TAIPEI (CNA) — One of Taiwan’s renowned performing arts groups, U-Theatre, has called for public donations to help them rebuild their rehearsal space after it was turned to ashes by an electrical fire nearly four months ago.
The two-story, 198-square-meter wood cabin located near the top section of Zhanhu Trail on Laochuan Mountain in Taipei’s Wenshan District was burned down by a blaze triggered by sparks from old wiring, turning the structure into ashes on Aug. 13.
The flames engulfed the rehearsal space and destroyed the group’s performance outfits, stage props, and percussion instruments, such as gongs and drums, said Liu Rou-yu (劉若瑀), founder and director of the U-Theatre, in appealing for donations on Tuesday.
Over 200 musical instruments were also destroyed in the blaze, said Huang Chih-chun (黃誌群), U-Theatre’s artistic director.
Despite a NT$15 million (US$491,447) emergency grant given by the Ministry of Culture for U-Theatre to purchase new props, outfits, and other items needed for performances already committed to, the group still faces the challenge of rebuilding its rehearsal studio, Liu said.
It will cost an estimated NT$60 million to rebuild the space because authorities want the group to install its own water source, such as a well or water reservoir, for the building for fire safety reasons, Liu said.
Since the incident, U-Theatre has raised NT$30 million in donations, but Liu did not know how much the group will ultimately need to recover from the fire.
It still requires funds for its daily operations, she said, but has had to put on hold many of its performances next year, leaving its revenue stream in doubt.
“There is no income if there are no performances. So if we need NT$30 million to build the cabin, we may need another NT$30 million to maintain the group,” Liu said.
In the meantime, despite having to rehearse outdoors, group members still want to rebuild the cabin at the original site because they feel a spiritual connection with the mountain on which it was situated.
“If trees and plants have the power to rise from the ashes, then we humans can also be determined to do the same,” Liu said.
The group plans to erect a temporary rehearsal space before the end of the year, which would be used for around two years before the original studio would be rebuilt, Liu said.
Huang said the group has been at the same place for 31 years and while he was deeply saddened by the fire, he was also grateful that no lives were lost.
“As long as no lives were lost, the cabin and the instruments can all be purchased again. As long as Laochuan Mountain is still standing, so is U-Theatre,” he said.
Founded in 1988, U-Theatre is renowned for its unique combination of drumming, Zen meditation and martial arts and has conducted over 3,500 performances overseas, including one earlier this year at the 2019 Winter International Arts Festival in Russia in February.