By Shibani Mahtani
Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal
Dean Gladden breathed a sigh of relief two years ago when a $46.5 million renovation of the Alley Theatre, the first major improvement in the Tony Award-winning theater’s five-decade history, was finally completed.
Standing in the theater’s flood-damaged, putrid-smelling basement almost two weeks after Hurricane Harvey dumped trillions of gallons of rain on the nation’s fourth largest city, Mr. Gladden was almost breathless.
“I thought I was done, that the renovation was the last big project of my career,” Mr. Gladden said as he walked through the pitch-dark theater. “And now, here we are.”
Harvey’s record-setting floods hit Houston’s downtown theater district, just feet from a bayou, particularly hard.
Cultural buildings including the Wortham Center, home to the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Ballet, and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, where the Houston Symphony performs, suffered major water damage. But the Alley Theatre, inundated with over 10 feet of water, faces some of the most severe losses.
The Alley Theatre basement houses not just the complex’s electrical system but also a smaller, 310-seat stage, the Neuhaus Theatre; rehearsal rooms; changing rooms; and thousands of props and costumes. These were all but destroyed when black water—a combination of sewage, chemicals and rainwater—submerged the space.
As waters receded, new threats emerged. The seats in the Neuhaus Theater are covered in a thick layer of mold and will have to be completely ripped out. Mold has also started growing on a large number of props.
“It is just a huge mess,” said Mr. Gladden.
A layer of mold has started growing on the chairs at the Neuhaus Theatre, and must be ripped out and replaced. Mr. Gladden expects repairs to be in the millions, only a fraction of which will be covered by insurance.
A layer of mold has started growing on the chairs at the Neuhaus Theatre, and must be ripped out and replaced. Mr. Gladden expects repairs to be in the millions, only a fraction of which will be covered by insurance. Photo: Shibani Mahtani/The Wall Street Journal
On a recent visit, theater staff donning particulate masks and jumpsuits sifted through typewriters, dolls, skeletons and oversize Oriental rugs, while crews zipped around pulling out soaked equipment and pumping hot air into the area.
Alley Theater prop master Karin Rabe Vance, who has chronic lung problems, wore a ventilator as she worked 14-hour shifts in the basement.
“There’s just so much heartache—not physical and not because of my lungs, but emotionally, because of what has been lost,” Ms. Vance said, choking back tears. Of the times she has cried over the past week, the moment she said she remembers most vividly was when she spied a smiley-face mug on the floor, filled with flood water. She had made the cup for a cheerful stage manager.
When Harvey hit, a new play by Rajiv Joseph, “Describe the Night,” had been in rehearsals and was set to premiere at the Neuhaus Theatre on Sept. 15.
Mr. Gladden thought he might have to scrap the run entirely, but was able to move the production to the University of Houston’s 185-seat theater instead. Alley Theater’s office of 70 people, computer servers and other equipment also relocated to the university campus.
Tropical Storm Harvey’s impact on Texas has been catastrophic, but the city of Houston is faring worse than some others. Here’s the science of why Harvey has been especially devastating for the area. Photo: NASA
To stick to the original schedule, set designers had to redesign the play’s set for the new stage in just a week. “It was a race to get this done,” Mr. Gladden said. “Describe the Night” opened Friday to a full house, he said.
The Alley Theater will have to raise about $11 million in funding to restore the building, Mr. Gladden said, as its insurance policy only covers about $3 million in building repairs and another $4 million for equipment.
The two-year-old renovation took 14 months to finish and 70% of the $46.5 million cost came from private donors. But raising even $4 million in the current climate, given the competing needs of the city and the slump in the oil-and-gas industry, is an intimidating task.
Mr. Gladden has assigned a member of his staff to apply for available grants to help fund the renovation, including the National Endowment for the Humanities’ emergency grants for cultural institutions hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Applications for the federal grant opened last Thursday, allowing institutions to apply for up to $30,000 to preserve documents, artworks or structures damaged by the hurricane. The NEH gave out about $2 million in similar funding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“The idea is to get the money to these institutions who need it as fast as possible,” said Paula Wasley, a spokeswoman for the NEH.
Mr. Gladden expects to reopen the main theater by November, in time for “A for Christmas Carol,” but the Neuhaus Theatre will take longer.
Still, staff—many of whom are also contending with personal losses of homes and more—are keeping it all in perspective. “The important thing is that we are all standing here, safe,” said Ms. Vance. “The rest of it—all this stuff—we can rebuild. It is just stuff.”
Not every school is a Power 5 NCAA school, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing what it takes to make game-day experiences more enjoyable for their guests.
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SD Mines) in Rapid City, South Dakota, is welcoming a new LED video display at O’Harra Stadium as well as a new marquee display manufactured and installed by Daktronics. The new displays were installed before the start of the 2017 football season.
“Partnerships and branding with Daktronics elevates our game time experience for our fans and scholar-athletes,” said SD Mines Athletics Director Joel Lueken. “We couldn’t be happier with our scoreboard.”
The new display measures 20.5 feet high by 35 feet wide and features a 15HD pixel layout for excellent image clarity and contrast. It is capable of variable content zoning allowing it to show one large image or to show multiple zones of live video, instant replays, statistics, graphics and sponsorship messages.
Capable of full-color imagery and graphics, the school’s new marquee display measures 5.5 feet high by 12 feet wide with 15-millimeter line spacing to welcome fans and promote upcoming events and sponsors.
“Daktronics appreciates the opportunity to once again partner with SD Mines for these display upgrades at O’Harra Stadium,” said Matt Warnke, Daktronics sales representative. “This technology will help in taking the game-day environment to the next level. We look forward to the football season and the 2018 track season to see the impact of these displays.”
Additionally, a game clock/running clock will be installed for the football and track seasons measuring 4 feet high by 14 feet wide. Two play clocks will cap off the stadium’s upgrades to keep fans immersed in the action throughout each event.
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,859 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929.
Industry veteran Joe Sassano, who led the opening of the Edmund P. Joyce Athletic & Convocation Center in 1968 on the campus of the University of Notre Dame before his retirement in 2003, passed away on September 19 at the age of 85.
“I am saddened to inform you that Joe Sassano passed away at his home,” Fighting Irish Media (FIM) executive director Dan Skendzel said in an email. “He had been in and out of the hospital over the past few weeks dealing with congenital heart failure and will be missed.”
Sassano attended Notre Dame, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1955 and a master’s in guidance and counseling in 1959.
Sassano had been of the Joyce Center management since the building opened in 1968. He previously spent nine years as head football coach at Weber High School in Chicago, winning two Catholic League titles. He’s a 1955 Notre Dame graduate who also earned a master’s degree from Notre Dame in 1959.
“Not only was Joe a legend in the Notre Dame community for decades, but he also was a champion of supporting young professionals in our industry,” said Doug Booher, CFE, IAVM chair and director of University Events/Indiana University Event Services/Indiana University Auditorium. “As a South Bend native, I found Joe to be an early role model as I attended and worked on events that he hosted at the Joyce Center. He was a true professional and consummate gentleman; his kindness will not be forgotten.”
Visitation will be Sunday September 24th from 4-8 pm at the Kaniewski Funeral Home in South Bend. Monday morning visitation at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame from 8:30-9:15. A mass of Christian Burial will follow at 9:30 at the Basillica. Burial will follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Notre Dame. To send online condolences, please visit kaniewski.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to the College Scholarship Fund of the Italian-American Heritage Society of Notre Dame/Michiana, P.O. Box 1201, South Bend, IN 46624.
Want to learn more about IAVM’s Academy for Venue Safety & Security? Register now to join our informational webinar on September 28, 2017 at 3:30 pm EDT.
Speakers will include AVSS Chair Paul Turner, CFE, CSSP, Senior Director of Event Operations at AT&T Stadium, Mark Herrera, IAVM Director of Education/DHS Public Facilities Subsector Council, and a current Year 1 AVSS student.
This webinar is for venue and event managers, security professionals, and key personnel making sound decisions about the safety and security of guests, artists, teams, and staff. Attendees will be provided an overview of the International Association of Venue Mangers-Academy for Venue Safety & Security (AVSS) scheduled for February 15-19, 2018 in Minneapolis MN.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) announced it has received the “Outstanding Venue Award” at the 2017 AFECA Asian Awards in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on September 6. Beating strong competitors from the region, the HKCEC’s leading position as one of the best convention and exhibition venues in the region was reaffirmed.
Monica Lee-Müller, managing director of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management) Limited (“HML”), themanagement company of the HKCEC, said, “We are delighted to receive this prestigious award from the Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations (AFECA) and industry peers, as it demonstrates our ongoing commitment to service excellence is being recognized by the industry. The award is a clear testimony of our continuous efforts in upgrading the HKCEC’s infrastructure, uplifting our service standards and driving sustainability.”
HML team’s professionalism also wins applauds from international event organizers.
Michael Duck, executive vice President of UBM Asia Limited, said, “The HKCEC is home to many of UBM’s most important regional and global exhibitions and we are very demanding on excellence in our venues. The HKCEC team is definitely one of the best among our venue partners in terms of service delivery, professionalism and dedication. Also, HKCEC’s continuous commitment to sustainability helps raise industry standards.”
Stuart Bailey, managing director of Diversified Communications Hong Kong, LLC, added, “The HKCEC is one of the best exhibition venues in the world and the management team who operate it are the reason for that fact.”
The HKCEC has already garnered 14 international and local awards and certificates since the beginning of 2017, including “Best International Convention and Exhibition Centre 2017” in Hong Kong Business Awards conducted by APAC Insider magazine, “Top 10 Conference Destinations” by Business Destinations magazine, “10 Years Plus Caring Company logo” by Hong Kong Council of Social Service, and “Indoor Air Quality Certificate” by HKSAR Government’s Environmental Protection Department. HML is the first organization in Hong Kong to obtain the ISO 20121 Event Sustainability Management System certificate.
The AFECA Asian Awards is organised by AFECA, the leading MICE industry association in Asia. With judges from various professional disciplines, the Awards is an annual regional event to celebrate and acknowledge excellence in the exhibition and convention industry, based on various criteria such as service standards, facility management, marketing and sustainability. It also promotes best practices in the region, and recognises the contributions of members in the global marketplace.