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A Peacock speaks out about the Playhouse

Below is correspondence sent to Commissioner Russell on Thursday re: the Playhouse by Ms. Peacock.

Dear Commissioner Russell,

I am sending this message to share some of my concerns regarding the proposed Coconut Grove Playhouse Renovation because I was unfortunately unable to attend the town meeting on October 19 and was also unable to be there November 30. I have sent a similar letter to Michael Spring, Lieutenant Carlos Lopez Cantera, and Commissioner Xavier Suarez. I will begin with a short background only so that you may understand my personal attachment to the site.

I grew up in Miami in a family who played an important role the city’s early development. The Peacocks are often mentioned when discussing the area’s history, and my family name was given to Coconut Grove’s Peacock Park.  I recently learned that one of my ancestors, Albert Peacock, was the Playhouse’s original contractor. I left Miami in 1982 to pursue a career in the performing arts, and over the years I have spent a lot of time in theaters around the world on stage, and now in the audience. Every time I come home (I still consider Miami as home), I pass in front of the Playhouse, dreaming for it to be brought back to life.

So, I am very excited that the Playhouse will reopen, and it seems that the various opposing views agree that it should be saved. I am not against the idea of modifying the interior to update the site for modern demands and make it more financially and artistically feasible. Although some changes made to historic theaters can be beneficial (there are many examples that can be used for reference), some can be detrimental.

A theater with 300 seats is incredibly limited, and medium-sized productions, not to mention larger ones, will be impossible. It seems from afar that this new space is being tailored to the size and immediate ambitions of your chosen resident theater, rather than making a successful renovation and finding the right company or formula for the space. This would not be problematic if you were building a new venue. But this is a renovation of a historic site, meaning the theater itself should remain the priority, within reason, budget, and feasibility constrictions, of course.

But the heart of my concerns is elsewhere. In the recent October 19 town meeting, Mr. Spring mentioned that he had consulted his attorneys extensively and feels confident that he will be able to move forward with his project after the upcoming appeal hearing. I am too far away and too uninformed to doubt this. But I would like to ask if the legality of a proposal makes it a good one? I am saddened by this line of argument. A number of completely legitimate developments have contributed to changing the face of the Grove in a negative manner over the years.

Even though a renovation may not necessarily mean keeping the decorative details intact, it is important to try to revive the soul of this theater. The consultants have probably offered a number of feasibility projections, but I imagine that they have not provided graphs or diagrams concerning the Playhouse’s soul. Changing the seating capacity so drastically and detaching the theater from its façade will most certainly affect its spirit and alter the theater experience. One of the most important moments of an evening at the theater occurs in the entrance hall with the building excitement of the crowd before the show. Adding a breezeway between the façade and the theater will most certainly dissipate this pre-performance energy, and changing the seating capacity so radically will affect the choice of repertoire and energy of the house in a very big way.

I hope you will consider these intangible aspects which are so important to the success of this project. Please handle the spirit of this theater with care. The Playhouse has always possessed an incredible amount of Miaminess. It would be a shame for it to resemble other theaters that are being built around the country. I hope your architects will aim to keep the Grove in the Playhouse and find the appropriate balance of restoration, renovation, and change needed to revive its heart and its energy. 

Yours truly,
Sherri Peacock 

This post first appeared on Coconut Grove Grapevine, please read the originial post: here

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A Peacock speaks out about the Playhouse


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