2235 Winkler Avenue, Fort Myers, FL
- Gary Waldman talks about the incident that led to him being on the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers Strike List. (9 minutes, 16 seconds)
- Gary Waldman talks about closure of the Atlantis Playhouse. (2 minutes, 19 seconds) (2.1MB .mp3 file)
- Gary Waldman talks about casting Equity actors. (2 minutes, 51 seconds) (2.6MB .mp3 file)
- Gary Waldman talks about the lawsuit and judgment from George Michael of Independence Seafoods. (46 seconds) (724K .mp3 file)
- Gary Waldman talks about the incident with the cast of "The Life" at the Wilton 26th Street Theater in Wilton Manors. (8 minutes, 41 seconds)
- Gary Waldman talks about the sponsorship of The Victory Center for the Performing Arts by Victory Layne Chevrolet. (1 min, 40 seconds) (1.5MB .mp3)
- Read the incident report from the Wilton Manors Police Department dated March 26, 2009
- Default final judgment and other legal documents for Shoppes of Atlantis vs. Jamison Troutman and Gary Waldman, dated March & May 2005
- Eviction order for Garden Street Playhouse - David and Deborah Cederquist vs. Sandy Gee III Productions, dated April 2008
- Default final judgment of Music Theatre International vs Jamison Troutman & Garjam Inc., dated November 2008
- Final judgment of George Michael vs. Larry Waldman, Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman, dated January 2010
As Gary Waldman and Jamison Troutman struggle to refashion an abandoned movie theater in Fort Myers into The Victory Center for the Performing Arts, a string of lawsuits and shuttered ventures in at least four other counties may signal defeat for the project before the first curtain rises.
Waldman and Troutman arrived in Fort Myers this spring, leasing the vacant Edison Park 8 Cinemas across Winkler Avenue from Edison Mall. They hope to turn the space into a Broadway-style theater with a main stage, an Off-Broadway performance space and a restaurant bar/lounge.
It’s been rough from the start.
"We were sabotaged from the minute we got here," said Waldman, the producing artistic director of The Victory Center. "The first day I ran an ad in the newspaper that I paid for ... we started getting phone calls immediately from Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre - how dare we run an ad without speaking to them and meeting with them first and who do we think we are?
"We just laughed it off and let it go. Then all of a sudden I start getting phone calls from all over the world. Everybody is being contacted."
That’s a different story than the one told by their potential cross-town theatrical competition.
"I personally called the box office number listed to find out if the phones were being answered. The phone was answered and I hung up," said Will Prather, owner and executive producer of Prather Entertainment Group, the parent company of Fort Myers’ Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. "All I was doing was calling to verify that there was a box office up and running."
His only other contact, he said, was one e-mail with Waldman.
Miami landlord Jay Suarez said Waldman’s and Troutman’s lease includes only the old theater, not the vacant space next door that once housed Cachet Bar and Grill. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, although Waldman said he signed a 21-year lease on the property.
"They were trying to get the restaurant (the old Cachet) but that did not materialize," Suarez said. "They’re a good couple of guys. I checked them out before we signed the lease."
Waldman said plans for the adjoining space are up in the air, but the lounge - which will extend all the way down the old lobby of the movie theater - will still open this summer or fall.
"That’s a totally separate thing," Waldman said.
Victory Layne Chevrolet, just down the block from the Victory Center for the Performing Arts on Winkler, previously had signed on as the title sponsor for the new venture. But its logo and sponsorship information was removed from the Victory Center for the Performing Arts website as of April 27. (See screenshot)
Repeated phone calls to Victory Layne Chevrolet to find out why weren’t returned.
"I’m sure that’s gone," Waldman said, noting this development came after a News-Press article on the business partners. "I just think right now if I were them, I wouldn’t want my name on this company." (AUDIO: Waldman talks about Victory Layne sponsorship)
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- Articles of Incorporation: July 6, 1998 - The Drama Center, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Inforporation: July 20, 1999 - N.B. Singing, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Aug. 6, 1999 - Wilton Playhouse, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Jan. 9, 2001 - Club Cosmopolitan, LLC. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Sept. 27, 2002 - Atlantis Playhouse, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: March 10, 2005 - Florida Musicals, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: July 1, 2005 - GARJAM, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Jan. 2, 2007 - The Arthur & Irvin Corporation (Mississippi)
- Articles of Incorporation: June 29, 2007 - The Irvin & Arthur Corporation (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Oct. 16, 2007 - Sandy Gee III Productions, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Sept. 22, 2008 - BAI Productions, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Jan. 29, 2009 - Wilton Theater, Inc. (Florida)
- Articles of Incorporation: Sept. 17, 2009 - Basiq Entertainment, Inc. (North Carolina)
- Articles of Incorporation: March 10, 2010 - Basiq Entertainment of Florida, Inc. (Florida)
The Victory Center for the Performing Arts is the latest in a string of Waldman and Troutman ventures that stretch back more than a decade.
Many eventually have landed in court.
Waldman and Troutman have founded - together and separately - at least 12 businesses in Florida since 1998. Eight of those firms were dissolved within 15 months for failing to file even one annual report with the state.
One, the Atlantis Playhouse in Palm Beach County, filed two annual reports but it too was dissolved by the state in September 2005.
In addition to the string of dissolved businesses, Waldman and Troutman have left a trail of lawsuits in at least four Florida counties.
Theatrical licensing giant Music Theatre International sued Troutman, then doing business as Garjam Inc., in Palm Beach County over unpaid royalties. MTI was awarded a total of $13,669.66, court documents show. MTI declined to comment on the lawsuit or whether the judgment had been paid. (View court documents)
George Michael, former owner of Independence Seafoods in West Palm Beach, sued Waldman, Troutman and now-defunct BAI Productions Inc. in Palm Beach County for repayment of a loan. Michael was awarded $12,908.45 plus costs in January 2010, court documents show. Michael said he hasn’t been paid. (View court documents)
"We sued them and they don’t pay their bills," Michael said. "If you loan them money, they don’t answer the phone. Hell of a way to go through life but that’s what they are. I found out they stuck people all over the place doing the same thing."
Waldman said he couldn’t address the judgment for Michael.
"I have no idea. I don’t handle the money," Waldman said. "It could very well be that he loaned money, his own money. ... I’m the artistic director. I don’t pay the bills. I honestly don’t know." (AUDIO: Gary Waldman talks about the lawsuit and judgment from George Michael of Independence Seafoods)
Waldman and Troutman also were sued in Palm Beach Circuit Court by the Shoppes of Atlantis, landlords for the pair’s Atlantis Playhouse. An eviction order was issued in March 2005 and a final judgment, awarding the landlords $60,336.01 for unpaid rent and attorneys fees, was issued in May 2005, court documents show. (View court documents)
"That was the Atlantis Playhouse. That place went out of business. I take full credit for that. Guilty as charged. We went out of business. We could not pay the bills," Waldman said. "We did not have a show running at the time. We closed in between shows."
"Like any other business that’s doing badly, we closed. We didn’t break any laws. We broke our lease and we got sued for it." (AUDIO: Gary Waldman talks about closure of the Atlantis Playhouse)
David and Deborah Cederquist sued in Escambia County (Pensacola) to recover rent for the Garden Street Playhouse, a theater Waldman and Troutman operated under the name Sandy Gee III Productions in 2007-08. (View court documents)
The pair’s show in Pensacola, a Paul Simon revue "The Sounds of Simon," opened after delays in February 2008. An eviction order for the property was issued in April 2008 and the building turned back over to the landlords.
"The landlords did a ton of work on the building without permits before they rented the empty space to us," Waldman said. "When we applied with the city to turn the space into a 100-seat black box, they came down on the entire building.
"The city let us put on ‘Simon’ but wouldn’t let us put on anything else until all issues were settled."
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Waldman and Troutman chose the Edison Park 8 property for their new venue and rented it under the name of Basiq Entertainment of Florida, a for-profit company formed in March 2010.
This is the second Basiq Entertainment formed by the pair in eight months; North Carolina-based Basiq Entertainment Inc., with Waldman as president, was incorporated in September 2009.
"I was told that there was some really great talent here and this was a great place to work," Waldman said. "And when I found this venue, I figured it was a terrific venue, I certainly wasn’t escaping anything as it’s been made out to be."
Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre and the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, managed by Professional Facilities Management, are the two main for-profit performing arts venues in Southwest Florida.
In contrast, nearly all other performing arts groups in Collier and Lee counties - from the Philharmonic Center for the Arts to the Naples Players to the Royal Palm Players on Boca Grande - are nonprofit 501(c)3 corporations.
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Shows that Waldman has directed, produced and gotten to stage have received positive notices.
The Barry Manilow revue "I Write the Songs," staged at the Atlantis Playhouse, received a glowing review in the Boca Raton News in January 2004.
"The Sounds of Simon" garnered the quote "And I loved it," from a Pensacola critic in March 2008.
Phil Hinton, the musical director of the Victory Center for the Performing Arts, who has worked with Waldman since 1997, describes his experience with the pair as "a lot of fun and very creative."
"I have always been treated extremely well and have always been paid," said Hinton, who said he has worked on nearly 20 Waldman productions.
"A couple of times, when things had got bad, they have been unable to pay me but, as soon as they were up on their feet again they have always settled up with me; not that it was ever a huge amount," he said.
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Waldman just wants to put the past behind him and create great art in Southwest Florida.
"I have such high hopes for this space ... it affords me great opportunity to do everything I dream of doing," he said. "I can have a great, crowd-pleasing hit running in one theater, and a dream piece in rehearsal across the hall; I have been so excited by this for months and this weekend it was like someone dropped a safe on my head."