The apparent death of the Coconut Grove Playhouse is an open wound that may soon become a mortal blow. “Coconut Grove has suffered economically on each and every one of the 2,129 consecutive days and nights the theater has remained dark, useless and empty,” says David Collins, Executive Director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District. “It has had a massively negative impact. The Grove has been shot through the economic heart with this Playhouse arrow.”
Nathan Kurland, Grove resident, professional actor, and member of the Village of Center Grove Neighborhood Association, is the leader of the group demanding the return of the theater. Other members of the community-based steering committee are: Sue McConnell, Cecilia Gill, Joyce Nelson, Teresa Sarnoff, M. Peggy Quattro, Kitty Harring, and David Collins. “Give It Back,” says Kurland, “The time has come for action. If we are ever going to have a chance to bring back the Playhouse, then the people of Coconut Grove must once again gather together and stand up for our community. In terms of our future here, this is the big banana.”
This Give It Back gathering will take place on Monday, April 2 at the Playhouse from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.. Everyone is encouraged to attend, and bring a friend. Planners hope to attract more than 1,000 people to the Coconut Grove Playhouse Parking Lot. The crowd will consist of Coconut Grove residents, families, students, business owners, property owners, and theater lovers who are fed up with the lack of action by the Playhouse Board. “We need the Grove to show up and give their support” says Sue McConnell, President of the Village of Center Grove Neighborhood Association and a Board Member of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce. She adds, “That’s what the Grove does best. It’s time again.”
“This is probably the very last moment we can take action if there is ever again to be a vibrant, living Playhouse here,” says Kurland, “This is an election year. We need to speak to the powers that be and say very clearly Give it Back. ” The Playhouse has been held hostage for nearly six years by a self-interested Board of Directors that has not held an official Board meeting in several years. Grove civic leader Mel Meinhardt points out, “The long-vacant Coconut Grove Playhouse has become an increasing haven for drug abuse, a civic and business eyesore, a target of mounting vandalism and an ever-growing drain on precious public safety resources.”
To celebrate this moment of freedom, the residents of Coconut Grove will wrap hundreds of trees with joyous yellow ribbons throughout the Grove. Yellow wristbands, buttons and armbands will be worn. “We are tired of being ignored by the irresponsible people who own the Playhouse,” says Kurland. “We call upon City, County and State leaders to take action to resolve the ever-worsening situation of the vacant Coconut Grove Playhouse quickly and cooperatively,” says Meinhardt. Among politicians who will be invited to the Give It Back April 2 gathering will be Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado, City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, and State Representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
The Playhouse Board of Directors was freely given and accepted official ownership and responsibility for the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 2004 by the State of Florida. There was only one condition required in return for the gift by the State: The Playhouse Board of Directors must continue to present live theater in the revered landmark or they would lose ownership. With an estimated operating deficit of 4.3 million dollars, the Board closed the Playhouse on May 12, 2006 and it has remained closed and crumbling for six dark years since then.
“Give It Back to the arts,” says Mel Meinhardt, “Give It Back to heritage, Give It Back to community, Give It Back to our children, Give It Back to business vitality, Give It Back to Miami, and, for heaven’s sake, let’s Give It Back to Coconut Grove.”
Be at the Playhouse on Monday, April 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m. and Bring a friend!