For more than 65 years a roving band of thespians has been bringing a little touch of culture to the rural town of Morehead City. There have been many high notes through the years – from original scripts to the classic musicals – totaling more than 180 separate major productions in all. They’re a small group. About 30 full-time active members attend the regular monthly meetings. And they come from all walks of life – educators and waiters, journalists and students. Yet they are united each time they “trod the boards” by their undying love of the theater.
It’s a story that could easily be told in small towns around the country. Just about everywhere folks have settled, a building has been erected, a small platform has been built and those who feel the pull to the stage have shared their talents with the community. What gives this story an interesting twist, however, is that despite their love of the theater, this group of hobbyists has never had a theater to call their own. That is until now.
Nothing has been off limits since the actors began performing in 1948. Each of the county’s high schools has welcomed the group, Beaufort Elementary School, the Marine Resources Center in Pine Knoll Shores (now the NC Aquarium), hotels, store fronts, restaurants and small outdoor locations.
While the Carteret Community Theatre was actively searching for the next location to stage a play, a small one-screen theater on the corner of 14th Street was watching visitation slowly decline. In the early 2000s, it closed its doors briefly before finding new life as the Crystal Coast Jamboree, a weekly country music variety show. A name change to the Morehead City Center for Performing Arts in 2010 saw outside acts taking to the stage as well, from the Bellamy Brothers to Lori Morgan. But in the fall of 2014, the theater once again found its way onto the market. It was too much for the little theater troupe to ignore – the chance to have a place to call their own.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us,” said Carolyn Evans, who has been involved with the group since 1976. “I think we still have a lot of problems to overcome with it, obviously it was not meant as a performing theater, it was built to show movies, therefore we lack a backstage area, dressing room facilities and things that we may find we need. But it is something the theater has worked for the entire time that I’ve been involved. It’s going to be a big positive for us.”
There is a learning curve, she admits. When plays were performed on borrowed stages, the group generally tapped in to the sound and lighting expertise of their host. Now, the group has lights and sound equipment of their own that they must learn to master.
“We’re hoping that now that we have a permanent location it will be easier to recruit more people to get involved, even if it’s just helping behind the scenes,” Evans said.
She admits she was hooked from the first time she took to the stage. New to Carteret County, Evans, and her husband Richard, got involved to participate in the late Ruth Barbour’s production of “It Happened Here.”
“And that was really all it took for me. I had had an interest in the theater previously, had been a little active, but this was really my first full introduction to the theater,” said Evans. While Richard admits his love affair with the theater began when he saw “that beautiful brunette on the stage,” coyly referring to his wife, he has had more than a few appearances through the years as well. Men, the pair agreed, are hard to come by in the theater, although new faces of any age are more than welcome.
“These days there are so many things drawing people, so many organizations that need help and so many extra-curricular activities,” said Evans. “The one thing we know we do need to move forward, is new members. That’s a must.
“We will continue to have outside acts come in and perform – that will help us pay the mortgage and keep the theater in good working order,” said Evans. “But each time we do, we need staff on hand to run the theater, sell tickets, sell popcorn, clean up afterwards. More so than ever, we need those people who are willing to donate their time.”
To learn more, and to view the schedule of upcoming performances, visit www.carteretcommunitytheatre.com.