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Garden Theatre to Launch New Digital Experience for PETER PAN


Last night the City of Winter Garden approved a $100,000 funding request for a project that will revolutionize how digital technology is used in entertainment and provide a sustainable community asset for the residents of Winter Garden. The Garden Theatre has rallied local digital and technology companies to donate over $825,000 in in-kind goods and services to convert the Garden Theatre into an immersive digital experience that enhances the live action of a classic play for the May 2015 production of Peter Pan.

"This is the next step in theatrical magic," says Garden Theatre Executive Director Alauna Friskics. "It is being done on Broadway with new plays, in arena concerts and in theme parks. However, we will be the first to take a classic play and digitally enhance the scenes, especially in a venue of our intimate size."

Traditionally, hoists and wires have been used to make Peter and the actors fly. "This has been the only option for theatre companies around the globe for over 50 years," adds Becky Roper, Executive Producer of Peter Pan. "It's expensive, and not 'magical' for today's children and families accustomed to technology at their fingertips." In an intimate venue such as the Garden Theatre, wires would be visible and the magic would be lost. The Garden Theatre turned to their neighbors for help.

A synergistic partnership has been formed between the non-profit Garden Theatre and local digital and technology companies including Nth Degree Design & Visual FX, Birket Engineering, Inc., Goodtheory Studios, Phoenix Rising, LLC, Christie, Candela Controls and Valencia College bringing this cutting-edge technology to the Garden Theatre's May 2015 musical production of Peter Pan. The digital partners are providing the animation and visual fx, projectionable surfaces, projectors, show controls, rigging, cables, servers, and media.

Through the efforts of local officials, Winter Garden has become the home of many cutting-edge companies in digital technology. Despite their proximity, many professionals at these companies had never met prior to this project. With the seed of an idea brought forth by the Garden Theatre, these companies have now not only met, but have developed a forward-thinking digital mapping initiative for an immersive theatrical experience like none other. Multiple projectors will bring 3D animated scenery and effects to the live stage which will have a special, curved screen that captures the images. When Peter, Wendy, Michael and John take flight, the audience will feel as if they have left their seats and joined them in a journey to Neverland.

The 299-seat atmospheric historic Garden Theatre in downtown Winter Garden, Florida, that has progressed from 1930s "talkie" films to innovative and ground-breaking productions, a microbudget film festival and concerts is now at the forefront of digital enhancement to live productions, providing for an immersive experience for the entire audience.

This digital project is the melding of a public non-profit organization with private industry to create a win-win for everyone involved. This improves economic development of the City of Winter Garden by building a stronger, unique and more attractive city in which to live, work and play. In addition, the Garden Theatre has received a commitment of $25,000 from The Bond Foundation specifically for the digital aspect of the project, as well as several show sponsors for the production, including title sponsor, Florida Hospital Winter Garden. The total value for this Peter Pan experience is over $1 million.

With the installation of this new technology, the Garden Theatre venue will be a one-of-a-kind, digital immersive theatre, able to enhance other productions in the future. Thanks to the City of Winter Garden, the investment in the purchasing of the projectors opens the door for other projects as well, not limited to outdoor movies in the pavilion or digitally-mapped experiences on city hall. And best of all, Peter Pan will create memories for residents and visitors to last a lifetime. The Garden Theatre is seeking additional funding to complete this vision.

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