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Front Page » Top Stories » Playhouse Close To Hiring Consultancy

Playhouse Close To Hiring Consultancy

Written by on August 31, 2006

By Eric Kalis
The board of directors of the troubled Coconut Grove Playhouse is close to hiring a management-consulting firm to devise a strategy for the landmark theater’s revival, but the goal of a winter mini-season looks to be farther out of reach, county officials say.

Playhouse Chairwoman Shelly Spivack said negotiations with the company are expected to conclude this week and work on creating business and creative models for the 80-year-old playhouse will begin soon.

Miami-Dade County officials awarded $150,000 to the debt-ridden theater in July to hire a consulting firm.

"The object of bringing in the consulting firm is to address both the short-term and long-term plan and create a business model," Ms. Spivack said. "[The firm] will look at the creative side as well, which is unique. There are many management firms out there, but not many which specialize in the arts."

The consultants will be responsible for marketing the theater to local businesses and reorganizing the playhouse’s hierarchy, she said. On the creative side, the firm must brainstorm an artistic vision for the theater and help find accomplished professionals to carry it out.

The playhouse shut down in April when its financial struggles made insurance inaffordable, leading to the forced resignation of longtime artistic director Arnold Mittelman.

Board members earlier this summer emphasized that they intended to have a mini-season in early 2007. Ms. Spivack said that remains the board’s objective.

However, Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Director Michael Spring said at a Cultural Affairs Council meeting Aug. 23 that it’s too soon to know if a winter mini-season is feasible. It will take three to six months to finish an action plan, which would carry into 2007, he said.

Once the theater is deemed ready to reopen, Mr. Spring said during the meeting, the board is expected to step aside for new leadership.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Spring said the consultants will help the board overhaul its leadership by recommending replacement of some members.

Ms. Spivack declined to comment on the anticipated restructuring of the board. "It is not my decision," she said.

The county is withholding $20 million from capital improvement bonding intended for physical improvements to the theater until it shows signs of economic vitality. The playhouse’s historic status limits exterior renovation options.

The theater’s board is not alone in its efforts to revive the playhouse, said Cultural Affairs Council member Martin Zilber, who met with Miami City Commissioner Linda Haskins to discuss the city’s role in its recovery. Ms. Haskins acknowledged that the city must do more to help the county assist the board, Mr. Zilber said, She pledged to get the Coconut Grove Village Council involved.