���Hit-and-Run’ Leaves Heavy Damage to New Casper Children’s Theatre Building
They say all the world’s a stage, but there didn’t seem to be an audience when a vehicle crashed into the side of the Casper Children’s Theater building on Dec. 4.
Audrey Egan, the Program Coordinator of the children’s theater, said that she and fellow program coordinator Dominique Simmons arrived at the theater on Sunday afternoon and immediately noticed significant damage to the exterior of the building. It was startling, she said, but the two women did not immediately start panicking.
That part came later.
“When we went inside the theater, that’s when we realized how big of an impact this had been,” Egan stated. “The vehicle hit our building so hard that the interior walls detached from the exterior walls. Our whole stage area, that we had just built, got shoved into the seating area.”
The Casper Children’s Theatre had spent much of the last year-and-a-half searching for the perfect location to produce their shows. They found one, just down the street from their sister-company, Stage III Community Theatre. While the building, located at 949 North Durbin Street, wasn’t originally intended as a theatre, the crew at CCT worked tirelessly behind the scenes to turn it into a functioning playhouse. They built a new stage and a seating area, created designated dressing rooms and more. They left much blood, sweat and tears in that building and, little did they know, the tears weren’t done falling just yet.
“We didn’t even get to perform a show there yet,” Egan admitted.
The children’s theatre was set to perform a production of ‘Matilda Jr.’ as their first show, but as COVID first started making waves, they were forced to cancel just days before opening night. Since that time, they had been working on creating various workshops and classes that they hoped to offer this upcoming summer to their performers, as well as neighborhood children who had maybe never had the chance to express themselves through acting.
While the building should be repaired by this summer, it’s not going to be an easy process.
“We literally just finished the renovations four weeks ago,” Egan said. “We’ve been working with a general contractor throughout that entire process, so we called him again to try and get an estimate of the damage done after this most recent thing. He hasn’t given us an official estimate yet, but he did say that we will most likely have to take down the interior walls, which served as dressing rooms on either side of our stage. He said those would most likely have to be removed and rebuilt because, structurally, you can’t just reattach them. They need to be put back together safely and the stage itself will have to be reconstructed as well.”
“It’s going to be costly,” she added.
The worst part is that, presently, nobody has come forward and assumed responsibility for the accident.
“After doing some digging and calling the police and filing a report, we have since found out that this was basically a hit and run. We don’t have a lot of details other than the police were called, but we still don’t know who it was or what exactly happened. We spoke to a couple different people that said they thought they saw a truck which, to them, looked like its whole front end was smashed all the way up to almost the windshield, which also makes it weird because how could they drive away like that?”
Egan said that no notes were left, but that there looked to be some oil spillage covered by kitty litter.
Judging by those accounts, this was not a minor impact.
The intersection in front of the theatre has a stop sign that requires drivers to either turn right or left onto Durbin street. Going straight isn’t an option so, presumably, the driver of the vehicle wasn’t paying attention and completely ran the stop sign, running into the building in the process. Whether this was due to impairment or something else has yet to be determined.
Still, nobody has come forward to assume responsibility. Police have been notified, however, and there is an active investigation with an actual report, according to Rebekah Ladd, the Chief Information Officer for the Casper Police Department.
This may be a setback for the theatre but, according to Egan, it is not a deal breaker, nor a spirit breaker. And, she said, this could actually be used as a learning opportunity for the children involved in the troupe, as well as the community as a whole.
“We’re a children’s theatre,” Egan stated. “So we operate on grace and we operate on patience and we operate on learning. Mistakes happen. They do all the time. We’re all human and we’re all trying to do the best we can. So, I guess I would just hope that someone would say ‘Man, that was a mistake.’ But when we make mistakes, we say we’re sorry and we make things as right as we possibly can, within our means. 2020 has been a rough year and we know people are just trying to do the best that they can, but so are we. So we just hope that someone could maybe step forward and say ‘Hey, this was me. I’m so sorry. How can I at least attempt to make this right?’”
Anyone with information on the incident should contact the Casper Police Department at 307-235-8278.