Mark A. Marple

Hirschfeld Theatre

Located in Miami Beach, the Hirschfeld Theatre at the Castle Hotel was the brainchild of Abe Hirschfeld in 1982. It originally was the Playboy Hotel and the Jackie Gleason Theatre. It had no theatre seats (was set up for 8 top tables) and needed the audience to be sloped for seating. I called Eric Krebs in New Jersey and he had 500 theatre seats from a theatre in Pennsylvania that he could part with and we had them delivered and installed. But I digress!

How this all started was through Greg Thompson's agent, who I had worked with at Lily Langtry's. He called me and said that Greg was going to put a show in a new theatre and could I help set it up. I set up an appointment to meet with Abe Hirschfeld at the Vertical Club in New York. We talked and he said he wanted me to fly to Miami Beach to see the facility. We discussed fees and I flew there and scoped out the situation. I gave him my assessment and fee structure and he handed me fifteen $100 bills to "tied me over for the weekend".

This theatre had no box office, group sales, marketing plan or physical tickets to sell. It had no dinner theatre packages either. I met with the Chef, brought my assistant, John Green, down from New Jersey and started to get to work. We were opening with Greg Thompson's "Broadway Memories" just before New Years Eve. Our main competition was Julio Iglesias down the street at the Fountainebleu.


I went to see other performances and venues in the area. At several I saw this elderly gentleman who seemed to get a lot af attention from the theatre staffs and older patrons. After inquiring, I found out his name was Charles Skupsky and he would package group sales for the older clientle for $2.00 per ticket. I met him and asked him to breakfast the following morning (my treat).

We met at breakfast at the hotel and he was playing hardball! I told him about the new theatre and show coming in and he said that his amount of $2.00 was firm!
I was 27 at the time and I found at that Charles was 75. I took a sip of my coffee and slowly shook my head. I told Charles that I couldn't pay him $2.00 a ticket
(then I smiled) but I could pay him $3.00 per ticket and give him an office at the hotel to work from with a watts line and a secretary. I walked him around the hotel, introduced him to Cristina, his secretary, and got him all set up. He sold out the opening week in less than ten days.

   Abe Hirschfeld was a very unique individual. We constantly had to track him and his bodyguard down to get bills paid and decisions made. One morning around 3am I got a call from Abe in my hotel suite. He said "Maarrkk. I want second act first!" He seemed to get the idea that the show, which took you through Broadway numbers from the past up until "Dream Girls", would be better if we started with the big numbers in the second act first. I told him that we could talk about it over breakfast at 8am. It wasn't five minutes later that Greg Thompson calls me screaming into the phone about the lunatic Hirschfeld. He threatened to take his show (and all of the lighting equipment he invested in) and leave. I told him to meet me for breakfast at 7am and we would work out a plan.

That morning on my way to breakfast number one, I stopped in to see Charles. I told Charles I needed him to round up "for free" a group of ladies, at least 100, to come to a free preview matinee the day we were having our dress rehearsal. I also gave him special instructions for these guests to rave about the show during intermission but to complain how stupid it was to put older songs at the end of the show. I then went to my first breakfast with Greg and asked him to do second act first for the preview and I would guarantee that would be the last time he would have to do it. Consider it a rehearsal. then I met Abe at 8pm and told him that we would do what he wanted and it would be great for him to see it at the preview.
He agreed.

 The day before the preview I met with the cast and explained it was all just a rehearsal with some of my friends and doing the acts backwards was no big thing. They were a great group of actors.

The preview came and it worked like clockwork. Abe and his bodyguard sat mid row and the ladies were some of the best actresses I have ever hired. They praised the show during intermission and Abe was beaming. After the show they complained so long and loud I was almost embarrassed for Abe. He came up to me and said "Maarrkk, put it back first act second!" That night I found a bottle of champagne in my room. He never admitted it but my guess would have been
it was from Greg.

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