Montclair Studio Players
Theater props, furniture and paraphernalia lie scattered around the basement at Studio Playhouse on Alvin Street. The Montclair Studio Players lost almost their entire stock of props and stage sets when the basement flooded on Aug. 11. PHOTO COURTESY MONTCLAIR STUDIO PLAYERS

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The magic trunk is gone.

So are the period typewriters, a collection of antique rugs, and several tubs of children’s books that were to appear onstage in a show this October.

The Montclair Studio Players lost almost their entire stock of set pieces and props when the basement at Studio Playhouse on Alvin Street flooded on Aug. 11.

“Well, everyone’s kind of shell-shocked,” said Amy Fox, the president of Studio Players. She and a crew of volunteers had been at the theater on Monday, trying to clear out the basement so repairs could start.

“Our entire workshop, which is full of our set pieces, is pretty much a total loss,” Fox said.

The basement’s slop sink was dislodged from the floor, and Fox expected the furnace was going to need repairs.

Water poured into the basement, apparently from two sources: the sewers, and through doors when flood waters ran down the driveway at the edge of the property.

The force of the water was enough to cause furniture to start floating around the basement. Some of the furniture crashed into a rack of paint cans, causing them to spill.

The theater was awaiting an inspection from Studio Players’ insurance adjuster as of Monday afternoon. Insurance adjustments depend on whether most of the water came up from the sewer, which is covered under their insurance, or in through a window or door, which might not be, said Fox.

The theater is the home base for the Essex Youth Theater. Because the theater’s electrical panel was damaged, Fox said it was likely that the Essex Youth Theater would have to rely on the work lights instead of using the full theater lights for its upcoming show. The stage and theater were not effected. Students who use the theater for camp would still have a place to perform.

The theater’s set collection includes furniture collected a piece at a time over the years, some of it almost 100 years old. A lot of these items have great sentimental value, Fox said, and are going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to replace.

Fox was especially saddened over the fate of the theater’s magic trunk: an antique trunk that someone had outfitted with an “escape hatch” at the back, enabling someone to magically appear and disappear in it. The trunk has been a featured prop in many of Studio Players’ children’s shows over the years, to the extent that Studio Players named one of its regular programs for children after the trunk.

“Putting it out to go into a dumpster today was just heartbreaking,” Fox said. “It’s the worst. It’s terrible.”

The lost props also included period typewriters and artwork that community members had donated over the years. “That’s all gone.”

It may be close to a month before the Studio Players are able to accept donations of new goods, or are able to start replacing its lost props and sets. The basement needs to be cleaned, dried out and disinfected.

But Fox said that if community members have furniture or props that they would like to donate, they can hold on to them until the basement is ready to hold items again.

The Studio Players’ season is expected to go ahead as planned. The first mainstage show, set in a library, is planned for October.

But the theater had been collecting children’s books and bookshelves to use in that show, and all of those were lost in the flood. The theater will have to start collecting books all over again.

The first show in September will be a staged reading of a Sept. 11-themed play, “The Guys.” Since it is a staged reading, Fox said the play requires a very small set: not much more than a love seat.

“The Montclair community has always been good to us, the community at large has been good to us.” Fox said.

For more information on how to donate, visit the Montclair Studio Players’ website at studioplayhouse.org. 

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