On Sunday a suspicious fire damaged Park Place Theatre, Shakespeare By The Sea's headquarters at Point Pleasant Park, days before rehearsals for its summer season were scheduled to begin. The fire started in a trash can after midnight, spreading to the building and damaging the roof and attic, along with much of the seating. The theatre also lost power and lighting equipment from extensive water damage. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
"We were all just shocked by it," says co-artistic director Jesse MacLean. "Then we kind of all just mobilized and went into overdrive. We said, 'This happened, now let's go forward.'" MacLean says the top priority will continue to be preparing for the upcoming 21st season---set to open its traditional July 1---but now the company has "a lot more hoops to jump."
Immediately after the fire, the troupe took to social media to tell the Twitter-sphere of the incident. Replies, retweets and rage rolled in from loving followers in hopes of salvaging the Park Place Theatre. MacLean says they were overwhelmed by the community's support.
In SBTS's off-seasons, the company rents the building to various film companies, theatres and artists as a space to rehearse and showcase work. "It's a huge loss for the community here, since right now there's now a lack of rental space for the arts," he says.
MacLean and co-artistic director Elizabeth Murphy are still meeting with engineers and inspectors to determine the cost of damage and when the building may reopen, but it's not going to be easy, or cheap. Though they're optimistic insurance will provide some compensation, there will be unforeseeable costs and loss of revenue.
The troupe is seeking help from its community and launched an IndieGoGo fire recovery campaign on Monday. MacLean says SBTS is already feeling the impact of donations. "We now know when a company is in need, others will help, and we can rise again," he says. "We always say the show must go on and we're really feeling that love from our city."