A Note from Michael Wanzie
Some of you may have been so busy with holiday preparations that you may have missed the appalling news that the Board of Directors of the soon-to-be Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts have announced their intent to “self present” Broadway touring shows at the new Downtown facility once it opens. In doing so, they will be disgracefully severing all ties with long time City of Orlando/Bob Carr PAC partner, Florida Theatrical Association.
For a full quarter of a century, Ron Legler and his staff at the not for profit arts organization, with ties to all of the Broadway Across America touring companies, has not only presented the Broadway shows at Carr, but has also done so with a civic-mindedness that is second to none, and with constant support of the Orlando Arts community as a whole.
Ron Legler and Florida Theatrical Association were instrumental in achieving numerous upgrades at the Carr to whatever extent they were practical. Under Legler’s leadership, the organization increased the Broadway Across America series subscription base from about 5,000 to over 8,500.
Florida Theatrical has always been there as an involved and committed member of the Central Florida Community. They buy ads in the playbills of many a struggling grass-roots arts organization. They help support beloved institutions such as Orlando Fringe. They continually raise money for AIDS organizations. They liberally donate show tickets for the benefit of almost any worthwhile charity that approaches them for fundraising items. And let’s not forget that when our iconic fountain in Lake Eola got hit by lightning and The City could not fund the repairs…it was Florida Theatrical that stepped up to the plate and raised (with the cooperation of members of the touring company of the Broadway show “Phantom”) the needed funds so the fountain could be completely refurbished and computerized.
Most importantly, Ron Legler and Florida Theatrical Association were instrumental in garnering support and funds for the construction of the very Dr. Philips Center from which they are now being turned away.
City officials, and some shady individuals with the Downtown Development Board, allowed Legler and his Organization to work tirelessly to help the city achieve the new facility, and to do so, specifically to win for their subscribers the opportunity to enjoy the Broadway Across America offerings in the new state of the art theatre with the long-awaited “excellent acoustics.”
Ron Legler has been the biggest and most effective cheerleader for the new performing arts facility, and there is no guessing how many individuals and/or corporations made financial contributions to the building fund as a direct result of Legler’s many appeals; but there is no doubt his influence, optimism, and enthusiasm were vital to the end result.
So…now the damned thing is under construction and The City decides to show Legler and Florida Theatrical the door before the doors have even been installed?
Once again I will state, this is outrageous!
The director of the board and many of its members of the new facility cite saving money by self-presenting to be their only concern. They are telling the public a huge savings can be achieved by self-presenting, and that those dollars can be used to offset operational expenses. But what they aren’t telling the public is that the amount of those savings does not take into account three very important factors:
- Under the present agreement between the City and Florida Theatrical, both parties benefit when a show turns a profit, but it is ONLY Florida Theatrical who assumes all the risk when a show doesn’t sell well. It is only Florida Theatrical who loses money on the occasion that a tour doesn’t produce a profit. The board of the new center is likely not anticipating any losses in its calculations.
- What they are NOT telling the public is that even if they sever their partnership with Legler’s organization…FLORIDA THEATRICAL IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE! That’s right. Even if this unthinkable severance occurs, Florida Theatrical will stay right here in Orlando, and they will continue to present Broadway touring companies in an alternate facility. This will pit the Association and the City against one another as competitors for the same audience base. The board of the new center did not take competition into account when divining how much money they would make/save by self-presenting. They expected Florida Theatrical would simply put its tail between its leg and whimper away, but they have no intention of doing so. None what so ever!
- It is a FACT that 70% of all Broadway Touring Companies are under the control of Broadway Across America, which is legally bound to Florida Theatrical Association. That means that the majority of touring shows (those managed by Broadway Across America) will be unavailable for bookings by the self-presenting city-owned Dr. Philips Center without Florida Theatrical as a presenting partner. The Dr. Philips Center will be limited to choosing shows from among the remaining 30% of the available touring Broadway product. NOT GOOD!
So there you have it; the creation of the new performing arts center, meant to serve the Orlando arts community, seeks to begin its reign by attempting to put out of business one of the most respected and applauded community arts organizations Orlando has ever been privileged to have. And they do so at the 11th hour before bookings need to be arranged for the opening season, after years and years of accepting support for the new facility from the very organization they now wish to turn away so egregiously.
There is one January 2013 meeting remaining where this topic can be on the agenda with the possibility of getting this unethical decision reversed.
But that will not happen without your voice being heard.
Won’t you please join me in contacting the many powers that should not be, and a few fair-minded individuals who would welcome your support for their position, and let them know you are outraged at the possibility of the City discontinuing their partnership with Florida Theatrical Association. Tell them you believe the organization that struggled for more than two decades to present shows in the city’s subpar, problem prone facility, and did so in great service to the community to successful ends amid all kinds of obstacles …that this organization deserves to call the new Dr. Phillips Center its home. Tell them that the organization who helped Orlando audiences develop a love and an appetite for Broadway touring companies should be allowed to reap the benefits of its laudable and tireless efforts in the new facility. Tell them you believe it is simply wrong for the City to have stood by and allowed Legler and his organization to invest enormous amounts of time, manpower, and money to develop the very audience the new center hopes to enjoy, but without the organization that has cultivated that audience. Tell them it’s just wrong, and tell them you insist they continue their partnership with Florida Theatrical Association.
If you donated money to the new center, tell officials you did so with the belief that Florida Theatrical would be presenting Broadway Across America products in the new facility. Tell officials that since they presented such a united front with Florida Theatrical during the fundraising phase of the development of the new center, you feel you were misled, and that you, therefore, are petitioning the City to return your donation or cancel your pledge should Florida Theatrical not be retained to present its shows at the new Dr. Phillips Center.
City of Orlando Officials
- Honorable Mayor Buddy Dyer:
- Frank Billingsley, Chief of Staff:
- Patty Sheehan, District 4 Commissioner:
- Daisy Lynum, District 5 Commissioner:
Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center
455 South Orange Ave.
Orlando, FL 32801
- Jim H. Pugh Jr., Chairman (This is the guy who is so gung ho to give Florida Theatrical the boot):
- Katherine Ramsberger, President:
Board of Directors
- Micky Gindstaff
- Cheryl Henry
- Jean-Marc Allard
- Don Ammerman
- Rita Bornstein, Ph.D.
- Linda Chapin
- Bill Frederick
- Alex Martins
- Sibille Pritchard
- Chuck Steinmetz
- Ed Timberlake
- Sherman Brown
- Joseph R. Cleveland
- Earl M. Crittenden Jr. Esq.
- Davis Gaines
- Philip Holt
- Philip Kobrin
- Kevin Lansberry
- Carol Massey
- Steve Miller
- Annette Neel
- Thomas M. Roehlk
- Frank Santos
- Bill Sublette
- Jonathan Taylor
- Geraldine Thompson
- Craig Ustler
- Al Weiss
- Bryce West
Please raise your voice! It’s as easy as sending an e-mail.
I’m WANZIE And That’s All I Wrote!