Community theater returns after COVID

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NEW BERN, NC – After months of waiting for the community theater to return, the show can finally go on. Local theaters across the state are opening up and gearing up for their first productions in over a year. While the audience is eager to be entertained, the actors are ready to resume their passion.


What would you like to know

  • Community theaters open after more than a year in the dark
  • Many rehearsals of shows were abruptly stopped due to COVID-19 early last year
  • Actors say they have to get used to working so closely with others again
  • Many theaters are putting on smaller shows to test the new normal

“It’s so good to be on stage with people with a script in my hand learning lines,” actress Jennifer Cook said.

Cook has been able to perform on stage with the Rivertowne Players in New Bern for over a year. Now she is able to step foot in the theater again.

“When I walked in, only the smell overwhelmed me,” she said. “It’s not always a good smell, but it was the smell of the theater. It was the smell of the curtains and that old historic building and just being here. It’s very inspiring.

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed theaters early last year, many productions were already in full rehearsal.

“We’ve worked a lot,” Cook said. “And so there was some devastation there for not being able to show our community what we had been doing and the beauty of these shows that we had wanted to share.”

Director Susie Tilley decided to test the new normal with a small-scale play, “Steel Magnolias”.

“We didn’t want to put on an entire show and then lose money on it, because we’ve already been losing money for a whole year,” Tilley said.

This six-person play will be much cheaper than musicals and more elaborate productions with large casts.

“As soon as we released ‘Steel Magnolias’ it was like ‘Oh my God’. Everyone was thinking “when are the tickets going to go on sale,” Tilley said. “I think everyone missed the arts and the excitement of live theater so much.”

Actress Mackenzie McCracken also missed that excitement. She loves to play, but it definitely takes practice to get back on track after a year of COVID-19.

“It’s weird. My mom calls it ‘re-entry anxiety,” McCracken said. “We remember what it was like before. We remember it, and it was good. But we did. so used to this new normal, and now we’re going to go back to the old normal, and there is nothing wrong with the old normal, actually I prefer the old normal.

McCracken says their little cast is vaccinated so their reps don’t look too different from normal. You just have to get used to it.

“It’s very weird to be outside and being around people, touching people’s hair and getting into people’s faces when they’re yelling at you, and you’re like ‘oh, I forgot “” said McCracken.

Despite all the setbacks of the past year, these actresses are ready to pour out on stage.

“When we open up, whether it’s 10 authorized people here or one hundred and ten people, we’re going to give them everything we’ve got and hopefully entertain the masses,” Cook said.

The Rivertowne Players will be playing “Steel Magnolias” July 16-18 and July 23-25. Tickets are available on their website.

It’s not the only local theater to break a leg after a year in the dark. Here is a list of a few other theaters that are opening their doors:

  • New Civic Theater in Berne: “Clue” – September 2021
  • Raleigh Little Theater: “As You Like It” (outside) – July 23-31
  • North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theater: “Young Frankenstein” – October 22 – November 7
  • Theater Raleigh: “Oh, what a night” – July 7-11
  • Belk Theater (Charlotte): “Loyer” – November 9-14
  • Auditorium des Fours (Charlotte): “Wicked” – September 8-October 3
  • Asheville Community Theater: Summer camps run from June to July. First live performance in October


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