It’s been well over a year since Thalian Association Community Theatre — Wilmington’s oldest theater company, and the official community theater of the state of North Carolina — performed for a full-sized, in-person audience.
That show was the musical “Guys and Dolls,” which the company did at Kenan Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington way back in February of 2020, the last full month of the so-called Before Times.
On Monday, the Thalian Association announced what amounts to a planned return to normalcy from the pandemic: Its 2021-2022 season of main stage plays and musicals, to be performed for what’s anticipated as largely full-capacity audiences at Thalian Hall in downtown Wilmington this coming fall.
By the time Alfred Uhry’s Southern-fried drama of race “Driving Miss Daisy” is scheduled to open Oct. 1, it will have been nearly two years since the Thalian Association has performed at Thalian Hall. (The Thalian Association and Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts are separate organizations.)
“We are confident that live theater will safely return this fall and very excited about the shows we have planned,” Thalian Association Executive Director Susan Habas said in a news release. “It’s quite emotional to think about being back in historic Thalian Hall, performing for our community and working with the amazing folks who make the onstage magic happen.”
This comes after Opera House Theatre Co. started a series of musicals for limited-capacity audiences this spring and summer at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center.
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Following the pandemic-postponed production of “Driving Miss Daisy” in October, which will star Frascaswell Hyman, a two-time Best Actor in a Play winner at the StarNews Wilmington Theater Awards, the Thalian Association will stage Christmas show “Elf: The Musical” in December, followed by “Sleuth,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” in the first half of 2022.
Tickets go on sale Aug. 16.
Youth company’s energy
Even as the Thalians announced their upcoming season, the company was busy preparing to open a production of its youth company, which has remained active throughout the pandemic, performing both virtually and for small audiences.
William Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” featuring a cast of children and teenagers under the direction of Thalian Association artistic director Chandler Davis, opens Friday, May 7, at the company’s home base of the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center.
Audiences will be capped at 50 patrons to ensure social distancing — in-person tickets will surely sell out, if they haven’t already — and tickets to watch a streaming version of the show online are available as well.
Having the youth company has helped keep the Thalian Association artistically vibrant during the pandemic shutdown, Davis said, while signaling to the public and “to patrons that we’re not going anywhere.”
When the shutdown happened last year, Thalian Association canceled youth shows “Xanadu” and “Freaky Friday,” as well as main-stage show “Peter Pan,” which would have featured young performers.
After Davis noticed that some of the youth performers she’d worked with had been making videos of themselves performing at home, the Thalians launched a virtual youth production online. Eventually, performances evolved into hybrid youth shows for in-person and online audiences, as well as an online Christmas show that included a mix of youth and adults.
Putting on these shows during the pandemic, “It’s 100 percent for the kids,” Davis said. “We’re not trying to make money right now.”
In fact, the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Davis said, came from “us trying to figure out how we were going to (present performances) without losing money on every show” due to limited audience size.
Thalian Association doesn’t typically do Shakespeare — the last time its youth company tackled The Bard was in “Romeo and Juliet” back in 2013 — but since “Midsummer” is in the public domain it seemed like a logical choice. Plus, Davis said, since the youth shows they do are typically musicals, Shakespeare would give young performers who usually focus on singing or dancing a chance to stretch their acting muscles. (Even so, some modern-dance-like sequences have been added to “Midsummer,” which often features music and movement.)
What was initially envisioned as a bare-bones show, Davis said, didn’t stay that way for long. Jen Iapalucci came up with wild, colorful costumes for the “Midsummer” fairies. With help from the youth and some volunteers, Davis said, she was able to beef up the show’s sound and light design. Plus, they’ve constructed a large thrust stage in the CAC that will take the performers — who will be wearing face shields during the show — out into the mask-wearing crowd.
The Thalian Association announced its new season of youth shows on Monday as well. “Cry Wolf” is set for Sept. 17, followed by “Charlotte’s Web” Nov. 12 and “Around the World in 80 Days,” “Children of Eden Jr.” and “Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School” all in the first half of 2022.
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or John.Staton@StarNewsOnline.com.
Want to go?
What: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” by William Shakespeare, presented by Thalian Association Community Theatre’s youth company
When: 7:30 p.m. May 7-8 and 14-15, 3 p.m. May 9 and 16
Where: 2nd Street Stage at the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, 120 S. Second St., Wilmington
Info: In-person tickets are limited, but streaming tickets ($15) are available. Tickets to 2021-2022 season of youth and main-stage shows go on sale Aug. 16.
Details: 910-341-7860 or Thalian.org