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Stage Fright

Santa Rosa theaters suffer financial hit after fires

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SHOW STOPPER Flames damaged many North Bay theaters, but they’re not leaving the stage.
  • SHOW STOPPER Flames damaged many North Bay theaters, but they’re not leaving the stage.

In the early hours of Oct. 9, after word spread that parts of the Luther Burbank Center were on fire, John DeGaetano, artistic director of the LBC's North Bay Stage Company, could do nothing but wait. When news came, it wasn't good. Though much of the LBC escaped full destruction, the east end, including the small auditorium NBSC calls home, was a total loss.

"The fire got all of our sound and lighting equipment, pretty much everything we've been spent years accumulating," DeGaetano says. Also gone are hundreds of costumes and props stored in a large metal container at the far end of the facility. "There was nothing left of it." says DeGaetano.

Understandably, the remainder of the company's season, including its annual Monster Bash and a production of The 1940's Radio Hour, has been canceled.

Meanwhile, nearby Left Edge Theatre managed to escape, although with severe smoke damage. Its planned October run of Bakersfield Mist, and a run of The Santaland Diaries, will still take place, but with altered production schedules.

As for the NBSC, DeGaetano says the company had recently announced it was taking a hiatus at the end of this year, in order to devote time to a large collaborative theater project in London.

"A lot of people think we were closing up shop, and now most people think we're done," says DeGaetano. "But we're not done. We're accepting donations to help re-accumulate our equipment. We're taking some breathing time. But we will be back, serving our community the way we always have."

Not all fire damage is so conspicuous, it turns out.

According to Jeff Coté, president of the board at 6th Street Playhouse, the company is in serious financial danger because of the fires. With so many of its regular donors hit directly by the fires, and two of its board members having lost their homes, the company expects to see its contributed income catastrophically slashed.

"Not only do we expect contributed income to be down, we feel it's difficult to even ask local donors for help," says Coté, who adds that postponing its Oct. 13 opening of Steel Magnolias also took a severe financial toll on the theater. Admitting that the company depends on strong audiences to pay the bills, Coté says the postponement and a cancellation of next month's drama Two Rooms have left the company in in its worst economic position in years.

A fundraising cabaret titled Sonoma Strong: Recovery and Strength Through Song has been scheduled for Nov. 10–12. As for the theater's upcoming holiday shows, Coté adds, "We need people to come out for White Christmas and Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge."

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