NC Opera
North Carolina Opera | Photo by Curtis Brown Photography

Cultural Comeback

In Do, September 2021 by Anna Beth AdcockLeave a Comment

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As live in-person productions return to the stage, three Raleigh theater companies reflect on how they pivoted their productions over the past year… and look ahead to the future. Plus, your local theater calendar.

Despite the hardships of the last year for live productions and the arts, local production organizations both large and small pivoted and adapted their operations, putting the “show must go on” sentiment to the ultimate test—from streaming to shifting (think literal move) to airing live shows and more.

Theatre in the Park’s Brent Simpson recalls switching gears and hopping on the digital streaming bandwagon at the onset of the social-distancing era. “We had smaller casts; we picked shows that were broader and could be filmed and produced with the minimum number of people; and then we had to find a platform to stream shows,” recalls Simpson. 

Theatre in the Park’s A Christmas Carol | Photo by Curtis Brown Photography

Theatre in the Park ran four virtual shows last year, instead of their regular six annual productions. Now, as live audiences return, Simpson is enthusiastic to have people back in the building—and to tackle some current themes. He is especially excited for the return of the theater’s signature seasonal production, A Christmas Carol

“It’ll be bigger and better this year,” says Simpson. “There’s a lot to poke fun at and still be thankful for at the same time—because at the heart of the show is the meaning of Christmas, the universal message that will carry special meaning into this Christmas season.”

Across town (ultimately), North Carolina native and Broadway alum (and local theater legend) Lauren Kennedy Brady decided to move her theater company, Theatre Raleigh, from its home base of Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown to North Raleigh during the pandemic. 

“When the start of the pandemic happened, we pivoted and canceled our season,” says Brady. “We decided in June to take up a space in North Raleigh and to put time, work and love into it.” 

Brady and her husband were directly involved in the construction process, laying floors and painting walls, and they are looking ahead to another round of construction in October. 

“We are doing it for ourselves and for the community; we wanted to turn a bad situation into something positive and utilize that forced downtime to create a new space,” says Brady. “It was a bold move, but COVID pushed us to that point.”

Carolina Ballet The Nutcracker
Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker | Photo by Armes Photography

And making a pirouette of its own, Carolina Ballet (one of the biggest ballet organizations in the Southeast) streamed virtual live shows and classes, maintained employment of all its dancers, and even teamed up with WRAL to air The Nutcracker on Christmas night. 

Carolina Ballet Artistic Director and CEO Zalman Grinberg emphasized the importance of keeping their dancers working and shows airing—even if they were virtual. 

“The dancers were able to continue to work, so they were able to continue to develop,” says Grinberg. “It’s exciting for them to get out there with more regularity and perform. Dancers and patrons are in a symbiotic relationship. That’s what keeps everyone engaged.”

Now, with live audiences returning, Carolina Ballet is bringing their best stuff this season, with shows that both “ballet people” and people new to the ballet can recognize, resonate with and anticipate attending—shows like The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe NutcrackerRomeo & Juliet and Snow White, to name a few.

So, here’s the big-ticket question: Why come watch a live local show this fall? Simpson says it best: “Theater is life. It inspires and it lets you escape. I think what people most need right now is an escape from what’s going on in the world. Even if it’s for two hours watching people on a stage.

Here’s a roundup of what’s to come.

SEPTEMBER

STOMP, Sept. 4–5
DPAC | dpacnc.com

Blippi the Musical, Sept. 11
DPAC | dpacnc.com

The Velocity of Autumn, Sept. 17–Oct. 3
Raleigh Little Theatre | raleighlittletheatre.org

Peace of Clay, Sept. 22–Oct. 3
Theatre Raleigh | theatreraleigh.com

OCTOBER 

The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, Oct. 1–17
Theatre in the Park | theatreinthepark.com

9 to 5, North Carolina Theatre, Oct. 12–17
Duke Energy Center | dukeenergycenterraleigh.com

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Oct. 14–31
Carolina Ballet | carolinaballet.com

Dvorak New World Symphony, Oct. 15–16
North Carolina Symphony | ncsymphony.org

Tootsie, Oct. 19–24
DPAC | dpacnc.com

Mendelssohn & Brahms, Oct. 22–23
North Carolina Symphony | ncsymphony.org

Wiley and the Hairy Man, Oct. 22–24
Pure Life Theatre Company | purelifetheatre.com

Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” Oct. 23–31
Raleigh Little Theatre | raleighlittletheatre.org

Star Wars & More, Oct. 28–30
North Carolina Symphony | ncsymphony.org 

NOVEMBER

The Firebird, Nov. 5–6
North Carolina Symphony | ncsymphony.org

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, North Carolina Theatre, Nov. 5–14
Duke Energy Center | dukeenergycenterraleigh.com

Escape to Margaritaville, Nov. 9–14
DPAC | dpacnc.com

Fidelio, North Carolina Opera, Nov. 14
Duke Energy Center | ncopera.org

Unique Departures/Innovative Variations, Nov. 18–21
Carolina Ballet | carolinaballet.com

Tchaikovsky “Pathetique,” Nov. 19–20
North Carolina Symphony | ncsymphony.org

DECEMBER

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Dec. 3–4
North Carolina Symphony | ncsymphony.org

Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations, Dec. 7–12
DPAC | dpacnc.com

Holiday Pops, Dec. 10–11
North Carolina Symphony | ncsymphony.org

The Nutcracker, Dec. 17–24
Carolina Ballet | carolinaballet.com

A Christmas Story: The Musical, Dec. 28–Jan. 2
DPAC | dpacnc.com

2022 JANUARY

La Bohéme, North Carolina Opera, Jan. 28–30
Duke Energy Center | ncopera.org

FEBRUARY

Romeo & Juliet, Feb. 3–20
Carolina Ballet | carolinaballet.com

Pride and Prejudice, Feb. 4–20
Raleigh Little Theatre | raleighlittletheatre.org

Sister Act, North Carolina Theatre, Feb. 8–13
Duke Energy Center | dukeenergycenterraleigh.com

She Persisted, The Musical, Feb. 25–March 13
Pure Life Theatre Company | purelifetheatre.com

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