Heavy rain leads to wet show at State Theatre

This was the situation on the State Theatre stage Saturday night during the CVTG's production of Annie Warbucks. Plenty of trash cans used to catch dripping water during the rain storm.
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The weekend's rain totals were impressive. Eau Claire saw 2.2 inches of rain Saturday in just a short amount of time. But it created a leaky, wet situation at the State Theatre.

Carrie Bodenburg played Ella Paterson in the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild's production of Annie Warbucks. She said it was during Act 2 when noticed a big puddle of water on stage.

"We were standing side stage and that's all you could hear, was the rain coming in from the outside," said Bodenburg. "It was near the front of the curtain and it was a big puddle. We couldn't use that to enter anymore. You could see the drips coming down onto the stage."

Eau Claire Regional Arts Center executive director Ben Richgruber said that leak came from the roof.

"That came down backstage over some electrical equipment and obviously some props and scenic elements that were sitting off the stage as well. We have had problems over time and we had increasing problems this year with water in this building," said Richgruber.

A second leak flowed in through the bottom of an exit door near the middle of the audience.

"The drain just couldn't keep up so the water started pooling and it got over the height of the door frame so we had water coming in from under the door in the middle of the theater in the house. So that was leaking down to the front, hit the stage and went down into the orchestra pit as well," said Richgruber.

In the orchestra pit, performers had electric equipment that could've created a dangerous situation.

"It's a potentially dangerous situation especially with our switch in back which is a major source of power. Fortunately for this show, we weren't using that. Had it been in this show, obviously the show would've stopped immediately and couldn't' have continued," he said.

The water spilled through the orchestra pit and down the hallway into where the dressing rooms were.

"I think the worst part of it was underneath where people couldn't see there's a big hallway with all the dressing rooms, the floors were completely soaked," said Bodenburg. "It was very dangerous to walk on especially on heels."

Even with plans to move forward with the Confluence Project, Richgruber said keeping up with the State Theatre's needs is critical.

"We do have an ongoing budget for maintenance and facilities upkeep but this is definitely far and above that so we're going to have to do some sort of separate campaign to figure out a plan," said Richgruber.

He said to replace the entire roof, it could likely cost more than $700,000.

"These are big numbers, but with or without the Confluence, we're going to be using this space as a performance venue for years until we can move into there. Even after that, we hope to preserve this and make it another use and another type of facility after Confluence," said Richgruber.

Bodenburg said she hopes people will remember that local arts need support right now and in the future.

"I'm happy that people are supporting the Confluence project financially but in the mean time our local theater's need their support as well so that issues like this can be fixed.," said Bodenburg.

Richgruber said this wasn't the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild's first time dealing with rain issues at the State Theatre. It happened once last summer during a show. Until the funding is raised, the State Theatre will continue to patch up the cracks.

"We need to keep this building for a while and all the organizations that use it still need that support as well. Every dollar of funding that has gone to these groups in the past should continue, but we 're definitely going to need some new money both for this to keep it up and for the Confluence," said Richgruber.

If you'd like to help the State Theatre with its maintenance work on the theatre, you can make a donation by visiting the ECRAC website or calling 715-832-ARTS.

The Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild says it's also dealing with roof leaking issues. It has a goal to raise $40,000 so that work can begin in August. You can contribute to its Raise the Roof Fund by calling 715-832-7529.

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