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Arts & Culture

DPAC's dramatic pause

Performing arts center's public rift with local theater producer calls its mission into question

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

But even with all the shifting figures and apparent risks, the city claims that it is prepared for any eventualities. "There are clauses in the agreement that prevent the city from being involved with operational financial issues and mitigate risks to city taxpayers," city spokeswoman Heather Fagan writes in an email. "For example, there is a bankruptcy clause and a clause that states if DPAC is underwater for three years, they are in default of the agreement/contract with the city and the city can replace DPAC or change the operating entity. If that were to occur, the city would not inherit any expenses or debt held by DPAC because DPAC is a separate entity from the city."

For now, at least. After a series of delays and design troubles, the $473 million Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2006 in Miami-Dade County, continues to be subsidized to the tune of $7.65 million annually for operations by the county (in addition to $3.8 million required to fix a leaking roof that sent 2,500 people running from a performance of The Lion King last May). And though DPAC likes to tout the fact that Tampa's Straz Center for the Arts is a successful self-presenting venue for Broadway tours, that's not exactly true. Last year, the Straz Center signed a presenting agreement with marquee Broadway presenters the Nederlander Organization of New York. DPAC has since hired Straz staffer

Judy Joseph as its vice president of programming.

For its part, DPAC seems optimistic about its prospects, regardless of dark prognostications. In a joint statement from board president Jim Pugh and executive committee member Chuck Steinmetz on Jan. 10, the group responded to the doubts over the project raised by the current Legler battle thusly: "We are pleased to acknowledge that the Dr. Phillips Center is on-time and on-budget. We are building a place which will have the ability to showcase various forms of performing arts for generations to come. We are creating new opportunities for the most important arts organizations, the Orlando Ballet and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. By making these strong business decisions, we will ensure the Center's existence and effectively fulfill its vision – Arts for Every Life."

What those arts will be remains a mystery. Since the project's inception, two of the intended resident groups – the Orlando Opera and the Festival of Orchestras – have folded. The Orlando Ballet and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra are being used as selling points for fundraising purposes, but realistically, neither is suited to the stage one Disney Theater. That hasn't stopped DPAC from listing the struggling Orlando Ballet in its operating pro-forma as having 54 performances in the Disney Theater during the first year with a rental cost of $205,800. The rental rate for the new theater is $1.50 per seat, according to the pro-forma, which is nearly quadruple the 42-cent rate at Bob Carr. In an Orlando Sentinel profile last year, then-executive director of the Orlando Ballet, Mike Hough, spoke about a recovery for the ballet – which was for a time $500,000 in debt – and seemed excited about moving to the new center. Hough has since left the position after less than a year in office.

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