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New Tampa Players lose their founder

Published: November 29, 2017 Updated: December 2, 2017 at 12:08 PM
Doug Wall, 55, co-founder of the New Tampa Players community theater group, died Saturday (Nov. 25) following a 9-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Photo courtesy of the Wall family.

NEW TAMPA — Doug Wall devoted the last 20 years of his life to a cultural center in New Tampa — one that supporters say will be a reality in the next three years.

His dream of being a Broadway co-producer also is set to happen next year, an event his family will see for him.

Mr. Wall, 55, co-founder of the New Tampa Players community theater group, died Saturday (Nov. 25) following a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

"This is definitely going to happen," Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said this week of a 20,000-square-foot, $12-million New Tampa Cultural Center on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard at Hunters Green Drive, planned to open in 2020.

"He was committed to bringing quality performing arts and venues to New Tampa," Crist said. "The man spent his own time, his money and more to make this happen."

In addition, Mr. Wall’s cousin, Neil Berg, a Broadway producer, composer and lyricist, said, "Doug’s dream was to be associated with a Broadway show. He is part of the production team of Rocktopia."

The show, which will fuse ’80s rock songs with classical arias and concertos, will open in March.

"He was desperately trying to stick around for it," Berg said, adding family members will attend the opening, which will be dedicated to Mr. Wall. "We know he will be there in spirit."

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Raised in Framingham, Mass., Mr. Wall was the second child of four children of Herbert and Arline Wall. He spent his senior year as an exchange student in the Philippines and returned to attend Framingham State College before transferring to University of Massachusetts.

He moved to Florida to pursue business opportunities and became the owner and president of Alpha Business Telephone in 1992, a position he held for 25 years.

Neil Berg said he and Mr. Wall were close because, despite Wall working in the business world, "Doug always had a big passion for sports and the theater. His heart, soul and light was in the theater."

As a resident of New Tampa, he formed the non-profit theater company New Tampa Players, an all-volunteer organization that continues to perform at the University Area Community Center, its "temporary" location for years. With the formation of the theater group, he began the quest to get the company its own facility in New Tampa.

Nora Paine is president of the group and met Mr. Wall in 2008 after moving to Tampa. She had been involved in theater stage management in college and wanted to be part of it here.

"Doug always was enthusiastic; he had a know-how to get people to work in one direction," she said.

Mr. Wall oversaw several fundraisers, "Broadway Comes to Tampa," which featured top entertainment from the "100 Years of Broadway" show.

His favorite shows were musicals and the New Tampa Players plan to stage Annie next year in his memory. It is a show he directed in 2011, she said.

"We also are planning to have an award in his memory," Paine said.

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A resident of Live Oak Preserve at his passing, Mr. Wall raised two children, Alex, 23, and Lauren, 19, in New Tampa.

Paine called him an "amazing father. He was somebody who was there, attentive and supportive."

In May, Alex Wall headed a team of runners, called Do It for Doug, in the "Miles for Moffitt" fundraiser. Alex Wall posted on his page about his dad:

"He’s many things to many different people - a great family man, friend, worker, etc. but I see him as much more. He is the father and the man I strive to be, and I admire him for being the strongest man I have ever known. My dad has always been there for us, and now it’s our turn to be there for him."

The team raised more $6,700.

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In addition to the theater company, Mr. Wall organized theater camps for children. The children of State Rep. Shawn Harrison were among the many who attended the program.

"He was a great guy, an incredibly caring person who would go out of his way to help a friend," Harrison said.

Commissioner Crist said there is $5.8 million in place for the center and there are hopes for $2.8 million from the state for use of the center as a hurricane shelter. Harrison said while the center is mainly a city of Tampa and Hillsborough County project, he said he will lend any support he can to such efforts.

"He (Wall) became the public face of an effort to bring the cultural center to New Tampa," Harrison said. "This will be a testament to his belief."

Contact Lenora Lake at [email protected]