"Give It Back" Protest Takes Over Coconut Grove Playhouse Tonight

Tonight, South Florida's biggest names in theater will gather at the Carbonell Awards, our regional version of the Tonys.

But in Coconut Grove, another theater-minded group of people will gather in an attempt to resuscitate a former venue for live performance: the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

"Give It Back" has called for concerned citizens of Miami to gather for a peaceful demonstration to demand that the playhouse be returned to public ownership. But it's not as simple as handing the property over; a whole host of massive debts and legal obligations must first be satisfied, including playhouse debts estimated at $2 million and even more in fines from the city due to the ramshackle state of the building itself.

And that's to say nothing of the politics involved. The Miami Herald reports that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez have found themselves competing to solve the issue, which may be linked to the two's future competition over the mayor's job later this year. And Jorge Luis Lopez, a playhouse board member and lawyer, accused the city of harassing the playhouse, effectively delaying any progress.

Meanwhile, the playhouse continues to fall into disrepair; Nathan Kurland, a leader of tonight's "Give It Back" protest, told Cultist last month that pieces were literally falling off the sides of the building. He also noted that there are historical theatrical artifacts still inside the building at risk of damage or theft.

Last month, the group began distributing yellow wristbands and yellow buttons, and tying yellow ribbons on trees in Coconut Grove. Tonight, the group plans to wrap the playhouse in yellow ribbon and hang a large yellow banner calling the community to attention -- and, hopefully, its politicians and playhouse board members to action.

"Give It Back" takes place tonight at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Highway, Coconut Grove, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle