Major arts venue puts Orlando on the cultural map

An expansive new arts complex has opened its doors in Orlando, Florida. The Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will attract world-class acts and performers to the city, which has often found itself bypassed by many national touring companies in the past.

The 330,000sq ft centre will also serve as a home for local community arts groups and education initiatives.

The culmination of almost 30 years of planning, the venue’s creation was a collaboration between Theatre Projects, HKS Architects and Baker Barrios.

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The centre’s 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater is a flexible, multi-purpose space able to stage ballet, theatre, musicals, pop concerts and opera.

Theatre Projects’ designer Scott Crossfield said: ‘We wanted to create an intimacy that you typically only find in smaller theatres. We were able to achieve that by breaking the seating into multiple vertical levels, and wrapping them around the stage.’

‘When, as a performer, you can look up and see the immediate reactions of the audience – and, likewise, they can see yours – it creates a dynamic that changes the entire theatregoing experience,’ he continued. ‘It’s powerful, emotional and impactful, and the archi- tecture is the device we’ve used to achieve that energy.’

The centre’s second space, the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, also provides a flexible environment and is ideal for community groups, smaller touring companies or student-produced shows.

The Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater

Theatre Projects also led the design of this 299-seat courtyard theatre, which features audience and technical balconies and an adjustable stage capable of flat floor, thrust, end stage, promenade, and in the round configurations. The multi-level room also strives to achieve intimacy, and features no seat further than 10.6m from the stage.

The venue’s opening season includes a performance by singer-songwriter and Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow, a staging of the musical Broadway & Beyond, and a joint production of Carmina Burana co-presented by The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park and Orlando Ballet.

The centre’s president, Kathy Ramsberger, said: ‘So many people have worked so hard for so long, and because of their passion and persistence, it happened. The dream of a performing arts centre has become the reality of the Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and we want everyone to come and celebrate it together.’