When the H Street Playhouse was priced out of the Atlas District more than five years ago, its relocation to 2020 Shannon Place SE as the Anacostia Playhouse was widely embraced, and its black-box theater space has been utilized by a number of local theater companies, musicians, schools, church and civic groups.
But none of that mattered to thieves who carried out an overnight robbery of the Playhouse on Christmas.
Executive Director Adele Robey, who co-founded the Playhouse with her late husband, said the break-in resulted in the theft of laptop computers, electric tools, blank checks, credit cards and cash that had yet to be deposited due to holiday bank closures. An outside door was was also damaged.
“What are they going to do with a light board?” Robey asked, finding a moment of levity.
Metropolitan Police Department detectives are pursuing leads from credit purchases made nearby in hopes of making arrests.
A resident of historic Anacostia, Robey says the robbery feels like a personal violation.
“I am a pretty strong person but this has hit me pretty hard,” she said.
Despite the setback, rehearsals for the return of “American Moor,” which opens at the Playhouse Jan. 9, begin Tuesday.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Robey said. “We can replace the computers and get the box office back in shape.”
Within hours of the discovery of the burglary, an online fundraising campaign was launched by Nikki Peele, owner of reSPIN Public Relations, a Ward 8 small business, and editor of the popular blog Congress Heights on the Rise.
“What happened on Christmas Day to the Playhouse was awful,” Peele said. “But it is how we as a community — on both sides of the Anacostia River — came together to help.
“I look forward to what’s next for the Anacostia Playhouse and all of the small businesses, nonprofits, residents and community advocates who step up and out every day on faith and courage,” she said. “They are the true heroes of this Christmas story.”
After local broadcast stations and social media platforms got wind of the story, the campaign raised more than $8,000 in less than 24 hours, with more than 170 individual donors from surrounding communities and regional artisans.
“I pray my donations will help,” former actor Marcis Turner wrote online. “But don’t you dare move. This community needs you.”
Local filmmaker and producer Jabari Jefferson concurred.
“The Anacostia Playhouse has given me ample amount of opportunities to grow my business, Mass Comm Guru Productions, LLC, since they arrived at Anacostia,” Jefferson wrote in an online post. “I appreciate all that it has done for my community. This small token is nothing compared to the impact it has had on my life. I hope and pray this GoFundMe reaches [its] quota and everything damaged is restored.”
For more information and to make a tax-deductible donation, go to https://www.gofundme.com/anacostia-playhouse-robbery-replacement-fund.