Behind the Scenes at the Dr. Phillips Center

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts opened to much fanfare in November 2014 and has not lost a beat. Its Broadway productions, concerts and special events receive rave reviews as the $100 million downtown centerpiece continues to establish itself as a facility for and about the community. At no time did that become clearer as when the center became ground zero for memorials and vigils immediately following the tragic shootings at Pulse nightclub.

The Dr. Phillips Center’s success lies with the people who make the giant engine chug along seamlessly from one event to another. These are not 9-to-5 jobs. Most of the 85 full-time employees and 400 volunteers who do the planning, marketing, programming, coordinating and outfitting for the shows are behind-the-scenes teams of professionals and theater patrons who work tirelessly doing what they love so every guest experience is the best it can be.

Beth Wood, Head of Wardrobe
Also called the Wardrobe Goddess, Wood has been performing her magic backstage since the center opened. She held the same position at Bob Carr Theater.
Wood, who lives in Winter Park, says she has been making her own clothes since she was 12 years old. She comes from a family of sewers and thought a career in wardrobe would be fascinating.

“It has been a very satisfying career for me,” she says. “I’m 64 and still on my feet.”

Her day consists of making sure all the clothing is ready to go for each show, whether it needs pressing, steaming, altering or laundering.

“Let’s say a Broadway show is coming in,” she explains. “When they load the wardrobes in, they come on gondolas, which are like closets on wheels. The great thing about the gondolas is that we can group them together creating a little dressing area for quick changes.”

On average, it takes Wood and 10 dressers to put on a show, but each performance is different.

“For Tony Bennett, I was by myself prepping his clothes,” she says. “For a rock band, there’s usually a lot of laundry to do.”

Jay Cohen, Senior Director of Programming
Without Cohen’s team working diligently every day to bring events to the center, Wood would have no one to dress and the public would have no show to see. With five members, including Foster Cronin, it’s the smallest team at the Dr. Phillips Center but it carries much of the weight.

“This is the hub for everything that goes on here,” he says. “It all starts with the show, then marketing, then production. They all report back to us.”

For each event, Cohen’s team studies financials to be sure it makes sense for the center. The calendar comes into play as well. There are already holds on dates into 2019.

“There is a lot of administrative work that no one knows about behind the scenes,” he says. “For every show there is a contract to be vetted and reviewed.”

Cohen, 35, who made Orlando his home just this year, came to the Dr. Phillips Center from the Sony Theatre in Toronto.

Don Teer, Director of Production
Teer is the go-to guy when shows are in residence. He finalizes everything, down to the tiniest detail, to ensure incoming crews have what they need to prepare for show time including parking for delivery trucks and rentals such as lighting, audio or special effects. He is also the pre-show guy, meeting with appropriate show personnel at least three months before curtain.

Another responsibility of Teer’s position is handling production schedules and the labor required for a production, a job that can find him at the center until 11 p.m. on some nights.

“I can say I am almost always here with every production,” Teer says.

The 43-year-old joined the Dr. Phillips Center in October 2014 after working as the technical director and production carpenter at the Bob Carr Theater. An Orlando resident for almost 25 years, Teer is a former stage hand. He took that part-time job while working for a corporate engineering company in 1993, followed the footlights and never looked back.

Allison Focht, Director of Guest Services
“We are concerned about the guest experience,” Focht says. From tickets to security, if you have ever been to the facility, you have interacted with Focht’s team. “Our main focus is always overseeing the loading in of the guests with ushers and volunteers.”

The 33-year-old Orlando resident and Florida State University graduate started her career with the Tampa Bay Lightning. She moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and excelled in her first management position with The Silver Spurs Rodeo before coming to the Dr. Phillips Center.

“This is perfect for me!” she exclaims.

She especially loves managing volunteers because of their opportunity for advancement. When the center first opened, all guest services representatives were volunteers. More than 35 volunteers have since been hired.
While a job at the center can lead to chance encounters with celebrities, Focht’s focus is on the job at hand.

“You work these things and you stop being a fan,” she says. “I guess I love the guests more than the performers.”

Meredyth Marmolejo, Senior Director of Show Marketing
If it wasn’t for Marmolejo, you may never hear about or attend a show. Once an event is confirmed, Marmolejo and the marketing team get to work. Twenty men and women fall under the marketing umbrella, which includes the box office, group sales and sponsors.

“We can be handling up to 30 shows at a time,” she says, noting that the center puts on about 300 events a year, including seven Broadway performances and four jazz shows. She is also responsible for events at the Bob Carr Theater, such as the Orlando Philharmonic and graduations.

Marmolejo, who has been with the Dr. Phillips Center for more than two years, landed in Orlando via Boston, where the 42-year-old single mom from Windermere helped open Beantown’s new opera house. She is elated to be part of the center’s infancy and success.

“We are the market everyone is looking at,” she beams. “It makes me proud.”

Her proudest moment was being present for the first show that opened at the Dr. Phillips Center.

“The first time the curtain went up for Phantom, I think I cried,” she says.


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Written by Kevin Fritz

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