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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

And that product could be scarce for DPAC. At the APAP convention, Legler says the signs of a tough economy were dragging down the market; there just aren't any blockbusters on the horizon for the 2014 season. And even if there were – Legler won't reveal which shows he's picked – Florida Theatrical would hold exclusivity rights to the production anywhere within a 75-mile radius. Tampa could get the new Phantom of the Opera reboot, but DPAC couldn't, not as long as FTA had contracted with the show. And shows like Wicked and The Lion King won't be coming back this way for at least four years, he says. He hates that he's gone from "collaborator to competitor," and even though he hints that Ramsberger and Pugh tried to lure him away from his organization (there was a lunch, he reveals, but not much else), Legler didn't bite because "the first one up the hill is usually the first one shot." Now, DPAC is running a public relations campaign to discredit Legler and FTA's attachment to national powerhouse Broadway Across America, which controls 70 percent of the national touring market.

"FTA is a nonprofit organization representing a New York company in venues throughout Florida," DPAC wrote in an internal "talking points" email to its board around Dec. 21. "Knowing its strong ties in the local arts community, we have reached out to Ron Legler to explore a possible local relationship."

In fact, the group did reach out, according to emails provided by Legler. Except DPAC doesn't want to meet with Legler's parent organization, a point that Ramsberger restates in each back-and-forth. Even Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has reached out to try to bridge the divide, but, according to city spokeswoman Heather Fagan, neither side was willing to budge.

"I want to be clear that the city not being involved with the decision-making doesn't mean that the city isn't watching and providing input and encouraging prudent decision-making," Fagan writes in an email. "Mayor Dyer says this is not the decision he would have made. His approach would have been to limit the risk associated with opening the building by using a known partner to present the Broadway [shows]."

After weeks of speculation about just where FTA might land in Orlando – especially considering Legler's New York visit to the APAP conference in New York in the interest of programming the company's 2014-2015 season – Legler now says that the group has its sights set on the Linda Chapin Theater out at the Orange County Convention Center. Which, in and of itself, is a heavy dose of civic irony. Former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin sits on the DPAC board. Also, the county – which has been critical of the performing arts center ordeal – receives the profits from the convention center. (Orange County Convention Center executive director Kathie Canning confirms that she and Legler are "discussing options," adding that DPAC has "called about options," as well.) For now, Legler says he's happy about the prospect of gathering architects and designers to get the proposed new 2,600-seat space at the convention center ready.

"I feel like I'm going to wake up and this is some really horrific seven-year dream," Legler says. "I was with DPAC and I feel like I was not even in my own body. I've been a part of getting the place built, I got the shows, and now I'm not going to have access to the building because of five people [on the DPAC board]. One of the people who voted against us, her name is on the theater that I'm going to present in."

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