Tree topples, damages Durham children’s theater

Apr. 02, 2014 @ 07:14 PM

Lester Alston heard the problem before he saw it Wednesday morning: A loud cracking sound preceded the tree’s collapse on Berkeley Street.

Then he watched the tree topple across the roof of the Walltown Children’s Theatre.

“I heard a crack and then it fell,” said Alston, a handyman who lives in the neighborhood and sometimes does work for the theater.

It happened about 11:45, before any children were inside to rehearse for their May performance.

“I’m just glad it didn’t happen during the summer program,” Alston said, standing behind the single-story theater building on Wednesday afternoon as he watched a volunteer patching the roof with a blue tarp. “Kids would be playing back here.”

A tree branch punched through the roof and breached the ceiling of the recently renovated dance studio, knocking a light fixture loose and spilling debris on the floor.

Cynthia Penn, executive director for the theater, said the dozens of kids involved in the program will continue working toward their May 18 show.

“If we have to rehearse in the parking lot, that’s what we’re going to do,” she said. “We’re going to make it work the best we can.”

She described the theater as struggling financially, though, and noted that Walltown faces the prospect of paying $1,000 toward repairs – their deductible – before their insurance kicks in.

“To some people, $1,000 isn’t much,” Penn said. “To us, it’s a lot.”

The May event, called “The World According to Walltown Gala,” will include a performance from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and a reception/silent auction from 4:30 to 6 p.m. It’ll be held at the Durham Arts Council PSI Theatre at 120 Morris Street. Tickets -- $12 for adults and $7 for children -- go on sale Saturday at the Walltown Children’s Theatre at 1225 Berkeley Street.

For more about the theater, visit

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