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The 1970s

Arts organizations continued to expand during the 1970s, and in 1978 Alexander W.

Dreyfoos formed the Palm Beach County Council of the Arts (now Palm Beach County Cultural Council). The non-profit led successful fights for a performing arts center, which resulted in the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, and a tourist tax to support local cultural groups.

In 1974 impresario Clyde Fyfe, a former yacht steward, started Regional Arts Productions, the first major organization dedicated to presenting classical music and ballet in Palm Beach County. Fyfe was able to attract world-class entertainment such as Leontyne Price, Itzhak Perlman, and the Moscow Philharmonic to play the West Palm Beach Auditorium, and created a demand for a performing arts center.

The Greater Palm Beach Symphony was also established in 1974. Despite lawsuits and sudden dismissals of conductors, the orchestra performed classical concerts at local venues such as the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Royal Poinciana Playhouse, and Norton Museum of Art. In 1975 James R. Caldwell, retired founder of the Rubbermaid Corporation, persuaded the College of Boca Raton (now Lynn University) to make room for a professional regional theater. The Caldwell Playhouse, led by artistic director Michael Hall and scenic artist Frank Bennett, opened in December 1975.

After the college reclaimed its space in 1979, supporters raised $250,000 to renovate space in the former Boca Raton Mall. The troupe flourished in the new 242-seat playhouse from 1980 to 1989, when new owners razed their building and renovated space for the Caldwell in another strip mall on US 1, near the Boca Raton/Delray Beach border. By then the theater had incorporated as the Caldwell Theatre Company.

Before he died in 1976, George Morikami, a member of the Yamato Colony between Delray Beach and Boca Raton in the early 1900s, donated nearly 200 acres to Palm Beach County. He lived to see the groundbreaking for Morikami Park on this land, where the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens opened in 1977. The Morikami Inc., a non-profit corporation, was formed to provide financial and volunteer support for the county-owned facility.

The Morikami is a center for Japanese arts and culture, with rotating exhibitions, tea ceremonies, educational programs, and festivals. The original building is modeled after a Japanese villa; its exhibits include the story of the agricultural community of Yamato Colony.

In 1977 New York performer Janice J. “Jan” McArt (1927- ) opened the Royal Palm Dinner Theatre in Boca Raton, a 284-seat operation specializing in musicals. She added Jan’s Rooftop Cabaret Theatre above the dinner theatre, and founded the Little Palm Children’s Theatre.

Burt Reynolds moved to Riviera Beach as a fifth grader in 1942, became a football star at Palm Beach High School, and studied drama at Palm Beach Junior College (now Palm Beach State College). After success as an actor on Broadway and in Hollywood, Reynolds returned to Palm Beach County and opened Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter in 1979. For the next decade he brought in major stars like Julie Harris, Charles Nelson Reilly, Carol Burnett, and Martin Sheen. An important part of the theater was Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training (BRITT), a program for students to earn college credit and get paid for their work. Today the Maltz Jupiter Theatre occupies the space.

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