The curtain won't go up on a production at the Imperial Dinner Theatre for quite a while.
"It could be next spring before everything is back to the way it was before," Shane Cummings, marketing director for the Imperial Dinner Theatre located in Pocahontas. Cummings explained that after lots of hard work over the past weekend, the building is actually "dry."
All sheet rock damaged by water has been torn out. He says high water climbed nearly four feet inside the facility. The structure, which initially cost over $2 million to build, has been flooded now twice—once before in 2011 and again last week.
"We were depressed for about two hours. And then we said, 'that's enough of that.' We've got to go find out what we've got to do next." Having battled back from flooding before, Cummings said the Imperial staff was smarter this time. "We had a pretty good idea about what we were going to be up against and so we just went in and took some evaluation."
He also said that support for the theatre has grown exponentially.
"I couldn't believe the amount of people that started contacting us to say, 'let us help. Anything we can do,'" Cummings said. "And not just in our community, but all across the country—even the world! We've had people from Italy, Germany, Ireland and Serbia contact us. People are Facebooking us and texting us, emailing us. It was just absolutely fantastic—the support that came in!"
Thick brown silt covered the stage and the water inside the theatre was a foot higher than in 2011. Cummings said he has found a few snakes and even a turtle during the time he and others have been trying to get the building back in order. The force of the floodwater pushed in the doors and front windows of the facility.
Had the flood not happened, the Imperial was set for a performance of "Annie." But, Cummings says that show will have to go on the road now. Revenue for the theatre is very important right now. Without a way to keep funds coming in, the theatre cannot continue to exist.
"It's been a terrible thing. But there have been so many terribly, incredibly, oddly, wonderful," Cummings said. "The human nature of things that have happened. I see people all across the community helping one another." He says the plan now is for the theatre to find a temporary location for its Studio for the Arts which offers dance and theatrical classes.
Cummings says venues in Cherokee Village and Jonesboro have reached out to see if performances could be held in their communities. The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism is a state agency. The Director of the agency, Joe David Rice, has given his office permission to take the day off and come to Pocahontas to help. Cummings says the volunteers will be driving up from Little Rock.
"It's like our second home," Cummings said. "I've been worried about people's homes. But we've been getting calls from so many people saying, 'we love you guys and we want you to come back.'"
To contact the Imperial Dinner Theatre, call 870-892-0030 or go to their website: imperialdinnertheatre.com. The theatre will also post updates on their Facebook page.
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