ELIZABETHTON, Tennessee (WJHL) — The venerable Bonnie Kate Theater this month hosted the first performance by its own community theater group, bringing the classic comedy ” Arsenic and Old Lace” premieres.
“When the audience comes to see the show, it takes them to 1941 Brooklyn, New York, to the quirky Brewsters and to their door, and it’s just a really great night,” said the new Bonnie Kate. Community Theater executive Lenny Christian told News Channel 11.
The group’s first production comes just weeks after learning that Bonnie Kate’s friends nonprofit has received a grant of nearly $750,000 to boost efforts to restore the theater. That’s what I mean. A $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Area Commission and a $236,000 grant from the city more than doubled his previous funding received by the nonprofit, making a $1.4 million full restoration a reality. I have a vision.
- Performer: Bonnie Kate Community Theater
- Contents: Arsenic and old lace
- Where: Bonnie Kate Theatre, 115 S. Sycamore St., Elizabethton
- When: October 14, 15, 21, 22 at 7:30 PM. October 16th and 23rd at 2:30pm.
- More information: bonniekate.org
John Hoover, who bought the dilapidated theater building with his wife Pam in 2016 and handed it over to the City of Elizabethton, said:
The California transplant learned from friend the late Floyd Story about Bonnie Kate’s important role in the lives of generations of Elizabethtonians, and the trio enlisted the help of the East Tennessee Foundation for their initial purchase. raised about $100,000.
“The vision has always been to try to fill the house,” Hoover said of a rather motley collection of about 175 seats bolted to the worn floor behind him. These chairs were donated by various churches.”
Over the last six years, our dedicated supporters have made every improvement they can, including a new roof, HVAC system, and sound equipment. became. Several plays were also staged along the way, including 17 performances of “The Sound of Music” by the Jonesborough Repertory Theater when home theaters were closed during the pandemic.
That run gave Elizabethton’s Main Street director, Courtney Bean, a glimpse into how regular performances at the iconic building benefit the entire downtown.
“Bonnie Kate is very important to our downtown community,” says Washburn. “It’s been exciting to see them grow and do what they do at Bonnie Kate. is.”
Add hundreds of thousands of dollars in other grants and donations, and the board and city counterparts are about $900,000. Work on a new façade and marquee will begin soon, and the house will be closed for up to a year due to extensive interior renovations.
“We’ve got a beautiful auditorium, and finally a new stage, ready to bring our vision to life,” Hoover said. “400 seats.”
Birth of public theater
Robert Clarke, Marcia Ross and Christian form the backbone of the troupe and play key roles in the premiere. Clark builds the set, Ross directs, and the Christian star is cast as one of two kindly Brooklyn spinsters whose lives are nothing like what they seem on the surface.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he says, although he has directed several plays in theaters, he has never been part of an organized community theater group with its own home venue.
Clark is a master set builder. When Christian and her husband Mark moved to the area about a year ago after retirement, she eventually landed on her project Bonnie Kate.
“There’s a theater called Bonnie Kate, and I’ve seen references to live performances, but I haven’t seen any references to community theater,” said Christian, who was dressed as “Aunt Abby” and sat at a table on the set. rice field. He said. She emailed board member Jeff Treadway, who has done much of the writing for the group’s grants, and said she would love to join if there was a theater group.
“He said, ‘No, don’t you want to start?'” Christian said.
Decades of veterans in theaters are up for sale, leaders band together, and Friends of Bonnie-Kate have put moral and financial support behind them.
“We want people in Elizabethton to have a local outlet for theater work,” said Christian. I don’t want to have to.
“We have a theater with an incredible history. She’s a little ragged around the edges, but we’re going to get a facelift and a belly tuck and everything else she needs, And she will shine.
“Ultimately, we will have all the behind-the-scenes structures in place to support an ongoing community theater production.”
Christian said the choice of the first play became important. She thought the high profile and large cast of “Arsenic” meant that a new group would be put into action and cast a wide net. This includes a mix of experienced actors and others doing their first show.
“We said, ‘We’re a brand new community theater and we’re just getting started, but we’re going to start with a big bang with Arsenic and Old Lace. ‘, she said.
“We wanted to start with something that would make people come to laugh. We’re trying to build trust with potential audiences in and around Elizabethton. It will show me a good time.
Starting with “Suessical” in March next year (auditions in early December), more works are planned. The large-cast musical will be the first show in which children will be involved, but Christian expects to be very involved with local schools and other segments of the community as community theater becomes more established. I said that I am
Main Street Director Bean says the approach will help bring to the fore what makes Bonnie Kate so special to generations of locals.
“History is very important to our community, and many in our community have stories about Bonnie Kate from a young age and have memories there,” Bean said. It’s really important to so many people here, so it’s great to be able to be this active place for our community again.
Christian said members of the Bonnie-Kate Community Theater, including the cast and crew of “Arsenic,” are not taking it lightly.
“We are very grateful [Friends of] Bonnie Kate on the board gave us this space and gave us their trust as well,” she said. You gave us a grant to start a community theater, we made sure that what we do is responsible, we give something back to Bonnie Kate, and it’s part of her legacy. I would like to become part of it.”