Plans presented for Grove Playhouse at meeting
The first half of Thursday's meeting seemed like an infomercial for GableStage. Steve Weinger, Chairman of the Board of GableStage and Joe Adler, Artistic Director talked about GableStage and the success it has seen over the past 19 years. They would take over the Coconut Grove Playhouse when completed. It was a bit out of place for the meeting, but nice to hear their vision and successes, but most people were there to hear about the actual plans for the building itself.
The above image is the 300 seat theater. The one below shows both theaters. If you click on the images, they will open larger.
The only complaint from the audience, was that 300 seats seemed too small, in fact, the Ransom auditorium must have had seating for 1000 and it seemed to be perfect size. About 150 to 200 people were at the meeting, the auditorium was perfect, with a balcony, nice stage, nice seating, very comfortable, great layout, easy to see the stage from all angles, and had great acoustics. Some joked that the Ransom Everglades auditorium should become the Coconut Grove Playhouse. It's just that nice.
Michael Spring, who runs the County's Cultural Affairs office, said that there were three objectives: 1) to do a thorough assessment of the historic importance of the site; 2) build a 300 seat flagship theater and 3) use the $20 million dollars that is allotted to build the theater and stay in budget. This is for the 300 seat theater. Money has to be raised for the 700 seat theater and if it is raised, both can be built at the same time.
Joe Murray, FIU Director of Theater, who is partners with Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida in renovating and running the playhouse said that having a school-theater connection is important for students and faculty. The FIU program readies the students for the market. It raises the bar, he said.
Jorge Hernandez, architect, studied the history of the playhouse and made note of all the changes over the years. Even the front façade has changed from the original 1927 structure and inside the theater has changed three or more times. At one time it was renovated by famed architect Alfred Browning Parker. There was a dining area at one point, inside off the lobby and there was a bar. This was inside the front façade building. At one period the main auditorium was shortened to two thirds its original size to make way for the dining area. Jorge said that what makes the theater historic are the people who passed through and performed there, a whose who of Hollywood and Broadway. Above, you can see the original theater in 1927, it was a silent movie theater then. Those fancy parts at the top of the building, will be restored.
The façade is more than just a few walls, I'm thinking it should be called the "façade building," because that wrap-around building is being saved and restored. It's really what you see and think of when you say Coconut Grove Playhouse.
The whole front of the building and the "wings," those two sections on either side of the entrance, will be restored to the original 1927 design, which includes the interior. It's a large three-story space, behind it there is a small area that acts like a pass through to the main theater. The proscenium of the stage will remain and the solemn columns, all original will remain, all part of original architect Richard Kiehnel's building. The beautiful columns are now part of the bathroom, enclosed years ago, they will be brought out to their original state. But the playhouse we see from the street will remain. Only the back auditorium area will be rebuilt. This does disturb some people who feel that the whole structure should be renovated. They feel that Kiehnel's auditorium is just as much a part of history as the façade building.
There will be retail and possibly a restaurant/bar as part of the plans, but it's important to know that this was part of the original 1927 building and also part of the 1950s and beyond. So many people have ideas about the playhouse, but it has had many incarnations over the years.
After nine separate architecture firms bid on the renovation project, county commissioners voted for local architecture firm, Arquitectonica to restore the venue and bring it up to current building codes.
To see larger images, see the layout of the garage, the plans for the condos and the incarnations of the theater plans itself, you can go here.
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