If there’s one common theme throughout AboutAnderson.com, it would seem to be community. There was no round-table discussion wherein we all decided to emphasize one charming characteristic in every article; the community theme has surfaced quite naturally just through the honest writings of us native Andersonians. The word community is an apt description of the Theater Scene in Anderson as well.
I should stress: Anderson is without a large roadhouse fit for touring companies of Broadway shows. However, the Peace Center in Greenville, SC is a mere 35 – 40 minute drive from most corners of our town. If you want to see Tony Award winners and a spectacle worthy of 42nd St., this is the go-to venue.
Theaters in Anderson SC delivers quality productions on a smaller scale. Though the community element is common among them all, each theatrical venue in Anderson creates a unique experience for both audience and show-folk. I’ll explain a bit about 4 of these venues here.
The Theater department at AU is truly one of the best in the nation. The Anderson University Playhouse makes use of several stages throughout the campus. Sometimes the players undertake Broadway-style productions of enormous magnitude in the Henderson Auditorium. More frequently, the group uses the versatile black-box Belk theater where the audience experience is deliberately intense.
No matter the material or the stage, each production is tackled with the passion you would expect from young men and women under the tutelage of expert staff, all eagerly learning the craft they will likely choose as a career.
If an Anderson University theater student happens to be local, there’s a good chance their love of the stage was sparked at CYT Upstate. This is a children’s theater group that has been in the area for about 11 years now as a branch of the CYT corporation which was founded in 1981. As a comprehensive theater arts training program, this group caters to children 4-18 teaching them the ins-and-outs of everything theatrical.
Now, lest you assume that a group called “Christian Youth Theater” must deal solely in productions where the audience is comprised of grandparents watching their grandkid forget his line as a sheet-wearing Wise Man, this Theater group is no small potatoes. From the costumes and cast to the sound and scenery, an experience with CYT is delightfully professional for the participants and the audience as they experience A-list shows like The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and The Beast.
As a community theater program, there could be no better home for CYT Upstate than Anderson, SC.
A.C.T. – Alverson Center Theater
Perhaps the most classic of all Anderson Theater venues is ACT. Located in an historic theater in Downtown Anderson, entering ACT is like suddenly finding yourself in another time. Originally operating as a movie house in the late 1930s, the building has soaked in historical richness with each passing decade. From the moment you enter the lobby, you know you’re about to experience something unforgettable.
This community theater group is open to any who wish to participate, but be warned: if you want to be in a production, you have to be good. Really good. Some of the head honchos at ACT have history in New York City; the disciplines of big-time theater are maintained with reverence – and you can really tell.
ACT tends to take on big-name shows such as Annie, Cinderella, and The Wizard of Oz. In taking on these types of productions, Alverson’s team sends a message: “Yes, we know you have expectations of these stories; you’ve grown up with specific actors in the roles, and the songs stuck in your head. Come to ACT and bring your expectations with you.” I’ve yet to be disappointed.
And Mr. Alverson, if you’re reading this – let’s do Gypsy. I’ll do a Mama Rose to knock this town’s socks off – provided I can shake the southern accent.
Electric City Playhouse
If ACT is the Judy Garland of the Anderson Theater scene, Electric City Playhouse is our Lorna Luft. The group was born of ACT participants who were inspired to offer Anderson a different kind of theatrical experience.
The ECP group is newer, but it’s still an amazing talent house and no less authentic. In fact, with its repertoire of lesser known shows (and fewer musical offerings) the theater offers an experience that is, in many ways, more authentic.
The shows presented in the black-box style theater may be unfamiliar to many – and that’s a huge part of the draw. In this smaller venue, the Electric City Playhouse audience can enjoy an intimacy with the story and the actors – a completely different experience than the dazzle and awe of a famous big-scale production.
Like ACT, the Electric City Playhouse is also open for community participation. ECP began as a unique community and retains its reputation for authentic and honest theatrical productions.
So that’s the jist of Theater in Anderson, SC. If you know of a venue that belongs in this article, just let me know in the comments below and I’ll gladly add it in. I also happily accept tickets.