ORLANDO – Walking from the lobby, which already contains a sizeable wine bar, to the black box space that is now empty, a voice among the crowd quitely noted, “And just imagine, six months ago it was a Hooters.”
The space at 54 West Church St. is now indeed a far cry from the previous tenant. It’s the home to the Mad Cow Theatre Co., perhaps better known until now for theatrical productions at its location at 105 S. Magnolia Ave. On Tuesday, Mayor Buddy Dyer joined Mitzi Maxwell, the executive director of Mad Cow, and other city leaders for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new theater.
On Friday, Oct. 5, Mad Cow Theater will officially open the doors to its new space, in the process expanding the number of stages, performances, seating and services that will be available to local audiences.
Even though the black box theaters were awaiting seating, audiences and new productions on Tuesday, Maxwell said she was excited and thrilled to be just about ready to open their doors on Friday for the start of Mad Cow’s first season at its new location, “Sunday in the Park With George.”
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “We are starting our 16th season and this will be our ninth facility. We think this is going to be a super home for our artists.”
Last December, the Orlando City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement for the property at 54 W. Church St. that has become the theater’s new home. Mad Cow’s efforts to find a new theater got a boost when the production company received a major gift that made the move possible, a contribution of $400,000 from Harriet Lake, a well known Orlando philanthropist who has been a strong supporter of the arts.
Under the terms of the leasing agreement, Mad Cow was supposed to provide $480,000 toward this move, while Orlando’s Community Redevelopment Agency was kicking in an additional $100,000. Lake’s gift made this project possible.
The theater company remained at Magnolia Avenue near the Orlando Public Library for a final spring season, while doing construction on the new one.
On Tuesday, the theater company — including Maxwell and David Mink, the theater’s director of audience development – were ready to give city leaders a tour of the new space. They joined Dyer and City Commissioners Daisy Lynum, Samuel Ings and Robert Stuart for the tour.
“We can’t think of a better place to be,” Maxwell said.
“I think this location is perfect,” Lynum added. “Everything you have here is wonderful.”
The new location has a spacious black box theater where some of the shows will be performed.
“This is a space similar to what we had before, and we can do shows that are very diverse,” Maxwell said. “We want to set it up differently every time.”
The space also has a sense of intimacy, she said, that will only add considerably to the intimacy of the performances.
“At Mad Cow,” she said, “we like to say you can hear the actors breathe.”
With a seating capacity of 160 patrons, Dyer noted that the theater held out the potential to host other events as well.
“There are a fair number of events that could host 160,” the mayor said, while Maxwell added, “We look forward to hosting events here. My goal is to be back in a year and say we wore the carpets out.”
The new location also addresses a couple of the issues that Mad Cow faced at its smaller Magnolia Avenue spot. That theater had no restrooms, and patrons had to exit the property and use restrooms in the hallway of the main building.
The 54 West Church St. theater has its own restrooms.
Neither theater has its own parking lot for patrons, but Maxwell send out a news release today to point out that there is a plenty of parking available around Church Street.
In an email titled “Parking, Parking Everywhere,” Mad Cow noted that “It is a myth that parking in Downtown Orlando is bad. There is, in fact, an abundance.”
There are actually 3,600 parking spaces available, the theater company noted, all within one block of 54 W. Church St., including the Central Parking Garage at 55 W. Central Boulevard, Valet parking at Kres Chophouse at Church Street and Orange Aveue, and the nearby SunTrust Center Garage, which has 1,041 parking spaces. There’s a fee to pay to park in any of these places.
“As the renaissance of downtown Orlando began several years ago, Mad Cow and the city of Orlando walked hand in hand looking at the properties here, and this is the one we settled on,” Maxwell said.
To learn more about Mad Cow Theatre, its new location and its upcoming season, log on to http://www.madcowtheatre.com/.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.