Co-Founder Of Caldwell Theatre Company In Boca Dies At 77

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By: Dale King Contributing Writer

The man who co-founded the Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton, and who was its artistic director from its inception in 1975 to his retirement in 2009, has passed away.

Michael Hall was 77 years old when he died on June 15 of complications from pancreatic cancer, according to his obituary.

The Caldwell, a theater named after the founder of the Rubbermaid Co., James R. Caldwell, operated in four different locations during its nearly 40 years of operation. The theater came into being in an auditorium at the College of Boca Raton (now Lynn University), but later moved into the Boca Raton Mall.

As the mall was about to be razed, Caldwell moved into the Levitz Plaza strip mall on North Federal Highway near the Delray Beach line. A developer planned to tear down the plaza and create a planned unit development to be known as North Boca Village, with a new Caldwell Theatre just north of the site.

While the village plan was scrapped when the economy soured in the early 2000s, the new theater was constructed. With the help of philanthropist Henrietta, Countess de Hoernle, who donated $1 million for construction of a new building on a small lot north of Levitz Plaza, the Caldwell finally had a playhouse of its own. The Countess named the venue after her late husband, Count Adolph de Hoernle.

Hall retired that year and was honored with a sumptuous party in the lobby of the new building. The Caldwell continued to operate for another three years until the mortgage holder foreclosed.

Costume World owner Marilynn Wick acquired the building, renovated it and created a costume museum, theater and restaurant there after extensive reconstruction. She continues to operate the venue, presenting mainly musicals and specialty shows.

Hall, a prolific director, joined with Frank Bennett to open the Caldwell. Hall quickly gained a public identity for the new theatrical location by presenting a series of dramas, comedies and musicals along with occasional new works.

Mr. Hall is survived by a number of cousins and a large circle of friends and artists who performed at the Caldwell.

In keeping with his wishes, no services were held. Anyone desiring to make a donation in his memory may do so to a local theater, museum, library or other arts-related organization.