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Sad-song saga of the gold-plated Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

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So, how did all of that work out for you? Are you covered in bliss and diamonds and optimism about the future, thanks to the good tidings and philanthropy that come with that special time of year that you just endured (or are still enduring)? Well, at least for us, there are some gifts that just keep on giving and, although they do involve philanthropy (or the apparent absence thereof) and plenty of diamonds, the bliss has never really been a factor. Yes, we're speaking of the continuing sad-song saga of the gold-plated Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, because that's what we like to do most when shaking our fists at City Hall. Also, it looks like we'll be speaking of it quite a bit in the coming year, because shit is now starting to get real.

Following a sad live-cam year of cranes and girders – seriously, most press-friendly features about the gaping construction site this year have amounted to "Look! A truss!" distractions from standard games of watching a pot of water boil – something happened on the way to the theater last week. And that something, dare we say it, sounds a lot like an invitation to an "I told you so!" chest-beating explosion. If you didn't think DPAC was, at best, a rickety shack being sold with fundraising "circles" and false bravado (bad intentions included), then you hardly know us.

News broke via the Sentinel on Dec. 19 that the vaunted DPAC board had finally made the decision that it would not be needing the services of Florida Theatrical Association in presenting the only thing that the theater is going to be able to present – Broadway shows (because the acoustic hall for the Orlando Philharmonic and Orlando Ballet is still something of a pipe dream). Instead, DPAC was going to take on the task of self-presenting, thank you very much. That way they'll save up $700,000 annually, according to official estimates referenced in the Sentinel story but probably drummed up by a paid consultant. "Every dollar we can save is a dollar we don't have to go out and raise," stoic DPAC board chairman Jim Pugh said. That's pretty sad coming from an organization which reportedly still needs $75 million to move ahead with its promised second stage (meaning the board has raised squat since the last time we talked about them).

Speaking of talking about them, we already predicted this self-presenting predicament nearly three years ago ("Keeping up appearances," March 24, 2010). Back then, when she still talked to us, DPAC president Kathy Ramsberger blankly called Florida Theatrical a "choice" while rambling out of the other side of her mouth about self-presenting being the only way that the performing arts center could sustain itself. At that time, Florida Theatrical president and chief executive officer Ron Legler responded to the assertion thusly: "I don't think she should be in the business of hurting local arts groups. It shouldn't be the goal to take out a major local arts organization."

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