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DATELINE – October 2023 – VENICE THEATRE

Restoration Supervisor, Murray Chase

It’s been over a year since Hurricane Ian. It’s time for another update on our progress toward full recovery. What’s been happening? What’s still to come? The time frame? The cost?

What is insurance covering? One of the questions we hear a lot is, “Didn’t you have insurance?” I’d like to address that here. Of course, we did/do have building insurance, for the bank-appraised full value of the building, plus $1 million in business interruption insurance, for a total of $5.5 million. That was at an annual cost of just over $110,000. However, a number of factors have contributed to the vastly increased cost of the rebuild. The extent of the damage. First, we had extensive water damage on both sides of the building due to the amount of rain after the wall breach. There are currently 266 roof patches, just to allow us to use the Pinkerton Theatre on the west side of the building. We have already spent more than $3 million on repairs, including drying out the building, replacement of drywall, floor replacement, IT systems, phone and alarm systems, temporary electric runs to panels, and, of course, the roof. That’s before we started the rebuild. And we had subterranean damage: stage house foundations must be replaced.

The modern codes. We can’t replace what we had. Building and electric codes are far stricter (as they should be) than before. Besides the structure, transformers have to be moved by FPL, and the main input panel and low-voltage mains must be replaced. Some will have to be buried. Catwalks, although not damaged, must be replaced to meet modern safety codes.

Escalation and availability. A roof that cost us $225,000 in 2016 now costs $895,000 for the same roof. Building materials are still sky high and often delayed for months. 15-year-old incandescent stage lighting instruments were destroyed. While they worked before the storm, they’re not available for purchase anymore. We need to transition to full LED stage lighting, which is about 10 times the cost per instrument ($300 vs. $3000/instrument). The digital lighting instruments that we did have for the Jervey Theatre were destroyed in the storm, as well. The seats were soaked; exposure since then has made them irredeemable. New seats are now more than twice the cost than before. In negotiating this redesign, we have eliminated the frills. We have also, though, attempted to make the theatre operational and fully functional for another generation. I compare this situation to trying to buy a new car with the insurance payout on a totaled used car. It’s never enough to cover the cost of the replacement. The older the car, the larger the gap.

I hope this and the rest of the information on this page answers most of your questions. We want to keep everyone informed as we move forward.

To all who have helped us get to this point, we say a huge “thank you.” We will continue to need many things in the next months to make a full comeback. Your encouragement is vital. If you can help, please do so. We will be forever grateful.

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Since Sept. 28, 2022

We’ve cleared the storm debris, established a secure perimeter, and removed the remaining parts of the destroyed fly loft.

The building now has temporary air conditioning, internet, phone service, and a working elevator and marquee! New drywall and flooring has been installed and electricians have completely rewired the theatre and the main exterior connections.

Back to entertaining audiences!

We’ve re-energized and re-opened the Pinkerton Theatre and lobby in the main building, and have been producing since January. A full season of ’23-’24 Pinkerton Theatre shows is on sale now. We are using borrowed seating from our friends at Theatre Winter Haven, rehabilitated lighting and sound equipment, and temporary dressing rooms.

CemeteryClub6
The Cemetery Club re-opened the Pinkerton in January.
The dressing rooms aren’t fancy, but they’re functional!
Arabian4
Our production of Arabian Nights, originally scheduled for the fall, was able to go up in February.
The booth is operational.

Xanadu was a huge hit in March, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] [again] took audiences for a wild ride in May, we did an encore of The Cemetery Club in the summer and now we’re having a blast with the hilarious musical Reefer Madness!

 

Our third building to the rescue!

We’ve converted our third building on campus—The Raymond Center—into a temporary, 130-seat thrust theatre and have been producing there since Nov. 18. This includes seating from the Pinkerton Theatre and borrowed seats from our friends at Manatee Performing Arts Center, as well as rented lighting equipment on a huge discount from 4 Wall Lighting.

The Raymond Center was to begin a 6-month renovation into an Education Center beginning in November 2022; those plans are on hold until the Jervey Theatre is back up and running.

The Raymond lobby is great for our patrons and … holiday potlucks!
The Raymond stage with extra seating from the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
The Raymond booth “manned” by Technical Theatre Apprentice Alex LaBonte and Gypsy stage manager Kacie Ley
Brittany Hardison and Pinky Stewart working in the Raymond costume shop

Opening Oct. 13 – THE ADDAMS FAMILY!

We’re presenting concerts at two other local venues.

2023-2024 Concerts are on sale now!

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Venue Information - Venice Performing Arts Center
The Venice Performing Arts Center
Venice Community Center

Open for building, painting, rehearsals and more!

We’ve repaired the damaged roof and air conditioning in the Technical Arts Center, and re-established full temporary power.

Completed – All city approvals!

The Venice City Council has approved:

  • the rezoning of the theatre from the “Venice Avenue Business District” to the “Downtown Edge District.
  • the site-and-development plan
  • the height exception for a taller fly loft

The Historical and Architectural Preservation Board (HAPB) has approved the exterior redesign

More progress

  • Foundation permits have been issued from City of Venice.

In process

  • FPL will relocate the exterior pole and transformers, including burying some of the lines to the Tech Arts Center and Michael Biehl Park. The current main exterior line will then be removed. The work is expected within the next month.
  • Foundation work, partial demolition of the remaining stage house, and shoring work will begin as soon as FPL finishes its relocation. The old stage house must be cleared and concrete repoured, at approximately two feet depth.
  • Steel beams are being milled through October and November, preparing to build the vertical structure. This will follow immediately after completion of the foundation.

Fixing the hole

What we’ve done so far are temporary measures, to be sure. What really needs to happen to make the theatre whole….is to fix the hole. We must rebuild the entire stage house and completely rehabilitate the Jervey auditorium.

Much has changed locally since the theatre became a theatre, and since the fly loft was added. Some folks do not know that prior to becoming Venice Theatre, the building served as the gymnasium and armory for the Kentucky Military Institute. Basketball games were a staple of winter activity in the space.

As late as 1995, two other businesses were a part of the theatre’s city block. ABC Liquor/J.D. Penguin’s Bar sat behind the theatre (now the Technical Arts Center), and Stormin’ Norman’s Bar/Wedgewood Restaurant was attached to it on the east (now Michael Biehl Park). Those businesses went away during the expansion of the north bridge onto the island circa 2000. Venice Theatre purchased the old liquor store and parking lot in 2003. Subsequently the city ceded the former alleyway to the theatre, giving us contiguous property.

To that end, we plan to improve the building as we restore it. This will involve a small expansion, as well as substantial upgrades for volunteer and staff safety, industry standards and technology.

This will involve:

  • a 10-foot expansion of the backstage area toward the north of the building
  • raising the height of the fly loft, to improve visuals, staff and volunteer safety, and the top space to maintain and repair the system
  • raising the height of the stage left (eastern) backstage area, to allow scenery to roll off unimpeded (currently the limit is 11 feet).
  • providing a “load rail” for the counterweights, which currently have to be done with lots of people, lots of rope, and lots of hope.
  • providing a wheelchair lift backstage to improve accessibility
  • providing a cargo lift against the back wall backstage
  • providing stairs, not ladders to access higher levels

 

  • reimagining the shape of the stage opening for better visibility and operation
  • rebuilding the stage floor from ground up, as it was severely damaged by the storm

  • replacing the current seating, as it was ruined by the torrential rains after the theatre wall collapsed

  • replacing the old lighting, sound, and A/V systems with modern, more efficient technology
  • replacing old restrooms and restoring dressing rooms backstage for actors and crew
Also, we will need to the make the following infrastructure improvements:
  • Move FPL power source to a different location on the property, and the main power feed to the west side of the building. Additionally, some of the power line— and telephone and internet lines—will need to be buried. Power lines and panels within the building will have to be re-run in a more secure manner, to prevent destruction by a future hurricane.
  • Moving of all air conditioners onto the roof, which will require a stronger support deck.
  • New foundation being injected below the stage floor, due to severe storm damage to stage
    foundation.
  • Raising of the west sidewalk to satisfy FEMA elevation requirements

Re-opening

The rebuilding process is a real eye-opener for the uninitiated. The design and construction process is complex and time-consuming. While we had hoped to be open in a year, that’s just not realistic. The designs are moving forward, the contractors continue their work, and the legal processes are moving as fast as possible.

THE FIRST STEPS IN THE RECONSTRUCTION ARE NOW UNDERWAY

Magnum Builders and their electricians are on the job daily now, working to prepare the electrical panels and their locations for when FPL is on site. Magnum has begun the trenches for burying some of the power, telephone, and IT lines.

The best timeline for completion: Late 2024

Meanwhile, we will continue to perform and present in our four different venues:

  • The Pinkerton Theatre,
  • The Raymond Center
  • Venice Performing Arts Center
  • Venice Community Center

Many thanks to Sweet-Sparkman, our architect, and Magnum Builders, our contractor, for moving this process forward. Thanks also to our theatre architectural consultant, Stages, of Highland Park, New Jersey. A special thanks goes to the Boone Law Firm, who is taking charge of the governmental aspects and donating its services.

Boone Law Firm