The imposing steel staircase from "The Snow Queen." Racks of lavish period costumes from fur coats to fedoras. A forklift. Bottles of champagne saved for opening night parties that will never be.

As part of the ongoing bankruptcy process for the now-defunct San Jose Rep, the remaining assets of one of the valley's major theater companies are going on the block. The series of online auctions will begin Tuesday, Aug. 12, even as longtime subscribers continue to wring their hands over the troupe's sudden demise.

Several thousand items, the last souvenirs of 34 seasons of comedies and tragedies, will go to the highest bidder and the proceeds will go toward the goal of paying off some of the San Jose Repertory Theatre's estimated $3 million debt.

More than 30 years’ worth of hats from San Jose Repertory Theatre productions -- from fedoras to berets to military hats -- will be sold at auction.
More than 30 years' worth of hats from San Jose Repertory Theatre productions -- from fedoras to berets to military hats -- will be sold at auction. (West Auctions)

"It's sad because the Rep was known for having such lovely costumes and sets," says Aimee Zygmonski, managing director of the newly reborn Santa Cruz Shakespeare. "We're definitely going to be taking a look at the period costumes."

Since the list of creditors is quite long, including the $1.8 million the Rep owed the city from its 2006 bailout, court-appointed bankruptcy trustee Mohamed Poonja cannot yet comment on how much of the debt will be paid off. He is hopeful that the upcoming auctions, which will be run by the West Auctions company (www.westauction.com), will generate an estimated $100,000.


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Long plagued with financial woes, the troupe ceased operations in June, leaving its 5,500 subscribers reeling from the loss. Not only did many of them feel the theater was a big part of their lives but they are also out quite a bit of cash on tickets purchased for shows that will never go on.

"First we lost out when the symphony went under and now this," says Rosanne Seratti, a 30-year subscriber to the Rep. "We feel hurt."

All of them feel cheated out of something precious.

"I got tears when I heard," says Dave Liebman, who helped raise funds for the company over the years. "I felt SJ Rep was part of me and I it."

John Beebe, a 15-year subscriber, says patrons should have been warned that the company was in jeopardy. "There are 5,500 people out there that want to know what the hell happened. We want our money back."

Some theatergoers blame mismanagement for the Rep's downfall. Others fault the artistic choices.

"The community stopped supporting the Rep because it was too disappointing too many times," says Lynn Bent of Portola Valley.

"In the olden days, we never walked out during intermission; the play had engaged us," agrees Ed Jacklitch of San Jose. "Nowadays, not so much."

A few are even holding out hope that a big-ticket donor will step forward with a plan to bring back the Rep.

"Why can't one of these tech titans just write a check and save the whole shebang?" says Seratti.

While that seems unlikely, many area theaters -- including TheatreWorks, San Jose Stage Company, Santa Cruz Shakespeare and City Lights Theater Company -- have offered to honor Rep tickets.

"I am hoping the subscribers will take advantage of this wonderful gesture," the bankruptcy trustee says.

City officials are also moving ahead on trying to revive the distinctive blue building as an arts showcase. Interim possibilities include renting the facility to art organizations and other community groups or shuttering the venue until a permanent business model can be identified.

A recommendation will be put before the Community and Economic Development Committee at its Sept. 22 meeting.

"The leading recommendation will likely be a model that activates the facility for rentals for cultural purposes," says Kerry Adams-Hapner of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs.

Contact Karen D'Souza at 408-271-3772. Read her at www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza, and follow her at Twitter.com/karendsouza4.

SAN JOSE REP AUCTION

West Auctions is handling the bankruptcy dispersal of San Jose Rep's theater, offices and warehouse assets. Most of the stage furniture, costumes and props are bundled together in large lots and will not be available for individual purchase.

Website, photos: www.westauction.com (auction is singular in the URL)

Auction No. 1, warehouse
(Starts at 10 a.m. Aug. 12, ends at various times on Aug. 14)
Includes: Jukeboxes, vintage Coke and cigarette machine; steel stairs from "The Snow Queen" set; full racks of costumes, fur coats, hats and shoes sold only in large lots; office furniture; group of vintage sofas; computers; plus industrial equipment such as heavy-duty saws, drills, ladders and more.

Auction No. 2, theater
(Starts at 10 a.m. Aug. 19, ends at 10 a.m. Aug. 21)
Includes: Rep's sewing room contents, including sewing machines, ironing station, mannequins; computers; and the theater's inventory of wine and beer.