2023 Year in Review

The past year at Town Theatre has been a busy one! And, to quote a certain wedding phrase, we have had our share of “something(s) old, something(s) new, something(s) borrowed, and something(s) blue.”

Something(s) Old
For a theatre of our age, it is not uncommon to see us mount a production that we have done before. Town Theatre is widely known for putting classics on the stage. Yet, we do take great care in making sure that a significant amount of time has passed before we bring a show back. Our goal is to have a 10-year gap, but we do make exceptions. For our summer shows and youth theatre shows, our window can shrink down to 7 years – giving enough time so that, when a show returns, it can be enjoyed by a new generation – in the audience or as stage performers. Of course, we must always bear in mind which shows are available to us. The pot of offerings can be limited to community theatres. While we would love to do certain shows, they are just not available for us to license.

Town’s 2023 slate of “something olds” included The All Night Strut! and Grease. Strut brought some tight vocals and energetic dancing to our stage wrapped in the lovely nostalgia of the 1940s. Veteran Director David Swicegood led the charge for this show which gave an appropriate nod to yesteryear. Grease re-connected us with Director Jerry Crouch who spent time at Town in the 1970s and 1980s. The show played to sold out houses and had so much energy and life – and a ton of new faces on our stage! Our summer show, The Wizard of Oz, also considered a classic, wowed audiences as well. The show’s phrase, “There’s no place like home…” led us to partner with HomeWorks and the Columbia Animal Services to spread our joy of theatre beyond the walls of 1012 Sumter Street.

Our 104th season opened with The Sound of Music, another iconic production that was last on our stage 19 years ago. The 2023 production, led by Jane Cato in her directorial debut at Town, exceeded expectations and brought another 35 people who had never appeared on Town’s main stage during a season. And, as we saw productions of this show mounting all over the country, we were pleased to be able to showcase it on our stage — it was the number one show that members requested from our survey completed in 2023. (You asked! We answered!)

We closed out the year with White Christmas. We have mounted this show twice before – in 2010 and 2014 (there’s that 10-year rule exception!). And while we do not always host a Christmas show, our member/actor survey results indicated that holiday shows are something that you want to see and do. So, we did! The 104th season’s White Christmas also served as the link for us to give back to Sistercare.  We collected gift cards and adopted three families for the season. “Sisters… sisters… there were never such devoted sisters.” (You just sang along on that, I know!)

Something(s) New
When you are as old as we are, finding something NEW can be a challenge. Yet, we brought The Play That Goes Wrong to our stage to kick off the year. The actors and the technical crew really pulled out all the stops, making this show one we will laugh about for years.

Town also mounted our first-ever 24-Hour Musical. Though this concept has been done in other parts of the state, it was a first for us. Under the leadership of our youth theatre director, David LaTorre, a team of 61 actors worked throughout the night to produce a one-of-a-kind extravaganza with High School Musical (which, also, was a first for us – having never mounted that show). It was more than a show, however. It was an amazing opportunity for people to be a part of something unique. In addition to the onstage component, a team of 25 volunteers pampered the cast, fed them, costumed them, created, and decorated the set, did light design, sound design, built props and documented the event… you name it, we did it! Given the short nature of the production timeline, we had actors who had never heard of Town Theatre paired with veterans of our stage – all in sheer fear! – of wondering how it would all come together. They were well-fed and cared for. The result was something pretty special. AND, we were able to use the show to partner with InnerSole, an organization raising funds to provide sneakers for children in need.

This fall, we also continued our Picnic in the Park series with the City of Forest Acres. While this was our fourth year of the partnership, it is still a relatively new concept for us. What was born out of COVID and an inability to perform on our stage spurred a new relationship and the opportunity to perform in a new location. The concerts have become a part of the fall “expectations” for Town and Forest Acres. And we are excited to see where this goes in the future, as plans include taking the park series to the new Gills Creek Memorial Park.  

Our traditional youth theatre model is tried and true – a class that results in a full-scale production. The program is very popular and fills to capacity each semester. Yet, both of our youth theatre productions were new ventures for us. The Little Mermaid Jr. and Honk! Jr. allowed students ages K to 12th grade to perform on our historic stage. (NOT new? The fact that we have continued to keep class and camp tuition at the same rate for many years.)

Something(s) Borrowed
The talent that exists in the Midlands is something to behold. When an actor comes to be a part of one of our shows, we are truly grateful for their gifts of time and talent. The commitment to be in a show of any magnitude (even a 24-hour one!) is not one that is taken lightly. And because actors have so many opportunities to perform with various theatres, schools, churches, etc. when they make a stop at Town, we are thankful that they are sharing their talents with us.

But what would we be without our stage crews? We applaud (and appreciate!) our stage crews who work very hard to make the shows run so seamlessly. They join a show’s journey closer to the opening, but their efforts are something that we could not do without.

In that same vein, production team leadership – including the director, choreographer, music director, costumer, stage manager, lighting designer, props master, sound engineers and more – are also sharing their talents with our stage. It is always a Town goal to have at least one (if not more) new production team folks on board while, at the same time, making sure that we include those who have been a part of Town’s long history.

Town audiences are also a critical part of the equation. We feel fortunate to borrow our audiences’ time. After all, you could be doing something else, right? Yet, you are willing to sacrifice an evening or an afternoon, as well as money, to watch us do something that we love. While this missive comes from my pen as Town’s Executive Director, I speak for all actors when we say THANK YOU to our audiences for letting us borrow you for just a few hours as we create magic on stage.

For all of those who work on a show – on stage and backstage – and those who sit in the house to watch the shows unfold, we do not take lightly that we are borrowing you. We only hope that, when the curtain falls, you feel the Town experience has given you something to take with you as you venture on to the next opportunity.

Something(s) Blue
According to Supercolor.com, the color blue is associated with open space, freedom, intuition, imagination, inspiration and sensitivity. All of these can be associated with theatre and the arts. Town Theatre strives to be a space for actors of all ages and levels of experience to explore their love for performing – using and developing their creative skills and talents.

Blue also represents depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, confidence, and stability. With our work, we aim to be a theatre you can rely on. Of course, our goal is to offer high-quality productions featuring the talents of our community, but we also want to remain an organization that always works to support that very community in which we live. And, just as the color blue is known to have positive effects on the mind and the body, we hope that Town Theatre does that for you as well.

We certainly are not perfect and sometimes we miss the mark, but the intention to remain our nation’s oldest continuously operating community theatre featuring the gifts and talents of our area is strong. Our time together in 2023 was meaningful and impactful. Here’s to 2024. If you’d like to join us – on stage, in the audience, backstage, or as a donor, there has never been a better time.

See you at the theatre!

Shannon Willis Scruggs
Executive Director

Want to make a year-end gift? Visit Here!

Call Now Button