Op-Ed: Actor’s Theatre deserves a permanent home in Charlotte
(Editor’s Note: Lisa Zerkle is a poet and the curator of the 4X4CLT poetry and art series for Charlotte Center for Literary Arts.)
Charlotte, do you want to be entertained?
Are you looking for more than bank, basketball, beer, repeat?
Fourteen years ago, my husband and I stumbled upon the Actor’s Theatre production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Refugees from Broadway Lights, we’d wasted too many nights on expensive tickets and babysitters for shows that were in their heyday before we were born.
For those not familiar with the show, “Hedwig” is a rock musical about a transgender, East German singer whose sex change operation was botched. Edgy and provocative? Yes. And Actor’s Theatre produced it in Charlotte in 2002, 12 years before it had a sold-out Broadway run with Neil Patrick Harris. The show takes a gaudy caricature and peels off the layers until we see the human being underneath. And it does it with a soundtrack you’ll be singing weeks later.
But it’s not just that performance. Actor’s Theatre takes chances.
They debut new plays that haven’t been seen elsewhere. Their nuVoices competition offers a space for playwrights to present their work for the first time. They bring Tony winning plays to Charlotte. A strong theatre like Actor’s Theatre becomes a hub which supports a whole ecosystem of creative types from actors and directors to lighting and set designers.
Those people, in turn, form their own companies, teach upcoming actors and designers, and expand the entertainment choices for our entire community.
Since its early days in borrowed spaces, Actor’s Theatre made a home these past 12 years on Stonewall Street near Uptown. They survived the recession, continuing when other theatre companies folded.
Their current lease runs out on June 30, in light of their building’s impending demolition to make room for — wait for it— apartments.
Actor’s Theatre planned to open its 28th season in January at a new location in the Belmont neighborhood, near Plaza Midwood. It would have been an engaging, larger space near restaurants and bars, close to one of Charlotte’s most creative areas. But now that lease has fallen through.
Charlotte, can we not give this theatre a permanent home?
A common refrain about our city is that it’s short on culture, creativity and funkiness. Here’s a chance for us as a community to counter that claim. We’re fortunate to have many experts in the fields of finance and real estate. Are you one of them? Can you find a creative solution to this problem?
Surely we can make a dedicated space in our city for a theatre that has entertained us for 27 years and seeks to continue. Take a look at their upcoming season with shows like “American Idiot” and “Hand to God.”
Otherwise, we can wait for shows to come on tour. The touring company of Hedwig will make its way to Charlotte in 2017. Go see it. But remember Actor’s Theatre brought it here first and they need a place to call home to continue entertaining us, provoking us, and making us think.
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