The Afflicted: Ray Cullom, 42, executive director of ’30s Art Deco movie palace turned live venue Bethesda Theatre.
Diagnosis: Near drowning. Last month, a broken water pipe damaged the newly restored theater, extinguishing its run of the Leiber and Stoller revue Smokey Joe’s Cafe. On Friday, April 18, a lighting-board operator arrived to find water raining down through the ceiling. “At that point, it was rather hard to miss,” says Cullom.
Symptoms: Sunk costs. After turning away that night’s crowd with discounted tickets to Lord of the Flies at nearby Round House Theatre, Cullom & Co. immersed themselves in the wreckage. “We’re having to deal with the fact that water and gravity are a bad combination,” says Cullom, who says it will take weeks to assess the extent of the damage, which stretches from the control booth to the lobby to the Art Deco ceiling stretching above the audience. For now, the theater remains in cell-phone-dropped-in-toilet mode. “We have to wait until it’s completely dry until we can see what will work again and what won’t,” says Cullom.
Treatment: Accept a bit of a dry spell but work on cash flow. As a battery of fans are circulating to speed up the dehydration process, Smokey Joe’s Cafe is closed for business. Cullom is talking with insurers, but for now he’s swallowing production costs along with the physical damages. To stop the rising tide of expenses, Bethesda Theatre is diving back into shows; Cullom says that the theater’s planned summer hiatus will be scrapped in favor of a new production, World of Jewtopia, to debut June 4.
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