Some thoughts on the Coconut Grove Playhouse
When it comes to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, I am neither here nor there regarding the auditorium part of it. I am happy the front part is being saved as that makes such a great and classical entrance into Center Grove and it's what we've all known all our lives. But the auditorium, should it be saved? Could it be saved? So many great old theaters are being renovated now in the name of history and nostalgia, so is it a possibility to save the interior? I'm not sure what the current group who is doing the renovation will gain by keeping it or demolishing it. They need to stay within the $20 million budget, so I guess the lowest cost to do this is what matters. It's not pretty inside. Nothing like these (here are a bunch of photos of old theaters that were renovated.
At first when I heard of condos being part of the project, I envisioned the structure being built up, you know, having condos at the top or behind the building, but luckily the silhouette will remain the same and the blue sky will show behind the top of the playhouse without anything blocking that vision. The condos one and two bedroom units, will be part of the garage next door.
The garage I knew was coming. I always envisioned something on that grassy abandoned land behind the playhouse and for some reason, I thought it would be partially underground, I think that may have been part of a charrette at one time, I think in 2008. But I think that same charrette may have included demolition of the old front portion, so it's nice to see that that is not happening. Parking is needed whether the playhouse is redone or not.
The garage does look a bit overwhelming and so so does the proposed office building next door. Perhaps both should be set back a bit from the sidewalk. Actually a lot. I just wonder about that wall of buildings when you first enter the Grove. How will that look and feel?
I'm not sure why restaurants cannot seem to make it at that location, but with the "new" playhouse happening, it would surely bring business to those restaurants, but that would be another four year wait and office buildings were part of the plan before the playhouse plan came out.
As for the 300 seat theater. I think they should hold out for the 700 seat theater, too. There is all this talk all day, every day about the Grove being back and bigger and better than ever and in response we build a small theater. I feel it is a matter of management as to whether the 1000 seats is too much - one 300 seat theater and one 700 seat theater. If managed correctly, the theaters could always have something going on there. If big name productions and performers come in, they can easily fill a 700 seat theater. 300 seats can barely accommodate a large town meeting. Imagine "Wicked" or "Hamilton" at the Playhouse. Is 300 seats enough? If we want big productions, I think we need seating to accommodate the cost. How will 300 seats pay for a large production?
The Center Grove businesses benefit from the extra bodies coming into the village due to the theater productions. The more seats, the more people, and more business for everyone. Looking at it another way, if a production will be seen by 10,000 people, that is 14 performances with a 700 seat theater and 33 performances with a 300 seat theater - less wear and tear and electricity costs and staffing costs, etc. with 700 seats.
It's easier to put on less productions and fill up the 700 or 1000 seats than to double or triple the production schedule to accommodate the same amount of people. Why put on the play three times to reap the same rewards as putting it on once?
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