Simpson Cove at Gilbert Park To Get IceHouse Memorial

Simpson Cove Sculpture Site alongside IceHouse Sculpture

Fitting for a local institution, the Sonnentag Theater at IceHouse is about to get a proper monument near where it all began.

Last March, the theater’s board of directors, under the direction of board president Joe Bender and managing artistic director Darlin Barry, launched a $10,000 fundraising drive to design, create and install a sculpture to commemorate the site of the theater’s original home on Lake Dora.

According to Barry, the funds have almost been fully raised and the city has agreed to provide space in what is now the city’s Gilbert Park. City council still has to give final approval.

02 IceHouse Sculpture Maquette 2015 2
Sculpture Maquette

The design was conceived by Barry and scenic designer David Clevenger.  The sculpture’s 6’ tall pedestal will include plaques commemorating the IceHouse founders and major donors to the sculpture project, as well as provide some history of the theater.

Topping the pediment will be an ice cube with tongs, the image used in the IceHouse Theater’s original logo.

Eustis sculptor Doug Hays, whose metal sculptures are well-known through the area, has been commissioned to create the piece, which will take about three months to complete the job.

Original Ice House Theater - 1948
Original Ice House Theater – 1948

Mount Dora has enjoyed community theater since 1948 when a few residents renovated a dilapidated “ice house” on Charles Avenue on the shore of Lake Dora (where the Mount Dora Boating Center and Marina now stands).

Over the first ten years, the amateur theater group put on sixty stage productions ranging from comedies, farces, dramas and classics. In 1958 the city donated land on North Unser Street (near Mount Dora Middle School and Lincoln Avenue Community Park), and soon after the new 270-seat IceHouse Theater raised the curtain on The Solid Gold Cadillac, featuring several actors who had appeared in the Players first show in 1949. In 2011 the theater’s lobby was extensively renovated, and in recognition of the principal donors to the work, the Sonnentag Foundation, the theater was renamed The Sonnentag Theater at IceHouse.

Barry added that with a 9-foot monument in Gilbert Park, visitors who may not know much about the Sonnentag Theater (or where it’s currently located, well away from downtown) will get a proper introduction—good promotion for the theater.

Barry began acting at Sonnentag Theater in 1992 and appeared in many productions before becoming the theater’s managing artistic director in 2007. When what was then the IceHouse celebrated its 60th anniversary and Cubie Award ceremonies (Mount Dora’s equivalent of the Tonys), Barry created a video history of the theater. “I’ve always been a history buff, and it was fascinating to me how the theater came to be such a fixture in this city.”

When the sculpture is eventually unveiled, actors will read excepts from Return Engagement, the first play to perform in the original IceHouse.

The Sonnentag is having a busy summer with the success of its production of Grease. Sold-out performances of the ‘50s musical have led to the addition of two extra shows.

Donations for the sculpture may be made in person or by phone with the IceHouse Box Office, (352) 383-4616, or online, www.icehousetheatre.com.  Donors of $250 or more will have their names inscribed on the memorial plaque.  All donors will be guests of honor at the dedication ceremony. For further information, contact Managing Artistic Director, Darlin Barry: darlin@icehousetheatre.com.

David Cohea, Writer (david@mountdoracitizen.com)