Circling around a central altar, our show begins with the summertime ritual. With the help of the audience, three witches begin to cast their spell – but, of course, things don’t unfold exactly as planned. As the women begin to break away from the main site, audience members can choose to follow their favorite witch or remain near the altar. I chose the “red” track, following the Witch of Death across a grassy field!
A Quick Note: While all tracks will require audience members to walk on unpaved, uneven ground; you can choose to remain in the starting area for the duration of the show. If you have mobility issues or other concerns that make it difficult to walk quickly on the courtyard grass, this might be the best option for you.
Another Note: If you do plan to remain near the beginning altar, consider bringing a foldable lawn chair. Otherwise, you will be standing for the duration of the performance.
I won’t be giving any spoilers for my time with the Witch of Death. But I will say that this portion of the show was a perfect combination of wonderfully eerie and hauntingly beautiful. While I expected a story about supernatural beings to have a fair bit of creep factor (which the red track certainly delivered), I was not prepared to encounter such important themes as grief, loss, and undying love. I actually found myself tearing up in several places and many notable lines have stuck with me long after the final bows.
After our personal time with the Witch of Death, we again traversed the grassy field to return to the central altar. I’m still not giving any spoilers. But after the brief separation, reuniting with the rest of the cast and audience made the final scene that much more impactful.
At this point, I’ve experienced several of Phoenix Tears’ productions, and I am always amazed at their ability to transform seemingly familiar locations into otherworldly environments. I’ve been to Loch Haven Park many times, but I’ve never seen it quite like this. With the combination of engaging actors, an intricate soundscape, and creative storytelling; Phoenix Tears managed to turn a normal courtyard into something completely different – a mystical journey through woods and meadows, meeting witches and dodging spirits along the way.
There are so many incredible, theatrical experiences around Central Florida – at the Fringe Festival and beyond. But I can honestly say I’ve never seen ANYTHING like a Phoenix Tears audio drama. Orlando Fringe will only run for two weeks, and The Witches will only play from May 20-29! Don’t miss your opportunity to experience this unique and innovative show. And with multiple tracks and alternative endings, you can even enjoy it more than once!
Getting Tickets For The Witches
To see The Witches, you will need to purchase your show ticket on the Orlando Fringe website. The Witches will run on select dates and times from May 20-29. Be sure to double check your chosen date and time slot before completing your purchase.
Because 100% of the base ticket price is given directly to the respective artists, you will also need to purchase a reusable 2022 Fringe Festival button. Buttons are $10 and grant access to all the performances at this year’s event (along with an individually purchased show ticket). No matter how many productions you plan to see, you only need one button per person.
Know Before You Go
- To attend a showing of The Witches, you will need to purchase both a show ticket and Fringe Button. You can buy both of these on the Orlando Fringe website.
- Parking at Orlando Fringe can be tricky. Make sure you arrive early to allow plenty of time to locate a suitable spot and travel to the show location.
- The Witches is located in the trees alongside the Orlando Repertory Theatre – directly across from the Orlando Museum of Art.
- This show takes place outdoors. Just like any outside activity, there might be insects! Wear bug spray.
- You will be walking on unpaved, uneven ground. I recommend wearing closed-toed, comfortable shoes.
- If your party includes multiple viewers, consider splitting up so you can discuss what happened on the other tracks!
- If you plan to remain near the starting altar (as opposed to following a witch to a different location), you might want to bring your own lawn chair. Otherwise, you will be standing for the duration of the performance.