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Theatre therapy

Post by David Wilson with an intro by Town Theatre

The most special parts of Town Theatre are her people. Many of us have Town Theatre stories – and we love to hear them! When we happen upon one that touches our hearts, we like to share. This story does just that. Thanks, David, for being willing to document just what this experience has meant to you.

“Howdy, let me make the first of two introductions. My name is David Wilson. I am 39 years old, married with two young children. I am a transplant from… yup, you guessed it, Ohio. In Ohio, I was a Field Technician for a major telecommunications company. In 2016 I developed an auto-immune disorder that attacked my joints. This not only made my daily life difficult, but I was also no longer able to climb telephone poles and ultimately ended up on disability. My condition is made worse by the cold. After several pain-filled Ohio winters, we made the decision to relocate to Columbia last summer.

The second introduction is for my Grandpa Sam. He passed in March of this year. He was a pastor for 55 years. He was highly educated with two doctorates. I have witnessed him many times go without so that others could eat or be warm. He was quiet, yet he had presence. He was also a skilled craftsman. When my grandparents bought their house it was 1,100 sq. ft. When they moved out it was 1,700 sq. ft. with a 2,000 sq. ft. workshop in the backyard. As a kid, I spent many summers with him in said workshop.

After getting established with doctors in Columbia, I was put on a medication that makes me feel 80% better on most days. Better enough to start enjoying my life again. In a chance encounter at my church’s Easter breakfast, I happened to sit at the same table as a former director of Town Theatre. My previous theatre experience came up, and I was encouraged to audition for Town’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was interested. I hesitated, though, because although the medication was making me feel better, I had spent the past six years being sedentary. I needed to rebuild my strength and stamina. The choreography of Joseph… was helpful for that. Over time, I got to know Town’s staff and the current director. I guess I had made enough of an impression so that when the new technical director needed an extra hand building The Music Man set, she reached out to me to help.

During my first week working with the technical director, I was horribly rusty.

The skills I had cultivated during those summers with my grandfather had gone unused over the last six years.  As I was getting back into the swing of things, I consistently had the voice of my Grandfather in the back of my head. Every time I turned on the table saw it was his checklist running through my head. He had dyslexia, so he was compulsive about checking measurements, a habit I picked up. Even though the Miter saw has a LASER guide on it, I still used his method of gauging where the cut should be. And a lot of other small things that you only get from gentle mentoring.

The first I thing I helped the technical director with was a huge brick wall. In The Music Man, the brick wall is the exterior of the library where Marian Paroo works. The wall also serves as a tool for scene transition. It is heavy and comes in and out frequently throughout the show. I am also on the crew for The Music Man and the primary operator of the wall. I jokingly requested to the Town director that I be listed under cast in the playbill as “Brick Wall.” She laughed but then offered to let me name it.

After looking back on my time helping with the set building, I realized that there is a little bit of my grandfather in everything I touched on that set. When I took the job offer to help the technical director, I thought of it as a litmus test to see if I could get off of disability and return to full-time work someday. I didn’t think it would help me work through my grandfather’s passing, but that’s exactly what it did. I can’t think of a better moniker for that wall than “Sam.” Besides my fond memories of being in his workshop, the wall represents him in many other ways. Like him, it has presence. As he held two doctorates, he was frequently at a library. The level of craftsmanship and dedication that has been put into not only the wall but this show is something he would appreciate. My involvement with Town Theatre has come at an interesting time in my life. I have rediscovered a part of myself I thought had been lost. Not only am I acting again, but I am also learning to sing and play an instrument. Grandpa was very musical as well. It’s interesting to me that a theatre could act as a form of therapy both physically and mentally.

There are seven more shows that I will be lifting and lowering “Sam.”

When the curtain falls for the final time on The Music Man, a team of dedicated people will dismantle “Sam” and its components will be stored for future use. For me, when I see those brick pieces used on a future set, it will bring back fond memories of building something with my Grandpa all those summers ago. Everyone else will be unknowing bystanders of his talent, skill and mentoring. That is the way of things. We all have our heroes that we learn and grow from. I am fortunate that a piece of my hero will be a part of something that will bring hundreds of people joy.”

Mrs. Paroo Invites YOU!

Upon request of the lovely widow Paroo, the Board of Governors invites you to join us for the opening of our 103rd Season. On opening night, Friday, September 9, we’ll raise a glass to toast the opening of the 103rd Season. As soon as the curtain falls, we invite any ticket holder from opening night to join the cast and crew of The Music Man in the parking lot next to Town. We’ll provide the food, sweet tea and champagne to toast. You’re sure to enjoy some of our favorite restaurants and their delicious goodies.

Thanks to Lizard’s Thicket, Tio’s Mexican Cafe, The University of South Carolina Foundations and Sandra Willis for their support of this event.

From the Director’s chair…

Jamie Harrington

By Jamie Harrington

When I was asked to direct Jekyll and Hyde last year, I was extremely excited to take on such a challenging show. It is a show that has been a part of my theatrical life since I was a child. The first time I remember hearing the music was in 8th grade. My choir teacher had us sing “This Is The Moment” for part of our spring show. All the kids loved it. Then a couple of years later, a friend of mine named David handed me a double cassette tape (I’m old) recording of what I now understand was the concept album of Jekyll and Hyde. He said that he knew that I loved Broadway shows and that I would really like J&H. He wasn’t wrong. I listened to that cassette tape on repeat until it got destroyed on my move to college. Imagine my surprise when I was in college and a few friends of mine and I went to see it on Broadway with the original cast and much of the music was different. I knew the tunes, but the lyrics and songs were different. That’s when I realized that I had fallen in love with the concept album and quickly got the Broadway CD (movin’ on up) to fill in the gaps. I could sing every character’s part. I loved it. There were things staging-wise that I was enthralled with. The red umbrella in “Murder, Murder,” the hair whips in “Confrontation” (until I had a friend do that scene on a college talent show night that made me laugh out loud…I think that was their point. And when I watched the David Hasselhoff version… that’s…something…), the song “His Work And Nothing More,” I could go on and on. I have wanted to create my own take on this show for years. 

Then, I was asked to direct. I knew this show had to have a team that was on top of their game and a cast just as strong.  I was worried about who I would get to play Jekyll/Hyde. That is a beast of a role, no pun intended.  Billy sang the songs effortlessly and over the course of this run has created such a tragic hero. You root for him, become disgusted with him, and then sympathize. He takes us on this roller coaster of emotions. He does it with tireless work that he makes seem easy and you know it is anything but easy. My ladies who auditioned were just as strong. Their schedules were crazy due to being in other shows, getting married, and general conflicts that I decided to double cast. Alex, Ashley, Hannah and Cortlin have truly created these beautifully well-rounded characters that you root for, feel for, and are pained for as the story unfolds. William Bentley as Utterson gives us just a few moments of comic relief but also fights for his dear friend to return from the other side. You believe him and his friendship journey. My Board of Governors has created such well-rounded characters, as well. I love how they make you root for their demise and then you feel “kind of ” bad because you realize that you are rooting for their demise. The cast fills out the ensemble beautifully. They work together to create the pictures on stage that tell the story in the best way possible.

Tracy Steele, my choreographer and dear friend, created moments in the show that I don’t think any J&H show has ever had. “Dangerous Game” is… dangerous. It’s intriguing, sexy and smart. It plays into the previously sung “Someone Like You” with identical beginning sections of choreography, but the intent and execution are completely different to create two totally different dances. And then “Bring On The Men”… the men were brought. Amanda Hines is amazing at her music directions. Like, seriously, I’m in awe of her talents. We have strong singers and she brought out the best in everyone. Janet Kile is costuming this show with her assistant Katie Neff. Come see this show for the costumes alone. The thought that is put into these costumes would surprise you. You know they look good, but the hours of research show. David Swicegood did the wigs and they’re stunning. Elizabeth Oliveira is stage managing this giant pageant with ease. I think it’s because she’s smart and has a great eye for staging and ear for music.  And then there’s me. I got to direct this crazy amazing show. I got to put “His Work and Nothing More” on stage. I got to block “Facade” and “Murder, Murder.” That is a dream come true. For someone who has loved this show almost as long as I have been alive, it has been a glorious run. I don’t know if I have ever worked on a show that felt this “easy.” Everything just fell into place. We took multiple days off in a row. Who does that on a show like this? The cast and crew made it that way. When you’re a kid and you dream of getting to do a show like this, and then you do it and it checks all the boxes for a dream fulfilled, it feels wonderful. I hope you enjoy Jekyll and Hyde as much as I do. 

Midlands Gives 2022

Town Theatre had a banner day through Midlands Gives raising $22,111.25 via the 18-hour give-a-thon sponsored by the Central Carolina Community Foundation. More than $3.7 million was raised supporting 540 nonprofit entities throughout the Midlands area.

Town’s donors were a mix of patrons, Board and staff leadership and performers with $5,500 being provided in match funds.

BIG congrats to the cast of The Red Velvet Cake War who has the bragging rights of being THE LAST CAST STANDING for 2022! Congrats to the casts who met the challenge of having 50% or more of their group give to Town. They will be hosted for a cast reunion in the coming week.

Thank you to all of our Midlands Gives Donors. We are so grateful!

Anonymous
Chelsey Art
Liz Auld
Agnes Babb
Anita T. Baker
The Barnette Agency, LLC
Mary Lynn & Robert Barnette
Allison Bastos
June Bell
Bill Bentley & Alex Carrico
Marybeth  Berry 
Billy Bishop
Crystal Blackwell
Chauntel  Bland
Hans and Lou
Drs. William and Sallie Boggs
Robert Borom
Ann R. Bowles 
Mike & Carol Braddock
Andrea Brown
Bryann K. Burgess
Connor Burney
Blakely CahoonIn honor of Susan Gehlmann
David Campbell
Peter Carnohan
Bonnie ChanceIn honor of my granddaughter, Rosemary Buzzell
Kara Cieri
Emily Clelland
Phil & Stacey CobbIn celebration of Grant Cobb and the children’s theater program
Chip and Cortlin Collins 
Alex Cone
Dawn Cone
Greer Crow
Vickie E. Davis
Jackie DeWitt
Bill DeWitt
George Dinsmore
Phyllis Dixon
Megan Douthitt
Christopher Eargle
Nick Eberhardt
Ruth Ellen
Mike & Kim Epperson
Kim Etcheson
Kimberly FreemanThank you for all you do to bring the arts to life in Columbia!
Alyssa Gamble
Amy Geddes
Ruth Glowacki
Amanda Goins
Felicia GoinsIn memory of Will Moreau 
Faye Goolsby
Christie Gross
Beth Gross
Todd R. Gustafson 
Elisabeth Hammond
Kathy Hartzog 
Elizabeth Helmboldt
Barry and Karin Hill
Amanda Hines and Steve Wrona 
Ellen Hinrichs
Pat Itter
Betsy JacksonIn honor of Nathan Jackson
Nathan Jackson
Regina JanvrinIn honor of the box office staff!
Tiffany Jones
Edward Kester
Elizabeth  Kinney
Cara Koerber
Brigitte Kraushaar
Chris J Kruzner
David LaTorre
Ashley R Leaphart
Keith Marsh
Wydna Martin
Cheryl Martino
Jeni McCaughanIn honor of Lee Martin
Patrick McCormick
David McCree 
Kerry  McGregorFor all the wonderful shows I’ve been a part of. 
Allison  McNeely 
Honey’s Gang
Christy MillsIn memory of Honey
Matthew Mills
Zanna Mills
Thomas Monahan
June E Nemetz
Norene Family
Robin NorrisHonoring TJ Leitzsey 
Toby O’Connor
Kristy O’Keefe
Brenda OwensIn honor of Josie “Kat” Sanders
Craig Parks
Lara Popovich
Caroline Powell
Karen Quinn
Kristen Randall
Kerri Roberts
Chelsea Rudisill & Luke Browder
Gabe and Donna Saleeby
Gina, Robin and Grayson Saviola 
Jennifer Scott
Shannon Scruggs
Kendall Scruggs
Thomas  Scruggs 
Rebecca and Michael Seezen
Jack Seezen
Kathryn Seppamaki
Donald and Alicia Shealy
Toni Sheridan
The Cason Group
Julie Songer BelmanIn loving memory of Don Songer
Diana W Stevenson
Kerry Stubbs
Hannah Thompson
John Tighe
Leah Tudor
Stacy Veldman
Megan Walker
Hollis & Nancy Walker
Virginia Walker
Lauren Way
Bailey Weikel-FeekesIn honor of the wonderful cast in Bright Star and Jekyll & Hyde
Carl and Nancy White
Elizabeth & Robert WilliamsIn memory of Anna Williams
Love,
Elizabeth & Robert Williams
Robert & Penn Williams 
Robert E Williams Jr
Michael Willis
Willis Tax & Accounting
Sandra Willis
Christine Wilson
Sadie Wiskes
Cathy Wiskes
Janice and David Yensan

Music, Mayhem, Madness and Mmmmmm…

Saturdays, May 14 & 21

It certainly is a part of our DNA to host dessert nights at Town ~ no scientific experiment necessary. Jekyll & Hyde gives us the perfect opportunity to mix up some of our favorite desserts for your enjoyment!

Get your tickets to the show on Saturday, May 14 OR Saturday, May 21 and we’ll add some mouth-watering munchies to this evening of melodious mayhem. All you have to do is go out to eat ~ and then bring us the receipt.

No deception here ~ your dinner receipt in exchange for dessert which will be provided on the patio before the show. Dessert will be served from 6:45 PM to 7:15 PM.

So, on Saturday, May 14 and/or 21, go #DineAroundTown, bring us the bill and enjoy dessert on the patio! Receipts must be dated March 14 or 21 with a time stamp of 4 PM or later. Don’t worry ~ if you run out of time to grab dinner, we’ll still serve you dessert. Your choice of one dessert for $4. Water, soft drinks, beer and wine will also be available for purchase.

Homemade desserts selections may include death by chocolate, lethal lemon and/or coconut crime. Come join us to see which desserts will show their true face.

Hiring: Technical Director Assistant Position

Town Theatre is seeking a Technical Director Assistant. The ideal candidate will have a working knowledge of all aspects of technical theatre including set design, construction, lighting and sound. Town Theatre is in the middle of its 102nd season of operation with a heavy emphasis on musicals. Generally, the theatre produces five main stage shows during the season (September to May), a large summer main stage musical, two to three youth theatre productions as well as various special event shows. The theatre itself is a proscenium stage theatre with a fly system. Sets are built onsite in a workshop and on the stage. Town Theatre values the ability of all staff to work in and promote a harmonious work environment.

Candidates should:

  • Be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license
  • Have a high school degree or a GED equivalent
  • Have a basic theatre knowledge of how productions are put together and run
  • Showcase an ability to effectively work with and support volunteers
  • Show the desire and ability to work collaboratively and cordially with fellow staff, stage managers, directors and volunteers
  • Be able to meet deadlines with quality results
  • Have a flexible schedule that will vary depending on the life cycle of each show

Preferred skills include, but are not limited to carpentry, overhead rigging, stage electrics, scenic painting and sound/audio tech experience.  

Basic duties of the position will include, but are not limited to:

  • Assisting the Technical Director with the building, rigging, props, painting of scenery, lighting and any audio needs for the productions
  • Assisting in the maintenance of equipment in the scene shop, light booth and sound booth
  • Keeping up with the props, organization of the props room and basement storage
  • Working offsite at the warehouse to pull and maintain stored scenery
  • Staffing the actual productions as the on-site technician when needed
  • Working in the attic over the auditorium as well as on the grid over the stage as needed
  • Assisting with the maintenance needs of the general facility

Ideally, this hire will be a full-time position with weekday hours during the show build and evening hours during the run of the show, shared by the theatre’s Technical Director. However, the position may be split depending on the candidates. To apply, please send a cover letter, résumé, visual examples of scenic design work and three references with current contact information. Packages may be sent electronically to Shannon Willis Scruggs, Executive Director, at shannon@towntheatre.com.

Posted Dec. 7, 2021

Town’s Technical Interns

We are so happy that summertime at Town is “back to normal.” The return of our regular working environment affords us the opportunity to host our technical theatre interns. Since 2017, Town has served as a summer workshop opportunity for students interested in developing their technical theatre skills. Summer internships at Town are ideal for candidates who are looking to study technical theatre and/or design in high school, Governor’s School or college.

Foreground: Kat puts a base coat on a cylinder that will be transformed into a castle column. Background: Alison and Sara create supports for a platform that will become part of the castle staircase.

Kat Martin came to us after spending 4 years involved in the theatre department at River Bluff High School. She worked as a lighting technician, technical director and soundboard operator. She also gained some great insight by serving as the director for a short play. After graduation, she spent time at the College of Charleston majoring in Arts Management. But, we are thrilled that she is coming back “home” to Columbia and USC so she can continue her work at Town Theatre.

Alison Griffin also made her way to Town after being involved in theatre during middle and high school. Her early experiences focused on set building, design and run crew. More recently, she took on leadership roles and served as a part of the technical crew for large shows at River Bluff such as Mamma Mia and Les Mis. Alison says, “The technical internship that Town Theatre is offering this summer is a great way to further my practical experience before starting my college career.” Alison plans to attend Winthrop University in the fall.

Ian Neff is a recent graduate of Covenant Christian School where he most recently designed and built the set for Aladdin Jr. (which was presented on the Town Theatre stage last April). He also was in the show! Ian started with us a few days later after visiting with family in Montana. Yet, as soon as he got back, he hit the ground running and reported to Town. Due to his experience as a set builder for his school, Danny put him to work cutting out wheels for Cinderella’s carriage. Ian says he is enjoying the internship and knows that it is exactly what he needs to be doing with his time right now!

Elli Tocci, a 2021 Blythewood High School graduate, had this to say – “I’m so blessed to have been able to work as an intern at Town Theatre this summer! I’ve loved getting to know other students over the past few weeks and getting to work with them on set. Prior to starting my internship, I had done work in performance, costume design, and a little set design. Since starting at Town though, I have been able to learn so much about set construction by getting to do woodworking, painting, and drilling. It has been so much fun getting to learn something new every day with such a great team and working with them to create a beautiful show. I’m looking forward to learning more about theatre production this summer and I hope everyone loves Cinderella as much as I’ve loved working on it.”

Ella works with Danny on cutting techniques while Ian looks on.

Sara Brown has been seeking out an opportunity like this for some time now. She is new to set construction but does have a passion for set design. She even created an entry in the scenic design category for competition. Sara is committed to learning more about theatre production and hopes that she is able to gain experience working on Cinderella. We’re so happy that we can connect the dots between her design work and turning that design into a physical structure.

In Town’s four summers of running the internship program, we have had upwards of 20 students participate. Not only are they getting a top-notch experience with Danny Harrington, Town’s Technical Director, but they are also a tremendous asset to our summer production and theatre. We thank them for their hard work!

From left to right: Ian, Kat, Alison, Sara and Ella.

101st Season Conclusion

The time has FINALLY arrived where we can (with a little more accuracy) share our plans for the Spring and Summer. We appreciate your patience as we have worked to stay open during the last year. We were fortunate to be able to finish Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Jr. with limited capacities back in November 2020. We also have been able to serve as the second home to several local dance schools that were not able to complete previously planned performances. (Don’t worry – all COVID guidelines were followed and we were happy that so many students could “finish what they started.”) 

As we look toward the Spring and Summer, we are cautiously optimistic about our opportunities to return to the stage. Though we now fully know that COVID could force us to change our plans without notice, we will move forward working according to CDC guidelines for the safety of our patrons, staff and volunteers. We hoped to complete the season with A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, however, that just is not in the cards. More than a year has passed since that cast first came together. Since then, many have had schedule changes making a return impossible. While we pondered re-auditioning and re-casting, it became clear that bringing this show to the stage needed to be postponed. We intend to do this show in the future – perhaps in a subsequent season. It just was not meant to be for the 101st

We are committed to offering TWO opportunities to conclude the 101st season. Limited Exposure – a Broadway Cabaret will run April 16-18. Audiences will enjoy Kerri Roberts, Billy Bishop, Sheldon Paschal, Scott Vaughan, Kathy Seppamaki, Clayton King, Hannah Thompson, Lanny Spires, Cortlin & Chip Collins, Heather Hinson, Virginia Walker, Kathy Hartzog and Bill DeWitt. We are grateful to Michael Simmons (creator of Home for the Holidays and Broadway Under the Covers) for sharing his amazing talent for writing shows that bring some of our favorite songs and performers together. Members can get tickets starting Wednesday, March 17 at 12 noon. Non-members can get tickets beginning Monday, April 12 at 12 noon. There will be a streaming option for this show which you can also access with your member ticket or a paid cash ticket. ALL THREE of the cabaret performances will have a limited capacity with distanced seating.

A second option for members will be to use your tickets to Always… Patsy ClineThis show first came to the Town Theatre in August 2000 and we always hear, “When are you bringing the gals back?” This COVID intermission makes it possible for Kathy Hartzog and Shannon Scruggs aka Louise and Patsy to “tool” across the stage backed by the Bodacious Bobcats. You do not want to miss this show which will run April 23-25 and April 29-May 2. Members can get tickets starting Monday, April 12 at 12 noon. Non-members can get tickets beginning Monday, April 19 at 12 noon. Streaming is not currently an option for Always…Patsy Cline. We are considering a combination of limited capacity with distanced seating shows and some regular capacity shows. As we continue to watch COVID numbers, these decisions will be made and communicated.

Limited Exposure and Always…Patsy Cline will conclude the 101st and will be the final opportunities for members to utilize tickets for this season.  

In May, our youth theatre programs will take over the stage with several offerings including The Lion King Jr., Disney’s Jungle Book KIDS by our Town Tweens, and a production by our Town Teen Troupe. By July, we hope to be back in the swing of things with the summer spectacular, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Check out audition details here. If all of the above goes to plan, we’ll move into the 102nd season – just one year later!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at town@towntheatre.com. We will do our best to respond quickly. That being said, we are still very thinly staffed so please bear with us. We all know that plans are better when they are flexible so do keep that in mind. However, the simple fact remains that we have missed you and cannot WAIT to see you at the theatre. 

Treat your Valentine to a Valentown!

Looking for a unique way to spoil your Valentine? How about a ValenTOWN Vocalist? ValenTOWNs are $50 and include a serenade, a rose, and a sweet treat all delivered to your doorstep (or location of choice). ValenTOWN vocalists will arrive masked and will remain socially distanced.

You’ll provide your location and a 1-hour window in which we can arrive and perform. Then leave the rest to us! ValenTOWN Vocalists will be scheduled based on availability and geography. We will try to honor specific pairings if at all possible. First come, first served!

Vocalists are available Friday and Saturday, February 12 & 13 from 12 noon to 8 PM as well as Sunday, February 14 from 2 PM to 8 PM.

Reserve your ValenTOWN today! Upon reservation, we will connect with you for details. Questions? Contact Shannon Scruggs, Executive Director.

Welcome to the Cast!

We’re excited to have some new cast members joining us for the re-boot of Mary Poppins! New to the stage for the October/November 2020 production:

Billy Bishop
Corey Langley

Billy Bishop (Park Keeper/Bank Chair) was a part of the original Poppins team as the costumer. However, he is happy to be on stage this go-round and is thrilled to be playing the role of a lifetime: that of Hans Boeschen.

Corey Langley (Northbrook) is pleased to play the role of Northbrook in Town’s production of Mary Poppins. “It’s been awhile since we’ve all been back in the theatre. Thank you to those who continue to support us.”

Kendall Scruggs
Christy Shealy Mills

Christy Shealy Mills (Bird Woman) is delighted to resurrect the bird woman from Mary Poppins 2015. When she isn’t feeding the birds, she enjoys teaching dance to students at Town Theatre, and other branches of SC Music and Dance Academy. Thanks to Shannon for this opportunity and to Honey for supporting her theatre addiction.

Hannah Thompson

Kendall Scruggs (Lead Sweep) is happy to be a part of the Poppins re-boot after appearing in the 2015 production. Other Town shows include Willy Wonka, Beauty and the Beast, Joseph…, Tarzan and Peter Pan. Kendall enjoys spending time with friends, Camp Greenville and is a dancer at Columbia Ballet School.

Hannah Thompson (Mrs. Banks) is thrilled to be joining the returning cast of Mary Poppins. Hannah appeared most recently in Town’s production of Into the Woods as The Baker’s Wife. Before joining the Town community, Hannah received a degree in Music Education from Belmont University and a Master degree in Voice Performance from The University of South Carolina. Hannah also spends her time at Town co-directing the Town Tween Troupe and teaching voice lessons.