Thanks to a core group of people who stayed behind during September’s Category 4 Hurricane Irma, the show will go on at the Marathon Community Theatre.
Jim Kelly, Claudia McEwen, Paul Buckley and John Schaeffer moved quick after the storm blew over on Sept. 10 to save the decades-old, 9,000-square-foot building that houses a cinema and playhouse near mile marker 50 oceanside.
On a tour through the revamped building Friday, Kelly and McEwen explained where water came through the ceiling “like a waterfall.” Irma’s winds in excess of 100 mph rearranged a 12-ton air handler on top of the building and rolled the roof up like a cigar, Kelly said.
Fortunately, the playhouse room, which seats 151, didn’t sustain too much damage. It was the cinema that was “destroyed,” Kelly said.
“The entire ceiling came down,” he said, pointing to a 12-by-10-foot area of new ceiling where the air handler was picked up on the roof. Then rainwater came in and flooded the place, after which mold grew fast.
“We did a minimum of 10 bio bombs in here to be able to keep the fabric on the walls,” he said, adding the chairs had to be washed four times to be saved. Total cost for renovations are around $203,000, according to a GoFundMe page where $13,200 has been raised.
It was Kelly’s sixth Category 3 or higher storm. The former St. Croix resident said he knew what to expect and was ready to get to work the day after the winds and water abated.
“He was in the right place at the right time and exactly what we needed,” McEwen said, adding Buckley, Schaeffer and volunteers were also instrumental in getting the theater back up and running.
McEwen is treasurer of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Marathon Community Theatre Inc. and handled the insurance paperwork while Kelly, president since June, started the renovation process. Ron’s Restoration Services did the mitigation work.
“What saved this building was us being here,” he said. “I wouldn’t have stayed had I not known I could be part of the solution.”
The focus was to get the cinema, which has seven paid employees, back up and running, he said. Weekly movie showings started again in October and a musical reading at the playhouse of “The Last Five Years” happened last weekend.
“We’re doing a compressed schedule this year,” Kelly said of the playhouse. Complete sets have to be rebuilt after they were warped by the water that came through the roof, while actors and volunteers are still putting their lives back together post-storm, McEwen said.
Dec. 9, the Fringe Theatre in Key West will bring its reading of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to Marathon as a fundraiser.
“Then, a week after that, we’ll do our Christmas variety show,” McEwen said. In February, Kelly will start directing “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
The Marathon Community Theatre has been at 5101 Overseas Highway since 1995, while the Marathon Community Theatre was founded as the Marathon Little Theatre in 1944.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219