County Pays For Grove Playhouse Consultant
By Eric Kalis
The Miami-Dade County Commission has given the Coconut Grove Playhouse $150,000 so its board can hire consultants to devise an economic plan for the debt-ridden theater.
The money gives the playhouse a fighting chance of holding a mini-season early next year, said board Chairwoman Shelly Spivack. The board is negotiating with consultants, she said, with hopes of signing a contract within weeks.
"We feel that the board has gone as far as it can go; it is time to bring in professionals," she said. "This is the next step in bringing back the playhouse. If a mini-season is possible, we will do it."
The arts management consultant that the board selects is to draft a timeline for the theater’s recovery and reopening, Ms. Spivack said, and must determine the overall cost of addressing its $4 million debt. The consultant will also create a new model for governance of the theater, she said, which would probably include an executive director to control operations and an interim director to restructure the hierarchy.
The landmark 80-year-old theater temporarily shut down in April when its financial struggles made affording insurance impossible, leading to the forced resignation of longtime artistic director Arnold Mittelman. The board hired Miami-based auditing firm Morrison Brown Argiz and Farra to investigate the playhouse’s assets. Ms. Spivack said the firm began work on the theater this month and will draft a report of findings within a few weeks.
The county is withholding $20 million from countywide capital improvement bonding intended for physical improvements to the playhouse until it shows signs of economic vitality. The theater’s historic status limits exterior renovation options.
"I have to go back to the commission in September with a report," Ms. Spivack said. "Once we demonstrate that we can do this, we will move forward. [The report] must show that things are different from this spring. I believe that is already the case." Advertisement