Arnold Mittelman Resigns From Debt-Ridden Coconut Grove Playhouse

News   Arnold Mittelman Resigns From Debt-Ridden Coconut Grove Playhouse
Arnold Mittelman, the producing artistic director on whose watch Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse buckled under a $4 million debt, resigned May 16, according to The Miami Herald.

He resigned his 21-year position via an e-mail to not-for-profit's board of directors and trustees.

''Unfortunately your continued wrongful breach of my employment agreement has forced me this day to vacate my position,'' Mittelman wrote, according to the Herald.

News about the Playhouse's financial crisis seemed to get worse with each report. Payroll and checks to vendors were bouncing in April, and the spring production of Sonia Flew was in serious jeopardy until star Lucie Arnaz helped raise money for an abbreviated run.

It was later reported that Mittelman took out an unauthorized loan for $125,000 from Coconut Grove Bank on March 30, using a restricted state grant as collateral.

In recent days, the Herald reported, state officials demanded "replenishment of the $125,000 grant, plus interest." The grant was restricted for building improvements, which, according to observers and artists who know the aging facility, are greatly needed. A May 4 statement from Mittelman indicated he used the loan to pay salaries, including his own. Mittelman's compensation for 2003 amounted to more than $220,000 in salary, benefits and expenses, according to the latest IRS filings, the Herald reported.

Board chair Shelly Spivack stated May 9 that the board had not approved the loan, as required under its bylaws.

The theatre closed its doors after Sonia Flew ended and the board is trying figure out its future. Stripping Mittelman of his power, the board reportedly changed the locks on the building and is investigating the troupe's finances and future.

Observers say the likelihood of a 2006-07 season is dim.

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