Olympia Theatre / Miami, FL

The Miami Herald

Thursday July 28, 2011

Gusman gives chance to revisit 1980s

The Olympia Theater at The Gusman Center for the Performing Arts is hosting 1980s films followed by dance parties.

By Deborah Acosta

Margaret Lake, theater director, stood in the back of Olympia Theater wearing a cropped blonde haircut and pink fingerless gloves at a recent film showing at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.

At her urging, many in the audience were also dressed like her — in 1980s Molly Ringwald-inspired fashion.

The audience was there to catch the teen-angst classic Pretty in Pink at the historic theater — and then be allowed to dance on the theater’s wooden stage to retro tunes well into the night — all for a $10 ticket.

The retro film showings and dance parties are the latest efforts to help the beautiful theater survive and introduce more people in the community to its unique beauty.

Lake, 36, came up with the idea two years ago in an effort, she said, to make it more part “of South Florida’s collective consciousness” by having everyone in Miami create a memory inside the theater at 174 E. Flagler St.

“I want people to think of this building as a place that’s theirs,” she said. “It’s all about engaging, it’s all about getting people to do something they wouldn’t normally do,” said Lake, a Salt Lake City native who moved to South Florida four years ago and has established herself as a bona-fide “community engager.”

Last year, the theater was under threat of shutting down when the city of Miami announced that it couldn’t fully fund it anymore. But she’s not letting that get in the way of her community-engagement initiative.

Opened in 1926, the Olympia Theater is a downtown Miami landmark, much like the nearby Freedom Tower and Dade County Courthouse, all built in the same decade. Its interior is sheltered by a simulated night sky, draped in red velvet, and engraved with intricate Moorish carvings resembling those on the Alhambra castle.

Lake concedes that the place, owned by the city of Miami, is expensive to maintain — around $1.3 million a year.

“We’ve been working to find a solution to keep the theater funded for the last year and a half,” she said.

So they’ve worked something out that would allow Gusman to file as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, which allows it to raise more money through grants and other sources, she said.

This year, Lake won the prestigious Knight Arts Challenge Grant, which will allows her to provide theater space for local community arts organizations that can’t afford to rent out the space on their own.

And Lake also obtained funding from the Miami Downtown Development Authority to make the Flickin’ Summer Series.

Past films include Fame, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. This year’s remaining films are all directed by the late legendary filmmaker John Hughes.

“What I’m trying to do with this event is remind everyone who lives in a city that’s so transient and diverse that we all have commonalities,” Lake said.

A piece of that commonality, she believes, lies in archetypal 80s films that most generations adore. Along with the film and dance party, there will also be cheap drinks, giveaways, and a fashion contest.

At the Pretty in Pink screening last month, Angel Rua won the fashion contest in striped pants, checkered shirt, tipped fedora hat, and a button-covered vest.

“It was very Duckie-inspired” said Rua, 35, referring to the iconic character from the movie who inspired his outfit. “The whole thing was so much fun.”

That’s the idea, Lake said: “I just want people to come and experience the theater,” she said. “Just come and have a good time in a really great building.”


When: 7 p.m. Thursday

What: Showing of Sixteen Candles

Where: Olympia Theater at 174 E. Flagler St.

Music: ‘80’s music by DJ Mr. Pauer

Tickets: $10

Up next are The Breakfast Club on Aug. 25 and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Sept. 22.

One Comment

  1. Gary Parks

    This is a really good way to endear a theatre to people–an inexpensive event that brings back memories of the recent past, in a place that may have formerly been known in the past few decades as only a place of high-culture performing arts, or worse, not known at all by a more general populace. The 80s movies and dance party concept are a perfect use of both screen and stage that is low maintenance/overhead. The only problem is, were I close enough to attend, I wouldn’t be able to replicate the haircut I had in the 80s, there’s not enough hair left to replicate a platinum Billy Idol “do,” or a longer, male version of a teased Cyndi Lauper thicket, both of which I had during those days.

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