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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

This Week in BAM History: "The Great Flood" of 1977

Labor Day, 1977—At 6am, a 30-inch water main broke on Ashland Place, sending thousands of gallons of water into BAM. It flooded the stages and orchestra seats of the two main theaters—the Carey Playhouse and the Opera House. Two boilers were submerged, and a 15,000 gallon oil tank was overturned, spilling its contents. Outside, more than 100 feet of pavement on Ashland Place caved in. It took hours to get the water main shut down and by mid-morning, the water was over 50 feet deep.

The Carey Playhouse (now BAM Rose Cinemas) underwater


Exterior flood waters

Sets, props, and costumes stored in basement spaces were lost. Archives were destroyed.

Listen to Harvey Lichtenstein, BAM President and Executive Producer between 1967 and 1999, talk about the Great Flood in this excerpt from his oral history. 

The Great Flood: Harvey Lichtenstein by BAMorg

The complete Harvey Lichtenstein Oral History, featuring John Rockwell interviewing Harvey, is available at the BAM Hamm Archives.

Soon after the flood, Helen Hayes served as honorary chairperson leading the rebuilding effort. Hayes first appeared at BAM as a young girl, playing opposite Vernon Castle in Summer Memories. 3,500 contributions poured in from all over the country.

Incredibly, BAM opened the season on schedule on October 15th. Programing in 1977—78 included BAM Theatre Company productions that featured actors such as Austin Pendleton, Sam Waterston, Margaret Hamilton, and Richard Dreyfuss as Cassius in Julius Caesar. Dance included performances by The Pennsylvania Ballet Company. Paul Taylor and Charles Ludlum collaborated on the world premiere of Aphrodisiamania for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Lucinda Childs, Annabelle Gamson and The Murray Louis Dance Company appeared, and the second season of DanceAfrica opened the first all-day African Bazaar in the BAM parking lot.

It appears that "responders" created this sculpture out of refuse, including costumes, props, cigarettes, and other found objects. Even then, Brooklyn's residents found unusual outlets for creativity:

10 comments:

  1. Great article, archives team. Very nicely put together.

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  2. Also, Vollmond really doesn't hold a candle to the first pic. :)

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  3. How about a follow up on the great "Pina" flood?

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