Friday, January 31, 2014

A Brief History of the New Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts and Education

The idea for the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts and Education - a free-standing, 40,000 square-foot, two-story building - started very simply as the brainchild of our VP of Community and Education Alice Roberts. 

She came to me with the suggestion of purchasing a building on South Main that was for sale at a modest cost.  We needed space for our growing 19 education programs, which currently serves almost 60,000 students annually.  When the Orpheum was built in 1928, it was never taken into consideration that it would one day offer such expansive education programs.  The theatre was simply not designed to comfortably house them. 

Classes are currently being held in the lobby which, because of scheduled public events and performances, keeps the Education Department from being able to offer as many classes as it needs to meet demand.  Additionally, the lobby space isn't helpful for teaching some aspects of the arts.  For example, the lobby's heavy carpeting can hinder students who are learning dance techniques from a teaching artist.  Potentially life-changing educational experiences have in many ways been hindered by the space we currently have.
The more we looked at vacant buildings in Downtown Memphis, the more we realized that all of our options were just too far from the iconic Orpheum – the building that inspired so many of the students we serve.
We started looking at the space surrounding the theatre, and the parking lot immediately next to the Orpheum quickly became a target.  It was beside the theatre, it was large enough for the Education Department's needs, and the owners were willing to sell.  Needless to say, the Memphis Development Foundation purchased the parking lot, and planning for the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts and Education went underway in full force!

Of course, it wasn’t easy getting everyone on board for a building with a $14.5 million price tag.  But we got it done, and we are forever grateful for the many people who believed in this project from the very beginning.  
Plans are nearing completion for an anticipated groundbreaking on March 18, 2014, but this project is by no means finished.  Currently, we are just shy of having raised $10 million of our $14.5 million goal.  There is still a lot to be done, but our confidence is high and new and existing supporters continue to rally around this extremely positive and important project that will continue to serve the Mid-South for generations to come.
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO       

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A WICKED Blockbuster Returns to Memphis

Jennifer DiNoia in Wicked.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Every three or four years the Orpheum presents what the Broadway industry calls "a blockbuster."  In a given decade, you might see one or two blockbusters come down the Great White Way, and  on the 29th of January it will happen again when WICKED once again takes the Orpheum stage.  

During its three-week run, the Orpheum expects to sell out every single performance, which could be as many seats as it would take to fill the FedEx Forum... three times!  The good news is that there are still good seats available.  The bad news is that tickets are going fast, so don't wait until the last minute to see this fantastic show.  

This isn't as much a marketing ploy as it is a testament to how important blockbusters are to the Orpheum and to Memphis.  A percentage of the tens of thousands of people that will see WICKED will also stay in Memphis hotels and eat at Memphis restaurants before and after the show.  Those who decide to turn their WICKED experience into a long weekend will probably opt to see what else Memphis has to offer such as Graceland, Beale Street, and the Memphis Zoo.
The other blockbusters in recent memory include THE LION KING,  THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and the forthcoming BOOK OF MORMON, which sells out wherever and whenever it performs. 
Not many shows make it to this level of success, and the entire Mid-South is fortunate that all of these and more have performed at and continue to come to the Orpheum.  In turn, the Orpheum is fortunate and very thankful that its patrons support its blockbuster shows!
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


It is official!  The Tony Award-winning musical MEMPHIS is headed to London October of 2014. 
I have said many times that this acclaimed musical is one of the best and most unique public relations opportunities that our city has seen in a long time - if not ever.  

Tens of thousands or even millions of people, not just in Great Britain but from all of Europe, will learn about Memphis' musical heritage and about our history.  

As most of you know, the musical tells the story of a Memphis disc jockey who introduced "black music" to a white audience at a time when the prejudices of the past were very much in place.  

Huey Calhoun, the DJ in the musical, is loosely based on real-life Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips, who made a name for himself in the 1950s.  

We'll soon get more information about which East End theatre will house MEMPHIS, so stay tuned for more news about this exciting London engagement.

Pat Halloran
President and CEO