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New theater coming to the Triad

by Lenise Willis

BY LENISE WILLIS

lenise@yesweekly.com

It’s a running joke that anyone majoring in theater is really headed for a job as a waiter. And although the stale line is based on a broad stereotype, it’s not completely baseless. Aware of the need for more theater jobs, Gene Johnson, along with his cofounders Steve Bradford and Stan Bernstein, are forming a new summer stock theater just 20 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem.

“We really felt there ought to be more places where [theater graduates] can go to work and gain professional experience before going to the major market,” Gene Johnson said. He continued by listing the great number of artistic schools in the area such as UNCG and UNC School of the Arts.

“Not only are we providing jobs to one of the most under-employed groups in America, but we’ll also provide quality entertainment,” Johnson said. “There hasn’t been a summer stock theater in this area for years.”

Johnson said if everything goes as planned and they are able to raise the appropriate funds, the Broadway’s Best Theatre Company of NC will begin its first season in June 2013.

In its proposed 10-12 week summer season, the theater will present three musicals and two comedies — all Broadway productions.

“We love artistic theatre, but we want plays that are proven success that will provide jobs and fill the seats,” Johnson said. “That’s why it’s called Broadway’s Best.”

Johnson says that they already have their season planned, but not set in stone. “We won’t actually know if we get the rights until that time comes,” Johnson said.

The plays they have in mind are The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Vanities, among others.

“Hardly anyone’s done [Vanities],” Johnson said about the comedy-drama of three Texas cheerleaders in high school.

The site for the new 250-seat theater is an old Ace Hardware building located at Farmington Road and Interstate 40 in Davie County. Currently, the founders are raising funds for its renovations, which include upfitting the building with a new heating and air conditioning unit, adding bathrooms, and then bringing in the tiered seats, stage, orchestra area and dressing rooms.

“It’s 6,000 square feet of perfect open space,” Johnson said. “There are lush trees and shade, a deck and picnic tables outside so people can come and enjoy a picnic before a show.”

Johnson is also trying to establish partnerships with restaurants and wineries in the community to help increase traffic and tourism. He’s also open to working with different churches and civic groups and letting them set up stands and sell snacks before or after the show.

“It’s only been a month, but we’re not anywhere we need to be,” Johnson said. To complete their building renovations and begin their season in June, Johnson said they need to have their funds raised by January.

Opportunities are still available for major sponsors to purchase naming rights of the building, sponsors for each season and individual sponsors for shows. Johnson says they are also seeking energetic board members and anyone else who’d like to be involved.

Anyone interested can contact Johnson at 336.575.4446 or visit the website at broadwaysbest.biz.

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