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Early Morning Fire Sweeps Through Theatre Charlotte Auditorium

Roofing, seating and electrical equipment damaged

Theatre Charlotte performance
A Christmas Carol performance at Theatre Charlotte (Still courtesy of Perry Tannenbaum)

A fire swept through Theatre Charlotte’s auditorium on Queens Road in the early morning hours of Monday, the Charlotte Fire Department reported.

Crews on scene with heavy smoke showing from a business. All hands working,” read the department’s Twitter post announcing a structural fire at the venerable theater’s location at 2:30 a.m. Monday. An hour later, the blaze was declared under control, but the damage was done. 

“A large portion of our space (including the seating, stage, lighting, and sound equipment) are either severely damaged or completely lost,” Theatre Charlotte posted on Facebook.

The fire, which appears to be electrical, spread through the auditorium, gutting seats and flooring on the House Right section of the structure, and causing significant smoke damage throughout the building, Theatre Charlotte officials told WCCB.

Fire and water also damaged the ceiling, sections of which are in danger of collapsing.

Theatre Charlotte officials also fear that electrical wiring and sound and lighting boards have been damaged beyond repair. (One possible result of electrical damage is that calls to the theater’s main phone number are not currently going through.)

The building was deserted in the small hours of Monday morning, so no one was injured. Theatre Charlotte praised police and fire department first responders who acted swiftly to contain the blaze.

“Word has spread quicker than we could have imagined,” the theater’s post continued. “All of us at Theatre Charlotte are so incredibly touched by the outpouring of love, support, and the messages from people waiting in the wings ready to take action.”

Adding to a difficult situation

Like most Charlotte arts organizations, Theatre Charlotte has been struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic. In August, the theater’s executive director Ron Law posted an online appeal to the community to contribute to the city’s oldest arts organization and community theater.

Launched in 1927, Theatre Charlotte staged its first production at its current Queens Road location in Myers Park. George Washington Slept Here opened on Dec. 1, 1941 and concluded its run on Saturday, Dec. 6. Pearl Harbor was attacked the day after the premiere, precipitating America’s entry into World War II, and many of the theatre’s volunteers went off to war.

In 2020, theater staff pivoted in the midst of the pandemic, staging on outdoor production of A Christmas Carol. When that livestream run concluded on December 20, the theater filmed a virtual on-demand version of the play in their auditorium, which is scheduled to run through Jan. 2.

Theatre Charlotte is accepting donations as they assess damages and a path to recovery.

“As soon as we know more information about what our future will hold, we will be sure that you — our family — are in the know,” the theater company posted.

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