Updated 4:30 p.m.: The Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park had to cancel its Friday night and weekend shows of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Leon Seemann, the theater’s managing director, said Friday he was not having the best day himself. Earlier in the morning, the building housing the theater caught on fire, damaging much of the structure and equipment. Seemann’s house lost power, too, because of the day’s strong storm winds, but luckily not everything is terrible, horrible and very bad.
“The good news is the theater is fine,” Seemann said. While the office space was “devastated” and the theater will likely need new props and costumes, the stage itself was unscathed. The Friday show was canceled to clean from the fire and assess damage.
A little after 1 a.m., electrical wiring sparked a fire in one of the building’s castle turrets and flames spread into the walls of the building. The fire damage didn’t spread far beyond that area, but firefighters had to tear open the roof and the walls to douse the flames. The fire resulted in heavy smoke and water damage in much of the building. The building was unoccupied at the time.
Another complicating factor was the extreme wind, which, in addition to felling trees and causing other emergencies in the region, made it more difficult for the firefighters to put out the flames at the theatre, according to Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer.
Michael J. Bobbitt, the artistic director of the theater, said in a statement that, in his 11 years working there, he has “not seen the theatre suffer this much damage, and it is a major loss for our nonprofit organization.”
Seemann said it’s too early to estimate the cost of the damages. The theater property is owned by the National Parks Service and rented by Montgomery County, which hired a Glen Echo Park nonprofit to run it. Adventure Theatre rents the building from the nonprofit. The costs will likely be split in some way between those entities, Seemann said, and the theater might try to raise money from the community as well.
In the meantime, the theater hopes to continue its performances of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, if possible. The show had been set to run through March 31.
“As of now it’s one canceled performance,” Seemann said Friday morning. “Hopefully that’s it.”
Adventure Theatre announced Friday afternoon that the Saturday and Sunday shows were also called off.
The exterior and interior of the turret where the fire broke out (above). Below: Some damage to the office spaces, and the stage set for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Photos: Joe Zimmermann