S Jersey’s Grand collapsed today

Howard Haas sent in this article from The Gloucester County Times

Roof damage means exit, stage right for Monroe Township actors

Friday, May 14, 2010 By DJ McAneny
djmcaneny@sjnewsco.com

MONROE TWP. This past winter’s heavy snowfall added up to a bit of structural damage for one of the township’s oldest institutions when the ceiling of the Grand Theater buckled and tore through a portion of the original tin roof.

The theater is home to Williamstown’s own Road Company theater group. They are a non-profit organization made up of volunteers who participate in the shows solely for the love of their craft. The group was founded in 1976, but the actual theater itself predates the group by more than 50 years, having been built in 1924. And now the staple of Main Street is turning to the residents of the town for help.

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“All of the snow we had this winter put a lot of extra weight on the roof, damaging the roof trusses,” said Lauri Hudson, president of the theater group. “And it’s all timber framing. This building was built in 1924.”

The group had to scramble to find a replacement venue when the damage occurred just before their production of “The Sound of Music” was set to run. The township stepped in to assist the group, allowing them use of the theater at the Williamstown Middle School.

“The middle school was great in helping us get in, to move our show so we didn’t have to cancel it,” Hudson said. “I know (Mayor Michael Gabbianelli) contacted (Superintendent Charles Earling) and asked him if he could help make it happen in an economical way for us, and they were very gracious. We met with them, I think, on a Monday and by Thursday we were in the middle school. They really turned it around and cleared their schedule for us to be able to do the show.”

The Road Company managed to put on the musical, but only after a rush to find a solution. Additionally, a special event featuring six one-act plays that were all finalists from a special contest had to be put on hold. So Hudson is hoping the work on the building will be completed in time not to disrupt any further performances.

She’d like to see everything completed in one month.

“The best-case scenario is two to three weeks,” Hudson said. “That’s an antique tin ceiling. With any old building, once you start taking that stuff down, removing seats, jacking up the trusses and doing what they have to do, hopefully they won’t run into any more problems and we can be back on track within a month or so.”

The group will be holding its annual fundraising event, Casino Night, this Saturday at VFW Post 1616. It will be open to anyone interested in attending as long as he or she is over 21. Hudson is hoping games like blackjack, roulette and poker Ð with prizes and food available via donations from local businesses Ð will spur people to come out and have a good time while supporting the organization.

“All the support we need at this point is unfortunately monetary,” Hudson said. “To keep the group going and for the repairs. The fundraiser, Casino Night, is just a fun way to have people, when they come to the door, are basically making a donation and getting a fun evening as well. Local businesses donated gift certificates, baskets and prizes we’ll be giving away and we’ll have a DJ playing. It’s a fun night.”

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