by Lenise Willis

Photo by Alex Forsyth

LastNBweek, while High Point was consumed by touring businessmen looking for tables, recliners, bedroom suites and office furniture, Guilford Technical Community College was pitching the biggest piece of furniture of all””a black box stage.

Last Thursday the school hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Center for the Creative and Performing Arts on its High Point campus.

“People are still amazed at the High Point furniture market,” said Richard Wood, chair of The City Project, Inc. and Ignite High Point. “They come to High Point to have an experience””they want something to talk about when they go home. We’re going to see a real Renaissance in High Point, and an investment in GTCC and its black box theater just gives us even more things.”

The center is a two-story, 11,705 square-foot facility, and will be used as an additional teaching lab and performance space for students in GTCC’s Creative and Performing Arts programs. The black box theater within its walls has seating for 82.

“This is a great complex here,” said GTCC President Randy Parker on Thursday. “We look forward to it supporting student development here and economic development, and bringing business industry to the area.”

The new building, located next to the amphitheater on the High Point GTCC campus, cost a total of $2.27 million. Construction began in October 2013.

Parker said they plan on creating a new parking lot in the area across from the new black box theater to further support its growth and create a more convenient experience for theatergoers.

“A lot of people think theatre is just fun and games, but it’s an economic boost, too,” said Jim Morgan, past chair of the High Point Arts Council. Morgan said despite the struggles of North Carolina Shakespeare Festival (NC Shakes), High Point’s art community is still thriving.

“We have a very strong arts community here,” he said. “The Centennial Center Arts Station and High Point Ballet bring not just local patrons, but crowds from out of town, too.”

Morgan referenced the statistics that were presented, showing how important the arts community can be to an economy, generating $11.3 million in local and state government revenue and supporting 4,269 full-time equivalent jobs.

Now with the addition of the new black box theater Morgan says High Point has “huge potential,” including acting as a training ground for new talent.

Part of the mission for opening the new Center for the Creative and Performing Arts was to allow the school to partner with High Point Theatre, High Point Arts Council, High Point Community Theater and other area partners to “revitalize and rebrand” the south side of the city.

The new theater facility means so much to the city and school alike that they actually held a two-day ceremony: a ribbon-cutting on Thursday and a special one-time production on Friday. After all, what better way to present a new theater, than to show it in action?

Actors Linda McMillian, Jason McMasters, Abigail Fisher, Kristal L. Taylor and Michael Carter showed off the facility’s new black box stage in the building’s first-ever production, Greater Tuna, a simple and silly play about a fictional town in Texas. The play, complete with comical cardboard props, was a neat juxtaposition to the previous day’s official ceremony, complete with city leaders and a plaque presentation.

The choice of cast was fitting, as well. Performing in the stage’s unveiling were actors making their very own debut. McMillian, a nursing teacher at GTCC, had never performed in a production and gave a wonderful performance as a small-town radio host.

McMasters is also a relative newbie to the stage, while Fisher completed her first-ever GTCC production.

Overall, the play was simply a fun way to introduce the theater to the city and generate excitement about the new entertainment possibilities. June Guralnick, theatre program director, said they’ll most likely continue their season in the fall with a drama. !