Flood Strikes the Flea Theatre, But the Show Goes On


The Flea Theatre, the feisty theatre company located just below Canal Street in downtown New York, is coping with another crisis. On the evening of June 2, the bottom floor of the theatre’s White Street complex was flooded. “Our offices were pretty much wiped out in a sewage flood,” says producing director Carol Ostrow. As a result, she adds, the bottom floor of the theatre, including the administrative offices, are currently unusable. "It's a major setback," says Ostrow. "We've lost computers, office furniture, piles of scripts and [actors'] photographs. Instead of producing more plays over the summer, we're going to be renovating."

Ironically, the flood happened on the very night that the Flea staged a successful benefit: Flea-For-All: A Downtown Hoedown, at the Roxy nightclub on 18th Street. The evening featured down-home food, music, dancing, and entertainment by Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Durang, Marlo Thomas, Tom Wopat, Swoosie Kurtz, and other luminaries.

Now, says Ostrow, “Our administrative offices are bullpenned in the theatre and we’re in the process of planning the renovation of the basement. We’re working with our landlord, who is great. We want to be judicious about our spending.” Because the downstairs space is flooded, she says, “Any show booked for the downstairs theatre will move upstairs.” The upstairs theatre is currently booked with Polly Draper’s new play Getting Into Heaven; the next downstairs attraction, a Mac Wellman play, Cellophane will also play upstairs in repertory with Draper’s show.

This is only the latest chapter in the wild and woolly history of the Flea Theatre, the home base of The Bat Theatre, the ensemble run by artistic director Jim Simpson. With the input of designer/technical wizard Kyle Chepulis, the Flea Theatre was conceived as an Off Off Broadway space with first-class facilities. After several successful seasons, the theatre’s existence was threatened when audiences stopped going downtown after the events of September 11, 2001. The Flea bounced back with a new production, The Guys, Anne Nelson’s drama about the impact of 9/11 on the New York Fire Department. With a rotating cast of stars, The Guys ran for a year and was made into a feature film starring Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia. This season, the Flea provided a venue for the New York debut of London cabaret star Barb Jungr, as well the premiere of A. R. Gurney’s controversial new play O Jerusalem!, among other attractions.

Ostrow notes that the company is seeking donations to help cope with the flood damage, Anyone wishing to make a donation or equipment or money can contact her at 212-226-0051.

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