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Sunday, October 07, 2018

Keeping playhouses historic

I was in Westhampton yesterday. It's an historic town as are all of the Hamptons on Long Island, New York. As I passed the old Westhampton playhouse I got a bit jealous as to how wonderful the place is. It sits right in the center of town at 76 Main Street. The actual name is the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. As we passed by we watched some of the staff change the letters on the marque. Another staff member was watering the flowers and locals would stop and chat with them as they walked by. I saw a Melissa Etheridge concert there a few summers ago. It's a 400 seat theater.

Just like the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Westhampton playhouse started out as a movie theater and was transformed in to a live stage theater where they show plays and live performances and live music.

From Westhampton we visited the north fork of Long Island and stopped by Riverhead, another old, historic town. They have a theater in the center of town, too, where live theater and music is performed. A big common denominator of these two theaters is that they are the same place, the same building for almost 100 years. There is no large parking garage attached, there are no high rises or anything new attached or associated with the theaters. They are surrounded by structures that have been there the same amount of time or longer. They are surrounded and are a part of history. These towns are not over-built. Oh, they are quite popular, it's wall-to-wall people during summer months, but the towns do not give their rights away to developers. They keep the towns small and quaint, the very reason people love them so much.

Theaters should remain intact, they should be historic, not be remodeled and remade at the whim of some developer. They should wear their history proudly and represent what they are and were to so many people and performers over the years. What is the point of remaking a theater other than to line the pockets of those involved?

As we drove back to the city along the Southern State Parkway, we noticed that the expressways are surrounded by trees, large old, 200 foot trees, these line the drive for most of the way, almost 80 miles. There are no over built structures that line the roads, no malls, no high rises, no offices - just greenery.

As the Coconut Grove Playhouse saga drags on, there is another meeting, it's actually a court hearing on Thursday, October 25 at 12:15 pm.  The County vs the City regarding an extension regarding their plans for the playhouse. The courthouse is at 155 NW 3 Street.

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Anonymous sally said...


October 07, 2018 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Marcelo Fernandes said...

I also travelled recently to St. Michaels in Baltimore as a small historic town and business district that has been kept to the original scale. The problem I see is that all these great examples are small scale and don't need the infrastructure of what is being proposed here. My main reason to endorse the current plan is to keep the venue small. 300 seats will offer a great experience. I am not crazy about the design and parking garage but we must endorse a plan to keep the venue in scale with what we want for our Village.
Marcelo Fernandes

October 07, 2018 10:56 AM  
Blogger Virginia Grovite said...

We can all dream about what we would like to have, but someone has to pay for it... these places are wonderful and I am sure have a committed owner, foundation or municipality that supports them (maybe all three).

Unless we can get a plan that people with the money and the ability to run a theater can support, we will continue to have an eye sore. I grew up with small theater in New York as well... none of them were bigger than 300-400 seats. Let's accept that and move on. I am still waiting to see a show in Coconut Grove and I hope others are too.

In the end... it has to be a theater not a museum

October 07, 2018 4:59 PM  

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