With giant blue scissors in hand, President Grant Cornwell, Sally K. Albrecht, Philip Tiedtke, and Professor Thomas Oulette cut the ribbon to unveil the newly completed Tiedtke Theatre & Dance Centre. The applause was rapturous.
On Nov. 10 2021, these same speakers had sported golden hard hats in an empty Alfond Sports Center Parking Lot, breaking ground to celebrate a dream that has now come to fruition just over a year later.
The ribbon cutting ceremony unfolded on Feb. 23 at 4 pm, directly in front of the pristine, 16,165-square-foot center, which resembles the Spanish Mediterranean architecture that characterizes much of the Rollins campus.
Among those who made the undertaking possible were long-time benefactors of Rollins, Philip and Sigrid Tiedtke, who made a leading donation of $5-million to drive the project, as well as Sally Albrecht (’76), who donated over $1-million towards the center. The black box theater within the center has been named in Albrecht’s honor.
“This center combines leading edge technologies with still-intimate spaces that foster firsthand experiential learning, experimentation, and student leadership; classrooms dedicated to design and technology, to dance, to acting, and to directing, will help students create work that’s uniquely their own to be shared,” said President Grant Cornwell in his address.
Cornwell reminisced on his first year at Rollins, when he received a sheath of letters from theatre students explaining the need for a new theatre facility: “Well, eight years later, here we are,” he said. “Imagine the generations of students who will benefit from this beautiful investment.”
The investment includes a 2,400-square-foot costume design and technology lab, with fitting rooms, a costume shop, a draft room, and production storage space, as well as a spacious dance room with mirrors and barres.
As Thomas Oulette, Producing Director and Winifred M. Warden Chair of Theatre Arts and Dance, took to the podium, he jested, “Get comfortable. I’ve waited a long time for this speech so I have a few things to say.”
“This building is the result of years of dreaming, and hoping, and campaigning, and waiting, and perhaps most—years of learning,” Oulette added.
Previously, theatre students had been separated from dance students by the campus, but Oulette adds, “At last in this new, unified environment, we have the opportunity to draw together now in a physical way, the commitment to theatre we have always had in an artistic, academic, and spiritual way.”
Oulette gave special thanks to Cornwell for his “tireless behind the scenes efforts” to bring the building to life, to Tiedtke for making the dream a reality with a leading contribution, and to Albrecht, saying of the black box: “Already we have dubbed it the ‘Sally K’ in the same affectionate way that we call the venerable theatre behind you, simply ‘Annie.’”
He extended gratitude to departmental colleagues who advocated for the center and donated hours to carrying out logistics.
“Finally, I want to thank our students, who have exhibited grace and good humor under less than ideal circumstances, and demonstrated herculean levels of patience, resilience, and flexibility,” said Oulette as he closed his remarks. “I dedicate this day, so long in coming, to you, and to the thousands of students who will have their own life-altering experiences as they pass through these doors.”
Albrecht, a composer who majored in music and theatre at Rollins, took part in donating and dedicating a piano studio in the neighboring music building in 2006, and returned for the Tiedtke building dedication.
“The creative Rollins Theatre students have produced shows in a variety of spaces over the past several years, from athletic fields, to the second floor of Lyman,” said Albrecht. “And now at last they’ll have their own, well-deserved, state of the art home of their very very own.”
“I was constantly running between the music building, the chapel, the Annie Russel, and the fred stone theatre, and studying or running lines in the courtyard, probably with my feet in that fountain where Mr. Rogers now stands,” she said of her time at the school.
Now, Albrecht has a plaque on the side of the building that reflects how she felt about Rollins: “A place to learn. A space to dream.”
“This has certainly been a dream of mine for many many years, and I can’t wait to experience the first production here next Fall, and dip my toes in there” she said, gesturing to the fountain.
“Each of us strives to leave some sort of a footprint, an impact, a legacy of our time on this earth, our work, and our talent,” she added. “How would you like to be remembered? Well, now, I’m all set.”
After the yellow ribbon was cut, students and faculty led groups in the first official tours of the new facility. Walking through, one could observe students and teachers engaging in simulated activities such as dance classes, musical theatre coachings, a tech class, and an acting class.
In addition to the new theatre facility, Philip and Sigrid Tiedtke recently helped fund the amphitheater in the Winter Park Library & Events Center. Their daughter, Elizabeth Tiedtke Mukherjee, graduated from Rollins in 2008. Philip Tiedtke’s father, John M. Tiedtke, also went to Rollins, and later amassed a fortune by growing sugar in South Florida on a tract of land in the Everglades.
The late Tiedtke funded the Enzian Theatre, which is still run by the Tiedtke family and is responsible for producing the Florida Film Festival. In addition to his philanthropy, John Tiedtke is recognized for his role as President of the Bach Festival Society over many years.
At the groundbreaking ceremony in 2021, Philip Tiedtke cited the gift to the center as a way of paying homage to his father’s memory.
Tiedtke expressed the following sentiments at the close of the ceremony:
“This world now is—there’s a lot of chaos and a lot of uneasiness. It’s true with our incoming students, it’s true with everyone, and it’s true all over the world. It’s certainly the most difficult time that’s happened on this planet in my lifetime. So here we have this building and it’s part of the arts program. To me, as much as I love the financial work, what brings me joy is playing music and performing magic.
Those are my two advocations, and they bring me more happiness, just pure joy, than anything else. And so when I think of this building—students will come here, and they’ll learn a craft and develop an art, and maybe they will pursue a different career. But maybe, they will still practice what they learned here, because it brings them pure joy. And that’s what this world needs right now, is more joy.”
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