Friday, August 16, 2013

Flooding in Ithaca: 2013

Last weekend, the Hangar Theater experienced a natural disaster of fairly large proportions in the shape of a flash flood that occurred during a preview performance of Clybourne Park. I left the theater to get dinner around 8pm, noted the rising puddles in the parking lot that are often a nuisance when we get heavy rain, and returned around 9:30pm, expecting to finish up some work notes on the wallpaper for the show. 

Instead of parking and making my way inside for work, however, I stopped and stared at the sheer amount of water built up around the building. Many cars were buried halfway up the door in water; patrons were struggling to their vehicles through thigh-deep water in places. The lobby and backstage areas were flooded with several inches. Luckily, the stage itself and the scene shop and costume shop are raised higher up than the rest of the facility, which is in a swampy depression near the lake.

We spent the evening pushing cars out of the water (when put in neutral and NOT turned on, they usually drain out ok). When the last few staff members left, we turned off all the power with the fire department. I carried Brody, one of my boss's dogs, to the car as we headed out....the rain was increasing again at that point.

In the morning, the entire tech staff and all of the interns and apprentices still here came in to clean and restore the lobby. There were still several inches of water inside when we arrived.

We started by sweeping out the lobby and moving everything outside. Then we had to go through the Box Office, Concessions storage, costumes, our green room lounge/backstage area, and throw a lot of things away or send them to get cleaned. I spent most of the day in a series of small closets cleaning out boxes of programs that got wet and more fun stuff. Our electrics and sound equipment had to be cleaned and restocked; hundreds of props relocated. Spending the day wading through muddy water and sewage was pretty tough on everyone, especially for some of us who had been working 20 hour days on Clybourne Park.

Friday was going to be opening night for Clybourne Park. The theater decided that it would be best to postpone the opening until the next day so we could get everything in tip-top shape again. Once the water level went down, it was amazing how fast we restored the place to normal. If non-structural damage has to happen anywhere, a theater is not a bad place for it because they are usually full of efficient people who are used to cleaning and moving things and doing all sorts of shitty jobs. And so we are pleased to have opened Clybourne Park this weekend!

For more information on the Hangar Theater, please visit the website here.