The Leading Lady of Orlando's Performing-Arts Center

A Q&A With President and CEO Kathy Ramsberger of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

As president and CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Kathy Ramsberger is responsible for leading the effort to create one of the nation’s newest performing arts centers of the 21st century, a $500-million-plus project in the heart of downtown Orlando that opened less than a year ago. Before taking on this major role, she served as the city's film commissioner, where she recruited and managed major entertainment projects for HBO, Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Brothers.

Disney gave $12.5 million to help build the center. What does their support say about Orlando’s arts and cultural scene? The future of Orlando’s arts and cultural scene is supported by many visionary corporations, organizations and individuals. We’re grateful to Dr. Phillips Charities, to the Walt Disney World Resort, our corporate sponsors and the incredible individuals who give their highest gifts to support and develop the cultural vibrancy in Orlando. The commitment of the people of this community to finish the arts center has been, and continues to be, my favorite part of this project. 

A look inside the Walt Disney World Theater (©Roberto Gonzalez)

Tell us about the building's unique design. The building was always designed to be an invitation for people to come inside and to come together. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is an expression of Central Florida with our iconic porch roof, our glass ‘Florida Room’ walls, and our open doors on the DeVos Room and the main lobby. Our vision of "Arts for Every Life" is seen in those elements as well as the shared lobby, so that our guests can share their experiences before and after shows and during intermission when they come out of an indie music concert in the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater and meet the audience from the Broadway Show in the Walt Disney Theater.  

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

How would you convince visitors to leave the theme park for a day downtown? Visiting downtown used to be the best-kept secret, but more and more we’re getting national and international attention for our food scene, our arts and culture scene and the many unique and diverse events—it’s a great place to take a vacation from your vacation. 

What show are you most looking forward to this upcoming season? The Walt Disney Theater, Bob Carr Theater and the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater enable us to have great diversity from an incredible Broadway season to our resident companies, Orlando Ballet and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and a variety of local artists, dance, music and comedy performances. I’m very excited about the series that we’ve created that will round out those offerings—our Morgan Stanley Jazz at Dr. Phillips Center and Chefs at Dr. Phillips Center.  

You have spent most of your career in Orlando. Why is it a good place for living, working and raising a family? All of Central Florida has so much to offer. There’s great culture, arts, sports, entertainment and great weather. 

How would you spend a perfect day in Orlando? A perfect day in Orlando would be what Alton Brown did when he performed at the Dr. Phillips Center—he spent the day exploring our unique neighborhoods—Winter Park, College Park, Baldwin Park, Downtown South, Ivanhoe, Mills 50, tasting food at all the great local eateries and coffee shops, wine bars and the terrific food truck scene.  Then head to the heart of downtown and walk off those great meals at Lake Eola and then head to the Dr. Phillips Center for a show.  

Interior of the Dr. Phillips Center     


Laura Lee
About the author

“A Southern hostess at heart, I love sharing all the best places, from restaurants, beaches and theme parks to ...