Renaissance Theater in Orlando, FL

If Frank Hilgenberg gets any vengeance in this world, it will be delivered by Done Rupe’s new space here on Princeton Avenue, just across from the old Theater Downtown. Renaissance opens its season with a notional presentation of the Halloween classic Nosferatu. And that’s how its begins, with the audience seeping in to the space though a cramped door and a bar lined up a little too close to the ticket taker. We pass in to a much larger space and take our seats around the deck of an ocean going ship, now abandoned by the crew who presumably succumbed to a mysterious disease. We meet the crew who may or may not be alive. They dance chaoticaly, and the energy is high. As the cast works in the dark, and we see that the crew of Dracula ship is consumed by evil, and we now leave the boat to experience the second act. The traditional blood sucking story, that fades into the background and we are in a space filled with exotic characters, a huge dance stage, and another bar on the side. Story development fades and the leather boys and other denizens of the gay night life appear. Drinks are available. There might be plot, but its lost in the dance action, and after a few rounds the audience splits up and visits a set of side rooms: a dark night in a grave yard, a woman in white a dress who may be dead or possessed, another woman who flees in terror, and other sequences of a dark mind. More drinks, a stage wrapped in industrial plastic and meat hook chains drop from the ceiling. Then, we return to the bar. Tonight, that bar IS the theme.

Does any of this make much sense? I couldn’t decode it, but my guess is the space is so huge there’s a temptation to try anything you can think of, just to see. There is a sense of creep in the smaller rooms, but the main space is just that – space in three dimensions waiting to be filled with fever dreams and oddly costumed dancers. The only venues with more raw volume in Orlando are downtown or the Convention Center. But for in-town experiences. I’m anticipating great things from this new space. The Renaissance space is still rough, there’s a lot of labor ahead, but the potential of a 30 foot performance cube with a bar and rest rooms is mind boggling. Stay tuned for more shows, this is going to be something big.

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