Monday, November 30, 2009

GableStage goes to Coconut Grove - UPDATED

The Miami Herald reports that the Coconut Grove Playhouse Board of Directors has reached an agreement with GableStage and Joe Adler to operate a theatre on the site of the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse. UPDATE - A second article contains the same information, but more comments.

What should be understood is that Coconut-Grove-Playhouse-the-building has not been saved:
Using $20 million in designated Miami-Dade County capital-improvement funds from a 2004 bond measure, the plan is to replace the 1,100-seat Coconut Grove Playhouse with a 300-seat theater and a ``footprint'' for a larger 600-seat theater.
The building's facade would be preserved but might be incorporated into whatever the Aries Development Group, with which the Playhouse board has an agreement, decides to build on the property. Condos, a parking garage, shops and restaurants have all been discussed as potential elements for the property at Main Highway and Charles Avenue. It's possible neither theater would be within the facade.
- Miami Herald
playhouse2As the Theatre Scene has been reporting all along, the original structure of the Playhouse is beyond salvaging. It makes no fiscal sense to pour tens of millions of dollars to attempt to rehabilitate the building. So this is bad news for those who wanted to simply renovate the existing facility. Only the exterior facade will remain.

But it's great news for Joe Adler and Gablestage, which have been severely constrained in their tiny space at the Biltmore Theatre. The Theatre Scene has also been saying all along that it would take a galvanizing figure to bring theatre to the Grove. And no artistic director fits the bill better than Joe Adler.
"For me, this really is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream,'' said Adler, who won the second of nine directing Carbonell Awards for staging The Shadow Box at the Playhouse thirty years ago. "This should be a flagship theater and one of the leading regional theaters in the United States. We deserve that, and we'll support the actors, directors and playwrights who want to create work in South Florida.''
- Miami Herald
Grove residents have been adamantly opposed to redevelopment plans in the past; it remains to be seen whether they will set aside their passionate opposition to demolishing the historic Playhouse to replace it with a smaller and more manageable venue for an existing company, even the award-winning and widely praised GableStage.

But it sounds like Joe Adler is already on top of winning over his soon-to-be-neighbors:
Given the economic struggles of Coconut Grove merchants and restaurants without the Playhouse to help attract business, Adler and GableStage plan to present events -- plays, family theater, music and comedy -- on an outdoor stage in the existing theater's parking lot later this season. Adler says the Coconut Grove events won't be regular GableStage productions but rather "things that might appeal to different segments of the audience.''
- Miami Herald
The article says nothing about when and if the current Playhouse board will step down in favor of the GableStage board. The Playhouse board still has to settle a debt of nearly $4 million dollars; it will not be passed on to the new management. But by having GableStage present programming associated with the Playhouse can only make it easier for the board to raise funds to retire the debt.
"We'll have time to put everything in place and do it right,'' Adler said. ``The Coconut Grove Playhouse is the most recognizable theater name in the Southeast. This can truly be a phoenix rising from the ashes.''
- Miami Herald
Best wishes from the Theatre Scene to Joe Adler, his staff, and his board. Our advice to Coconut Grove: embrace Joe Adler and his theatre company; he is the man best suited to bring world-class theatre back to the Grove.

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