By Kristina Ebbink
On October 3, 1935, Dorothy Knox presided over a meeting held at Salem Academy. “Drawing attention to the need of organized dramatics for Winston-Salem with aim of building a permanent organization to present the best in dramatic arts for the citizenry,” The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem – now Twin City Stage – was born.
The oldest performing arts organization in Winston-Salem, Twin City Stage began as a part of the Little Theatre movement. In the 1920s and ‘30s, talented directors, designers and actors came together and decided that they would write and perform plays. It was a fairly radical idea – “you mean you don’t have to be a big, professional company to create theatre” – but it took off. In an article by Dr. Twink Lynch on the American Association of Community Theatre website, “…[more than] 100 community theatres were founded [during those decades]…. Founded primarily by individuals, not groups or clubs, the theatres were representative of all kinds of people, a real cross section of each community.” In 1939, Albert McCleery and Carl Glick wrote in Curtains Going Up!, “Five hundred thousand to a million workers [are involved] in Community Theatres! And close to fifteen million persons attend their plays!”
In the early days, most of Twin City Stage’s plays were performed at Reynolds Auditorium. When that space wasn’t available, the always-innovative volunteers found a variety of other places to perform — the West End School, Salem Academy, Wiley School, a few living rooms and even a barn. In the early 1950s, a small space downtown – the Fourth Street Playhouse – served as the company’s temporary dwelling. When the new Hanes Community Center was built on Coliseum Drive in 1957, the theatre company finally had a permanent home.
Flash forward 80 years, and Twin City Stage is still going strong. Looking back at the more than 450 productions and the more than 20,000 volunteers who have given countless hours of their time, there’s no question that this community theatre is not only an integral part of the City of Arts and Innovation, it’s also nestled securely in the hearts of Winston-Salem’s residents. This season, Twin City Stage is producing nine plays and musicals and presenting three touring productions as well as offering acting classes and camps for children and teens.
And throwing a birthday party! On Saturday, October 3rd, Twin City Stage will invite the community to celebrate the theatre’s past, present and future. “We’re excited to be marking the milestone of 80 years of creating theatre in our community,” said TCS Executive Director Maureen Daly. “Our birthday is a great opportunity to look back and remember, lay out the path for our future and to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to all the people who have been a part of the organization’s success.”
Two events will be offered that day — a community open house from 10am-1pm and an evening birthday party from 7-10pm. Both will take place at the Arts Council Theatre, where historical photos and memorabilia from Twin City Stage’s eight decades will be on display.
The Open House will offer guests “behind the scenes” tours of the theatre and a chance to learn how plays and musicals are brought to the stage. Admission is free, and reservations are not required. Refreshments will be provided. Tours begin in the lobby.
The evening birthday party will bring together Twin City Stage members, volunteers, patrons and friends – old and new – to celebrate with a dessert reception, live entertainment, video presentation and other festivities, culminating in the lighting of a grand birthday cake, courtesy of Dewey’s Bakery. RSVPs are requested for this event by calling 336.748.0857 ext. 209 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Playwright and Novelist Thornton Wilder wrote, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” For 80 years, Twin City Stage has embraced this philosophy and brought people together to laugh, cry, think, build and create…and it’s planning to do that for 80 years to come, too.
For further information, visit www.twincitystage.org or the Twin City Stage Facebook page.