Ida floods Westport Playhouse, causing ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ in damage

Photo of Amanda Cuda

WESTPORT — Despite the rain, things were going well at the Westport Country Playhouse Wednesday night.

Singer Gavin Creel was performing two shows at the venue, which were being taped for a future national television broadcast. “At the 7 p.m. show everything looked good, and I decided to go home after it was done,” said Playhouse managing director Michael Barker.

But, as heavy rains and wind from Hurricane Ida began to build, water began to flow into the building, flooding hallways, performer dressing rooms, the green room, the boiler room and other spaces on the lower level and in the basement. Barker said the damage was catastrophic and, though the costs had not been assessed yet, “it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to clean up.”

The damage is particularly bittersweet, as the Playhouse recently announced it was returning to in-person theatrical performances after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of its performances to take place virtually. John Patrick Shanley’s acclaimed play “Doubt” was intended to be the first show to be performed live and in person.

The good news, Barker said, is that the performance will still likely take place. Though cleaning up the flood waters could take months, Barker said one of the few silver linings is that the Playhouse’s public spaces, including the lobby and seating areas — aren’t damaged, so performances can still continue.

A concert with Brandon Victor Dixon took place Thursday night and future performances, including the run of “Doubt” scheduled for November, are slated to continue.

In the meantime, Barker said, he’s been amazed by the outpouring of support he’s received since news of the flooding spread — both from the public, and from the Playhouse’s staff. He said, after the storm, a “bucket brigade” of employees showed up to help with initial cleanup. And a plea for donations on the Playhouse’s Facebook page led to more than $20,000 in contributions on Thursday alone, Barker said.

“There’s been an amazing outpouring of support,” Barker said. “The few bright spots (Thursday) were the spirit of our staff pivoting from one disaster to another, and having that support form community. I must have had about 100 emails yesterday asking what to do to help.”

Barker said donations will continue to be accepted. He said he’s also received requests from people looking to help with cleanup and, though he’s not sure what assistance they will need, he is reading and reviewing all correspondence.

“It’s just been overwhelming,” he said.

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