In an amazing show by Moxie, the Titusville Playhouse decided to go big at a time when many similar performing arts groups are shrinking from the financial challenges posed by a pandemic.
The historic Emma Parrish Theater becomes the centerpiece of a venue that also includes plenty of space for outdoor concerts and creative use of two other neighboring historic buildings.
“I want to turn the Titusville Playhouse Entertainment District into not just a theater, but a travel destination for all of central Florida,” said Steven Heron, Executive Artistic Director of the Playhouse.
Fans of the 1905 Emma Parrish Theater needn’t worry about its fate.
“We’ll keep doing shows on the main stage because it’s a unique and special theater,” said Heron.
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An additional theater with a rehearsal room, shops, offices, black box theater and open-air stage offers the opportunity for four different venues that offer changing programs throughout the year.
While the Playhouse was exploring expansion opportunities before the pandemic, it was COVID-19 that sealed the deal when Heron and his crew decided to go outside for some of the shows.
“That included a show under the awning of the Shuler auction that introduced us to the capabilities of the website,” said Heron.
“The tent is 60 feet by 150 feet,” said Heron.
Cliff Shuler’s widow, Debbie, is a fan of the Playhouse and helped sell it.
“She is so excited about the vision we have of building something that can be a shining example for central Florida,” said Heron.
Heron plans to focus on this space for events from September to March to benefit from cooler weather and breezes, although the space could be used at other times of the year.
“We were planning the tent recently and there were 94 outside, but it was very comfortable under the tent with a great breeze,” said Heron.
The Playhouse also acquired two additional lots – a 1920s hotel and 1909 grocery store – at 312 and 314 Palm Avenues, adding nearly three acres to the company’s space.
“We plan to keep all the historic objects and still give them a nice facelift,” said Heron.
The 14 rooms of the hotel will serve as accommodation for foreign actors, theater interns, guest directors and creative people. The grocery store is being transformed into The Vault, a modern whispering pub that serves performers and guests to stop for a drink after a show.
These are ambitious plans for an organization that began in an old city garage in the 1950s.
“It was little more than a three-way lean-to,” said Heron.
Volunteers completed the fourth page and the young Titusville Playhouse opened with the performance of “King and I” on a dirt floor while the audience sat on kitchen chairs under a leaky roof. In 1981 the organization bought the 1905 Florida Theater, a former saloon and a hotel. A key contribution was JJ Parrish who provided $ 150,000, the foundation for the remaining fundraising.
“As a tribute, the auditorium was named after his mother, Emma Parrish,” said Heron.
The financing of the expansion begins with a capital campaign early next year. The Playhouse is working with three theater consultants to fine-tune the master plan.
“We will need community, government and business partners who will join this vision,” said Heron.
One of the main goals of the expansion is to create space for performances in addition to the theater.
“We’re talking to a country artist and the Space Coast Symphony for special performances at the new venue,” said Heron.
“One of my main goals is to provide entertainment for everyone in our community.”
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