Triumvirate Theatre is pictured on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Triumvirate Theatre is pictured on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rebuilding a ‘community asset’

Triumvirate Theatre receives outpouring of support following fire

When the process of rebuilding Triumvirate Theater begins, it will be with help from the same community who helped make it a reality the first time.

The theater burned down early Saturday morning and was reported as being “a total” loss by an announcement on the theater’s Facebook page.

Triumvirate Director Joe Rizzo said Tuesday that the actual building structure is insured, but that the roughly $100,000 worth of things inside are not.

“That’s where we’re going to be relying on the community to help us recover, so that we can continue to serve the community,” Rizzo said.

Lost in the fire was furniture from the lobby, two pianos, stained glass art and thousands of dollars in props and costumes, among other things.

Nikiski Police Chief Bryan Crisp said he thinks the fire, which was reported around 3:15 a.m. Saturday, originated in a two-story addition made to the theater within the last few years, but that he could not comment on the cause of the fire.

The station received a call at around 3:17 a.m. and by the time they got to the theater, Crisp said, about 75% of the building had already caught fire and some of the walls and roof had collapsed.

Because there aren’t fire hydrants in the area, Crisp said they relied on tankers to shuttle water back and forth between three fill sites and the theater.

“We were just doing water shuttles the entire time,” Crisp said.

By 8 a.m. on Saturday, Crisp said the fire was considered under control, but that there were still “hot spots” underneath the roof and walls that were difficult to access. Alaska State Troopers at the scene contacted the State Fire Marshal’s Office and a Deputy Fire Marshal from Anchorage arrived to investigate and conduct interviews.

No one was in the building at the time of the fire, Crisp confirmed.

The next steps involve the state making their determination and report on the fire and for the insurance company to send out additional investigators.

In the aftermath of the theater’s announcement that the building had burned down, responses on social media from members of the community were swift. Some offered to donate money while others volunteered their labor for the rebuilding process. All shared the same sentiment: Triumvirate was a beloved community institution.

“We will support you, encourage you and help you to rebuild!” wrote Yvette Tappana. “The loss of the building is horrible but what made the theater what it was … is the wonderful Humans that make up the Triumvirate Theater family and you are all still here so the show WILL go on.”

Rizzo said that they are still waiting to hear back from their insurance company about the final settlement, but that they have every intention of rebuilding.

“I think that it’s really important that people be allowed to contribute in that way, because that’s kind of what made that building a community asset,” Rizzo said. “That’s what made Triumvirate Theatre, Triumvirate Theatre.”

Community involvement has always been an important part of Triumvirate’s legacy. When the Alaska Children’s Institute for the Performing Arts (ACIPA) launched in 1998, it offered drama camps. The group moved into a 3,000-square-foot space at the Peninsula Center Mall in 2005, which was furnished with discarded movie theater furniture salvaged by Nikiski residents.

When a 40-year-old mechanic shop north of Kenai went up for sale in 2007, ACIPA board members Joe and Paulene Rizzo and Carla and Chris Jenness put up their own money for the down payment. The structure was remodeled by hand with major help from shop class students at Nikiski High School who, under the tutelage of teacher Paul Johnson, attended “class” at the theater, learning how to put up sheetrock, tile floors, build a stage, install plumbing, construct a balcony and build seating platforms.

Rizzo said the building process will be interesting to do again because now that he is older and the theater is more established in the community he knows a lot more people.

In response to the outpouring of support they’ve received on social media in the wake of the fire, Rizzo said, the organization is planning to put forth a fundraising campaign hosted through a central platform, the details of which are still being discussed.

“We’re going to organize all of those things. We really have been just waiting until we get the apparatus in place through the Alaska Community Foundation, so that people have a central place to go,” Rizzo said.

In the meantime, Rizzo said Triumvirate plans to continue with its regularly scheduled programming, including their mental health radio program and “Fishing Impossible,” which is slated for March.

Rizzo also said that he’s heard from hundreds of people over the past few days.

“It’s very encouraging when you’re faced with such a devastating situation,” Rizzo said.

Triumvirate Theatre has been posting updates for the community on their Facebook page and expects resources on how to support them will go live this week.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Triumvirate Theatre prior to renovations is seen. (Photo courtesy Joe Rizzo)

Triumvirate Theatre prior to renovations is seen. (Photo courtesy Joe Rizzo)

The interior of Triumvirate Theatre is seen. (Photo courtesy Joe Rizzo)

The interior of Triumvirate Theatre is seen. (Photo courtesy Joe Rizzo)

Seating in the Triumvirate theatre’s Peninsula Center Mall location is seen. (Photo courtesy Joe Rizzo)

Seating in the Triumvirate theatre’s Peninsula Center Mall location is seen. (Photo courtesy Joe Rizzo)

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