If you haven’t been to the Playhouse on the Square you’re missing out on something special. And if you think local theater necessarily equates to yokel theater, well, you’re mistaken. After a recent show someone from Chicago remarked that the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire has nothing on Jacksonville’s downtown playhouse. This unique little venue – part black box, part traditional community theatre – is abuzz with a variety of acts from one weekend to the next.
Why, you might be lucky enough to get a ticket to the famous entertainer, Ken Bradbury, one week, and accidently wander into a reading by the not-so-famous mumbler, me, the next. Theatre owners Rich and Laurie McCoy were kind enough to offer their space for my poetry reading in May. Rich even provided me with Guinness (to prevent dry throat). Now that’s what I call hospitality.
When the bookstore was left without neighbors to the south, we wondered who, if anyone, would fill the spaces left by Eclectic Art Gallery and the pet store. Then, Jim and Sally Nurss decided to retire in earnest. Conceivably all three of these spaces might be empty today. But as fortune would (and should) have it, they are not. Each is filled with a vibrant cultural contribution to the newly-renovated downtown.
Jenn and I are thankful to the Nursses for establishing a bookstore in the heart of town, and we’re grateful for a community that values literature and is anxious to support our venture in this e-reading, Amazon-ordering, Barnes & Noble age.
Meanwhile Eclectic’s hallowed space has been filled by Nicole Riley’s incomparable coffee shop. From soap to soup, Ms. Riley & Co. will keep you clean, caffeinated, and otherwise content. They even moonlight as playhouse intermission refreshment providers. There’s pretty much nothing Nicole can’t do.
And as for the pet store space… Magically it has been transformed into a playhouse. Where once various reptiles lurked behind glass, you might likely find, Night of the Iguana performed. In fact, Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie was performed at the playhouse this past year. I saw it. I also saw it in New York, at Lincoln Center a few years ago. And I, for one, can say that the Vivian Beaumont Theatre has nothing on the Playhouse on the Square.
Books, coffee, and live theater… At OTB (and I swear there’s no Off-Track Betting in our back room) we like to think of it as a rare trifecta, a win-win-win.