We’ve reported on the inaccuracies of the SAVE THE COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE before, but in light of the recent posts following the update, we feel it’s necessary to undo the damage they are doing by basically fabricating stories to bolster their opinions that the current ruin of the Playhouse should be restored to an unusable white elephant.
Let’s take a look at some of this “evidence.”
THE BROADWAY MAVEN
Howard Rogut, indeed, has years of Broadway experience. But Miami is not Broadway. The market is completely different. As a production manager, I have had many discussions with Broadway producers over the years, and I always have to educate them in the realities of regional theatre economics versus Broadway. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Rogut’s record on Broadway. 21 years running the Jujamycin Theatres is no small accomplishment. But it’s not regional theater in South Florida.
The calculations for actor salaries on a LORT contract include the number of seats available for sale during the run of a play. The more seats, the higher the salary. If you’re selling enough of those seats, then the numbers work. At the same time, regional theatres sell more individual tickets towards the end of the run, as word of mouth - or reviews - circulate. So the production typically needs to run at least three weeks. But because of the subscription model, the production can’t be open-ended, so a run can’t be more than five or six weeks.
This is very different from Broadway, where you run a play until it fails to break even. The runs are planned for years, if not quite open-ended. They have a lot more potential revenue. And factor in that Broadway is a tourist destination. Very few regional theatres have achieved that status.
A production on Broadway has a much larger pool of ticket revenue to fund its operations. In fact, it’s effectively infinite, in the case of the open ended run. Yes, they have a minimum to make per week, but each week of run also pays back the initial cost of production. At some point, the initial investment can be earned back, and profits begin. And with a successful play, the sky’s the limit.
But in regional theatre, that investment is rarely recouped. In every production I have ever staged, I have know how much the production can potentially earn to the penny. It’s a function of how many seats are available to sell through the run. And it’s a hard, immutable line, that very few regional productions every hit.
THE “THOUSAND SEATS IN SARASOTA”
Vic Meyrich is also a production manager. He works at the Asolo Repertory Theater, which has three performance venues: the 500 seat Mertz Theatre, the 161 seat Cook Theatre, and the Asolo Theatre, which has 200 seats. So when STCGP says that Vic “runs 1000 seats,” they really mean he runs “861 seats split between three halls.” But the reality is that the Asolo Repertory Company is based in the 500 seat venue. in fact, it EXPANDED to that 500 seat theater, after many years based out of the 200 seat theater.
When I worked with Jose Ferrer, a former artisitc director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, we discussed the problems he faced there. He was preparing to direct the first play at the new home of the Theatre Club of the Palm Beaches. They had just moved into their new 250 seat venue, and he mentioned that the biggest problem he faced at the Grove was the immense capacity. Mr. Ferrer was very impressed that Louis Tyrell had created a reasonable sized operation, and wished he’d been able to do the same in The Grove.
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
STCGP also invokes Michael Eidson, whose background in professional theatre is he was on the board of the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. He’s a lawyer, not a theatre impressario. And while it’s great that he served on the board of the Arsht Center (which is a presenting house), that does not make him familiar with the realities of running a regional theatres, all of which are PRODUCING houses.
And while it is true that the Arsht has partnered with Zoetic Stage (which IS a producing theatre), please note which space Zoetic is based in. I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one with a lot less than a thousand seats.
LEAGUE OF REGIONAL THEATRES
Now, STCGP doesn’t mention which theatres Mr. Eidson traveled to “conduct studies.”
But we’ll do a random sampling from the LORT
Actors’ Theatre of Louisville: 633 seats
Asolo Repertory Company: 500
Goodspeed Opera House: 350
The Geffen Playhouse: 512
Portland Stage: 286
Philadelphia Theatre Company: 365
Wilma Theatre: 296
Florida Studio Theatre: 237
Maltz Jupiter Theatre: 617
Signature Theatre: 275
Trinity Repertory Theatre: 500
Yale Repertory Theatre: 478
While it’s true that a number of them are more than 300 seats, not one of them approaches 1,000 seats. I submit that that is not an accident.
The Grove ended up in a top tier LORT category because of its capacity, but lost money because it had more deadwood than occupancy over the course of a run.
And the folks behind STCGP want to force history to repeat itself.