This article appeared in The State’s The Extra on Nov. 18. As we approach a new year, we thought it would be a great time to share it on our website.
Town Theatre has delighted audiences for 96 years
Each year, 30,000 people walk through the front doors with the teal awning at 1012 Sumter Street. Actors coming to rehearsal, backstage crew showing up to provide assistance in set choreography, youth of all ages bustling in for weekly classes and, of course, folks who just want to sit down and enjoy a great show. And, for the past 96 years (and counting), Town Theatre’s doors have been open to those in the Midlands and beyond. Town Theatre is the oldest continuously operating community theatre in the nation. Founded in 1919, Town is proud of its role to provide quality, live, family-oriented community theatre as well as to offer the foundation for those who wish to participate on or backstage. Each year Town produces five or six main stage productions from September to May; a major summer musical; two youth theatre productions; a full spectrum of summer camps as well as a mixture of other events.
“The arts are alive and well in Columbia and Town Theatre is proud to have been in the center of it all,” says board president Mary Lynn Barnette. Yet, Town Theatre leadership knows that it cannot rely on its longevity alone. “While we are so grateful for our large membership roster, many of whom have been with us for years, we know that we have to keep providing quality entertainment not only to keep them, but also to entice new patrons,” said Barnette. Whether it is mounting a production that has never been seen on a local community theatre stage (like last summer’s Mary Poppins) or finding ways to expand on Town’s already “filled to the brim” youth arts programming, the theatre enjoys the challenges of filling seats.
Shannon Willis Scruggs has been a part of Town for more than 30 years as a performer, director and now in the role of theatre management taking over the position of Executive Director after leading the SC Bar Foundation for ten years. “I remember when Town turned 80 and thought, ‘wow — what a ride this has been.’ Now that we’re getting ready to turn a full century, I am beyond excited at the things we have in store!”