The State of the Theater

Dec 29th, 2008

By Louise Smith, Crossroads — read the original blog posting here.

It is hard to believe that just a few months ago The Antioch Area Theater was a constant hub of artistic enterprise and activity. As late as August, children sang and adults came to dance under its fragile roof. Last year alone, this supposedly inadequate facility housed two Antioch Theater productions, two YSKP productions, two Antioch School productions, the AACW Bluesfest, Antioch College senior projects and numerous classes, rehearsals and meetings too many to mention. At the last Antioch College Reunion, the theater was packed with alumni, students and people from town watching performances from every constituency the theater has served. Now we witness the death of a building that was once a site of community life.

I want to alert you to the condition of the Antioch Theater building as of this past week. There apparently has been a fairly major leak, probably involving the downspouts from the roof drains that are plumbed inside the building. These have leaked before over the years and it has been imperative in the past to keep the drains cleared and maintained regularly during the winter. This obviously has not been done and the building is severely compromised at this point. At present, there is condensation on the interiors of all of the windows which indicates a high level of moisture in the building. In the back, off the dance studio, pieces of ceiling tiles have floated in from the next room where they obviously have fallen. The front lobby carpet is noticibly wet and probably ruined. There is a large crack in the floor of the first lobby and a puddle outside the reception area where the large pipe from the roof is located. The dance studio’s sprung floor has some buckling due to water damage from leaks. Debris is scattered as though it had floated from elsewhere and a pile of raccoon leavings that were in the middle of a room (visible from the back window) has apparently floated or melted away in the recent flooding. No doubt this will be a perfect place for mold to thrive in a building that never really had the problem before.

I inhabited this building for almost fifteen years. In that time, we came close to having a new roof quite a few times—but it never happened. Too bad.

The damage to the theater that has been done strictly by weather in just under two months does not bode well for the state of the rest of the campus. Clearly, historic buildings left with no climate control and without the possibility of people in them to monitor their condition will quickly lose their viability. The report by the Stanley Group, commissioned by the University to assess the state of the buildings named the theater as structurally sound and did not recommend that it be razed. Now, most likely, the only thing that will be left to salvage will be the steel beams of the old foundry. This could have gone a very different way.