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Water pipe ruptures at Mitchell theater, but 'show must go on'

Area Community Theatre Manager Paula Deckert explains the flooding that occurred at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre for the Performing Arts earlier this week as a result of a ruptured pipe. Crews from Steamway Cleaning of Mitchell worked to extract water from the building and remove wet sheet rock Thursday. Despite this setback, the scheduled performance of "I Hate Hamlet" is on as scheduled. (Laura Wehde/Republic Photo)

Sixty thousand gallons of standing water were pumped out of Mitchell's Pepsi-Cola Theatre for the Performing Arts Wednesday and Thursday and now workers are busily drying out carpet and walls to ensure this weekend's show goes on.

And it will, said theater manager Paula Deckert, standing in the midst of 50 turbo drying machines and eight industrial-size dehumidifiers trained on the theater floors and baseboards Thursday afternoon.

It's been a hectic week at the theater. Some time between Monday night's cast rehearsal of "Big: The Musical" and Deckert's arrival at work Wednesday morning, a water pipe ruptured in the theater lobby and flooded the building.

Water stood as high as three inches in the lobby when Deckert discovered the problem -- which has proven difficult, she admits, but not nearly as tragic as seeing the State Theatre burn to the ground in 2004. She was manager of that venue, too.

Deckert is considerably more optimistic this time around. She said theater-goers will still see signs of water damage over the next month, most noticeably in the absence of baseboards, which workers stripped away Thursday to allow drywall to air out. But there's a certain well-known saying theater people like to abide by.

"The show must go on," Deckert announced. "We don't let things like this slow us down."

The ruptured water pipe flooded not only the lobby, but also offices, dressing rooms, and under the stage itself. Shelves, chairs, play props and even a piano had to be moved to allow soaking rugs and walls to dry out. Holes had to be created in some walls where water crept especially high. Deckert said the cleanup will be thorough to avoid future mildew problems. Steamway Cleaning of Mitchell is performing the restoration work.

This weekend marks the second in the run of the Area Community Theatre's production of "I Hate Hamlet." Show times are set for 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Since it opened in 2005, the Pepsi-Cola Theatre for the Performing Arts has been Mitchell's main venue for plays.

"It's truly a community theater," Deckert said.