The Calusa Playhouse, a tough-hearted turn-of the-century frame building, is the second oldest structure on Key Biscayne. Built circa 1917 initially as a barracks for coconut plantation workers, the "Little Island Theater" has also been a hurricane shelter, a private residence, a church... and almost a memory before it rescued by the Key Biscayne Music & Drama Club (KBMDC).
Organized in 1956, the KBMDC began presenting famous and favorite shows and performing before diverse and enthusiastic audiences. Back then, shows were held wherever the club could find a stage, including the Key Biscayne Community Church and Key Biscayne Elementary School.
The club's permanent home was found in this building of Dade County pine in 1966 when it was still located on the ITT-Sheraton Royal Biscayne Hotel property. Moved to its current location in Calusa Park in 1969 with funds raised by club members, KBMDC has maintained the theater through the years. In 1990 Calusa Playhouse attained the honor of being designated a Dade County Historic Site.
Since moving to Calusa Park, the walls of the playhouse have resounded with the sounds of applause and laughter as KBMDC members have presented three to four plays -- thirty-six to forty-eight performances a year (and sometimes more) -- each year on the old stage. Some families are now seeing their third generation performing in the playhouse, the quintessential Little Theater. But increasing age, new building codes and Hurricane Andrew have taken their toll; the playhouse closed in January 1995.
Six weeks after the building was closed, a fire -- suspected to be set by young teens - totally consumed the dressing room/trailer adjacent to the playhouse and seriously damaged parts of the theater. Most of the props, costumes and lighting and sound equipment were also destroyed by the blaze.
The beleagured Calusa Playhouse has withstood much adversity, yet its darkened stage will only be a temporary condition with the support of those who know the power of live theater and the importance of historic preservation. Please join with many others in our community to help restore this fine old building, this fine old tradition.
The mission of the Calusa Playhouse Restoration Project is to restore,
enhance, and reopen the playhouse so that once again, the KBMDC can
continue its work of enriching the human spirit through the performing arts.