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Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse supporters set to voice at Miami City Hall

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Broadway Global urges all hands on deck to Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse for tomorrow's 6:00 p.m. Miami City Hall meeting. Plans are being made to restore the historic 1927 Mediterranean-style auditorium, where on January 3, 1956, Bert Lahr (Lion in "Wizard of Oz") and Tom Ewell (“The Seven Year Itch”) premiered Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which ironically is now playing on Broadway. The iconic Coconut Grove Playhouse has been closed for several years. This week fresh ideas are being entertained for its' revival and Miami-Dade officials want to hear from you!

You are invited to present your views at 6 p.m. Friday, April 4th, at Miami City Hall, located at 3500 Pan American Dr. This is your chance to be heard. While it’s been stated that a theatre will be part of the final plan, there are two opposing points of view. One demolishes the 1100 seat building –leaving only the façade— to replace it with a mixed use structure containing a 300 seat theater, parking garage, and retail space. Condominiums have even been mentioned. The other retains the theater and restores the auditorium ‘as is,’ but adds wings and other backstage space, sorely lacking at the Playhouse. However, because of voiced secrecy on social media, in which Miami-Dade has conducted negotiations, the public has yet to have any input.

The question lies in whether it honors history to demolish the historic building. Theatre Chat favors restoration. "The need to express Coconut Groves Playhouse's Black History is imperative to the local arts community. Officials must honor one of the first black communities in Florida and the oldest street in Miami. As arts lovers we should honor the original black owner, Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, one of Florida’s first black millionaires, who sold the land on which the playhouse was built. Stirrup was also Coconut Grove’s largest landholder at one time. How can this iconic destination bring back the glory it once served with our global arts community? Once the new Coconut Grove Playhouse opens it should be the global arts education destination for all ethic artists. Whitewashing its history could have the opposite effect."

Architect Richard Heisenbottle, who has studied the Playhouse extensively, feels the Playhouse still has good bones and can be saved without ripping down everything but the façade. Theatre Chat believes the history is not in the façade; the history is in the building and the work of renowned performers, playwrights, and stars of TV and film who have appeared there. Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Herman Wouk (working in collaboration with music star Jimmy Buffett), Jose Ferrer, Maureen Stapleton, Hume Cronyn, George C. Scott, Jessica Tandy, Hal Holbrook, Danny Aiello, Tony Randall, Jack Klugman, Eve Arden, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli, Linda Lavin, Bea Arthur, Colleen Dewhurst, and Ethel Merman, are just a few of those who have entertained Coconut Grove audiences in this historic building.

"Please visit Save the E.W.F Stirrup House Facebook fan page, because this home housed the owner who sold the land for the Coconut Grove Playhouse to be built. It lies just across the street from the most iconic playhouse of its time. The Coconut Grove Playhouse building is an irreplaceable icon for the arts, and so is the American Black History that is deeply rooted here." Theatre Chat.

"Florida's now local Carbonell Award winning, black choreographer Ron Hutchins is pictured in front of The Coconut Grove Playhouse, and in its' theatre program when he starred with André Robin De Shields (Ain't Misbehvain', The Wiz, The Full Monty) in Tin Pan Alley Rag. Coincidence? Ron Hutchins is set to direct/choreograph Ain't Misbehavin' for The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum opening May 8, 2014. The black history that surrounds The Coconut Grove Playhouse has very strong roots. Not only the did the owner of the Stirrup House, just across the street sell the land for the theatre to be built, but iconic black stars who were asked to enter from the back opened the front doors for black award winning artists today. Let your voice be heard!" Broadway Global.

The call for your voice to be heard comes from those dedicated to the efforts of preserving the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Members of The Coconut Grove Village Council and The Coconut Grove Playhouse Advisory Committee should hear your voice. The black history that surrounds the Coconut Grove Playhouse must be preserved. How can you help? You can attend the meeting tomorrow, 6:00 p.m., at Miami City Hall. However, you are also urged to contact the people below and express your polite, but firm, opinion: For questions contact Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse by email saveplayhouse@yahoo.com.

They also list Florida Governor Rick Scott: phone (850) 488-7146 his Email: rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com, Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (305) 375-5071and Email: mayor@miamidade.gov, Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Director Michael Spring (305-) 375-4634 and Email: ms4@miamidade.gov, Florida International University Board of Trustees: Phone: (305) 348-6495 with Fax: (305) 348-6426 and E-mail: trustees@fiu.edu, Miami Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez (oversees Coconut Grove): phone (305)375-5680 and Email: District7@miamidade.gov.

Miami Dade County Commissioners' contact info: District 1 - Barbara J. Jordan: 305-375-5694, bjordan@miamidade.gov, District 2 - Jean Monestime: 305-375-4833, district2@miamidade.gov, District 3 - Audrey Edmonson: 305-375-5393, district3@miamidade.gov, District 4 - Sally A. Heyman: district4@miamidade.gov 305-375-5128, District 5 - Bruno A. Barreiro: district5@miamidade.gov
305-375-5924, District 6 - Rebeca Sosa: district6@miamidade.gov 305-375-5696, District 7 - Xavier L. Suarez: (305)375-5680 Email: District7@miamidade.gov, District 8 - Lynda Bell: District8@miamidade.gov
305-375-5218, District 9 - Dennis C. Moss: District9@miamidade.gov 305-375-4832, District 10 - Javier D. Souto: district10@miamidade.gov 305-375-4835, District 11 - Juan C. Zapata: Zapata@miamidade.gov 305-375-5511, District 12 - José "Pepe" Diaz: District12@miamidade.gov 305-599-1200, District 13 - Esteban Bovo, Jr.: district13@miamidade.gov 305-375-4831.

This information is shared on Save The Coconut Playhouse Facebook fan page and may be easier to read at this link: www.facebook.com/saveourplayhouse/info. "Theatre Chat and Broadway Global must stress the black history that surrounds The Coconut Grove Playhouse must be preserved with its new presence. Share this link on your favorite social media site and be present. Let your voice be heard!" Broadway Global.

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