Coconut Grove’s a.d. steps aside amid crisis

Mittelman ankles post during monthlong standoff

Coconut Grove Playhouse producing artistic director Arnold Mittelman escalated a monthlong standoff with the theater’s board of directors Tuesday with a terse, one-sentence message: “Unfortunately your continued wrongful breach of my employment agreement has forced me this day to vacate my position.”

Mittelman’s response is the latest in an ongoing financial and administrative crisis at South Florida’s largest and best-known regional theater.

On May 8, locks were changed when the bulk of the staff was laid off after operating funds apparently ran out between March and early April, on the eve of the company’s 50th anniversary season finale. The theater was briefly shuttered amid reports of a $4 million-plus deficit.

Longtime a.d. Mittelman, along with five other employees, remained in place, but the board stripped him of any administrative duties.

In mid-April, he brushed off the suggestion that he should resign, saying he wanted to help the theater’s recovery.

That apparently changed with Tuesday’s missive, and Mittelman has refused to comment further.

Board vice president (and appointed spokeswoman) Lynn Martenstein said the theater chief subsequently told her the letter, copied to all board members via email, was in effect a resignation, though the wording specifically characterizes the departure as less than voluntary. Mittelman’s contract, which runs through 2008, remains in effect, she said.

Mittelman has been the playhouse’s chief operating officer since 1985, with the title of producing artistic director. The latest compensation figures on public record, from 2003, indicate Mittelman’s base salary was $190,000 at that time. Asked if he is seeking to force a buyout, Martenstein said he hasn’t broached the subject.

The financial crisis apparently had been brewing for years, and losses due in part to Hurricane Wilma’s fallout added to the hefty carryover debt. .

As of Tuesday, there was no staff at all, only Mittelman in what amounts to an ex-officio stewardship, and his assistant as an unpaid volunteer.

A “chief interim officer” from Berger Singerman, a local law firm hired by the board and which specializes in restructuring troubled organizations, moved on-site Monday. Martenstein said Mittelman is “cooperating fully” with the firm’s appointee.

Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • Mark Rylance Oscars 2016

    'Bridge of Spies' Actor Mark Rylance Leads Union Drive for Coronavirus Relief Donations

    U.K. entertainment industry union Equity has pledged £1 million ($1.2 million) to support its members who have been affected by the pandemic-induced industry shutdown. Equity is asking for more donations, stating that the vast majority of its 47,000 members earn modest sums and do not have savings as a fall-back option. The appeal for further [...]

  • Directors Coronavirus

    Economic Package For Freelancers Elicits Mixed Response From U.K. Industry

    The long-awaited economic measures for the self-employed revealed by U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Thursday have elicited mixed response from the film and TV industry’s predominantly freelance workforce. Self-employed individuals can claim 80% of their average income over the last three years up to £2,500 ($3,000) a month, which is taxable. To [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    Critic’s Notebook: The Night Before Broadway Went Dark

    Let me preface this by saying the story I’m about to tell is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Two weeks ago, I rushed to New York City to catch “The Inheritance” before it closed on Broadway. I’d been tracking the play by Matthew Lopez — a multigenerational, six-and-a-half-hour monument that resurrects E.M. Forster [...]

  • Mark Blum dead

    Mark Blum, 'Desperately Seeking Susan' Star, Dies From Coronavirus Complications

    Actor Mark Blum, who appeared in “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Crocodile Dundee” and the TV series “You,” has died due to complications from coronavirus. He was 69. The Playwrights Horizons theater group and SAG-AFTRA executive vice president Rebecca Damon confirmed the news on Thursday. It is with such deep sorrow that I’m writing to share the news [...]

  • U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi

    U.K. Chancellor Announces Emergency Measures for Freelancers

    The U.K. has finally announced an economic relief package for freelancers not in employment after much of the country’s creative industries shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a new self-employed income support scheme on Thursday. Self-employed individuals can claim 80% of their average income over the last three [...]

  • Celia Keenan-Bolger73rd Annual Tony Awards, Show,

    Tony Awards Postponed Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

    The Tony Awards are the latest industry event to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The American Theatre Wing, which backs the show, announced on Wednesday that the 74th edition of the annual celebration of the best of theater will be pushed back indefinitely. The ceremony was originally scheduled to air live on CBS, [...]

  • Debra Messing Golden Globes

    'Caroline, Or Change,' 'Birthday Candles' Postpone Broadway Runs Due to Coronavirus

    Roundabout Theatre Company is moving its hotly anticipated revival of “Caroline, Or Change” to the fall, as well as its upcoming production of “Birthday Candles” with Debra Messing. The shifts are an acknowledgment of a painful reality. Theaters in New York City have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and with the rate of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content