News: Adventure Theatre Rallies and Rebuilds After Devastating Fire

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It was 6:45 am on March 2nd when Managing Director Leon Seemann received the call informing him that a fire had broken out at Adventure Theatre MTC. Artistic Director Michael Bobbitt was on the other line. The fire had begun over five hours earlier, Bobbitt informed him. No one had been in the building at the time, and the performance space was undamaged, but other than that, the news was bleak.

Firefighters battle the March 2nd, 2018 fire at Adventure Theatre. Photo by Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture.
Firefighters battle the March 2nd, 2018 fire at Adventure Theatre. Photo by Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture.

According to Seemann, who spoke to DC Metro Theater Arts by phone yesterday, officials believe that a power surge during a March 2nd storm caused wires around the neon “Adventure Theatre” sign to melt their shielding at around 1:00 am. The resulting fire in the tower above Adventure’s main entrance caused severe damage to Adventure Theater’s office spaces, fire and phone systems, costumes and equipment.

The National Parks Service, which owns Adventure Theater’s historic Glen Echo Park location, is financially responsible for all external repairs, but as a renter, Adventure Theatre must assume the costs of all internal repairs. According to Seemann, the National Parks Service fire marshal initially put these costs at over $500,000. Insurance will cover most but not all.

To fill the gap in this coverage, Adventure has begun what it is calling #FilltheGap. “We are asking that 1,000 of our closest friends donate $50 each. So far around 400 people have donated $20,000.”

Details on how you can donate to Adventure Theatre’s rebuilding efforts can be found here.

Much of this support has come from within the theater community. “We have been blown away because a handful of theaters have held benefits on our behalf.” Keegan Theater was the first to plan a benefit. TheatreWashington noticed Keegan’s efforts and sent out an email informing its member theaters of the situation at Adventure Theatre. To date, this has resulted in Round House Theatre, GALA Hispanic Theater, Imagination Stage, and First Draft at the Rose all assisting Adventure Theatre in raising funds for repairs.

When the fire occurred, Adventure was two weeks into its run of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (Seemann acknowledges the irony of the title given the circumstances). It was on pace to become one of their highest selling shows of all time before the fire. Even though the performance space was untouched (“one of our small miracles,” Seemann notes), they lost nine performances to the fire. “The smoke detectors that saved the building were damaged when they did their job,” Seemann explains. “We had to work with the Park to reset the entire fire system and get the building up to code again.”

But they never considered shutting the show down entirely. “We are way too bullheaded for that,” Seemann asserts.

Interior damages from the March 2nd, 2018 fire. Photo by Brittany Truske.
Interior damages from the March 2nd, 2018 fire. Photo by Brittany Truske.

Their next offering, Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt, will open as scheduled this Friday, April 20th. Adventure Theatre has worked tirelessly to ensure the experience will be smooth for audience members, but behind the scenes, staff and actors will be working under less than ideal circumstances. The actor’s bathroom is currently unusable, so they will share the public bathroom. Phone lines and wifi are still down so the box office will be working off of a mobile phone with wifi from a burner hotspot.

The cleanup operation finished a few weeks ago, but repairs to the damaged spaces have yet to begin. As a renter, Adventure must work in coordination with the National Park Service and Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture.

Please consider donating to Adventure Theatre’s #FilltheGap campaign and supporting them by attending the show.

Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt will play from Friday, April 20th through June 3rd, 2018, at Adventure Theatre & ATMTC Academy – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 251-5766 or go online.