On a recent Wednesday evening I saw a play in a church. This sounds like the beginning of a story about 5 year olds in angel costumes with an audience full of parents cooing over the children’s chorus. In reality it was the beginning of Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s 28th season featuring the play “The Toxic Avenger.”
If you have been following the saga of the ATC move (and it has been a pretty epic saga), you know that after losing its space, finding a new one, losing that space, almost shutting down and then finding another new space, the opening of this season was set to be a triumph — until news came that the new space could not host the premiere performance of the season because it didn’t meet city/county standards. Insult meet injury.
And yet, there was still a feeling of triumph, due in large part to the generosity of next door neighbor Center City Church, which opened the doors of its Movement Center to host the show. The show was hilarious, the audience seemed to have a blast, the actors were in full force, the music was rocking and the show went off without a hitch.
According to the program notes, the set was designed by “Dire Circumstance,” a nod to the quick turnaround from designing and rehearsing the show in the new ATC space before the last-minute shift to the auditorium next door.
I laughed my way through the show. This dark comedy about a man-turned-monster trying to clean up New Jersey didn’t lose its punch. The long line of difficulties leading to this performance seemed to make the performers and crew more creative, more focused. As a result, they delivered an evening full of dark humor and strong performances.
ATC is not the first company to struggle with space issues, and by the looks of things, they won’t be the last. Performance space in Charlotte is an uphill battle, with rents rising and construction becoming a fixture in the landscape. I’m reminded of the power of community in these moments: The artists persevere. The people on the ground make it work. The community connects and moves forward.
ATC’s new space is pretty great. I spent some time hanging out in the new lobby after the show hanging with the cast and crew, looking at the pictures on the wall, sharing memories of the old space at 650 Stonewall St., and getting a good look at the new space, which should be hosting shows in the next couple of months.
This space was specifically chosen because of it’s potential to provide resources to the larger community. In this new space, we see the future of ATC, but we also see the vision of leaders who use translate their success into success for others. In 28 years of spaces, shows, leaders, actors, setbacks and ideas, ATC has proven that it is a force to be reckoned with.
Over the past year, I have heard plenty from naysayers in the arts community who had their own opinions about how ATC “should” move forward, how things are “supposed” to work, where they “ought” to do their shows. But on Wednesday night, all I heard were the voices of artists who will always find their own way.
See “The Toxic Avenger” Nov. 9-12 at Center City Church’s The Movement Center, 2225 Freedom Dr., Charlotte. Learn more and buy tickets here.
Photos: George Hendricks; Brianna Smith