Last Friday night, at the Hugo House's very last reading in its old site, House Executive Director Tree Swenson pulled off a first in the history of readings: her introduction was perhaps more interesting than the headlining authors. Swenson told the audience about the House's penultimate reading, an event called "Where the House Was," hosted by Frances McCue. It seems that in the middle of the reading, the event was interrupted by the sound of running water coming from somewhere inside the house. It sounded like a gushing leak, Swenson said, and so the House staff went in search of the noise as the reading below was put on pause. They soon discovered that an upstairs drain had been clogged and water was flowing, river-like, indoors.
Downstairs, in the cabaret space, a light fixture, which had filled with water, dropped from the ceiling and hit a woman in the knees before crashing to the floor. (The woman said she was fine, Swenson assures us.) This alarming Phantom of the Opera moment was accompanied by electrical sparks. At this point, everyone became very concerned, and so House staff vacated the building and called the fire department, who showed up and declared everything to be fine. (One of the firefighters, Swenson said, assured her that his wife loved the Hugo House, but he was more of a comics person.) So after an eventful delay, the show went on in the theater space. The best part of the evening, Swenson told the audience on Friday night, was that because the House was scheduled for demolition, she knew she wouldn't have to repair any of the damage.
The symbolism of a house shedding tears on the eve of its destruction is almost too on-the-nose, of course, but somehow — for the Hugo House — it works. I don't believe in ghosts, but I want to set my disbelief aside for a moment to congratulate whatever spirit it was that decided to go operatic in the closing days of the Hugo House. Your spectral works did not go unappreciated.