A small section of ceiling inside the historic Johnson City Community Theatre, 600 E. Maple St., suddenly collapsed Monday, but a fix is already in the works.
Johnson City Community Theatre Vice President Emily Barnes, who also works in advertising for the Johnson City Press, said people were inside the building when the section collapsed, but no one was injured.
“There were people in the building, but we immediately shut down the theater. People were moved downstairs very, very quick. Action was taken to preserve people’s safety because the last thing we’d every want is someone to get hurt in that building,” Barnes said.
“We had four different contractors come in, look at it and give us their opinion on how to fix it. We, as a board, pretty much stayed in constant contact for 48 hours, just deciding what was the best and safest option because we have ‘Rocky Horror’ in two weeks.”
Barnes said three contractors looked at the damage Tuesday night, and all determined the ceiling could be mended before the first showing of “The Rocky Horror Show” on Oct. 18.
“We took the necessary steps to get this thing fixed immediately so that our patrons, our actors and anyone involved in the theater can feel safe because that’s the most important thing to us,” Barnes said.
“They’re actually starting to fix it tonight. There’s new supports going in (and) there’s extra studs that aren’t needed (going in) just for support because we’re not taking any chances.”
Since the building is well over 50 years old, the theater’s board of directors was already planning to launch a capital fundraising campaign next year to start renovations. Now, Barnes said that campaign may kick off a little sooner than expected.
Barnes said the plaster-made ceiling will be temporarily fixed until funds can be raised for the whole roof to be replaced.
“It is 100 percent safe, but it’s a temporary fix because the overall goal will be to take all the plaster down. It’s just that one section that has the damage, which caused it to fall. The rest of it is actually very fine. (The contractors) found that out when they examined the ceiling,” she said.
Additionally, Barnes said the theater is in negotiations with Press Publisher Justin Wilcox to permanently use a warehouse at the newspaper’s downtown location as another site to host performances and rehearsals.
The Johnson City Community Theatre was recently recognized by the state of Tennessee for being the oldest theater group in the state, first formed in 1885.
Known then as the Johnson City Dramatic Society, the group put on its first production, “An American Girl,” at the VA Memorial Theater in 1912. It wasn’t until 1956 when the theatre group found a permanent home at the former Temple Baptist Church on East Maple Street.
For those interested in donating to the theatre, visit http://jccommunitytheatre.org/donate-now/. To buy tickets to an upcoming show, click here.