South Orange Performing Arts Center reopening delayed because of flooding
Just as a New Jersey theater was set to reopen following an 18-month COVID-19 shutdown, it now faces another setback from Mother Nature.
The South Orange Performing Arts Center was set to reopen its main stage to full capacity. But then came flooding from the remnants of Ida.
“And now it feels like the rug is pulled out from under us,” says executive director Dee Billia.
Billia says that when the water from the storm gushed into the theater, it washed away all the hope for much-anticipated shows on the main stage. The lobby, auditorium floor, elevators and orchestra pit were all damaged in the flood.
"This is a catastrophic event we have no control over. I think the artists are understanding. My heart goes out to them because what they’ve been through and not being able to work for a year and a half,” Billia says.
The venue has also had limited income during the pandemic. Billia says that the damage can’t be repaired in time for certain upcoming shows to take place. But he says he remains optimistic.
“That's what people in the theater do. You just pick up and move on,” he says.
Performances have been called off through at least Oct. 1. Billia is hoping that the theater can reopen after that date, but it will depend on repairs.
Village Cinemas located within SOPAC was not damaged and remains open. SOPAC is a nonprofit theater and is accepting donations through its website to help cover costs from the storm.