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Help Needed As Strauss Theatre Center Still Cleans Up After Storms

It's been over a month since a severe line of storms ripped through the Twin Cities, but a Monroe theater is still struggling with the clean up after it was heavily damaged by strong winds.
Bags of costumes that need to be thrown away. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Bags of costumes that need to be thrown away. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Army costumes hang to dry. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Army costumes hang to dry. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Luckily, this room contains items that survived the storm. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Luckily, this room contains items that survived the storm. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
A pile of damaged costumes. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
A pile of damaged costumes. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
A pile of damaged props and hats sits on the stage. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
A pile of damaged props and hats sits on the stage. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Items are being sorted out backstage, some bags of costumes are still wet. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Items are being sorted out backstage, some bags of costumes are still wet. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Damaged upholstery sits underneath the area where the roof was blown off. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
Damaged upholstery sits underneath the area where the roof was blown off. (Alanna Quillen, KTVE/KARD)
 (KTVE/KARD)
(KTVE/KARD)
MONROE -- It's been over a month since a severe line of storms ripped through the Twin Cities.

But a Monroe theater is still struggling with the clean up after it was heavily damaged by strong winds.

Inside the Strauss Theatre Main Stage, damaged props and costumes piled up to be thrown away. 

The director tells us their insurance company is not covering all of the damage repairs, so now, the theater is looking to the community for help.

In mid-December, powerful storms ripped through the heart of Monroe and right into the Strauss Theatre Main Stage building.

"It sounded like five trucks had pulled up in the back of the theater, cut a hole open, and put in all their hoses," said Bobbette Prince, Strauss Board president.

Part of the roof was blown off into a nearby parking lot. The gaping hole in roof, located behind the stage, allowed rain water to seep through, damaging almost everything underneath.

"Old costumes and apparel that is water damaged beyond salvaging," said Wes Tishenor, a General Contractor for Ranger Development of Monroe.

Fast forward over a month later -- and workers are still trying to pick up the pieces. Tishenor said crews started work on the roof on Monday and he expects them to be done this Friday. After the roof is completed, crews will focus on repairing interiors -- bathrooms, dressing rooms, and storage areas.

Hundreds of props and costumes -- stored in rooms and shelves under the damaged roof  -- are lost.

"We had WWI and WWII mens uniforms that can't be replaced," said Prince. "The costumes are still so wet, that's it's probably gonna take two men to pick up the bag."

Valuable real furs, such as mink coats, that were donated over the years have also been lost.

"I imagine most of the ladies in Monroe would remember the Palace and Fields, everyone had a fur coat from one of those stores. We lost probably more than one half of our furs that we use as costumes," said Prince.

Couches, chairs, and hand-decorated props lay in trash piles around the stage. The stage curtains survived, but along with several costumes, it had to be sent to a shop in Texarkana, TX to clean the mildew off. The large black stage curtain will have to be replaced.

"This bucket over here still has three quarters of an inch of water still sitting in it," said Tishenor, pulling at soaked Mardis Gras beads inside a bucket.

Aside from the damage, Prince said she's all the more anxious to finish clean up in time for next stage production on March 7.

"It just seems like every day we come in, we think 'Oh, we've made five giant steps, and then someone will say, 'Bobbette, have you been to the back? There's still water coming out of the florescent lights...,'" said Prince.

Prince said the repair costs are overwhelming. The non-profit theater is having to cover tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket for the insurance deductible. In addition to that, they need help in logging every single item individually on a spreadsheet for the insurance company.

"Right now, this is probably the most catastrophic thing that has happened in 82 years of Strauss Theatre," said Prince.

The first night and the weeks following the storm, Prince said numerous people have shown up to volunteer their time.

"The volunteers we've had are unbelievably fabulous," she said. "They give their time, their efforts, they've cleaned up, they've gone out, they've asked for help."

In the meantime, theater officials are working on a fundraising campaign called "Raise the Roof" to help them get back on their feet.

On February 7, the Neville baseball team is collaborating with the theater on a fundraiser with catering by Catfish Charlie's. Proceeds will go to both the team and the theater.

The theater is still going on with the show, with another production of The Hilarious Hillbilly Massacre dinner theater this Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Click here for details and how to get tickets.

The theater is also turning to the community for donations and volunteers.

"Monetary donations are so badly needed and so much appreciated," said Prince. "This theater really needs the community more than ever right now."

Prince said their in need of anyone to help keep it's 82-year legacy going strong.

"We're not going down...We're going up," said Prince.

Monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to the Strauss Theatre Center  on 1300 Lamy Lane in Monroe. You can reach them at 318-323-6681.

They're also looking for donations of props and costumes such as vintage clothes, upholstery and lamps. Prince requests that people call first before dropping something off.
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