THE SHOW MUST GO ON: MITIGATION MEASURES PAY OFF FOR YOUTH THEATER
NOVEMBER 28 - BRATTLEBORO – When Tropical Storm Irene came barreling up the East Coast in August, the managing director of the New England Youth Theater in Brattleboro, Michelle Meima, was in Washington, DC.
“Rick Barron, our technical director, and Jerry Stockman, our lighting director called me and said, ‘There’s a storm coming. We’d better put up the flood gates.’ My reaction was, ‘Is it really going to be that bad?’” Meima recalled. “They said yes, but nobody thought it would be as bad as it was.”
That simple step – deploying perhaps the most low-tech and cheapest of the flood-mitigation measures installed as part of the theater’s renovation – turned out to be invaluable.
On August 28, the adjacent Whetstone Brook jumped its banks and flooded a broad swath of the low-lying Flat Street area where the New England Youth Theater is located. Nearly two feet of water surged all around the building and those surrounding it.
But thanks to the 20-inch high aluminum panels set across its five doorways, the refurbished industrial space – built in 1982 by Tri State Automotive to expand its machine shop operation – withstood the deluge with only a small amount of water on its floor, caused by the wicking through its carpets.
While other businesses in the area were devastated, the staff and parents of the roughly 300 youths who belong to the theater were able to tear out the carpets and clean up the silt mostly on their own, and within a week the theater was hosting classes and performances.
Meima expects the $5,000 carpet replacement and some other losses will be picked up by the non-profit’s flood insurance.
“This is why FEMA offers financial assistance for flood mitigation projects,” said Angela Magara, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Branch Director. “It’s much less expensive to avoid damage from a flood or other disaster than to repair it afterwards.”
It was the requirements of the town’s flood plain ordinance – in conjunction with its membership in the National Flood Insurance Program – that prompted the NEYT to install flood mitigation measures after it purchased the former Tri-State Automotive warehouse and several adjacent buildings in 2006.
The theater was founded in 1998 by Stockman and Stephen Sterns, and produced its first show at Landmark College in nearby Putney, Vt. the next year. Months later, it eventually landed at the site of a former restaurant attached to the historic Latchis Theater complex in downtown Brattleboro, a town of just over 12,000 people.
Purchasing the former Tri State Automotive campus – which includes the building that houses the theater as well as several historical buildings adjacent to it – the NEYT embarked on an ambitious plan to make the new theater the centerpiece of an arts center that would also include a music venue.
As the group planned its renovations of the newest of the buildings, including the stage, a new lobby, concession area, and restrooms, their architect, Chip Greenberg from Greenberg Associates, specified several mitigation measures to comply with the town’s flood plain rules, including:
· Adding a 6-inch reinforced concrete slab and two inches of rigid foam over the existing 5-inch slab floor to resist hydrostatic pressure;
· Elevating the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment and electrical feeds as well as anchoring the fuel tank;
· Flood-proofing the sewer and water systems;
· Installing a sump pump, backflow preventors and gate valves.
In addition, several tons of concrete were poured into and around the “nose” of the building which faced Whetstone Brook, both to armor and anchor the structure, and the floodgates installed.
“We did the flood-proofing design for the building to meet the FEMA dry flood-proofing requirements,” said Robert Stevens, president of Brattleboro-based Stevens and Associates engineering. “It was a retrofit, so we benefited from having a reasonably sound structure to begin with.”
The fact that other nearby buildings were heavily flooded, and some had their foundations undermined, is a testament not only to the design but the skill of the contractors in executing it, he said.
“It held up quite well,” Stevens said. “And that’s what it’s supposed to do, if it’s designed to meet these inundation and flow rate levels.”
“We really didn’t spend a lot of money on the protection,” said Barron, who at the time of the renovation project was the chairman of the theater’s board of directors. He estimated the measures were roughly $75,000 out of the $1.5 million project cost.
“It was a good investment,” Barron said.
The New England Youth Theatre Mentors, students, faculty and staff would love to give a warm hug of appreciation to everyone that participated in the GetUp 8 flood relief concert and cabaret series that occurred on October 1st and 2nd at the NEYT.
A special thanks to co-producers and artists Scott Ainslie and Michael Hanish. Over $3000. was raised and distributed to United Way of Windham County and the Vermont Irene fund. Food for the Vermont Foodbank was also collected.
The aptly coined festival name which comes from a Japanese proverb "If you fall down seven times, get up eight" was reflected in the spirit of all of the performances which included innumerable local arts organizations and artists to whom we are deeply indebted.
From the bottom of our hearts,
Sandy Klein, NEYT Mentors & NEYT community
New England Youth Theatre, in collaboration with Scott Ainslie and Michael Hanish, presents
Get Up 8: A Flood Relief Festival.
As the floodwaters receded and New England Youth Theatre staff began mucking out the front door, Scott Ainslie, a local musician, tromped through the mud up to the front door and announced he wanted to organize a fundraiser.
“Three weeks later, we’re still mucking out, we just had our carpets replaced, but we’re really excited to open our doors for this inspiring community event,” says NEYT’s Sandy Klein.
There will be two concerts on Saturday 10/1 and Sunday 10/2 at 7:00 pm.
Performers for these evening concerts include: Becky Graber & Pentavoc, Scott Ainslie, Lisa McCormick, Sandglass Theater, Alki Steriopoulos, Samirah Evans, Buzzards Brass Band of Brattleboro, Keith Murphy & Becky Tracy, The Stockwell Brothers, and The As Yet Quartet.
Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
There will also be a cabaret on Sunday 10/2 at 1:00 pm, produced by the NEYT mentors and featuring a variety of community performers.
Performers in the cabaret include: Brattleboro Music Center, Brattleboro School of Dance, Flow Yoga, New England Center for Circus Arts, NEYT Mentors, Vermont Theater Company, NEYT’s IMP-Rovers, Tony Duncan, and Vermont’s Clown Jewels - Gould & Stearns.
Tickets for this family-centered event are all $10.
Advance tickets may be purchased on the NEYT website or in person at the theater at 100 Flat St. in Brattleboro on Wednesdays from 12-5.
If available, tickets will be sold at the door, but we recommend audiences purchase tickets in advance.
Proceeds will benefit the Vermont Irene Flood Relief Fund, which targets small businesses; and the United Way of Windham County's flood relief effort to benefit local individuals and families. We will also be partnering with the Vermont Food Bank, encouraging the folks who attend these events to bring nonperishable food donations, as well.
The title of this festival, pulls its inspiration from an old Japanese proverb, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
“Brattleboro has had a lot of hard knocks, the fire, the other tragedies, this flood. We just want to help out – help the town get up again and feel strong,” says Jess Callahan of NEYT.
This event will be held at New England Youth Theatre at 100 Flat St. in Brattleboro, VT, and is being presented by New England Youth Theatre and the NEYT Mentors.
Work Day photos. CLICK HERE
Thanks to everyone who helped clean up after the Flood!
If you couldn't be there and want to help by donating funds. CLICK HERE
New England Youth Theatre says: The Show Must Go On!
Many of us witnessed the dramatic effects of hurricane Irene on Sunday. The Whetstone Brook gushed over its banks in a frightening way, engulfing Flat St. in downtown Brattleboro.
New England Youth Theatre was enveloped in the floodwaters, but had many protective measures in place, including two-foot flood gates at every exit.
“Right now, we don’t know the true extent of the damage, but after walking through the building this morning, we are very optimistic,” said Jerry Stockman, who has worked with the organization since its first production almost twelve years ago.
Inspectors from the Brattleboro Fire Department, State of Vermont, AL Tyler & Sons, and a structural engineer have all done assessments of the damage to the building. NEYT's building passed all inspections, has had its power restored and now may be occupied. Cleanup is underway.
“They seemed surprised that we fared so well,” said Rick Barron, Technical Director at NEYT. “There was not a lot of water damage inside, but we were very prepared. We had our floodgates up, and they’re what saved us, undoubtedly.”
The parking lot, recreational field, and tent area on the NEYT property are covered in mud, silt, and debris deposited by the brook. Volunteers will be needed to help clear the mess.
All classes and rehearsals will begin on schedule – rehearsals starting on September 6th and classes on September 12th. NEYT would like to encourage students and families to continue registering for fall classes and to audition for upcoming shows. For more information on classes and auditions, click on Programs at the top of this page.
The show must and will go on.
New England Youth Theatre will be posting brief updates and information on this page, as well its Facebook page.
“Our hearts go out to all the individuals and local businesses affected by this disaster,” said Managing Director Michelle Meima. “We will do what we can to support our neighbors, families, and community as we recover from Irene.”
If anyone is interested in donating to the theatre in this time of need, please CLICK HERE.
Photographs from the Flood: August 28 at 4:30. Photos by Deb Lazar. The arrow in the first photo indicates the high water mark.
More photos post flood on August 29 from Deb Lazar.