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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.


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

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. The company's 15th anniversary season was scheduled to open this fall with a highly realistic production of August Wilson's Fences. According to Plowshares producing artistic director Gary Anderson, "We had been trying to raise money so we can afford the season we proposed. But much of the scenic materials that could be reused for various shows were stored in that building."

Despite the setback, the show did go on for Plowshares's July production of Crowns at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Still, the company remains in dire need of cash contributions. "We have to start basically from scratch," Anderson says. People wishing to assist Plowshares should call (313) 872-0279. Visit

BEVERLY, MASS.: A three-alarm fire that broke out in July in a storeroom under a stage after a performance of the musical Cinderella at North Shore Music Theatre caused an estimated $3 million in damages and postponement of performances. The fire is believed to have been caused by an electrical malfunction. Although the building was left structurally intact, carpeting and theatre seats were coated in soot and will have to be replaced, as will the stage's hydraulic lift system and extensive lighting equipment. As of this writing, the theatre planned to reopen Aug. 23 with a new musical, Abyssinia. Visit

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Title Annotation:trends & events; theatre buildings destroyed by fire; Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Plowshares Theatre Company; North Shore Music Theatre
Publication:American Theatre
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Previous Article:Awards & prizes.
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