It was a jarring discovery worthy of Ebeneezer Scrooge following a performance of “A Christmas Carol”: a cracked beam above the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre’s stage.
It soon became clear that the damage was serious.
An inspection the next day revealed a compromised roof and catwalk system of The Stage at Island Park, which worsened a few days later, when the catwalk structure began to sag. The storied theatre, built in 1967, was closed after officials declared it unsafe.
The timing couldn’t have been worse, coming amid runs of popular holiday season productions, which also included “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Fortunately the shows did go on. “A Christmas Carol” moved to the community theater’s secondary stage, Studio 6 Broadway, while “A Charlie Brown Christmas” moved to Concordia College’s Francis Frazier Comstock Theatre for performances last weekend, with a local radio version broadcast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre is uncertain about what it might cost to make the building safe, or whether it is repairable — a troublesome dark cloud hovering over a fixture of the local arts scene for more than 70 years.
Community involvement has been integral to the theater since its establishment in 1946. Ever since, it’s been a vital part of the cultural life of Fargo-Moorhead. Besides hosting scores of memorable stage productions over the years, The Stage at Island Park is the venue for 1 Million Cups and talent shows, to cite just a couple of examples.
When news of the building’s structural problem was announced, many chimed in with fond memories of their connection to the theater.
The Stage at Island Park was built in 1967 with support from local unions and the Fargo Park District. Community members pitched in on the construction, sparing the need for a capital fund drive.
Now that the theater is in peril, we call upon the community to rally once again in support of The Stage at Island Park. Just as theater casts draw energy from the audience during live performances, here’s a chance for community members to once again pitch to ensure that this cultural gem remains viable.
Clearly, whether repairs are possible or a new home is needed for The Stage, the cost will be considerable. We’re confident this community won’t allow the final curtain to go down on our theater.
We’ll keep readers abreast of developments, including any appeals for help. Meanwhile, donations can be made online at http://www.fmct.org/.