Twelve days after Harvey, contractors are still pumping water out of the Wortham Theater Center.
Recovery and repair is complex, but the first goal is just to get the water out, says Carolyn Campbell, director of communications for Houston First, the organization responsible for not only the Wortham, but Jones Hall, Miller Outdoor Theatre and the George R. Brown Convention Center, which Campbell says is still housing about 1,500 people.
“But it’s a long way from 10,000,” adds Campbell.
Within the walls of the Wortham, Campbell says water is still being pumped from the front and back house of the theater, which includes both public and performance space. The Brown Theater stage floor is being removed and will be replaced, as well as any wet carpet and drywall. Once the water is pumped and repairs made, before anyone can return to the building, which is closed to the public and to staff, air quality tests and structural assessments will have to be done too.
“Although we’re pretty confident the structure of the building is just fine, that has to be done. We have to make sure we meet all the city codes,” says Campbell. “Those are kind of the things that have to happen before the building is reopened to staff and to the public.”
As to when that may be, Campbell says it’s too soon to tell.
“We aren’t sure when it will be open, but we do know so far performances have been cancelled through October 15.”
Events scheduled between now and October 15 would include the Houston Ballet’s performances of Poetry in Motion and Mayerling, the Houston Grand Opera’s 2017 Studio Showcase, concerts from Da Camera and Mercury, and the first installment of the 2017-2018 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series with Nathan Englander and Nicole Krauss. Mayerling and Poetry In Motion have been relocated to the Hobby Center For the Performing Arts; performances will begin September 22 and October 26, respectively.
Past that, however, Houston First operations manager Sheila Turkiewicz stresses that they’re in no position to speculate.
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“Right now, there’s no power in the building,” adds Turkiewicz. “All of those – it’s hard to do anything until we’re able to get power back up and that can’t happen until all water’s out.
“I think we knew [from preliminary reports] there was water in the building. We knew that the stage floor was damaged. We knew it then, we know it now. I don’t know if there’s any more or less [damage]. We’re still in the preliminary assessment,” says Turkiewicz.
Despite the lingering uncertainty, Campbell is optimistic, both about the building itself and its future.
“[The Wortham is] a great place, and it’s going to be a great place again,” says Campbell. “We want everybody to come back – new patrons, old patrons. It’s going to be even better when it comes back, and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.”