When a Charlotte theater company goes “on hiatus,” I think of a physician telling a patient, “Get your affairs in order.” Hope may not be extinct, but I don’t count on a recovery.
Happily, Queen City Theatre Company has bounced back from a long absence with its creative leadership energized, a full season that starts Thursday with Neil LaBute’s “The Money Shot,” and the approach that made it one of our most provocative troupes.
If you moved to this region within the last two years, QCTC may be off your radar. It announced a final show at Duke Energy Theater in November 2013. Blumenthal Performing Arts had decided theatrical tenants should restrict themselves to two weekends there, in order to accommodate more traffic.
Though it returned for one show in the summer of 2014 and one show this summer, it spent most of two years seeking a home where it could be the principal company, producing shows for longer runs. After finding none, it will be back in Duke Energy for 2015-16.
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“It’s a great space for us,” says artistic director Glenn Griffin. “It’s an intimate black-box theater, and if we found or created another space, it would have that same intimacy. And we can still do (up to) 10 performances; we’d just do those over two weeks.”
“We have to be more efficient with marketing and push social media harder,” says executive director Kristian Wedolowski. “We’ve been doing that, and pre-sales are up significantly (for “Money Shot”). We’ve never had as strong a response to our season announcement.”
The down time gave the company founders a chance to answer questions that had floated around in the backs of their minds.
Did they want to leave Charlotte? (Nope.) Did they want to stop producing? (Absolutely not.) Did they want to wait another two years – which Wedolowski estimates as the minimum time needed to find a space of their own – without producing steadily? (Well ... no.)
They used the gap to act in other people’s shows and cement connections with actors and directors. (J.R. Adduci, a fixture at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre, stars in “Money Shot.”) They established a stronger base of supporters and added people to the board of directors. And they have come back with a series they feel is as good as any they have mounted.
LaBute’s play, which runs through Sept. 19, follows four Hollywood types clinging to the ladder of fame: a former action-movie hero, his seemingly dense girlfriend, a lesbian actress who hurt her career by coming out, and the film editor who’s her partner.
“Birds of a Feather” (Nov. 5-14) tells of Roy and Silo, two male Central Park Zoo penguins who raised a chick together, and the gay and straight humans in their lives. (You may recall this as the subject of the banned children’s book “And Tango Makes Three.”)
“Heathers: The Musical” (Feb. 18-27) adapts the 1988 film about an outsider who whacks popular classmates. The season ends with “Casa Valentina” (May 5-14), Harvey Fierstein’s play about a real Catskills hotel where straight men went to dress in drag in the 1960s. All are local premieres.
“We never thought the company would grow as fast as it did,” says Griffin. “When you do season after season, you keep saying, ‘This show’s good; let’s do it and put butts in the seats.’ When you take a break, you can talk about your vision. These all fit our vision.”
“It was important to have a lot of people say, ‘Please come back,’ and they did,” says Wedolowski. “So we’ll keep exploring all sides of the human condition – and offend everybody!”