By Emma Castleberry
Social distancing has been particularly difficult for performing artists, who rely on their audiences for creative feedback and inspiration. While performing a play or production virtually is simply not the same, our local performing arts groups and independent theaters have demonstrated incredible resilience and innovation in this trying time. Here are some ways to support the performing arts this spring.
American Myth Center
The pandemic has been a time of reflection for the American Myth Center. “When we are able to be in the same space again, I need our community to expect more from the theatre,” says Aaron Snook, co-founder of the American Myth Center.
“Alongside the pandemic has been the prioritizing of the fight for racial equity and justice and the theatre industrial complex has been a major hindrance to that fight for a long, long time. We have an opportunity to rebuild from a foundational level and while that is daunting, it is also an enormous opportunity.” The center is hoping to have some offerings around safe and inclusive theater training in the coming months.
Asheville Community Theatre
Since the pandemic, Asheville Community Theatre has shifted to live performances and classes using Zoom, streaming pre-filmed performances and offering shows as video-on-demand. The theater will offer online classes for youth and adults in the late winter and early spring as well as its monthly storytelling series, Listen to This. “Check out not only what we’re offering online, but what the other Asheville theatres and theatres outside of town are doing, too,” says marketing director Jenny Bunn.
Flat Rock Playhouse
Flat Rock Playhouse has successfully hosted two virtual fundraisers, a virtual production of A Flat Rock Christmas and an entire semester of virtual theatre classes. “Going from live events to virtual was no easy feat, but our incredible production team adapted to the challenge,” says artistic director Lisa K. Bryant. “As artists, we were so excited to be producing for our audience again and eager to put our creativity to work.” Look for more virtual workshops and productions this spring.
the magnetic theatre
The Magnetic Theatre began to adapt its plans to virtual programming—classes, staged readings and audio plays—soon after the pandemic began and, in the fall, began to offer outdoor theatre. “We partnered with businesses like Keller Williams and the Smoky Park Supper Club to create sketch comedy and variety shows in parking lots and green spaces as a way to provide a bit of light during these dark times,” says artistic director Katie Jones. She also credits a cooperative spirit among members of the region’s theatre community who share platforms, sound equipment and costumes. Spring plans include Wandering with Magnetic, an outdoor hiking series employing dramatic scenes; livestreamed shows and the 2nd Annual One-Act Play Festival.
Montford Park Players
Montford Park Players will be performing in April downtown as part of the Arts in the Park series, coordinated by the Asheville Area Arts Council. The group plans to resume live theatre in May at their outdoor venue in Montford with Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. This year’s season includes the world premiere of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, written by four Asheville women playwrights and the North Carolina premiere of The Sword in the Stone, a re-telling of the King Arthur legend.
Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre
Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre has announced its 2021 season with three virtual programs in the spring and five mainstage productions later in the year. “If our virtual programming is able to bring light into one person’s life during this pandemic, then it is all worth it,” says managing artistic director J. Ethan Henry.
The Sublime Theater has started editing and releasing archived videos of earlier productions and launching its publishing program. “We have long wished for ways to make our original works available outside of Asheville, and with videos and books we can have a worldwide reach,” says Steven Samuels, producing artistic director and publisher. In March, Sublime Theater will release published versions of three world premiere plays, all of which are directed by Samuels.
All of these theaters accept donations. For more information or to donate, visit AmericanMythCenter.org, AshevilleTheatre.org, FlatRockPlayhouse.org, TheMagneticTheatre.com, MontfordParkPlayers.org or SARTplays.com. Donate to Sublime Theater at PayPal.com/us/fundraiser/charity/3364570.