ORLANDO – The Mad Cow Theatre, which has been attempting to move into a new property leased to it by the city of Orlando, got two big boosts this afternoon.
First, the City Council unanimously approved the lease agreement for the property at 54 W. Church St. that will become the theater’s new home, most likely by next fall.
And even more importantly, the theater’s executive director, Mitzi Maxwell, used the meeting at City Hall to announce that Mad Cow had gotten a major gift that will make this move possible.
“I’m very pleased today to make a major announcement,” Maxwell said as she addressed the commissioners. “We have received a major gift from Harriet Lake of $400,000, specifically for this.”
Lake, 86, is a well known Orlando philanthropist who has been a strong supporter of the arts, including the Orlando Ballet. Under the terms of the leasing agreement, Mad Cow is supposed to provide $480,000 toward this move, while Orlando’s Community Redevelopment Agency will be kicking in an additional $100,000.
As Maxwell noted, Lake’s very generous gift will make this project possible.
“As we all know, a rising tide lifts all boats,” she said.
For years, the Mad Cow Theatre has been operating at its current space at 105 S. Magnolia Ave., close to Central Avenue and the Orlando Public Library. The theater company will remain there for at least its upcoming spring season, which will include productions of “Dancing at Lughnasa” by Brian Friel (Feb. 3-March 4), “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen (Feb. 24-March 25), and “Private Lives” by Noël Coward (March 30-April 29).
The gift from Lake, and the new space on Church Street, will enable Mad Cow to finance construction work at the new location, said Brian McDowell, the attorney representing the theater company. The new location still needs to have two theaters, a lobby area and a box office built there.
“We appreciate your consideration of this project,” McDowell told the councilors. “I’ve worked in the last 18 months with Mad Cow, and key among the items for Mad Cow is to get into this new space we are talking about.”
McDowell also said the council’s support for the leasing agreement would also demonstrate the city’s commitment to the theater and the performing arts.
“The arts have faced a challenge in the last couple of years,” he said.
As part of the leasing agreement, Mad Cow recognized that no additional public funds would be needed for this project.
The agreement did not attract any debate among the councilors, except for Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who praised Lake for stepping forward to assist Mad Cow in this endeavor.
“Harriet Lake has, of course, done so much for our community, and is doing angel’s work now,” Sheehan said.
Once the agreement was approved, Mayor Buddy Dyer offered the theater some praise as well.
“Congratulations, Mad Cow,” he said. “Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.”
Recognized by the proposal put forth to the commissioners as “one of Orlando’s most respected professional theater companies,” Mad Cow can be reached by calling 407-297-8788 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or logging on to
Mad Cow Theatre.
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