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A shot fired across the bow: Florida Theatrical Association launches DPAC plea in the direction of the city and the county

January 7, 2013
By

As expected, the Florida Theatrical Association is kicking its New Year off in passionate survival mode, following the December revelation that the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts would officially NOT be using the organization’s 25 years of Broadway experience with the city in the new venue. Sure, there are talks about a conciliatory meeting between DPAC and FTA some time this month, but, really, DPAC queen Kathy Ramsberger has made it pretty clear all along that this would be a self-presenting affair, because basically that’s the only way the venue stands to make any money. In the process, Ramsberger has been hurling emailed missives to DPAC supporters explaining how value-free FTA is because it’s an arm of a national corporation. Yeah, the millionaires in the DPAC rolodex are super organic and grassroots, too. Whatever. We’ve covered this story to death for years, even predicting this outcome on more than one occasion. And you can bet that in the coming weeks we’ll be covering it some more. Here’s today’s letter in full. Something smells bad, no?

 

January 7, 2013

 

An Open Letter to:

 

Orlando City Council

Orange County Commissioners

Community Arts Group Leaders

Dr. Phillips Center Board of Directors

Interested Arts Community Stakeholders

 

As a leader in the Central Florida Arts Community for more than a decade, I have worked tirelessly with my counterparts from the Florida Philharmonic and the Orlando Ballet to pursue the dream of a new downtown performing arts center. Throughout this time, we were always assured that the enhancement and growth of Orlando’s arts groups would be an integral part of the mission of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center (DPAC). Imagine our shock and disappointment to learn that despite our zealous support for the project and our commitment to the entire arts community, DPAC has chosen to exclude local arts groups from the project, including an attempt to end the life of one of the strongest Orlando arts groups, Florida Theatrical Association (FTA).

 

For the past 25 years, FTA has been the non-profit presenter of Broadway in Orlando. In that time, FTA has delivered to Orlando the very best Broadway has to offer, including WICKED, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, MISS SAIGON, LES MISERABLES and THE LION KING, to name a few. During those 25 years, the City of Orlando and Bob Carr Performing Arts Center have been FTA’s steadfast partner and collaborator. The City has never been at risk and has never lost any money in the Broadway partnership–it has only shared in the profits. In fact, the City can confirm that FTA’s annual Broadway Series has been key to the long-term financial stability of the Bob Carr PAC. FTA has also donated thousands of tickets to charities, underprivileged children and theater students, as well as more than $1.5 million in scholarships to theater students in the State of Florida. Most recently FTA has invested in a community spaces downtown called The Abbey and The Mezz, donating its use to charities and local arts groups, resulting in these groups raising more than $2 million for their respective organizations.

 

 

EIGHTY PERCENT OF ALL PROCEEDS GENERATED BY FTA STAYED WITHIN AND HELPED THE ORLANDO COMMUNITY.

 

In June 2012, the Dr. Phillips Center put out a Request For Proposal for potential Broadway presenters. We were encouraged to participate in this process and accordingly submitted a proposal on August 16th. FTA was the only organization to respond. At that time, like others that had competed to be part of the DPAC team, we believed we were participating in a traditional governmental procurement process. However, after submitting our proposal, there was no information on when a decision would be made or who would be making the decision. In fact, there was no selection committee, no timeline and no opportunity to discuss terms or negotiate. After one meeting and request for clarification on our proposal, FTA was notified (four months after we submitted our proposal) that the Dr. Phillips Center had declined our proposal and had chosen to self- present. We have since learned that several business leaders and DPAC board members requested further discussion about and investigation into the decision by the Center’s Executive Committee to self-present; however, those requests were denied. We are left with no other conclusion than the RFP process was intentionally non- transparent and blatantly predetermined to exclude FTA’s usage of the DPAC from the onset.

 

DPAC’s strategy to self-present Broadway is short-sighted. By taking on so much of the risk without a partner, they are not only putting the public tax dollars invested in the project at risk but jeopardizing the center’s ability to achieve long-term financial stability. It should be noted that most theaters in the top US markets work with a professional theater operator or presenter, including venues recently cited as part of the DPAC talking points: the Philadelphia PAC works with the NY Shubert Organization, and the Straz Center in Tampa has enjoyed a co- presenting relationship for most of its history, including the relationship currently in place with a NY Theater owner/producer. The newly built Dallas and Durham venues co-present with a commercial Broadway presenter. The two largest PACs in Florida– Broward Center in Ft. Lauderdale and Arsht Center in Miami – have worked with FTA since their openings, and are fully-committed to maintaining and growing their relationship with FTA for continued Broadway presenting success.

 

We are extremely disappointed with this decision and hope that there is still a chance for reconsideration. If we cannot determine a path to move forward and collaborate, FTA has every intention of continuing to bring the very best Broadway has to offer to Central Florida. FTA will continue its mission to service and support its loyal season ticket holders, as well as support community arts organizations and students. To that end, FTA is currently working with several potential venues to present a Broadway Series. FTA continues to have the unanimous support of the New York Theatre Community, including all of the best productions for the upcoming new seasons, as well as returning favorites like WICKED, THE BOOK OF MORMON and many others.

 

It’s time for our community and government leaders to come together to do what is right for the entire arts community. Fracturing the arts community will not work. Collaboration between FTA and DPAC is the only path for success!

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Ronald G. Legler

President/CEO Florida Theatrical Association

 

 

For more information:

Donna Fiegel / 407-704-6185

Donna@teamTRUE.com

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  • Coco

    Billy, I am 100% with you on this but criticizing board members because they have money is a little nasty. I know some of these board members personally and they are giving time and money of their own free will. I don’t agree with all their decisions but criticize the decision, not the people.
    Some may be self serving but my belief is that most are generous and philanthropic. Hopefully they’ll back off this bad decision.

  • bmanes

    Appreciated. I don’t think that I criticized the board members per se, except for the comparative reference to DPAC’s apparent re-casting of FTA and its corporate connections. (Not being) “grassroots and organic” isn’t exactly an expletive or insult that begs retraction. Point taken, though.

  • Kristina

    I wanted to say that Florida Theatrical Association has been a long-time cash sponsor of Orlando Fringe, just one more way that they support local (really local) arts. Thanks for your reporting. Following this story from Seattle.

  • G

    I don’t know why anyone is willing to believe that this is a shocker. I am not surprised at all. Why? I was none too pleased to find out that as a season ticket holder, we pay MORE for our tickets than we would if we just bought the same tickets to each show individually. What kind of bundle package is that?! I will tell you why we pay more – FTA/Legler are the partner of Broadway Across America, a FOR-PROFIT Broadway touring based corporation in New York City. Don’t think for one second they aren’t making money. Check your tickets and see for yourself. Why should we have to send the majority of the money made in Orlando to New York? That does not make any sense, when Orlando can have actual shows we want here – instead of a few good and a majority of duds AND keep the proceeds it is due. Not over-charging the season ticket holders in the process I’d bet. I want the money to be generated in our community and then stay in our community. Also, if FTA is “supporting” you for some service attached to Broadway, it’s actually New York that is supporting you – New York will continue to support you through the advertising they need to do for shows with DPAC and donations to the city. How short sighted can one be to bite the hand that will inevitably feed you?