These Theatres Ain’t Dead Yet

So last week was indeed cause for Thanksgiving and perhaps optimism for the arts as a whole as news came that two shuttered notable theatres, the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami and the Beverly, MA North Shore Music Theatre would be reopened thanks to the efforts of other theater operators.

According to a Boston Globe article, William Hanney, who has a history of buying and quickly reopening businesses, has arranged to purchase the theatre. His intention is to generally preserve the traditional programming of the facility but revamp the staffing structure which he felt was was too top heavy and would need to be evaluated.

Coconut Grove Playhouse will undergo a similar restructuring according the Miami Herald, except the focus will be on the physical plant. They intend to replace the 1100 seat theatre with a 300 seat theatre and a footprint for a 600 seat theatre. Since the Coconut Grove board has a previous agreement with a development company, there is a possibility the new theatres won’t occupy a space within the facade of the old theatre. The new theatres will be operated by Coral Gables based GableStage whose proposal was one of four the Coconut Grove board received.

I don’t know the full story behind the revival. I am assuming the Playhouse owns property beyond the confines of the theatre building if they are able to provide space for up to two theatres outside the facade of the old building. I also haven’t been able to discover if the board had sought proposals from arts organizations to occupy the space or just entertained proposals for a variety of uses and happened to accept one from a group who wanted to bring performances there again. I would like to think that despite the $4 million debt which is likely what prompted their deal with a real estate developer, the board was dedicated to preserving the arts in Coconut Grove and resolved to set aside some of the space for that purpose.

If anyone can fill in the blanks, I would love to know.

What is encouraging to me is that there are people who recognize the value of performances in their communities and are working to bring them back. Of course, in both examples the thing to note is that the plan for success includes streamlining operations rather than restoration of the previous environment.

Update: Thanks to CLJ at South Florida Art Scene for providing more background on the situation in the comments section.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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1 thought on “These Theatres Ain’t Dead Yet”

  1. The Playhouse owns the theatre, the surround parking lot, and a neighboring building known as “the bike shop.”

    The redevelopment plans with the two theaters have been in place for some time, and the basic concepts pre-date the closing of the old theater. While the Playhouse was actually operating, residents were bitterly opposed to tearing down the existing facility to redevelop the site with condos and retail space.

    But after several years without the theatre drawing hundreds of patrons a day, the community is getting behind the new plans. It helps that GableStage is a highly regarded part of the South Florida theatre community, due in no small part to Joe Adler’s leadership.

    The Playhouse board did not initially seek theatre companies to come in; they seemed to think it was a case of “if we build it they will come.” Last year, they finally put out word that they wanted to find an existing theatre company to become the new Coconut Grove Playhouse.

    You can read more about it here:
    http://www.southfloridatheatrescene.com/search/label/Coconut%20Grove%20Playhouse

    Reply

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