March 2, 2010

Playhouse Merced's Black Box Theatre burglarized, but the show goes on

A thief stripped Playhouse Merced's Black Box Theatre of some vital dramatic gear.

But the show went on.

Playhouse's Artistic Director Rob Hypes confirmed that the Black Box, 452 W. Main St., was broken into sometime between 10 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

The thief or thieves took a light board, CD player, bass guitar, amplifier and a piano keyboard. The cost to replace the items is probably well over $5,000, Hypes said.

Merced Police Lt. Andre Matthews said it's unknown if the thief acted alone or with others, but entry was made by forcing open the front door of the theater.

Hypes said he has no idea who might have broken in or why the specific equipment was taken. The light board is an especially odd choice because it's used to control theater lighting. Hypes suggested the board looks similar to equipment that mixes songs, and the burglar might have misunderstood its purpose.

"We have a great core of community performers, musicians and students. I would hate to think that it would be any of them. They know how hard it is for us to keep our head above water," Hypes said.

Hypes said he went to the theater Sunday to prepare for that night's finale performance of "Company," a musical comedy about a 35-year-old man pondering if he should get married.

"We walked in, and everything that could make the show run had been stolen," Hypes said.

The musicians and actors decided they wanted to go ahead with the show, borrowed a light board from the Playhouse's other venue, brought in a piano and staged the show anyway after a brief explanation to the nearly sold-out audience.

"And we did it. It was probably one of the best performances of that particular show. They loved it, and the show must go on," Hypes said.

Hypes is investigating how much of the loss Playhouse Merced's insurance will cover. He's also concerned when reimbursements might come even if much of the equipment is replaced. Playhouse Merced has two shows left for the season and needs the equipment to put on those performances.

Residents or businesses wishing to help Playhouse Merced can call (209) 725-8587 or e-mail Hypes at

Lt. Matthews said anyone with information about the crime or the stolen equipment should call Detective Sgt. Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4702 or the department's anonymous tip line at (209) 385-4725.

Reporter Amy Starnes can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or

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