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Orlando Fringe Festival now has its artists lined up for May

Normally a lottery means a big financial payout to one lucky winner, but that's not quite how it played out last week at Fringe.

The lottery held at the Orlando Shakespeare Center had a very long list of winners – quite a few, in fact – and what they all won was a unique artistic opportunity, to be a part of next year's Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival – the longest running Fringe festival in the United States.

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The Fringe festival, which will be held next May at numerous venues, now has a list of the local, national and international artists who will be performing there. When the lottery was held inside the Margeson Theatre at the Orlando Shakespeare Center on Dec. 8, there was a particularly loud applause from the artists when it was announced that one local theater in particular had been selected to put on a production: Theatre Downtown.

Theatre Downtown, the community theater that has operated for two decades at 2113 N. Orange Ave., is losing their space this year. The owner of their building in the Ivanhoe Village neighborhood, Florida Hospital, did not renew their lease and Frank and Fran Hilgenberg, who operate Theatre Downtown, have until Jan. 31 to vacate the property.

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They now join a list of other artists for the 2015 Fringe Festival, including

Puppet Celebration, Inc., PBD Theatre Co., Second Sight Dance Co., Carpenter Ant Productions, and many others.

So many artists applied to the Fringe this year, that there is a waiting list of 61 local artists, 44 national artists and seven international artists who did not get selected.

Michael Marinaccio, the producer of the Fringe, said he hopes to bring more of these artists on board.

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"We are going to try to add a space, which will be adding in as many more of you as possible," he told the artists gathered at the lottery. "We will try to get everyone on board."

The Orlando Fringe Festival productions currently are hosted in several venues, including the Orlando Shakespeare Center, the Orlando Repertory Theatre, the Orlando Museum of Art, and The Venue, the performing arts center located close by at 511 Virginia Drive.

"If you're on the waiting list," Marinaccio said, "hang in there."

Last week, Orlando Fringe had another reason to celebrate when they welcomed their newest sponsor, Macy's Foundation.

At the same time, George Wallace, the executive director of the Orlando Fringe, said anyone who loves the Fringe and wants to see it succeed is definitely encouraged to provide additional financial support.

"I am known in the Central Florida arts community as the dream crusher," Wallace joked, but added, "I would be remiss if I did not ask you to reach into your pockets and make a donation."

The 2015 annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival will be held on May 13-26.

Theatre Downtown is now producing its final production in their longtime theater in Ivanhoe Village.

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This is the final weekend for Theatre Downtown's annual production of "A Christmas Carol," which runs through Dec. 23. Show times are at 8 p.m. For tickets or more information, call 407-841-0083.

mwfreeman@sun-sentinel.com or 407-420-5290.

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