When The Smoke Cleared…

I could barely read the text on my phone. It was an early summer morning, why should I be up? When my eyes finally focused, I felt a chill run down my spine.

“Jordan I was driving downtown and there was smoke coming from the Theatre!”

Surely this wasn’t right. She was seeing things. Then another text. And another. A phone call, complete with sirens in the background. Soon my email started filling up with videos and photos from the scene. My heart sank. So it’s true. The Georgia Theatre is burning and I’m miles away.

Over the next few hours, I stayed glued to my computer, trying to make sense of all of the information coming out of Athens. Some had lost power in the area. Others on the outskirts claimed to be able to see the smoke from the city limits. Downtown, you could feel the heat just coming in waves. All I could think was what about Wil? God, poor guy…

In the following weeks, people opened their arms to the GA Theatre staff, offering up shifts at local venues. But what about the theatre? Wil made it clear at the Flagpole Awards that there was never a question: WE WILL REBUILD.

So began the fundraising efforts. These had to be massive, due to the unique circumstances that surrounded the Theatre. In order to rebuild, everything would have to be brought up to code. Since the building had been grandfathered in, it had originally skirted some requirements. Now, however, it needed more bathrooms, more sprinklers, etc. A massive undertaking.

We soon saw designs and heard whispers about what the new place might look like. A little chow place on the roof, better lights, bigger stage…all of it keeping in the spirit of the place but adding so much more. Receiving the Athens Historical Preservation Committee’s approval was a crucial step in getting the project off the ground. Success!

Tomorrow marks a year to the day since it burned. There’s been a lot of tears, yes, but some humor too. Like the slightly charred “OUCH” that appeared on the marquee one day. Wilmot’s been incredibly enthusiastic (yet realistic) in the face of a daunting task. Thankfully, Athens has made sure he doesn’t have to do it alone.

From concerts and t-shirts to even a line of beer, there are tons of ways that Theatre lovers can support the rebuilding project. The response has been incredible but there is still much more that has to be done. You can check here to find a list of ways you can help get the venue up and running again.

This theatre means a lot to so many people. The artists who’ve performed there. The staff that kept it running. The people who came through the doors for the show. The history buffs. The fans of the bar… We’re so close to having the Theatre back. Recently, the much-needed loan was approved. Things are going well but there’s still work to be done.

We’ve worked together. Played together. Now it’s time to Band Together. 

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