Tag Archives: Town Theatre

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.

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.

My Kind of Town ~ Al McNeely

al town t 300

“My love/love relationship with Town Theatre goes way back to the dark ages: 1964. That’s when my wife Pat and an old high school girlfriend joined forces to force me to a tryout. I hadn’t been on the stage for seven years, but shockingly got the part, the lead and later the laughs. I was totally hooked. Now, 54 years later, my total is 28 productions. They cover everything from heavy drama to second tenor in a Sha Na Na line (twice!). From warbling an Irish lullaby solo in Guys and Dolls to a not-too-bad W.C. Fields impersonation. From opening one play by falling over dead, and two others that co-starred a 6-foot invisible rabbit.

It has been a wondrous ride. Six decades of laughter and hard work.

Learning all those lines. I even wrote scenes for two plays. Offstage, there were two terms on the Board of Governors, one term as president of the Players Club, and countless hours spent in such committees as play reading. I loved it all. Rehearsals were a kick. With each new production I made new friends, and as the years rolled by, they became old friends. Other McNeelys wound up on stage and we sometimes did shows together.

It all culminated in seeing my daughter Allison morph from a kid who once crawled around under the conference table upstairs to become the theatre’s Resident Director. As such, she has directed me in three shows so far, neatly turning our relationship upside down and proving that she has forgotten more stagecraft than I ever knew.

Today, at the precarious age of 83, it’s the people I remember more than the shows, people like my good friend John Wrisley. John and I played Holmes and Watson twice and did essentially the same two characters for My Fair Lady. At one time or another, my talented niece Leah, my comedy-improv son Alan, and of course my awesome daughter Allison were in shows. Many of our rehearsals were more like parties and some of the cast parties were held at our house. Occasionally, even today, someone in a restaurant or grocery store will call out “How’s Harvey?” and I have been “made” as Elwood P. Dowd, the angelic friend of Harvey the Rabbit. I played Elwood twice, 15 years apart, and a portrait of Harvey and myself, paw on shoulder, hangs on our bedroom wall. I can still use lines from that play anywhere I need to kill some time. Only the remnants of other lines from other plays are still in my feeble memory bank today, remarkable when you consider the sweat and tears once necessary to pound them in.

There were other plays that came under the “Heavy Lifting” category. Doing Sleuth with Bill Arvay as a two-actor grind wore us down to the nub every night. I thought about walking away from my TT hobby/habit. But new plays came along with roles I liked, so I was still moderately hooked. In 1999 Allison tricked me into doing a very long role in Over My Dead Body. It proved to be my swan song for retentive memory. I did two more walk-ons and am sneakingly searching for another. Three years ago, at age 80, I played the one-scene one-laugh cop in Singin’ in the Rain. By all the evidence I can conscientiously collect, that makes me the oldest actor ever to appear in a TT show. I’m proud of that.

I was lucky enough to do shows in both the 50th and the 75th anniversary seasons. So if anybody desperately needs a walk-on for the 100th, I’m your man.

Or the rabbit.”

REFLECTIONS ON WEST SIDE STORY – TAKE TWO

Editor’s Note: In our current production of West Side Story – we have three “veterans” of Town’s 1998 production. David Swicegood (Director) penned his thoughts earlier this week. TAKE TWO is courtesy of the one and only Doc, Tom Baldwin. 

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Tom Baldwin as Doc, 2018. PC: Go Flash Win.

Doc’s Memories of 1998:

West Side Story (1998) was my first show at Town Theatre after an eight-year absence. I had just played Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Workshop the year before and was just starting to get the “theatre bug” again. I remember going to the open audition where I sang my eight bars (of something) and tried to dance. Jennifer Austin (who became a lovely friend) was the dance captain. She started giving out a lot of dance commands to a lot of experienced dancers (and me) and, needless to say to anyone who knows me…I didn’t shine. Well, the cast was going to be doing Maurice Curry’s choreography so, as also holds true for Joy’s current wonderful choreography, they were going to need some pretty good dancers. That’s the kind of show it is. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew I was in over my head. I had made a pretty good Freddie Eynsford-Hill, i.e. sings pretty but don’t move too much, but I knew I was no Tony. And, I was 40. What was I thinking?! All I knew was that there were all of those great Leonard Bernstein songs and I wanted to be part of them and the twenty-somethings (that includes you too, Ag and Candice!) who cherish this classic work. This thing, West Side Story, builds a bridge across generations. So, I went home, despondent, thinking I wouldn’t get a call back from David. I popped my VHS tape of the movie into my VCR and started listing to the opening overture. When it gets to “Maria,” tears start streaming down my face. I made a decision to do something that I would never recommend to anyone who auditions for shows (but, it merely worked for me). I decided to crash callbacks. The night of callbacks, I was sitting down front with my sheet music in my hand ready to sing again and then David touches my shoulder. I look up and he says, “I don’t need to hear you sing again, but I want you to hang around”. So, I did. Apparently, “Doc” had been cast, but whoever was going to do it had to drop out (probably Bubba Fulmer J).  I read for “Doc.” I was cast as “Doc.” The rest of the experience was just funny, touching, exhilarating and one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had.

Here is a list of fond memories from the show:

  • True, real life brothers, “Womb-to-tomb”, “Sperm-to-worm”, Brian and Mark Childers (“Tony” and “Riff”).
  • The night that Jonathan Monk (“Baby John”) and Will Moreau (“Bernardo”) couldn’t spin Doc’s combo back staircase/storefront for the last scene with Tony and Doc. Will said, “Doc! The latch is stuck!” LOL
  • Baby John, Chino and Doc singing the “Maria” echo from the wings.
  • Brian (“Tony”) letting out an “Ow!!…Ow!!!!” one night when I clocked him real good!
  • Lee Reynolds (“Glad Hand”), during a rehearsal, standing in the circle looking serious in the Tony death scene in a tweed coat and heart-covered boxer shorts.
  • Debra Bricker (“Anita”) thinking I was shy. Ha!
  • Robbie Sweet (“Chino”) – An all-around good guy and a good friend.
  • Kati Baldwin – My seven-year-old daughter standing in a chair on the front row, applauding during a curtain call with a look of wonder on her face.
  • David Swicegood – How do you make it look so easy when it obviously ain’t? Grace in the face of adversity should be his middle name.
  • Shannon Willis (Scruggs) – You grew up to be quite a woman from the little teenager that I once knew.
  • Kerry Grimsley (Roberts) – Wow! You’re still here! Still brilliant and beautiful. I get déjà vu all over again when you turn the gun on the crowd. It’s good to see that some things haven’t changed.

 

Reflections on West Side Story – Take One

Editor’s Note: In our current production of West Side Story – we have three “veterans” of the show one being the director, David Swicegood. David directed Town’s 1998 production and it was stellar. Here are some of his memories of that show that you may enjoy.

“One of my fondest memories of West Side Story in ’98 was, having David Swicegoodcast almost the whole show {at least in my mind}, but I still hadn’t seen a Maria. The last person to audition was a lovely young dark-haired girl who looked EXACTLY how Maria should look. I closed my eyes and said “Please God. let her be able to sing!” Well, her name was Kerri Grimsley {now Roberts} and when she began singing I literally cried! Her voice still takes my breath away, and I couldn’t be happier to have her play Maria again, as beautiful as ever and a voice possibly better than it was 20 years ago.

I also had a “youngish” man named Tom Baldwin who auditioned for the role of Doc, a non-singing but important character role. The script described the character as being in his 60s and Tom was much younger than that! I had a good feeling about Tom however and cast him as Doc. He was so good! I thought about him when I found out I would be directing the show again and, to my surprise, he came to auditions! And now he’s the right age to play Doc! He actually wrote on his audition form “I am the ONLY Doc!” And he is.

My long-time friend Maurice Curry came down from New York to collaborate with me as the choreographer for the show in ’98 and did an amazing job! We tried to get him to come back and do it again, but due to his responsibilities as the Executive Artistic Director of the Eglevsky Ballet Company in New York, was unable to commit to it this time. The wonderful Joy Alexander took the helm as Choreographer and has been AMAZING!! Things DO work out!

During the ’98 show, I also got to work with a very talented young lady named Shannon Louise Willis, whom I had directed in The All Night Strut, my first directorial job at Town Theatre. She was Rosalia in ’98 and was fantastic, as she always is! I directed her again the next year in Sweet Charity, and you probably know that, in addition to singing, directing and choreographing at Town, she is now the Executive Director of the theatre. Just shows you that when theatre is in your blood, it’s there forever.

I also would like to mention that several of my ’98 cast have gone to professional careers in theatre, film and television including Brian Childers, Mark Childers, Melinda Schmidt {now Wrenn Schmidt professionally} and Jennifer Austin. I’d really like to think I played a small part in instilling in them {and all the cast, then and now!} a love of performing and especially the joy of live theatre.

One last memory to share ~ I had finished casting the show in ’98 except the role of Bernardo. I got a call from Sandra Willis, Town’s Executive Director at the time, and she sort of whispered: “Bernardo is in my office!” I asked her to see if he could wait a few minutes and I raced to the theatre and met Will Moreau who, of course, became Bernardo. It was his first show in Columbia and Will became a household name and mainstay of Columbia theatre. Not only was he a good actor but also a great friend and tireless advocate for many causes until his untimely passing last year. He is greatly missed and will long be remembered for his contributions to our city. Rest in peace, friend.”

~David SwicegoodWSS will

Tip of the Hat

Tip-of-the-HatTip of the Hat – limited number of tickets for sale!

Please join us on Sunday, August 12 at 3 PM. We will officially “kick-off” our Centennial with a special Tip of the Hat celebration. Plans include the unveiling of our historical marker and a production of the first play ever produced by Town, Alice Brown’s one-act comedy Joint Owners in Spain. The show stars some of Town’s favorite performers ~ Kathy Hartzog, Leah McNeely Tudor, Gayle Stewart and Bill DeWitt ~ and is under the direction of Allison McNeely.

We are excited to welcome as our special guest, Penelope Reed, the granddaughter of Town’s first director, Daniel A. Reed. A reception will follow the event.

A limited number of tickets is now available for $10 each. Visit towntheatre.com to purchase OR call 803-799-2510 from 12 noon to 5 PM through Friday.

Will Moreau Goins Memorial Fund at Town Theatre

Town Theatre is grateful to honor the request of the family of Will Moreau Goins to establish the Will Moreau Goins Memorial Fund at Town Theatre. Will was an integral part of the Town Theatre family for the last 19 years and we will not be the same without him.

To contribute to the fund, gifts may be sent to Town TheFor 19 years, you illuminated our lives and our stages.atre at 1012 Sumter St., Columbia, SC 29201. Or, you may give online here and note that the gift is a tribute to Will.

Town was also humbled by the invitation to remember Will at the reflection service held Friday, Nov. 24 at Palmer Memorial Chapel. The remarks, delivered by Town’s Executive Director, Shannon Willis Scruggs, are included below. They were presented on behalf of the Town Theatre board and staff, the many cast and crew members who worked with Will and audiences who enjoyed his craft.

We will continue to remember Will’s family in our thoughts and prayers and stand alongside everyone who is still mourning the loss of this bright light.

“Thank you to the entire family for the invitation to remember Will this evening.

Almost everyone who knew and loved Will continues to struggle with his passing. It doesn’t make sense ~ it doesn’t seem real. I keep waiting for him to run down the theatre aisle, 15 minutes after rehearsal has started, with that hand waving in the air and that sheepish grin on his face as if to say, “yes, yes, sorry I am late…”

But, as much as we want it to, that won’t happen again. And it hurts. And, that is also why tonight is challenging. It forces reality into a situation that has broken many hearts.

One of the first lines on Will’s theatrical resume says, “Will Moreau refuses to fall into any simple/typical category.” On stage, Will took on characters ranging from A to Z. His roster of roles is so varied and complex. And, be it in the ensemble or as the evening’s emcee, Will was fully dedicated to each of his characters, making them his own. His life away from the stage also mirrored that refusal to be “typecast.” Will spent his time involved in and with so many different groups ~ cultural, historical, educational, religious, artistic ~ whether he was the leader or was being led, just like with his stage characters, he was 100% committed.

I am also reminded of how Will would submit a bio for the playbill. It is pretty customary for folks to thank family and friends for supporting them in their shows. And, it is also a pretty regular occurrence for people to send in paragraphs that are a tad long for the available space. And, yes, Will did both. But this is what strikes me now ~ Will’s final sentence in each and every bio that he submitted was almost always identical. He would say, “Will dedicates his performance to God, his family, his true friends and his teachers/colleagues for their support.” Will would take the time to make sure that if anything had to be cut for space, we knew that it was important to leave in that dedication. We could take anything else away, but he wanted that consistent, unwavering expression of thanks to be one of the final statements for an audience to read.

I can only assume the heartache caused by Will’s absence will be with us for a long time. But, I believe there is healing in remembering how he lived. He showed us how to take on life in all of its variety ~ and to do so wholeheartedly. And, in the midst of it all, he reminds us to never forget (and to constantly acknowledge) the support provided through faith, family and friends.”

 

 

Pro-rated memberships now available

What would you say if we told you we could save you some money? Well, we can! Even though our season opener, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, has closed, we are now offering pro-rated memberships for a limited time. We have a great line up for the rest of the 99th that you don’t want to miss!

Visit here to read more about our remaining shows. The information below tells you how you can save!

If you need ten or more tickets, check out the Patron and above levels here. Those tickets are interchangeable so, if you miss a show, you won’t lose any valuable tickets.

Our pro-rated memberships are listed below. Each membership gets you one ticket to each of our remaining four productions. And, it will save you money over cash box office ticket prices!

Adult 4-show membership
$70

Senior/Full-Time College/Active Duty Military 4-show membership
$65

Youth 4-show membership
$55

Pro-rated memberships are on sale NOW! Visit us online at towntheatre.com or give us a call at 803-799-2510. If you leave us a message, we’ll get back to you by the next business day.

See you at the theatre!

Pro-rated memberships are available! MEMBERS can save MONEY!