A Fire Has Devastated Jacob’s Pillow, Destroying a Historic Theater at the Massachusetts Avant-Garde Dance Haven

No one was hurt in the blaze.

The Doris Duke Theater at Jacob's Pillow. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow.

An early morning fire on Tuesday ripped through the 230-seat Doris Duke Theater at the renowned venue Jacob’s Pillow in western Massachusetts, which has hosted innovative projects by creators like Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. The blaze destroyed a building that has seen hundreds of performances since 1990.

A National Historic Landmark and recipient of the National Medal of Arts that resides on a 220-acre campus, Jacob’s Pillow is home to America’s longest-running international dance festival, which hosts 50 dance companies annually. The building that burned was one of only indoor theaters on the campus.

No one was injured. The cause of the fire, which did not spread beyond the theater, has not been disclosed.

“While we have lost some precious, irreplaceable items, those experiences and memories will last forever,” said Pamela Tatge, Jacob’s Pillow’s artistic and executive director, in a statement sent to Artnet News. “We are heartbroken and we are relieved that no one was hurt. On behalf of everyone at the Pillow, we are grateful for the firefighters and officials who have responded so quickly to this devastating emergency on our grounds. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from around the world we have already received. We will rebuild.”

Becket Fire Chief Paul Mikaniewicz told the Berkshire Eagle that flames were licking the right side of the building when they arrived on the scene at 7 a.m. Shortly after that, the building’s wooden structure burst into flames, making a sound he likened to a tornado. About 30 firefighters from six towns worked to contain the blaze, according to the Eagle. It was extinguished just before 9 a.m.

The fire puts additional strain on the cultural organization, which has kept its campus shuttered since March. Nearly half of the nonprofit’s revenue comes from ticket sales and other activities associated with its famous summer festival, according to the New York Times. After it was forced to call off the event this year for the first time in its history, Jacob’s Pillow laid off 10 full-time workers from a staff of 45; cancelled contracts with more than 40 seasonal employees; and instituted pay cuts for the remaining full-time staffers.


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