Grove Playhouse will add director, reorganize to gain state support
By Paola Iuspa
Adding an executive director's position and creating a board of governors are some of the changes the Coconut Grove Playhouse board of trustees plans to shape up management of the theater.
Restructuring the 50-member board and hiring someone to take on administrative duties are beginning a few months after the state legislature failed to reallocate $500,000 to complement the venue's $5.4 million budget, said Vincent Post, board chairman since June.
Funds were cut after Rep. Manuel Prieguez of Coconut Grove questioned the board's accountability to the state. Up until this year, the theater had received about $15 million in state money since 1980, when the state bought it for $1.1 million.
To avoid cutting funds, Rep. Prieguez had asked the board to open its executive committee to new faces and fresh ideas and separate the venue's administration from the theater's artistic director, according to a state document. In May, legislators decided the board had not made enough changes and withdrew funds.
Mr. Post said the board's decision to reinvent itself was the result of a year of brainstorming, a process that had started before Mr. Prieguez made his objections.
"We have been thinking about making these changes since last year," he said. "We have grown so much. We realized we can no longer operate as a small-town theater."
The addition of an executive director calls for Arnold Mittelman, the theater's artistic director, to step down as the venue's administrator, said Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, a board member and head of the selection committee searching for the new administrator.
Mr. Mittelman would remain artistic director.
"It may help us get the funds back," Ms. Gonzalez-Levy said. "But we basically did it because we need to bring new blood to the institution and allow Arnold to really do what he knows best: theater."
She also heads the nominating committee, which looks for new board members.
Mr. Post said the trustees are also in the process of creating a board of governors, which will look closely at theater operations.
Rep. Prieguez said he was aware the board was making some changes but did not know enough to comment.
"I need to re-evaluate things before I can say anything," he said. "It is too premature to say if they will get any funding next year. I have not spoken to anyone from the board of trustees yet. It is not even January," he said, referring to the beginning of the 2002 legislative session.
Once an executive director is chosen and the board of governors is in place, Mr. Post said they will go ahead with a $15 million renovation of the 74-year-old building.
Plans to expand the playhouse into an adjacent lot are on hold until the state names two representatives to a four-member board spearheading the expansion, Mr. Post said. The theater will name the other two members.
"We hope the state makes the appointment shortly so we can start," he said.
In the meantime, the playhouse is renting out one of the two halls to outside productions to gain revenue, said Debbie Eyerdam, director of marketing and communications.
"We are also getting ready to celebrate the building's 75-year-old birthday," Mr. Post said. "It is in January and we are going to come up with a new logo."