The Great White Way of Wilmington

Story by Lois Carol Wheatley. Photo courtesy of Wilmington Cape Fear Coast CVB.

If community theater can be defined to mean a local stage that pulls in talent from the surrounding boroughs, then Broadway is community theater. Something powerful had to happen in the neighborhood to take it to that level to which all others aspire.

Wilmington has some of the same alchemy stirred into its urban mix. The film industry that took root here in the early 1980s has attracted a solid community of acting and technical talent, and the nearby beaches have brought in a creative element, many of them affluent New York and California types who want to enjoy the sun and sand without the smog and congestion.

"Anybody who wants to be in a production on stage will also want to be in films as well, so we have a huge pool of Wilmingtonians who work in film and in theater," said Tony Rivenbark, executive director of Thalian Hall. "It makes it that much more interesting to come here because you have the opportunity to participate in theater and participate in film. All together it creates an interesting mix in this community and makes it exciting to have so much activity and so many wonderful facilities."

Thalian Hall is the crown jewel of the city's theatrical venues, and Rivenbark readily lists several other major stages: the Red Barn, the Browncoat, Cape Fear Playhouse, and Level 5 at City Stage. "The university really has a lot going on here as well." Some of these theaters run their own shows, while others stand back and allow local and/or touring acting troupes the temporary but often ongoing use of the premises.

So what exactly constitutes community theater? Certainly the annual productions of Shakespeare on the Green at Greenfield Park have to count, a short outdoor amphitheater run during the late spring and early summer months. What about the stand-up comics at the Nutt Street Bar and Comedy Room? Not to mention Porch Theatre's sporadic appearances at Front Street Brewery. Interestingly, stand-up comedy doesn't seem to qualify as theater, but a serious monologue would.

"The term 'community theater' in a lot of people's minds implies amateur hobbyist, and I think that is certainly not the case in Wilmington where we have a number of actors with extensive resumes. Our level of production is quite high compared to communities of this size."

More Information:

Terms: Wilmington Community Theater

Wilmington Community Theater

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