Theatre = Community

Orlando is a melting pot of cultural activities ranging from high class to lowbrow, from ballet and opera to gun shows and eBay conventions. So why aren’t we taking advantage of more of the entertainment sources just beyond our front doors? A recent study conducted by United Arts, a fundraising organization for Central Florida arts, shows that Orlando’s performing arts are only attracting 11% of potential audience members. Such a small number when compared to the 20% and more that cities of comparable sizes are attracting.

Although technology is offering us more and more opportunities for solitary entertainment, it’s a nice change of pace to put down the iPods, the PDAs, and the phonecams and attend a live performance. As we become increasingly attached to our devices and continue to grow as a global community, it becomes even more important to take part in activities that allow us to bond with fellow potential audience members and reinforce the feeling of a local community.

The people behind Mad Cow Theatre are dedicated to bringing live theatre to the community. They do so by bringing to the stage a wide range of productions. “Mad Cow chooses plays that are actor-text based, excellent literature, and that we are very passionate about producing for the audience,” says Mitzi Maxwell, Mad Cow’s General Manager.

Mad Cow Theatre was formed in late 1997 as a simple two-show project by a group of actor/directors, including Rus Blackwell and Alan Bruun, both well known throughout the local theatre community. The company’s simple yet quality productions have attracted some of the area’s most talented and gifted designers, directors, and actors. Now entering its seventh season, Mad Cow continues to flourish as one of Orlando’s reputable theatre companies.

The Cows are fearless in their season choices and often choose a mix of classic and contemporary shows. For example, in the upcoming season, the company will be taking on My Fair Lady and following up with Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune and giving life to a neglected gem from the 1920s, The Butter and Egg Man,/i>. Maxwell says, “Some audiences are looking for an experience that carries them away from their daily lives. Others are looking for transformation and insight. We hope to bring in audiences that are looking for a superb experience.”

In addition to the regular season, Mad Cow offers a host of components for the community including acting classes for youngsters and adults and a summer internship program for high school students.

After years of renting space from other theatre companies and a two-year stay at Avalon Island, Mad Cow has taken up residence in a new location on Pine Street. The new home affords the company the ability to expand its season to nine shows in two spaces- Stage Left and Stage Right. Maxwell explains, “Stage Left, seating one-hundred, will feature five productions. Stage Right, in a black box configuration similar to our last home, will seat 50-60 and feature four productions plus the Cabaret Festival.”

The 2003-2004 season begins in mid-November, but subscriptions go on sale August 25 while the company works to renovate the new theater. “Look for announcements on a sneak peek at our new digs sometime in the early fall,” says Maxwell.

In the meantime, seek out other live performances in the area. The thrill of experiencing a performance and sharing reactions with the person on the other side of the armrest is much more cathartic than sending an instant message to your best friend during the latest episode of American Juniors or What Not to Wear.

Find out more about Mad Cow by visiting their website at

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