When the Festival of Arts’ operations director Gary Fowler entered his office Tuesday, he was overcome by a reek that spelled trouble for him but also for the nearby Forum Theater.
He couldn’t know immediately if a cast of brawling belly dancers, prancing goats and swaying trees might suffer ill affects from the foul stench, but the founding director of “Lagunatics” got the drift anyway. Bree Burgess Rosen canceled this weekend’s opening performances of the annual roast, and is considering postponing the show altogether until January if the building isn’t declared safe soon.
Remaining performances may resume as early as Oct. 11 if tests determine the mysterious stench is harmless, said “Lagunatics” co-writer Chris Quilter.
If the mystery mold proves toxic, its presence may also threaten planned staging of the Pageant of the Monsters, where the backstage of the Festival’s Pageant of the Masters transformed into a Halloween haunted house.
“Disappointment is an understatement, but safety comes first,” Rosen said. Sales of tickets – 350 have already been purchased – were suspended pending more information, wrote Rosen via e-mail.
The theater built in 1969 is one several buildings leased from the city of Laguna Beach by the Festival, which is responsible for maintenance of the grounds, said Steve May, director of the city’s public works department.
While not all molds are hazardous or deadly, they all emit micro-toxins that people react to with varying degrees of sensitivity, said Carla Granger, a senior project manager for Titan Environmental Solutions, based in Kansas City, Kan., which specializes in asbestos abatement and mold inspection.
The Festival hired a similar firm to inspect the smell in Fowler’s office, said spokeswoman Sharbie Higuchi, who couldn’t say when results will be available.
Mold toxicity must be determined by testing, Granger said. There are no federal standards that trigger abatement, such as are set for lead, “so individual testing and abatement are the only solution,” she said. While black mold is deemed deadliest, she added that testing rather than color determines whether the mold can trigger respiratory or sinus problems, skin and eye irritation or immune system responses.
Rosen will consider adding a makeup show on Oct. 17 if the postponed performances can go ahead, but will reschedule the show for next year if test results turn up something dangerous. Current “Lagunatics” cast members might not be available then, forcing the show’s organizers to scramble for both new material and performers.
“I am sad about all this. We had a hell of a show ready to make the town laugh. And, we will have a new number about mold and another use for our old haz-mat suits left from last year’s show,” Rosen wrote.
She said new information will be posted at the website www.nosquare.org and infoline at 949-715-0333.