Cocoanut Grove Play goes to NY City


It was November 28th, 1942, almost a year since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Americans were busy with the war effort and praying for their boys "over there."  On this particular night Boston was alive with excitement as Boston College battled Holy Cross College on the football field.  Cocoanut Grove, the popular, swank, Boston nightclub was hopping with nearly 1000 diners: students fresh from the game, servicemen on a weekend pass, newlyweds celebrating the beginning of their new lives, and even a Hollywood cowboy making the rounds to promote his upcoming film.  In the midst of such gaiety, who could have predicted that a split-second mistake could spark an inferno that would claim 492 lives, changing fire safety code forever? 


Artistic Director, James Hansen Prince’s wife, Annette, grew up hearing the story of the fire, not from a historical perspective, but a personal one.  Annette’s GranMary was partially raised by her sister, Sally, 20 years her senior, as their mother died when she was quite young.  Living in her sister’s household, she spent a great deal of time with her nephew, Jimmie, who was only ten years her junior.  Jimmie was, “loads of fun,” and loved to tease her.

In 1942, Jimmie was a 21 year old Harvard medical student on the cusp of graduation.  As GranMary tells it, on the night of the 28th, he was studying for finals.  A friend of his was going to the Boston College/Holy Cross game with his best girl, and her friend did not have a date.  Jimmie tried to beg off, as he had every intention of studying, but his friend prevailed on his good nature and off they went.

 The Cocoanut Grove was THE place to go, which is why Jimmie and his party decided to top off their evening there after the game.  They were seated in the Melody Lounge, and had not been there long when the fire broke out.  Days later GranMary’s sister received a telegram.  The news . . . Jimmie had been killed in the fire at the Cocoanut Grove.

For years, James told GranMary that some day he would write Jimmie’s story.  In 2013 as he began to research, he realized that this story was truly epic in that it touched far more than the 492 lives that had been lost and the 300 + that had been injured.  Each of those lives touched dozens more at every social, economic and political level.  This tragedy brought forth heroism in ordinary people, who selflessly helped their neighbors, some at the risk of their own lives.  We now enjoy the security and protection that has resulted from the vast overhaul of fire safety codes that this fateful fire initiated.  The story of these people, this era, needed to be told.  From these stories, “Inferno: Fire at the Cocoanut Grove 1942 was born.


We at The Core Theatre have now told this story three times on our stage in Texas.  We brought it to Boston in 2016, helping to bring healing, hope and closure to its citizens who know all too well the personal loss inflicted by the fire. After meeting family members of the victims, James broadened the script to incorporate their vital and enriching input.  We are now heading to New York to share this compelling story in the theatre capital of our nation!


This is a huge endeavor for our little theatre, but there is nothing small about this story that honors the memory of those who suffered as a result of the devastating Cocoanut Grove fire.

We have been steadily making payments to Theatre 80 in New York to secure that venue for this production, but we still need help to get across the finish line.

We have the remaining cost of the Theatre 80 rental agreement, along with expenses for actors, travel, housing and food.  We have come so far, but we can’t do this alone.  


Theatre 80              $29,150

Actors Salary         $12,000

Housing                    $10,926

Lighting Design    $1,500

Travel/Set Move  $5,494

Insurance                $500

Set Expenses         $350

Printing                    $2,000

Costumes               $1,000

TOTAL COST        $62,920


The Core Theatre is a 501 C3 non profit organization.  All of your donations are tax deductible.  Please consider helping fund Inferno: Fire at the Cocoanut Grove 1942.  Whether large or small, every contribution helps.  The streams, tributaries, and rivers that feed the vast oceans have their source in drops of water that may be small on their own, but collectively shape the land through which they flow.  Please help us make our mark in this world, telling the story of real people, and bringing inspiration to all who hear it.


We need continual funds to flow in for all remaining balances.  We leave for New York on November 18th.  We are SO GRATEFUL for your help!!!  Please share our story with people who you know would love to participate with us in this exciting adventure!!!
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James Prince 
Richardson, TX

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