Arsonist tries to torch iconic Shakespeare Tavern in Midtown Atlanta, but the show must go on

It was an act stranger than fiction.

A few weeks ago, an arsonist tried to torch the iconic Shakespeare Tavern in Midtown Atlanta.

"At first, it’s like who in the world would want to do such a thing?" said Jeff Watkins, the creative director of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company. "The alarm went off first, then water starts pouring through the ceiling."

Watkins said someone doused some paper in lighter fluid, torched it, and stuffed it in their mailbox.

The sprinkler did its job, but also caused a lot of water damage.

At the time, around 2:30 a.m. a costume designer was in the building burning the midnight oil in preparation for their upcoming production. He scrambled to get all his hard work out of the path of the gushing water streaming through the playhouse.

"The fireman said, ‘I smell accelerant,’" Watkins recounted. "Then, when they looked at the evidence, you could see where the fire was, how it started."

The costume shop is now filled with equipment that they have to toss.

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The show must go on after an intentionally set fire causes damage at the Shakespeare Tavern in Midtown Atlanta. (FOX 5)

There are no solid leads on who would do such a thing or why.

Watkins says it caused about $120,000 in damage, but it also showed him how much people care about their little playhouse on Peachtree Street. 

"People who came here from their high school field trips, people who hadn’t been here in 10 years, people who lived out of state for a long time, once they started to hear about it, they contributed," he said.

Watkins said the public has donated more than 30 grand to help in their recovery.

"It just feels great to know that that many people care and that many people have that much love for who we are and what we’ve done."

Opening night for their new production of Shakespeare’s "Troilus and Cressida" will go on as planned on Saturday night, with preview showings Thursday and Friday.