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Sewage backs up into basement of Artcraft Theatre

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Sewage in the basement of a Franklin theater put a sold-out event in jeopardy, but in the end the show went on.

Sewage backed up into the basement of the Artcraft Theatre earlier this month. The sewage backup did not cause any shows to be canceled, but the mess led to several hours of cleanup work and the destruction of old boxes and cardboard cutouts, said Rob Shilts, director of Franklin Heritage, the group that purchased the theater in 2004 and has been working to restore the facility.

Shilts walked into the basement of the Artcraft, off Main Street in downtown Franklin, on June 2 and found a pungent, disgusting site: a few inches of raw sewage covered the floor.

Two employees, two volunteers and a plumber spent about eight hours cleaning up the sewage before the Glenn Miller Orchestra show the following night, Shilts said.

The basement is where the old dressing rooms are located and typically is used for storage. But those dressing rooms were going to be used for the orchestra because they bring more performers than most acts, Shilts said.

The theater would have lost thousands of dollars if the show had been canceled. The show had a sold-out crowd of about 600 people, and the theater had to pay for about 15 hotel rooms and food for the orchestra, Shilts said.

A plumber later determined rocks had been caught in the sewage lines leading into the Artcraft, which caused the backup. On Saturday, Shilts went to the basement to check on the area prior to a dance recital. He saw a small amount of sewage beginning to leak. The problem was caught early enough to clean up quickly.

A plumber was able to find and remove a wheelbarrow’s worth of rocks, some about 3 inches wide, in the sewage line shortly afterward, Shilts said. Construction has been going on in the alley next to the theater.

The sewage did ruin several old boxes, including a handful that were used in the early days of the theater, while several Disney cardboard cutouts also were lost, Shilts said.

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