There's no question that Miami has established itself as more than just a vacation town with beautiful people -- it's a beautiful city that captures the hearts of art lovers, ex-pats, natives, celebrities, and hey, even not-easily-impressed New Yorkers. Miami's rapid transformation and ever-evolving urban landscape puts a little extra magic into the Magic City.
However, a deeper look at Miami reveals that it's fallen behind in one particular cultural offering: theatre.
Sure, we have a number of unique and engaging theatres peppered throughout Miami-Dade County. These theaters have demonstrated successful runs supported by a solid, if relatively small, community base. A designated theatre district, however, would help ensure the continued success of a form of entertainment that's underrepresented in South Florida, and earn Miami higher regard compared to other cultural cities. A theater district also brings with it the ability to market and promote shows collectively, rather than every venue fending for itself -- not to mention the twinkling lights of marquees, pizzazz, and (pardon the pun) all that jazz.
Dear Lion King, don't go! Please stay forever.
1. Complementing Miami Culture
Miami is already recognized for having a vibrant culture for the visual arts (think Art Basel), world-class architecture (think Art Deco), and for the last eight years, it's even been recognized as a notable fashion town (think Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim). A theatre district would compliment Miami's growing arts scene and enrich the array of cultural choices within the city. Theatregoers would not only have more large-scale productions to choose from, but Broadway favorites such as The Lion King, Wicked, Mama Mia, and Chicago could settle down for longer runs, making a semi-permanent home in the subtropics. A theatre district would be a healthy contribution to the city's cultural fold.
New York City's Broadway
2. National Culture Cred
Most big cities across the country have theatre districts to call their own. New York City, Los Angeles, Boston -- hell, even Cleveland has a flourishing performing arts district. (But hey, at least we snagged LeBron). Miami needs to get with the program. We have theaters spread throughout the county in Downtown, Miracle Mile, Miami Beach, and Coconut Grove -- and local, neighborhood theatres have their charms. But imagine if you could visit a thriving performing arts and theatre district where you'd have your choice of shows to see. A place like that would further the cause of establishing Miami as one of the nation's cultural capitals.
3. We Have the Space.
So where are we going to put this proposed theatre district? My suggestion: The chunk of land west of the Adrienne Arsht Center, a part of town already recognized for supporting the performing arts. To the west of the Arsht, we have a neighborhood suffering from an identity crisis. It's the area that Rock of Ages transformed into the Sunset Strip -- leaving empty structures in its wake. This area is characterized by underutilized buildings, abandoned warehouses, and vacant lots. A theatre district in this area could lure theatre troupes, acts, and even permanent shows to that part of town -- as well as restaurants, shops, and other businesses hoping to capitalize on theatregoers. Expanding Miami's performing arts to the area surrounding the Arsht Center would be a natural extension to an existing cultural hub.
Perhaps the Coral Gables Playhouse would have fared better within a designated theatre district.
4. It's the economy, stupid.
Speaking of capitalizing on theatregoers, a theatre district would do wonders for our local economy. It would create jobs for actors, theatre managers and technicians, and construction developers. And perhaps more importantly, it would inspire tourists and locals alike to invest more money into the city. A successful Miami theatre district would lure visitors from South Beach to often overlooked parts of Miami. Surrounding businesses would flourish. And it all supports industry in the city. Everybody wins.
Rock of Ages set in Park West
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5. After TV and film, it's the next logical step.
A theatre district would complement Miami's growing TV and film scene. The examples of Hollywood's increased interest in Miami are numerous: films like Pain & Gain, the aforementioned Rock of Ages, and soon-to-shoot films like Iron Man 3; and popular television shows such as Burn Notice and Magic City have all filmed in Miami. Add a theatre district into the mix, and the city's reputation for entertainment and performing arts industry would boom. Actors like Julianne Hough and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have talked at length about their love for Miami; this town could even become a launching pad for crossover screen actors who, rather than leave our sunny city, choose instead to make their theatrical debuts here in town. Dare to dream.
6. If you build it, they will come.
That's the idea, anyway. Current theatregoers, walking past the marquis of competing theatres on the way to their own shows, would be exposed to other performances they might like to see. Plenty of theatre newcomers would stop by, at least at first, to check out Miami's newest trendy neighborhood. And if the shows are worthy, people are going to want to come back. Sure, it sounds farfetched. Then again, Art Basel Miami Beach sounded pretty farfetched before it launched, too.