South Florida – Among the deed’s requirements the Coconut Grove Playhouse property can be used only for theater, theatrical productions, theatrical education or related arts uses. The reason for this article is to keep conversation going and maybe even some paint on the iconic Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Rumors had said that if the property isn’t used for that purpose after 30 days it automatically reverts to the state. Closed now for more than five years from 2007 this is a big difference from 30 days.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff had stated why the Coconut Grove Playhouse, a nationally registered landmark needs to be replaced with retail space. A You Tube clip is available without the edits. Theatre Chat wants to hear your feedback.
“video we recorded of Sarnoff last year telling the public of his desire to “Give it Back”….of course what he’s really saying is to give it to him and his circle of allies to do with it as THEY see fit….not as the public wants it. The public is being sold a false idea, without any tangible substantiating facts, to make us believe that a 1100 seat theatre does not have the ability to be self sustaining in this town, and in order to survive must be torn down except for a token facade east wall, and replaced with a 350 seat theatre surrounded by retail to be developed. These plans were announced publicly at the Coconut Grove Womens Club by Michael Spring and Marc Sarnoff. Is this what the public truly wants?” Posted by Save The Coconut Grove admin on facebook.
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As we say in theatre “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” well we as the arts community are that “FAT LADY” we must keep conversation going to correct this injustice to the historic iconic Coconut Grove Playhouse. Look at the pictures of this beautiful architecture, can we not find someone to donate monies to paint it even if we have to wait for its outcome…?
The Coconut Grove Playhouse was closed due to outrageous debt. The theater has two stages, the intimate 100-seat Encore Room Theater and the 1100-seat proscenium Mainstage Theater. Icons i.e. Tallulah Bankhead, Bea Arthur, Carol Channing, Hume Cronyn, Colleen Dewhurst, Linda Lavin, Ethel Merman, Liza Minnelli, George C. Scott, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy just to name a few.
Even Florida’s Carbonell Award winning SDC Director/Choreographer Ron Hutchins (now with Cirque Dreams) “I have great memories working with André DeShields at Coconut Grove Playhouse performing in Tin Pan Alley Rag choreographed by Larry Sousa. The venue was beautiful and the patrons even more gracious. I remember the good old days when they would pickup the cast in a limousine to bring us to our Opening Night.”
The Theatre Chat scene talks of endless meetings but Wikipedia the free encyclopedia states “The Coconut Grove Playhouse “was” a legitimate theater in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida, United States.” Known as for having the largest Wurlitzer organ in the United States and only the second movie theatre of the east cost of Florida to have air condition. Irving J. Thomas and Fin L. Pierce were local Realtors and built the Coconut Grove Playhouse. The Grand Opening of January 3, 1927 was as part of Paramount Theater chain designed by the architect Richard Kiehnel.
Coconut Grove Playhouse is listed as a U.S. National Register of Historic Places. “The critical thinker should then ask, considering the tremendous grant money that would become available, why the politicians never bothered to apply for the historic national registry. Funding for registered landmarks would enable the property to be restored. Surely this must be known to our politicians, and certainly to Michael Spring, Director of Dade County Cultural Affairs. Which then begs the question–what motivation might they have NOT to apply for that historic status? Perhaps because doing so would prohibit the property from being developed into retail as the current plans have in store?” Posted by Save The Coconut Grove admin on facebook.
Oil man George Engle bought the playhouse in the 1950’s spending over $1 million in renovations by architect Alfred Browning Parker who would convert the movie theatre to legitimate theatre opening with the US premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Coconut Grove Playhouse re-opened on January 3, 1956 with stars Tom Ewell and Bert Lahr. The Miami Actors Company part of the National Theatre and Academy occupied the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 1964 and 1965.
Artistic Director José Ferrer (actor-director) branded the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 1982 by inviting premiere prior to Broadway openings like Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. The Grove presented the world premiere of Fame: The Musical, mounted a revival of Death of a Salesman, starring Elizabeth Franz and Hal Holbrook. The Playhouse provided In-School Touring Program, original plays, Summer Theater Camps, classes for playwriting, improv, acting techniques, costume and scenery design.
At one point Marc Sarnoff, Miami City Commission Chair introduced a resolution to ask the State of Florida to take back the Coconut Grove Playhouse from its current board per the restrictions in the Quitclaim Deed, and to convey it to a newly formed not-for-profit corporation called the The Grove Playhouse Theater, Inc. The theater’s board may be still trying to resolve the $4 million in debt that led to its abrupt closure. Sarnoff called the Coconut Grove Playhouse a “big economic driver for the Grove.”
Rumors have said the Coconut Grove Playhouse board has an agreement with the successful multi-award winning GableStage to produce theatre at the venue.
Drive by the Coconut Grove Playhouse now on the site you see boarded up windows and a falling marquee. If true, 24 million currently on hold for use by the Coconut Grove Playhouse should be transferred to the organization that takes over the venue.
Florida’s top theatre critic Christine Dolen wrote in March 2010 “What seemed like an almost-done deal – bringing back a smaller version of Miami’s historic Coconut Grove Playhouse with GableStage producing theater there – may not happen at all if a resolution just passed by the Miami City Commission spurs action from the state of Florida.”
The Herald quoted CGP Board Chair Shelly Spivack: “I am terribly disappointed in the city and surprised. We have a plan to bring quality professional regional theater to Coconut Grove and to revitalize the property. Until I am told otherwise, we are the Coconut Grove Playhouse.”
Join Florida Theatre Chat on facebook and share your comments. Let the city, county and state know your thoughts. Don’t let the history of the iconic Coconut Grove Theatre become history.
By Richard Cameron of Theatre Chat. Cameron’s articles have featured conversations with Tony Award winning Producer Stewart Lane, Emmy Award winning Casting Director Jeff Greenberg, multiple Broadway and TV stars and creative teams bringing arts lovers together around the world for the largest social media arts movement. Tag You’re it! Click Subscribe above and share with your communities.