Parker Playhouse In Fort Lauderdale Gets New Name – Sun Sentinel

South Florida Sun Sentinel |

Jun 26, 2021 at 8:00 AM

Theater manager Tate Tenorio, pictured last fall during construction of the new lobby at The Parker in Fort Lauderdale. (Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

News that Fort Lauderdale’s 54-year-old Parker Playhouse will heretofore, officially, go by a more clipped and conversational name, The Parker, may seem like trivial news as the downtown arts venue nears completion of a $30 million renovation.

But nearby, the linguists around the bar at Shuck N’ Dive were energized. The new name has a modern freshness, a jazzy urbanity and a welcome informality, they agreed. It’s quicker, a time-saver (“half the syllables”), one reasoned. What is a “playhouse” anyway? another asked.

In a far corner, one adversary of alliteration was particularly pleased.

Reached by phone, Kelley Shanley, president and CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which operates The Parker, said the new name reflects all of those things (though he has nothing against alliteration).

“We just felt like it gave it a contemporary, kind of hip feel that’s consistent with the kind of programming we’re trying to do in there,” Shanley says. “It signals the new era.”

The new Parker is on track for a September debut, when patrons will discover a thorough remodeling that adds bars, lounges, restrooms and other signature spaces. A beautiful new lobby, under a soaring 30-foot ceiling, has been created with a thoughtful enclosure of the old façade and its iconic art-deco windows.

An artist’s rendering of the Haller Club, a new lounge at The Parker arts venue in Fort Lauderdale, scheduled to open in September, 2021. (The Parker)

The 2021-2022 season will include performances by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, Los Lobos and Bruce Hornsby; humorists Lewis Black and Patton Oswalt; chatty personalities Bianca Del Rio and Seth Rudetsky, and Broadway star Alan Cumming.

Shanley pointed out that decluttering the name also puts appropriate emphasis on the person who made The Parker happen.

Dr. Lewis W. Parker, a Hungarian immigrant (born Lazlo Kolozsy in Budapest) and prolific inventor, donated more than $1 million to build a 1,200-seat venue billed as the “newest, most luxurious and most beautiful playhouse in the United States” when it opened in 1967.

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The Parker is Shanley’s second major renovation project, following a $58-million Broward Center expansion in 2014 (it was recently named a finalist for Pollstar’s Theater of the Decade award). Immersing himself in the heritage of these venues gave Shanley an admiration for what Parker and others accomplished.

“He just said the community needs this and I’m going to do it all myself,” Shanley said. “These people had a real commitment to their community. They made things happen, and I’ve got a deeper appreciation for the people who have that kind of will, to make things happen that become lasting institutions in the community.”