By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
What was supposed to be a Christmas homecoming may turn out to be a Valentine’s Day lovefest. Or perhaps a bit of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day.
Repairs to the Garden Grove’s historic Gem Theatre continue to drag on, and the estimate made this spring of a December opening has now been pushed back into the new year.
The 158-seat facility on Main Street, which is nearly 100 years old, was damaged by a fire in May 2011. The blaze did extensive damage to the backstage areas, and the value of the loss has been put at close to $500,000.
One More Productions, which is the resident stage company at the Gem since 2008, had originally planned to be back in the theater by the end of 2011. That estimate was pushed back to December 2012, and now, beyond that.
“Frankly, it’s the process of dealing with the bureaucratic red tape of the insurance companies,” said Kimberly Huy, director of community services for the City of Garden Grove.
Part of the facility is covered by the city’s self-insured damage fund, and part by an outside insurance firm. Additionally, One More Productions had its own policy.
But it’s not just insurance squabbles which have slowed the process. In rebuilding the facility, which started as a vaudeville house in the 1920s and was a movie theater from the 1930s to the early 1970s, the city must bring the structure up to current codes.
That means complying with ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) rules regarding handicapped-accessible restrooms. “That brought things to a dead stop for a while, as we had to have plans drawn up for that,” said Huy.
In her communications with Damien Lorton and Nicole Cassesso, principal partners in OMP, Huy says the troupe is hoping to stage its “Heart for Arts” fundraiser in February, and follow that up with a five-show season in 2013.
One More puts on musicals and musical comedies at the Gem. The fire delayed the opening of the last show, “Chicago,” by only a few days as the performances were moved to the outdoor Festival Amphitheatre just north of the Gem.