GLEN ECHO — On the morning of March 2, Michael Bobbitt, artistic director of Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo, woke up and read a perplexing and ominous text message.
“I’m sorry about your theater,” the message said.
Bobbitt, who had only awoken to use the bathroom, saw that his phone was deluged with messages and missed calls, alerting him of the news that a fire had severely damaged Adventure Theatre, the place that many patrons, performers and employees. called a home away from home
While the fire had not completely destroyed the building, it caused about $500,000 in damage, and hindered the theater’s main revenue source – selling tickets to its shows – as the theater had to cancel nine performances, according to the theater’s managing director, Leon Seemann.
But the fire was the only the beginning of the story.
Eight months after a fire destroyed the beloved children’s theater, located in one of the remodeled buildings in historic Glen Echo Park – a 19th-century amusement park turned historic landmark – Adventure Theatre re-opened, thanks in part to a community fundraiser campaign to save the theater.
“This whole process has been like a phoenix rising through the ashes,” Bobbitt said.
For those gathered Tuesday, the grand reopening was a success of quick rebuild to a damaged theater. Bobbitt and Seemann thanked the many patrons who helped fund the rebuild after the fire. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, was credited for lending his support to the theater and the park, which is administered by the National Park Service.
The theater is run by Adventure Theatre and Music Theater Center, a non-profit that seeks to promote the arts, particularly to young people. Adventure Theatre stages professional shows at its theater in Glen Echo, as well as offering an academy for kids ages 6 to 18 to be trained in the performing arts.
The March 2 electrical fire did not destroy the theater itself, but managed to cause much damage to the office space, where much of the theater’s costume collection and most of its historical records were destroyed. The canceled shows hurt the theater’s biggest revenue stream – its professional shows as well as birthday parties held at Adventure – as the non-profit lost about $32,000 in revenue after it had to cancel nine shows.
For Seemann and the staff at Adventure Theatre, the prospects of saving the theater seemed bleak. Firefighters spent hours putting out the fire, which was made worse by howling winds that night. Water and smoke damage destroyed much of the interior of the theater.
But the community stepped up.
Residents donated money, companies offered to help with repairs for a “family and friends discount,” and five local theaters – the Folger, Round House, GALA Hispanic Theater, the Art Glass Center and First Draft at the Rose Theatre, donated proceeds from their shows to support the Adventure Theatre’s rebuild.
“Today is not a sad story, because of what happened next,” Seemann said. “The outpouring of support and love was just unbelievable.”1
Carol Leahy, a member of the board of directors at Adventure Theatre and a former actress who used to perform at the theatre, said she is glad the theater can continue its mission to get kids interested in the performing arts.
“It means everything to me,” she said.