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Coconut Grove Playhouse $45 million complex run by Arsht Center Bad Deal

Coconut Grove Playhouse must embrace global diversity to share arts.
Coconut Grove Playhouse must embrace global diversity to share arts.
Broadway Global and Theatre Chat

Today breaking news on Coconut Grove Playhouse has a $45 million complex most likely run by an entity such as The Arsht Center, with plans of tearing down the historic playhouse facade. Here is the good, bad and the ugly! This article shares quotes from the top Coconut Grove Historian and Florida's top award winning regional Director/Choreographer. "Coconut Grove Theater Foundation plans to deliver a detailed feasibility study by September 15th" reported by William Hirschman, South Florida's most creditable theatre critic, and by this statement "Mr. Hirschman is fair, sharing the best of all production values that honors Florida as the only global fun in the sun arts destination." Florida Theatre Chat

"Florida Theatre Chat's 10,700 Facebook arts fans post daily, keeping artists employed and patrons informed. It is essential for the growth of arts in our Nation that all forms of creditable arts media be shared. Breaking arts articles researched and shared on social media by informed arts writers is the only way you as tax payers can stay informed. The difficult decisions made today will change the course for the future of Florida arts, just as technology will expand ten fold twenty years from now. Don't just share our 180,000 examiner articles. Get opinions, thoughts and share breaking arts news from diverse educated experts who are looking at Florida arts twenty years from now, like South Florida Gay News Theatre Critic Mary Damiano, Florida Theatre on Stage Theatre Critic William Hirschman, include social media post from National news like Miami Herald Theatre Critic Christine Dolen. We all win, if arts win!" Broadway Global

Broadway Global shares a statement from Scott Shiller, executive vice president of the Adrienne Arsht Center. "Mike Eidson has an intriguing idea, but it’s still in the very early stages and hard for us to comment more specifically until a formal study has been conducted and corresponding plans developed. We are supportive of our ongoing partnership with Miami-Dade County and respect the rigorous approach the Mayor has asked for to determine the viability of programming options for the Coconut Grove Playhouse. New cultural amenities in our community are important as they will further Miami’s profile as a rising hub of arts and culture." Scott Shiller.

"Let's be honest, the only good thing about The Arsht Center's involvement is creditability for secured funding to get The Coconut Grove Playhouse back up and running in less than a decade. It's time to move on, open The Coconut Grove Playhouse which had become a global arts destination. Coconut Grove Historian Headly Westerfield says it best about past plans and the talk of destroying the Playhouse facade." Broadway Global.

"They're talking about not even keeping the facade. The facade is what's historical about the building. It dates back from The Bright Plan, a 1921 urban plan that would have turned Coconut Grove into a jewel of a city on Biscayne Bay. Approximately where CocoWalk currently is would have been a beautiful city hall, approached from a long, wide boulevard, with fountains in the center, all the way down to Biscayne Bay. It was all based on a Mediterranean design, but the The Bright Plan never got built, because the bottom fell out of the real estate market. After Miami annexed Coconut Grove, the theater got built in 1926, just as envisioned in The Bright Plan, based on the Mediterranean design. Rip down the facade and you may as well build condos on the site. At that point you've destroyed the history and everything else that made it a theater." Headly Westerfield, an expert in Coconut Grove History.

"By building a larger theater it appears to be good for regional and national theater. However, it will be bad for the Coconut Grove community because it's so outsized to Charles Avenue, designated a Historic Roadway, as the first street in Miami.
There are also deals already in place that would all have to be renegotiated." Headly Westerfield. Multi Award winning global Director/Choreographer Ron Hutchins shares his past at The Coconut Grove and his vision for its' future. The Coconut Grove area is one of the first settled by black educators, those who taught white folks how to grow plants in the sand. The adjacent street Charles Avenue and its' Black History includes the black man who sold the property for the theatre to be built. This American Black History must not be forgotten. The Coconut Grove Playhouse new complex must not destroy a facade that has branded its star studded entertainers. We must embrace all ethnics to bring back and share the vision and brand created by years of global success for arts influence at The Coconut Grove Playhouse.

"I had the pleasure of working at Coconut Grove Playhouse in 1998 in a production of The Tin Pan Alley Rag starring Andre DeShields and David Norona. Now a resident and an award winning black director/choreographer in South Florida, I cannot imagine that this venue not be preserved and continue to produce art. My passion is more realized as I have been following the struggles, history and the facts surrounding the land that this historic gem calls home. I solicit all parties involved who have the power to preserve this venue to allow Coconut Grove to be what it has always been, an artists community. The theatre borders on Charles Ave. the oldest street in Coconut Grove and the land was sold by a black man, Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup in 1927 to the Paramount chain as a movie theatre. One of Florida's first black millionaires, Stirrups legacy and the venue deserve respect as his success was rare not only in America, but most notably in the south where Jim Crow laws were in full effect. The land was sold again in the 1950's and became the Coconut Grove Playhouse as we know it today.

The truth is unambiguous and our history and contributions as black Americans continues to be significant. I was floored when I started reading about the fight over Coconut Grove Playhouse and the controversy surrounding the preservation of this landmark, not to mention The Stirrup House that is 250 feet away. Really Florida? In Chicago Americans have beautifully preserved the homes, work and legacy of renowned Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C , where I also have had the pleasure of working, has managed to do the same by roping off where American President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated." Ron Hutchins.

Is Coconut Grove Playhouse $45 million new complex run by Arsht Center a Bad Deal? This is just another idea being floated by some people with deep pockets. The good news is that Dade County will select an architect for GableStage project in the Fall, and GableStage has already met with the consulting firm to spell out their needs. This plan included local education with support from local arts college programs.

As you all know nothing is easy in Miami-Dade County, but you as National arts lovers must stay on top of this information. If we are to continue as a global destination for arts in popular sunny Florida. We as arts leaders and supporters must stay informed, from those who embrace Florida's diverse history, and see a future with a new Coconut Grove Playhouse complex. Make it clear in your votes during reelection. The Coconut Grove Playhouse future must embrace past history, local arts educating programs that include all ethnics in production teams as Directors, Choreographers, Designers, Broadway Stars, Latins, Blacks, Asians and Artists of all descents. This is what colors Florida's diversity. If we are to create a new global arts education complex, we must lead the pack in social values. Stay informed on The Coconut Grove Playhouse preservation." Florida Theatre Chat.

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