Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

August fire at St. Pete High bars theater students from 'second home'

Something is amiss at St. Petersburg High.

Drama students are rehearsing in a classroom, the annual lip-synching contest has been postponed until next year, and meetings for seniors have been moved to the gym.

St. Petersburg High has not been the same, school officials said, since a fire ripped through the auditorium early in the semester.

The Aug. 31 blaze sparked moments after workers repairing the roof left the school. A fire alarm went off about 4 a.m. Firefighters arrived and found flames shooting through the roof of the school's historic three-story auditorium.

While the auditorium undergoes repairs, students and staffers have been forced to reschedule events and move meetings.

"It's been an inconvenience in a lot of ways," said principal Al Bennett.

Among the students most affected by the auditorium's closing are the thespians.

"It's definitely our second home," said thespian group president Luisa Laitano, 17.

Before the blaze, the group was going to perform The Curious Savage, which requires an elaborate set, in November.

Instead, the troupe will now perform Almost, Maine, a play with a simpler set, at Boca Ciega High. Students there are creating the stagecraft for the play.

The auditorium served as their rehearsal space. But now, students are rehearsing in the school's smaller theater or drama director Trish Grunz's classroom.

"All we can do," Grunz said, "is control what we can and just do the best we can do."

In addition to the play, the students are rehearsing for their performance at this week's Florida Theatre Conference in Gainesville.

Laitano said rehearsing outside the auditorium presents challenges.

Work spaces are much smaller and rehearsals now revolve around other clubs' schedules.

"We're looking to plan a party when we get our auditorium back," Laitano said. "It feels so wrong to be in school and to be rehearsing and to not have our space."

Fire investigators ruled that roofers making repairs with a blowtorch caused the blaze.

The Pinellas County School District hired Fort Lauderdale-based Taylor Contracting and Roofing for a roof replacement.

About three weeks into the job, the fire erupted.

"It was the hot torching of the material which caused the wood underneath to slowly burn and eventually ignited," said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Joel Granata.

Taylor Contracting and Roofing did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

The estimated cost for repairs is $500,000, said schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez.

The tech booth that controlled the sound and lighting system was destroyed, and water and smoke damage covered the auditorium.

Repairs began in September. Workers removed and cleaned the stage curtains, replaced bits of plaster and repainted the walls.

But a lot of work remains.

New equipment and lighting will be installed in the tech booth, parts of the balcony need to be replaced, and minor repairs to the roof must be completed.

The auditorium may reopen in January, Bennett said.

"It could have been worse," he said. "And we're making do."

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727)893-8713, or lmorel@tampabay.com.

Almost, Maine

St. Petersburg High students will perform Almost, Maine at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 and 16 at Boca Ciega High, 924 58th St. S, Gulfport. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults and $7 for senior citizens.

August fire at St. Pete High bars theater students from 'second home' 10/23/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 5:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival wraps up with Above and Beyond, more at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    The first numbers trickled in on Sunday, and they didn't look great.

    Louis the Child performed at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium on May 28, 2017.
  2. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  3. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  4. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  5. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.