Production gear stolen from O.C. theater

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. Only cords are left behind after thieves ransacked the /*Center Stage Studio in Aliso Viejo*/.

"It's just absolutely awful when you come in here. It's a children's theater. It's 'Alice in Wonderland,'" said Tracey DiMiceli, owner of the Center Stage Studio.

DiMiceli's company just started performances of "Alice in Wonderland" when, she says, someone broke in and stole at least $20,000 worth of equipment, including microphones and computer hard drives containing 10 years' worth of music and scripts.

Officials say the thieves used the studio's tools and ladder to steal lights from above.

"We just had a fundraiser that took us four weeks to put on, for $1,500," said DiMiceli. "And we were so proud to get this new sound board and these new lights, and it was like our first show. It kills me. It just kills me."

With no equipment, DiMiceli had to cancel two performances - devastating for children who have received theater arts training since it opened several years ago.

"It gives me a life of being an actress," said young student Alyssa Purzycki.

"She started bawling, so I started crying. The Center Stage is the world to hundreds of kids here," said Alyssa's mother Nicole. "We were devastated."

Authorities are searching for those responsible.

On Monday night, hundreds showed up to help raise several thousand dollars - even a former student, Noah Munck, now on the TV show "iCarly." He signed autographs to raise money.

Without insurance coverage, DiMiceli is starting over. For now, she's renting, borrowing and buying what they can afford to make sure the show goes on.

"I am so blessed that I have this in my life," said DiMiceli. "You can't take that away."

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.