CHICAGO (CBS) — The WIP Theater, host to a variety of shows daily, was destroyed by a fire that tore through the Edison Park neighborhood building Sunday morning on the Northwest Side.
Officers and firefighters responded at 9:54 a.m. to the fire in the 6600 block of North Northwest Highway, according to Chicago Police.
The Chicago Fire Department did not immediately respond to a request for details about the fire.
But the theater, opened as a comedy theater by owner Tony Valle in June 2014 with the help of GoFundMe, took to the fundraising website again Sunday with a GoFundMe page set up by Erin Mulkewich, director of the theater’s training center.
By early Monday — less than 24 hours after the fire — the fundraising effort had pulled in more than $6,200 of its $100,000 goal.
A complete rebuild is needed, and that could take months depending on how much money is raised, Mulkewich said. Fire officials told her an ice machine in the theater’s bar started the blaze.
“The damage was devastating,” Mulkewich told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Our entire front end is completely burnt out, and even the toilets in the bathrooms exploded from the heat. There’s significant smoke damage throughout the whole theater.”
Mulkewich, who started developing the children’s theater training program three months after WIP opened, said people throughout the community have offered to help with the recovery. The parents of children in her program went around the neighborhood Sunday looking for a place for the kids to rehearse their play, set to be put on in December. If WIP isn’t rebuilt by then, a new theater will have to house the play.
“We’re very fortunate to be part of a community that cares about us so much,” she told the Sun-Times. “The help has been amazing so far.”
The children’s group is scheduled to perform a different play in September 2018 in Orlando’s Walt Disney World. A fundraising event for the trip, which is expected to cost $20,000 for 19 kids, was canceled Sunday due to the fire. But Mulkewich said some of the money from the rebuild’s GoFundMe could help finance the trip if enough of it is left over.
“Today was a little devastating, but we we’re all together,” Mulkewich said. “Everyone stuck around until at least 6 p.m. [Sunday], and we have a great leader [in Valle].
“This is what the theater is all about. It’s always been about the community.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)