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South Jordan Journal

Theater company seeks community help to restore fire damaged theater

Aug 02, 2021 01:18PM ● By Alison Brimley

Fire crews work to extinguish the flames that engulfed the roof of Early Light Academy on June 24. (Photo courtesy Stephanie Schmidt)

By Alison Brimley | [email protected]

Around 5 p.m. on the evening of Thursday, June 24, fire crews were called to the campus of Early Light Academy, a K–9 charter school in South Jordan. The roof of Early Light Academy’s theater facility, home of the local Kensington Theater Company, had caught fire. First responders worked quickly and were able to contain the fire to the exterior of one section of the roof, said Stephanie Schmidt, Early Light Academy’s executive director. It appeared that the fire had been caused by lightning.

Fortunately, no one was on the school’s campus at the time of the fire, so no one was harmed.  And though the fire damage was contained to the roof, reports Kensington Theater Company’s website, the large amount of water used to douse the flames into the stage area soaked the lighting, curtains, sets, flooring and more. 

Today, the project of cleanup and restoration is nearly complete. This included repairing the fire-damaged roof, as well as removing water and debris and drying the interior of the theater. “We are confident that all cleanup, restoration, and construction work will be completed before school begins mid-August,” Schmidt said.

Currently the school doesn’t have a clear idea of how much the repairs will cost. However, they are working closely with their insurance and contractors to ensure that the cost is fair and will be covered by their insurance company. 

Kensington’s website reports that they’ve seen an “overwhelming response” from community members hoping to help restore the theater. The best way to do so is by purchasing a “legacy seat.” Legacy seats can be purchased for $75, $150, $225, or $300 and each one allows donors to put their names on the chair of their choice in the theatre. So far, Kensington has sold a few legacy seats but hopes to sell more.

Schmidt said, “Their theater family has been quick to help by rolling up their sleeves; they’ve been cleaning and doing simple repairs to theater equipment so we can use it again soon.”

Kensington Theater Company has its origins in 2007, when the Daybreak Community Council, in response to the requests of residents, put on “The Wizard of Oz.” That production involved over 200 community members and sold out many performances. Some “Wizard of Oz” cast members then proceeded to form Daybreak Community Theatre, an independent community theatre. South Jordan City soon embraced the company, which then became South Jordan Community Theatre.

Seven seasons later, the company moved into a new location, on the campus of Early Light Academy, and changed its name to Kensington Theatre Company (named for Kensington Gardens, where Peter Pan was performed for the first time.)

Early Light Academy and Kensington Theatre Company have worked together since 2009. But after the academy built a new junior high, at the beginning of the 2015–16 school year, Kensington began to use the theater space for their performances. 

“The theater was designed to be a stellar performing arts space that includes an orchestra pit, a fly system, an expanded stage to hold a large cast, and stadium seating,” Schmidt says.  And Kensington has made many improvements to the school’s theater facilities too. “The school is able to use Kensington’s equipment for the school’s performances and daily operations. Kensington supports the school’s theater program in various ways, and Kensington provides valuable opportunities for students to get experience working on their performances.”

Before the fire, Kensington had just closed its run of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Their Teen Theater Boot Camp had a recital scheduled for June 25—the day after the fire. The recital was moved to Mountain Ridge High School, who kindly allowed the company to use its theater space at the last minute. 

Other scheduled performances will be able to proceed as usual. Kensington’s next production, “Urinetown,” will take place in ELA’s Black Box Theater, which was untouched by the fire. “Princess Academy” is scheduled to begin shows in December.

“Early Light Academy appreciates and wants to publicly thank the fire department for responding immediately and doing such a great job of putting the fire out,” Schmidt said. “The school and Kensington Theatre Company appreciate the support and encouragement they have received from the community.”