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‘A part of my life just crumbled’: Plans to rebuild after fire at Kenai community theatre

A flier from the Triumvirate Theatre in Kenai asking for financial help after the theatre burnt...
A flier from the Triumvirate Theatre in Kenai asking for financial help after the theatre burnt down in late February.(Joe Rizzo)
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Feb. 20, around 3:15 a.m., Alaska State Troopers were notified of a fire at the Triumvirate Community Theatre in Kenai. No one was hurt; however, after the building was described as a total loss, hearts were broken across the community.

Theatre president, Joe Rizzo, said he got the call from a friend and felt helpless while he watched the theatre burn down. He said they’ve been building it up for years since moving to the location from the Soldotna Mall in 2007. They even just finish installing an expansion to the theatre two weeks before the fire.

“It’s kind of like losing a family member in some ways. I mean it’s not as bad as that but it certainly has the same elements of grief,” Rizzo said. “We worked on this theatre for ten years. You know remodeling it, and having shows here. There’s a memory in every plank of that stage.”

He said it was the community members that built the memories and the stage. For two years, he said the shop class from Nikiski High School was out helping with the remodel.

Rizzo said children had a very important role at the theatre. Many of their performances were focused around kids’ plays.

Kids like Kincaid Jenness and Oceanna Broussard have been involved with the theatre most of their lives, and grew up knowing about it. When they heard the news, they said they didn’t know what to think.

“I got the call in the morning when I woke up from my mom,” Broussard said. “And I was at a friends house at the time and I just started bawling tears.”

“I didn’t know what to think,” Jenness said. “It was like part of my life had just crumbled.”

Youthful actors like Jenness and Broussard would put on shows while building bonds with grownups in the area like Ann Marie Redstrom. She said she auditioned for a Christmas play about seven years ago with her daughter. When they both got parts, she took a role on stage as well as in the community created by the theatre.

Redstrom said she’s worked with toddlers to seniors on productions in that time. She had a hard time processing the fact that she watched the theatre get built up over the years to the point where it was time to make the shows better than ever.

“Now that time is going to be spent rebuilding, which I’m thankful for,” Redstrom said. “But right now we are missing out on putting together productions.”

Rebuilding is now on their minds. Rizzo said the state fire marshal hasn’t figured out a cause yet. While they’ve been investigating, he said he’s been on the phone with the insurance agents quite often.

While the actual building was insured, everything inside was not, Rizzo said. The furniture, the costumes, the equipment, and everything else they used for performances were lost. He estimates the cost to be around $100,000.

Help is already on the way though. Rizzo said the Alaska Community Foundation and the Rasmusson Foundation have already sent thousands of dollars to get the rebuilding effort started. People can donate directly to help them get back on stage on their website.

While they get back to work rebuilding, Rizzo said they are hoping to use another space in town to continue doing practices and rehearsals at some point in the near future.

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