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Iron Gate Theatre roof collapse prompts rescheduling, relocation of Penn student group performances

The roof of the Iron Gate Theater partially collapsed on the evening of March 28.

Credit: Derek Wong

The roof of Iron Gate Theatre at 37th and Chestnut streets partially collapsed last week, causing several performing arts groups originally set to perform that weekend to relocate or reschedule their show times. 

While it is unclear when the collapse occurred, reports first emerged on Friday morning. At around 3:20 p.m. on March 31, members of Penn’s Performing Arts Council were notified that the roof of IGT had a structural issue. In the email, Platt Student Performing Arts House stated that groups would not be able to use the theater until an engineer assessed the space on Monday. 

Three groups — Penn Dance Company, Penn k-Beats, and PennYo A Cappella — were scheduled to perform in IGT on Friday and Saturday. Following the partial collapse, the groups moved to alternative spaces, with Penn Dance and Penn k-Beats relocating to Zellerbach Theatre and PennYo A Cappella space sharing in Houston Hall. No injuries were reported as a result of the partial collapse.

Michael Lentskevich, a Wharton senior and the outgoing PAC tech chair, said that if the roof collapse had occurred during a show or rehearsal, it could have been “a disaster.” 

“Realistically, this doesn’t happen overnight,” Lentskevich said. “I think it raises a lot of questions around who was conducting the roof inspections, how the University maintains buildings, and how they run their checks on buildings that are being used daily by students.”

Ella Nevo, a member of the Penn Dance Company and Dance Arts Council chair, said that her team was one of the last to leave the venue as they held rehearsals on Thursday evening. She said that the group had noticed puddles of water in the theater, attributing them to plumbing and water issues that they had previously encountered.

“We had always known that [the Iron Gate Theatre] had its problems, but we liked the venue anyway,” Nevo said.

Nevo said that Penn Dance learned about the issue through their team group text chat at 1 p.m. on Friday, ahead of their 8:30 p.m. show.

“The Platt Performing Arts House staff took on the role of finding new spaces for our show,” Nevo said. “They were super accommodating. We knew that they would find a way to help us have our show.”

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi
Iron Gate Theater on March 31.

PennYo had the earliest scheduled show time at 6.p.m. After learning of the collapse, the group relocated to the Class of ‘49 Auditorium in Houston Hall and changed their Friday performance time to 5:30 p.m. 

Attila Tuba, an Engineering first-year and the incoming PAC tech chair, provided tech for PennYo’s show. He said that the PAC executive board spent Friday relocating shows as best they could. 

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“Student techs have been hard at work adjusting house seat sizes, recording around 1,000 lighting cues in multiple shows, resetting audio levels, and dealing with other technical issues present at the alternative venues,” Tuba said.

Two performing arts groups are scheduled to hold their shows at IGT the following weekend, on April 5 and 6. No changes in venue have yet been announced for these shows. Megan Higgins, a College senior and A Cappella Council chair, said that any relocation decisions will be made after the structural engineer assesses the space’s usability on Monday. 

“It’s been nice to see the whole community come together to figure out these solutions,” she said. “Everyone’s of a community spirit right now, which is really inspiring.”  

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