Before its reopening in 1984, NC's Temple Theatre served as a vaudeville and burlesque house, a movie theatre, and a community theatre. Elements of all these past lives can be seen in the company's upcoming season, beginning Sept. 5 and running to June 28, 1998.
Of special interest in the 1997-98 line-up will be a new adaptation of The Invisible Man, set to travel to Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the world premiere of a new folk-musical, Cotton-Eyed Joe. Here's the full season schedule:
The Moving Of Lilla Barton, a southern comedy by John MacNicholas, Sept. 5-20
With elements similar to Fugard's Road To Mecca, Lilla Barton tells of an elderly woman who refuses to move from the Episcopal rectory she shared with her husband for 25 years. Dede Corvinus (Lilla), John Harris (Sheriff Tate), Jim Fleming, Serena Ebhart, Leonard McCleod, and David Henderson star. Tim Morrissey directs.
The Invisible Man, Oct. 17-Nov.2
A new play by Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee (artistic director of Seattle's Empty Space Theatre), adapting H.G. Wells' novel about a mad scientist with a special potion that renders him unseen to the naked eye. Larson and Lee will be in-residence at Temple for the development of the piece, which first premiered at Georgia Ensemble Theatre. The play will be produced later this season at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Heather Heath plays Lucy in the Temple staging.
The Best Of Broadway, Christmas, Dec. 5-21
Are you dreaming of a "White Christmas" or pining for a "Blue Christmas?" Those songs and more will be heard at this world premiere musical revue, arranged by composer Brian Saffron. Classic holiday tunes will mix with Broadway showtunes and Christmas songs made famous by rock singers and movie stars. Don't Dress For Dinner, a farce by Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawdon, Feb. 20-March 8, 1998
Mistaken identities, lusty men, scantily-clad women and gourmet cooking -- all elements of Camoletti's long-running, London crowd-pleaser.
Hamlet...The Musical April 10-26, 1998
Hey, if they could do it with La Boheme...? Here, Eddie Levi Lee, Rebecca Wackler and composer Phillip DePoy (Appalachian Christmas) give William Shakespeare's tragedy a rock n' roll beat with tunes like, "P-P-P-Poison," "Daddy Died" and "Gloom." Spokesperson Serena Ebhart told Playbill On-Line, "It is Shakespeare's work, admittedly in a spoofier way. The show does end with everybody dying, though they get up and sing a gospel song. And Ophelia sings a song reminiscent of Patsy Cline's `Crazy.'"
Cotton-Eyed Joe, June 12-28, 1998
And now for something completely different: a folk-musical with sacred harp music. Based on an old folk song about the title character, the show tells of a young singer traveling the country during the Great Depression. So spiritual is he, he levitates when he sings. How will the flying be done? "We don't know if we'll do it with lights, simply representing his purity, or with special effects," said Ebhart. Traditional and original tunes sprinkled through the production.
Also on view at Temple will be special "Encore Series" performances, including the Community Theatre mounting of Feydeau's A Flea In Her Ear (which ran earlier in August) and Quinn Hawkesworth's solo, Fair And Tender Ladies, Jan. 15-25, 1998. The latter, a world premiere, adapts Lee Smith's novel into a bio of an Appalachian woman from fifty years ago. [Ebhart explained "Encore Series" refers more to a "second stage" performance or an outside company using the space, rather than an encore production of a previous Temple show.]
According to the theatre company's website, Temple Theatre was built in 1925 by Robert Ingram, Sr. (owner of Sanford Coca-Cola Bottling), at a time when Sanford had a population of only 3,500. Located half a block from the railroad station, Temple was a frequent stop for the shows and stars of vaudeville. It then became a touring house for the road shows of the 1930s (including a bit of burlesque), and then a movie theatre. The Sanford Little Theatre used the Temple for its community productions during the 1960's, but in 1965 Temple Theatre closed its doors for fifteen years.
For subscriptions and information on shows at Temple Theatre on Carthage St. In Sanford, NC, call (919) 774-4512 or check out their website at http://www.transoftinc.com/temple/.
--By David Lefkowitz