Eight months after Sandy, Rockaway Theatre set to relaunch

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

It is curtains up once more at the Rockaway Theatre.

The community theater, located in Breezy Point’s Fort Tilden, was completely destroyed during Sandy. But the show must go on, and the Rockaway group is officially ready to reopen its doors.

A production of “The Rockaway Café” will open on Friday, July 19 and run through early August. The cast has been rehearsing its comeback on a newly built, post-Sandy stage.

“We’re ready to reintroduce the whole theater to the community,” said Stephen Ryan, an actor in various theater productions.

Ryan was cast in the play “Brighton Beach Memoirs” that showed on Sunday, October 28, just one day before Sandy.

“We knew the storm was coming. I didn’t think it was going to be as bad as they were saying,” he said. “The show went on, but we just made a quick exit.”

“I assumed this place floated away,” he added.

Susan Jasper, the theater’s production manager, said she returned to the site after the storm to find water had come down through the audience’s section, washed over the stage and rushed back into the dressing room.

“This was a disaster in many ways,” Jasper said.

Floors and walls were replaced; the stage, built in 1942, was rebuilt; the dressing room was redone; props and sets were replaced and repairs are far from over. The building needed mold remediation as well.

Jasper estimates all of the damages amount to roughly $200,000. They have not received any help from FEMA or the Red Cross and are “back to square one” — not for the first time. The facility was completely rehabilitated when Jasper took over in 1997.

The theater’s children’s program is held typically every September through March. After the storm hit, Jasper had to cancel the program and refund parents. Additionally, the group had to postpone the production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” from November to March.

The show was instead shown at Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach.

“The way I originally envisioned the production had to be drastically changed,” said Chaz Peacock, the show’s director.

Locals had to pull out due to their own homes’ damages, half of the production had to be recast and the actors performed on a much smaller stage.

Now, ready to reopen, “The Rockaway Café” is set as the theater’s annual variety show. Each year, the show has a specific genre of music. This year, the theater is “saluting the storm” with songs like “I Made it Through the Rain.”

“Act one is devastation, act two is uplifting,” Jasper said.

There will also be raffles at all matinee performances. Local merchants have donated gifts and gift certificates and the theater group is still accepting donations of any kind.

“The loyalty of people involved helped us get back,” Peacock said.

Admission to “The Rockaway Café” will be $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and children. All proceeds will help defray the costs of rebuilding. For information on how to help or showtimes, call 718-374-6400.



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