There’s a new theater group downstate. West Bay Community Theater is preparing to move into a new space in the heart of Wickford.
“When the Academy Players left East Greenwich and the North Kingstown Players folded, West Bay was left without a community theatre,” said Terry Shea, Chairman of the WBCT Board. There’s the Arctic Playhouse, but it’s in West Warwick, and this being Rhode Island, it wasn’t really in the same neighborhood.
“For years, people kept saying, ‘Someone should start a theater in this area again,’” Shea explains. He decided “someone” should be him, so “I got together with former members of those two theaters, and we officially incorporated in July 2018.”
Most of the original board members were or are based in North Kingstown, so the home base, Shea says, “had to be in that area.”
Then the synergy happened. This is Shea’s explanation. “I was building support for the idea at an Arts Council meeting and a guest who was there said she was buying the old library building in Wickford and wanted to see a theater company come on board. install in the space provided in the black box. She joined the board, and the rest is history. In the making.”
The pandemic and resulting construction costs and delays have pushed back the schedule for opening the new space. “We are realistically looking at another year and a half. We’ll be nomadic in the meantime, using the North Kingstown Beach bandshell and wherever else we can fit out space.
Enter Academy players. They are now doing quite well in their new space in the West End of Providence. And they offered their space at WBCT’s first show, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”
“It’s the funniest and most irreverent show that anyone seems to have seen. If the “Jerry Springer Show” was a musical in a Florida trailer park, this would be it.
Shea saw a production ten years ago. “It was one of the funniest shows, musical or not, that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been waiting for someone to do it ever since. We finally decided to put on our own production, just because I want to see her.
As this is WBCT’s first full production, “we wanted to make a choice that would stand out among a sea of ’Oklahoma!’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’”
The show features a diverse cast of locations from Westerly to New Bedford and will help raise funds to help establish their permanent space.
The new space at 55 Brown Street – formerly the North Kingstown Town Hall Annex – will be a “flexible black box space that will accommodate approximately 75 people when complete,” says Shea. Audio-visual elements will be portable, allowing anyone renting the theater space to do whatever they need. There will also be private space and storage in the basement of the building for changing rooms and administrative use.
The board, Shea points out, is “administrative in nature, so it’s not a situation where shows and casting decisions are based on who serves.” We will never pre-cast or make casting decisions based on insider trading.
Once fully operational, Shea hopes to be able to perform three main stage shows a year and “in-between performances of a smaller, more experimental nature”. This summer, WBCT will perform “Hair: In Concert” at the NK Town Beach bandshell.
Shea wants the WBCT to be a “true community theater.” Everyone can participate, and everyone should.
For more information on the West Bay Community Theater, see www.wbctheatre.org. You can also get tickets to “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which runs May 13, 14, and 15 at Academy Players in Providence. The WBCT box office can be reached at 401-372-7201.