History of the Cocoa Village Playhouse
Established as the “Aladdin” theatre, the doors opened to the public on August 18th, 1924, showing silent movies. Later, Brevard’s first “talkie” movie house became known as “the showplace of the Indian River Section”. Several owners and several decades later, the building was purchased by the City of Cocoa and renamed The Cocoa Village Playhouse. In August of 1984, Brevard Community College District Board of Trustees acquired the building for $1 with the understanding that the college would take the responsibility of ownership and make the theatre operate in the best interest of the community. The Trustees immediately established a 501(c)(3) not for profit Direct Support Organization with its own Board of Directors who were given the responsibility of raising funds to make the Playhouse self supporting. Through donations from individuals, organizations, corporations and grants from Foundations, as well as the State of Florida, the Playhouse was restored operational and began producing community based musicals in 1989 featuring local volunteer performers. In 1991, the Playhouse was accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places in Tallahassee and the official corporate name became The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse. As the programming grew and became popular, the Stars of Tomorrow youth program was established in 1992 beginning with eight young people and now has over 264 participants each season featuring youth ages 7 through high school graduation. The program instructs them in not only the performing arts but life management skills as each “Star” is required to maintain a 3.0 grade point average in their classes. The performer base has now grown to over 600 volunteers who rotate throughout the productions each year with a core group known as the “Gold Star Performers” who perform in consecutive performances each season.
An audience base of 4,000 season patrons support the Playhouse each year and performances are known to sell out to the public before the run of each production is finished. Over 55,000 audience viewers participate each year. Due to the growth of the programs, a Capital Campaign was launched to raise $2.5 million dollars to build a Technical Support Annex on the property east of the historic building which was donated by Harrison Vanderslice. The project totals $2.5 million and the Playhouse is continuing to raise the remaining $485,000 in funds needed for completion. In the Spring of 2011, Brevard Community College returned ownership of the Playhouse to the City of Cocoa. Theatrical operations will continue to be managed by the same 501(c)(3), The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, Inc. The City of Cocoa is responsible for maintaining the building and will begin a $400,000 renovation project in 2012 to upgrade the building, increase seating, and improve the orchestra pit. The City of Cocoa and the Board of Directors for the Playhouse are excited about the future of this historic community theatre in Cocoa Village.
The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse opened its 22nd season on September 16, 2011. This thriving community theater has extended runs for almost every show to meet public demand since 1995. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Playhouse, from performers to technical support, to clerical assistance; the theatre could not operate without the 600 plus volunteers. Enthusiastic support from donors and the City of Cocoa play a key role in the ever-continuing evolution of the Playhouse. Over the last four years the Playhouse has undergone some tremendous renovations, including the three-story technical support annex. This expansion has enabled the Playhouse to expand its operations to include a community ballet company, specialty performances, and community events. The Playhouse is a cultural leader in Brevard County and is sought out by performing arts volunteers and supporters. Known to all as “Broadway on Brevard” this team of artists including performers, musicians, technical staff, costume & lighting designers, set builders, office staff and all volunteers who give so much in each area that is needed, are truly an example of one of the highest quality community theatres in our country.