The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has been a source of pride for Central Florida since its doors opened in November 2014. Now, with the debut of two brand–new theater spaces, Orlando’s proud arts patrons have even more to brag about — and so much more to look forward to.
“This has been one of the most ambitious performing arts development projects of the 21st century,” said Kathy Ramsberger, president and CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center. “Our approach all along was to redefine the role, and the perception, of a modern performing arts center. So we placed it in the heart of Orlando, surrounded by the true culture of our city — where Arts For Every Life would always have a home.”
The debut of these two new performance spaces marks the culmination of a 19-year-long building process and the realization of a long–held vision for both the region and the building itself.
Steinmetz Hall, named after philanthropists Chuck and Margery Pabst Steinmetz, will be one of the world’s most acoustically perfect spaces, designed to reach the lowest levels at which humans can detect sound in a modern building. It is also one of the very few theaters in the world that can transform in shape, seating and sound. Judson’s, a cabaret-style space named for Joyce and Judson Green, will provide a space for guests to view more intimate performances.
“We set out to build one of the greatest performing arts centers in the world — one that could transform our region and serve as a model for the future. And I think we did exactly that,” said Jim Pugh, chair of the board at the Dr. Phillips Center. “This is a place that will inspire Orlando for generations to come.”
On January 14, 2022, the inaugural season for the finished center, deemed the “Grand Celebration Season,” will begin with two weeks of events.
First, more than 250 artists from the region will come together for Rise & Shine, a two-day celebration in Steinmetz Hall. Then the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will begin a 10-day residency in the same venue — a perfect choice to demonstrate the acoustic depth and flexibility of Steinmetz Hall. The group of 76 musicians will perform with an incredible lineup of artists, beginning with a collaboration with eight principal dancers from the Royal Ballet, and going on to include shows with Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Hudson, soul and R&B singer Leon Bridges and country star Lyle Lovett.
The final performance of the Royal Philharmonic run will see the world premiere of the orchestration of Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige” featuring The Jazz Orchestra at Dr. Phillips Center and the Bethune-Cookman University Concert Chorale.
The celebration will continue into the 2021–22 Dr. Phillips season with shows that run the gamut from comedy to classical to Broadway to dance, and everything in between.
The community’s response to the completion of the beloved Orlando staple has been more than enthusiastic, with patrons from every part of the community coming forward to express their excitement and gratitude.
“Despite many challenges caused by the pandemic, the arts are thriving in our community,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Orlando’s arts scene continues to grow and will be elevated to new heights in 2022 when Steinmetz Hall opens and the vision for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts becomes a reality. The arts help connect us as a community and enrich our lives.”
Connecting the community is not only part of the center’s future, but also part of how it came to be, Ramsberger said. Since 2014, the Dr. Phillips Center has welcomed more than 2.4 million people for 2,400 performances, with support from more than 14,000 donors.
“Seeing it all come to life now,” she said, “it’s an incredible moment, both for the community that built it and for the entire world to now be able to enjoy it.”
Visit drphillipscenter.org/grandcelebration for more information.