Raising the roof at Port Jefferson’s Theatre Three

Raising the roof at Port Jefferson’s Theatre Three

By Rita J. Egan

The staff at Theatre Three is making sure audiences and cast members won’t be “Singin’ in the Rain” inside their over 150-year-old building with their ongoing campaign, Raise the Roof. The fund will help repair the structure’s aging roof, which, when wet weather arrives, sometimes leaks rain into various parts of the structure.

Douglas Quattrock, director of development and group sales and special events coordinator, said the damage to the roof has occurred over the years, and whether it leaks depends on the type of rain. “Sometimes we get a heavy driving rain and there’s nothing because it’s moving so fast. And then, sometimes when it just rains steadily over a few days, it just all of a sudden seeps in and finds its way down into the lobby area, over the lighting board, and there have even been times it’s in back of the stage, on the stage,” he said. The theater, which was built in the 1860s, was utilized at first as a town meeting hall, even though it wasn’t owned by the town, according to Quattrock.

Originally named Athena Hall, events such as political rallies, school graduations and performances were held there, and it was even used as a roller skating rink at one point when the floor was flat, with folding chairs that could easily be removed. Quattrock said the building during the early years had a balcony as well as a machine shop downstairs. The shop was where Fred Griswold invented the film splicer that was used in motion films until digital became the norm, and Thomas Edison came to the theater and showed the first film on the island there.

The director of development has been with the theater since 1982, and he said he doesn’t remember the roof ever being replaced. From what Quattrock has been told, the average roof should be replaced every 25 years. “It’s been patched and re-patched so many times over the years. We’re just putting Band-Aids on the Titantic,” he said.

According to Quattrock, there have been times when the water has leaked into the recently constructed handicap bathroom, and because water has seeped in over the lighting board, they have hung plastic on the ceiling in that area. He said structural damage has already occurred in the attic and on the roof, and future damage could range from simply aesthetic to mold problems, including in the main part of the building.

The biggest donations to repair the roof are collected at performances, but theatergoers can also send contributions through the website. When donating, one can specify that he or she wants the money to go directly to the roof. So far, the community theater has managed to collect approximately $15,000, but they still have a large amount to raise, as the theater has received estimates between $40,000 and $60,000 to repair the roof.

Quattrock said donors giving specifically to the roof are a big help to the theater, as they don’t want to increase their ticket prices to cover the expense. He said while maintenance of the historical building is important, the not-for-profit tries to keep their ticket prices reasonable for the community so they can continue enjoying the programming at the theater. “When we have to divert our funds to these huge projects, we don’t want to let it affect the money that we have to put into keeping our productions at the quality that our customers expect,” Quattrock said.

For information on how you can help Theatre Three Raise the Roof, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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