The site for community and traveling shows celebrates 25 years.
The story goes that the City Commission was visiting The Casements one day almost 30 years ago when the building started shaking. They were on the first floor and saw that the second floor was bouncing, going up and down as much as six inches, according to reports.
The Children’s Musical Theater, a city recreation activity, was practicing a dance routine upstairs, which caused the historic building to dance also.
There had been discussions about the city setting up its own performing arts center, and witnesses say that was when the Commission decided something had to be done and soon.
The city bought buildings and land from Calvary Assembly of God Church for $1.7 million in 1988, according to the property deed, and converted it to the Performing Arts Center that stands today at 399 N. U.S. 1. A separate building on the property was remodeled into the Senior Center that is located east of the PAC.
There was a groundswell of community support for a performing arts center, said Cindy Simmons, who has been directing shows at the PAC since it opened.
“The parents of the kids and the seniors were heavily involved,” she said. “Groups of people attended City Commission meetings. Letters were written.”
The Ormond Beach Performing Arts Center opened on May 10, 1991.
PAC Supervisor Marc Schwartz said there were many people who were instrumental in the beginning of the PAC and its success over the years, and he plans to make sure they are recognized at the 25th Anniversary Show at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14.
This special show will highlight the in-house show groups as well as professional performances including Broadway, dance, and musical groups. Featured performers include Cindy Simmons, Bob Arcuri, Seaside Music Theatre, South Beach Dance Competition Team, Ormond Beach Follies, Ormond Beach Senior Theatre Workshop, Children’s Musical Theatre Workshop, Linda Cole, Ashley Townsend and more.
There will also be speakers and displays to commemorate the anniversary.
Schwartz said he wanted the show to be on the anniversary date, May 10, 2016, but it had to be delayed to get all of the groups together on one night.
Bruce Simmons, husband of Cindy, was the first PAC manager and also a director. Before the PAC, he said, the CMT, a seniors group and the Ormond Players performed at area high schools and practiced where they could. They were city activities so the city had to pay the schools.
After a lot of public input, the City Commission approved a bond in 1988 to buy the church land and buildings. There were some commissioners who were concerned about spending the money, Simmons said, but others saw the wisdom of the investment for the future.
The remodeling of a church into the PAC included adding practice rooms upstairs as well as a dining room. The auditorium floor in the church was flat and had to be inclined for theater seating.
“It took quite a lot of engineering,” Schwartz said.
The mayor was Nicholas Fortunato, who is no longer living. The only commissioner still living is Joe Thomas, now in his 90s, who has said he will be at the anniversary.
Now, 25 years after the first performance, the Performing Art Center provides a place for local performers, CMT, Ormond Follies and Kopy Kats, and hosts a variety of traveling shows, including concerts, comedians and musicals.
“The PAC is a huge asset to the community,” said Julio Truilo, director of the Ormond Beach Arts District and Ormond MainStreet. “It demonstrates the commitment by the city to support the arts community.”
Return engagement – after 25 years
Cindy Simmons directs CMT and Follies, and she will direct the anniversary show.
She will also perform at the show along with Bob Arcuri. They were the first two people to step on the stage at the PAC in 1991, performing “I Do, I Do,” a two-character play.
Simmons said they were rehearsing for the first show when the seats were being installed.
“It was exciting,” she said.
It doesn’t seem like 25 years have passed to Simmons.
“We were surprised when we found out it was 25 years but then we looked at the pictures and saw we were much younger,” she said with a laugh. “It seems like yesterday.”
She has performed in musicals at the Peabody and around the country and says the PAC is one of the nicest because it’s intimate. The audience area rises steeply so there’s not a bad seat in the house.
A special place
Schwartz said the PAC is a thriving arts center and a big part of the community. He pointed out there are local performers as young as 2, in the Little Feet Academy, and seniors in the Follies.
“This is a special place that very few communities this size have,” he said.
““It took quite a lot of engineering.”
MARC SCHWARTZ, on converting a church into the Performing Arts Center
He has been supervisor since 2010 and said there have been 500 performances in that time. It averages 40,000 visits a year.
“That shows you the appetite for performing arts,” he said.
Schwartz’s background is in sound engineering, and he said the acoustics of the building are excellent, and the city added a new sound system in 2014. The local performing groups have also made improvements, such as using ticket proceeds to buy lighting and donating it to the building. Two years ago, the Friends of the PAC arranged to have a concert grand piano donated.
It was a community endeavor to get the PAC started, and remains that way 25 years later.