The world’s largest Shakespeare collection (including 79 irreplaceable first folios of plays) isn’t in England—it’s in Washington DC, at the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library. The Folger also houses a full recreation of an Elizabethan theatre. Folger Theatre produces an acclaimed three-play season as well as music and speaker series.
When a fire recently resulted in water damage to the venue, ETC and its dealer Barbizon Capitol , as well as the stage community at large, went into high gear to make sure that the theatre would not be dark for long.
After fabric ignited in a third-floor costume-storage area above the theatre, on Saturday, October 14th, emergency sprinklers reacted as implemented. The fire was swiftly extinguished and contained, and the famous Folger collection was not harmed. The theatre’s 13-year-old dimming systems, however, which had shared some of the same storage space, were only 20’ away from the epicenter of the fire and were directly affected by the downpour from the sprinkler system. The dimmers had also been on at the time, in preparation for a tech run-through of the upcoming production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Already slated for refurbishment, the veteran dimming system would have to be immediately replaced.
Barbizon Capitol technician Blair Van Oot was called on Sunday and responded quickly, inspecting the damaged dimmers that same day. He then put Barbizon techs and the sales department on standby. On Monday, Barbizon Systems division manager Barry Gawinski surveyed the damage and contacted ETC. Phil Sens and Ted Ozimek at ETC (systems department) immediately got to work quoting new dimmers, securing owners’ approvals on Tuesday, and setting in motion the shipment of two ETC Sensor®+ racks populated with 72 modules, with another 24 modules to arrive later by ground. The racks were airfreighted from the factory in Middleton, WI, and arrived on Thursday. The timeline for delivery was so tightly controlled that the only minor delay was a few hours due to fog at the Washington airport.
The new ETC racks were then immediately installed on Friday by a team of contractors from Cooper Electric (Roy Cooper, principal), commissioned by Van Oot, and were ready that afternoon for a new tech run-through. The theatre itself would require some work as well: the original wooden stage floor had to be replaced, and the entire venue was fully cleaned, inspected, and approved.
Eric Grims, Folger production manager and technical director, voiced gratitude to those who rallied around the Theatre: “I am extremely grateful to the staff at ETC and Barbizon for their amazingly quick response. From my first conversation with Blair before the fire trucks had even left, to Barry, Phil, and Ted’s ability to turn around our order, there was never any doubt about whether or not they would be able to get us back up and running in what seemed like a nearly impossible amount of time.”
Blair Van Oot adds that the response of the local stage community was also extraordinary and laudable, “Theatre techs from almost every theatre in the area showed up to help out with the damage and to get the show up—Kennedy Center, Arena, Lincoln, Woolly Mammoth, Shakespeare, Signature, Center Stage of Baltimore—just to mention a few.”
So all’s well that ends well: The rescheduled first preview of Folger Theatre’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream took place smoothly on Tuesday, October 24, 2006. Folger is confident that no lasting damage remains to the landmark. A well-lit performance season is now well underway.