There are times it’s good to sit at home and think about all the wonders of life and then there are times to venture out for a good show at a local theater. We have many options and opportunities for supporting the performing arts in our various communities in the Carolinas.
The more intimate venues offer a good helping of something many of us not only enjoy but crave, and that would be a great scene of nostalgia. Many of our historic buildings have been saved from neglect and given a new life as a place where people gather to celebrate life events and the performing arts.
I have attended many performances in beautifully appointed state of the art performance centers and thoroughly enjoyed myself; however, it is the more intimate historical theaters that I enjoy most.
Not so long ago I had the opportunity to participate in a stage performance at the Don Gibson Theater in Shelby NC. This 400-seat intimate theater offers an excellent experience for the audience and the performers. Originally opened October 27, 1939, as the State Theatre, the Art Deco design set this gem apart from others.
The years passed, and the name would change to The Flick, and then it would go dark for nearly 30 years before a group of local Cleveland County folks would pull together and put a plan in place that would bring life back to the once loved and romanticized venue. This time it would be a performing arts center known as the Don Gibson Theater, named after Cleveland county’s writer, singer and performer Don Gibson.
Don passed away in 2003, however, his widow Bobbie still visits the Don Gibson Theater. To our great pleasure, she was in attendance the night that I was there to emcee for Wayne Taylors Great American County Band that gave tribute to Don Gibson, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and George Jones. The other part of the show was a tribute to the 1962 performance with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in the Foggy Mountain Boys performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Wayne Taylor, a Maiden NC native has a long history of musical excellence that attracts highly talented musician performers, and they all delivered an outstanding performance for which the audience expressed their gratitude with many rounds of applause. It was a great show. As I stood backstage between tributes, it was like Patsy Cline, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams Sr. and Don Gibson was on stage. The Carnegie Tradition set was solid, and it was easy to get wrapped-up in the moment. I am glad I was there.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a performance of High County Christmas, a play written by North Carolina playwright Robert Inman. It was at Benton Hall in North Wilkesboro, NC and put on by the Wilkes Playmakers. Benton Hall was the old North Wilkesboro Elementary School built in 1913 and now has a new life as a center that is among other things home to Wilkes Playmakers, a creative community theater group which was founded in 1990.
The main stage has an audience capacity of 210, and the red cushioned seats are indeed reminiscent of times past, it’s an excellent building for community theater. The beauty of community theater is that you can enjoy the talents of people you know. People who may be your neighbors or people you run into at the grocery store. It’s as real as it can be and worth supporting and celebrating. The High County Christmas performance was extra special. I have interviewed Robert Inman for our Life in The Carolinas show, and I enjoy his other plays and books.
When I attend a Broadway show in a big theater I expect to be pleased with the performance, usually I don’t know the actors well enough to say I am proud of you, that was a great job. I also know it is what they do for a living, it should be excellent.
As I sat and watched the playmakers bring to life Robert’s High-Country twist on A Christmas Carol, I realized that I had seen many of the players before and some for many years. I was proud of their performance. I think that only happens with community theater.
Community theater is intimate, and it has a big heart, and if you listen close, you can hear its rhythmic beating, but only if you are in your seat.
I’ll have an aisle seat, please.