It Was a Long, Hot Summer

American Theatre, September 2005 | Go to article overview

It Was a Long, Hot Summer


This past summer, fires consumed the warehouse, set properties, even the stage of three busy nonprofit theatre companies that were left scrambling to pick up the pieces.

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BERKELEY, CALIF.: A three-alarm fire broke out in the scene shop of Berkeley Repertory Theatre in late June causing damages of $500,000-$1 million to the company's building. Located at Fifth and Gilman Streets, the shop had housed for 15 years every piece of the theatre's carpentry, metalwork and painting equipment. No one was inside the warehouse at the time of the accident, caused by spontaneous combustion. Says Berkeley Rep managing director Susan Medak: "We have immediate cash needs to buy high-end tools, equipment and supplies. We have a long-term need for a permanent home for the scene shop." Adds artistic director Tony Taccone: "I suppose it's appropriate that our upcoming season"--the troupe's 38th--"begins with Our Town, because we certainly will rely on the support of our community to make this show a reality." Berkeley Rep's Our Town begins performances Sept. 9. Contributions to support the creation of a new scene shop can be made by calling (510) 647-2900. Visit www.berkeleyrep.org.

DETROIT, MICH.: Almost 10 days before the Berkeley Rep fire, a five-alarm fire decimated the century-old, four-story Detroit building--once a Studebaker factory where Henry Ford's Model T was manufactured--used for storage of the physical assets of Plowshares Theatre Company. All the sets, hand props, lighting equipment, flats, storage covers, masking, costumes and antique furniture that the African-American company used over the past 15 years were completely lost, causing roughly $175,000 worth of damage. …

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