LAURINBURG — To revive community theater in Scotland County, the county’s arts council is seeking actors of all ages and experience levels — along with stagehands, musicians, set designers, and those handy with a needle and thread.
Since its inception 30 years ago, Encore! Theater has enjoyed surges of popularity over the years, at one time staging large productions like “Oliver!” and “The Sound of Music.” But as the theater’s board members have dwindled, productions have become smaller in scope and more infrequent. The last Encore! production, “Kill Me Deadly,” was staged in April 2014.
Along with board members of the Storytelling and Arts Center, which is recognized by the state as the county’s arts council, the Encore! board’s remaining members are working to bring back to Scotland County theatrical entertainment and opportunities to participate in putting on a show.
“We want to see us have a community theater,” said Brenda Gilbert, co-founder of Encore! and a member of the storytelling center board and Encore! revival committee.
“To me a thriving arts community is a sign of a healthy community — the arts are the soul of the community, and a real drawing card for any community that has that going on.”
Though Scotland County has no shortage of worthy causes that may seem more pressing than plays and visual arts, the contribution of the arts to a community’s quality of life is widely recognized. With the help of the arts council board, Gilbert said that Encore! may benefit from grant monies available on the state level to augment its existing costumes, lighting equipment, and sets.
A single production can involve upwards of 60 people — most of whom will not need to put on makeup or memorize a single line of dialogue.
“Community theater is not just the people on the stage; there’s something that everybody can do,” Gilbert said.
“In a musical you can have a cast of 40 and upwards, but then you’re going to have almost that many people backstage doing the scenery, the set, the makeup and the costuming and building everything, being a stage manager, the sound, the lights… there are all kinds of opportunities to help.”
In the past, Encore! has staged shows at St. Andrews University, but those behind its renewal are exploring options from the downtown storytelling center and Scotia Village to dinner theater in churches and restaurants.
Plans for the theater’s new incarnation include a renewed emphasis on beloved and familiar musicals, possibly beginning with a children’s version of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
“We would like for our first production to be a nice musical that’s recognizable, that everybody knows of, and that involves a large class of kids,” said Gilbert. “Kids are the future, if we can get them involved and they continue we’ll have a large group of budding actors.
“We just want to make sure that our first production of the new and enhanced Encore is a knock-your-socks-off show.”
The Encore! committee is seeking input from those with interest in assisting with its effort in any way, whether in helping to direct the organization, playing a leading or supporting role on stage, or changing sets between takes.
For information or to volunteer, call the Storytelling and Arts Center at 910-277-3599.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.