With a Trick or Two Up Their Sleeve

By Steve Hicks

SpaceCoast Living met with the special events co-chairs on The King Center’s board of directors’ fundraising committee. It was the week before Christmas, and the EFSC campus was buzzing with activity preparing for a commencement the next day. But there was more going on than pomp and circumstance. Behind the curtains, board members and staff were preparing for this milestone event, the King Center’s 30th anniversary celebration.

The celebration will occur in two parts. First, on March 4th, “The Illusionists – Live from Broadway” will perform. This mind-blowing spectacular showcases the jaw dropping talents of five of the most incredible illusionists on earth, Jeff Hobson, Kevin James, Colin Cloud, An Ha Lim, and Jonathan Goodwin. Full of hilarious magic tricks, death-defying stunts and acts of breathtaking wonder, this show has shattered box office records across the globe and dazzles audiences of all ages with a powerful mix of the most outrageous and astonishing acts ever seen on stage. The King Center also invites you to attend a magical cocktail party after the show at the Eau Gallie Yacht Club.

A few weeks later, on April 24th, “Kinky Boots” takes the stage after a pre-show cocktail party in the Center’s rotunda. “Kinky Boots” is Broadway’s huge-hearted, high-heeled hit with songs by Grammy and Tony winning pop icon, Cyndi Lauper. The show is about friendships and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. Inspired by true events, “Kinky Boots” takes you from a gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton to the glamorous catwalks of Milan.

Talking to the committee members presented a strong sense of pride. Many of these members have served for many years and have seen the center grow and evolve. Executive Director Steve Janicki said, “Just looking back over the first 30 years, I think we’ve done a great job bringing arts and entertainment, concerts, and shows, and everything to the community. I think, overall, we’ve exceeded Dr. King’s expectations. Raising the money, building it and everything. I don’t think anybody at that time had any idea what this could’ve turned out to be… and I’m really happy to be part of it.

Not to rest on their successes, the committee admits they’re in the middle of a generational shift. Janicki adds, “Traditional audiences are getting a little bit older, as are the acts that we’ve come to love. We’ve made a conscious effort to program toward younger audiences.” Committee member Darcia Jones Francey said, “Studies show younger audiences have a whole different set of expectations.”

Autumn Shrum, the King Center’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations said, “The Illusionists” is the kind of show that brings a lot of first timers into the building, and we try to get them to keep coming back. That’s the goal, and that’s sort of how we look to the future of growing our audience.” Jones Francey added, “But we hear that many of our longtime supporters love Broadway shows, so we’ve brought in two great shows for our 30th anniversary.”

We’d be remiss to not mention the purpose of these shows. Kim Vice, 30th Anniversary Co-Chair told SCL, “to celebrate 30 years is one thing, but if we’re to build our future we have to raise money. People don’t understand that a ticket doesn’t nearly cover the cost of the show and the operation of the venue. It only covers about 30% of the cost of the show incrementally. We must make up the rest of that revenue to make a profitable King Center. It’s the job of not only the board but the community at large if they want to keep this gem of the performing arts. They must get on board, and understand whether their donation is $10 or $10,000, it’s all very important to our success, because the King Center is a not for profit.”