Theatre company loses everything in fire, just as they prepare new show

A local theatre company is asking for help after a fire destroyed their warehouse containing more than 40 years-worth of their props, costumes, sets, and historical records, just four days before their next performance.

The Pittsburg Theatre Company members say they have been in the community since 1979 and on Monday, some went to see the charred remains of their company's production items at the storage site on John Henry Johnson Parkway in Pittsburg

Michael Wilson, a board member and actor, says he received a call from their alarm company on Sunday about a smoke alarm going off near the bathrooms.

"By the time I got here, I could see the building already had flames coming out, and I knew it was a complete loss," Wilson said.

Contra Costa County Fire crews say the wind quickly blew flames into the nearby hillside of a park, burning 55 acres before they were able to put out the flames. On Monday, hand crews were back making sure hot spots didn't flare again. The cause is still being investigated.

"It was pretty windy yesterday afternoon so that was a contributing factor," said Lauren Ono, the Contra Costa County Fire public information officer, "It went from the building to the vegetation surrounding it."

"We had all of our archives in here from more than 40 years of shows, programs, photographs, newspaper clippings, they were all stored in here," said Wilson.

"This is just beyond words. Michael and I were just reminiscing about all of the work it took putting up shelves," said Alice Lustre, another Pittsburg Theatre Company board member. "What I'm going to probably miss the most is we had a lot of old show posters from old shows."

At the California Theatre, the team was scrambling to get the set ready. The Pittsburg Theatre Company's production of Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys," is scheduled to open Friday at 8 p.m. for two weekends, and the director Dianna Schepers was busy calling on the community to help with donations so the show can go on.

"We're very grateful for all the support. So this afternoon I have furniture being delivered to help out with our set and later on tonight, I'll be printing out all the stuff I printed out before to put up on the walls," Schepers said.


Pittsburg fire: Child, man taken to hospital after town-home blaze

A child and a man were taken to the hospital Monday morning in critical condition during a fire at a townhome in Pittsburg, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District officials said. 

The loss, she says, will impact other Bay Area Theatre companies as well, because they share sets and costumes.

"What we lost also affects other theatre companies. We work closely with Clayton, Pinole," Schepers said. "So our loss is their loss too."

Schepers says they are grateful for any community donations. A list of items needed is on their website along with a newly formed Phoenix Fund, to help them rebuild.

Schepers also says it would mean a lot if community members can come out to support the performances, as a way of boosting the actors' spirits as they try to get through this difficult setback.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at Call her at 510-326-5529. Or follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU and read her other reports on her bio page.