Theatre. The very word conjures up images of magic, intrigue, and endless possibilities. From the 19th-century grand performing arts halls to the movie palaces of the roaring 20s, these incredible venues have been at the forefront of the entertainment industry for centuries.

But let’s be real, not all theatres have aged like fine wine. Some have struggled to keep up with the changing times and evolving technology. In today’s world, as urban renewal takes center stage, many theatres are experiencing a remarkable revival as vibrant performing arts centers. By updating equipment and expanding technical capabilities, classic theatres can meet the expectations and desires of today’s audiences. We believe that by breathing new life into historic venues, we can help keep their legacy alive for generations to come.

A small yellow building from the 1920s with a modern marquee that says Wayne Dench Performing Arts Center.Let’s talk about the Ritz Theatre, a local (to us) gem located in the heart of Sanford, FL. Originally opened in 1923 as the Milane Theater, this venue has undergone several transformations and name changes over the years, but has always been a cultural hub for the community.

In 1933, the Milane was sold to the Evans family of Lake Mary, who changed the name to The Ritz. The venue thrived throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but by the late 1970s, it had fallen into disrepair. The Ritz closed its doors in 1978. The theater languished until the 1990s when it was acquired by The Ritz Community Theater Projects, Inc.

In 2008, the Annex/Rehearsal and Office spaces were purchased and renamed the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center (WDPAC), which remains the current name of the venue. Between 2011 and 2019, IA Stage has completed a series of renovations and repairs for the theater. We tackled everything from repairing the main traveler track (2011) to repairing the curtain machine (2015) to cyclorama renovations (2016) and then replacing drapes, borders, and legs (2019). In November of 2021, IA Stage supplied and installed balcony rail lighting pipes, and in July 2022, we installed a turntable to ease access to their FOH projector. All of these projects enhance the theater’s technical capabilities so they can keep serving the community.

Here at IA Stage, we believe that supporting your local arts goes beyond just enjoying a great show. Whether it’s attending performances, volunteering your time, or donating, you can play a crucial role in ensuring that venues like the Ritz Theatre at Wayne Densch continue to thrive and inspire future generations. Your support helps bring top-notch productions, talented artists, and unforgettable experiences right to your doorstep. We, for example, are proud to be Presenting Sponsors with our funds supporting theatrical productions.

Take a look at the various opportunities to support The Ritz or check out the calendar and give the Box Office a ring at 407-321-8111.

All photos courtesy of Weber PhotoGraphics.