Entertainment

Entrepreneurs bring live theater back to Charlotte’s South End

South End has four breweries, 66 restaurants and bars, two live music venues, the light rail line, nearly 4,500 households and – until now – no live theater.

Actress-producer Donna Scott is about to fix that. Starting this weekend, she and producing partners Tonya Bludsworth and Glynnis O’Donoghue will bring live theater to South End when they put on an elaborately staged reading of Bludsworth’s “Carrie Ann’s Kiss” at Charlotte Trolley Museum.

The play is styled like a mockumentary and follows five Carrie Ann Cosmetics consultants on their way to the national convention to vie for the company’s highest award, the Ruby Kiss.

Scott is no stranger to South End. She, Bludsworth and O’Donoghue live nearby. And the last time live theater was in South End, Scott was involved: Her feel-good, feminist “The Body Chronicles” was a hit 10 years ago, when she staged it at the defunct South End Performing Arts Center.

Scott’s name and face may be familiar to longtime theatergoers, because she’s made acting and producing her full-time job. (She’s also known as Mod Bettie, her vintage furniture-loving and blogging alter ego.) She’s accustomed to making things happen, so she and her partners were the right choices for the uncertain but exciting proposition of staging theater in unlikely venues.

They’re having a ball gearing up for the new venture. “I work with people I love, and I get to do something I love with those people,” Bludsworth says. “Isn’t that what everyone is looking for?”

“We are our own fairy godmothers,” O’Donoghue says.

Scott and team won’t have a permanent base; they’ll travel, gypsy-like, to South End venues amenable to hosting them. They don’t have a regular rehearsal space, but that’s a challenge they like trying to figure out. Scott calls Bludsworth “the queen of the road map.”

They’re even open to outdoor theater – perhaps at Food Truck Friday or during South End Art and Soul, an arts festival May 2.

Even before their first performance, they’ve found a receptive audience among South Enders. The women often meet at Common Market on South Tryon Street, where owner Chuck Barger has taken an interest. He’ll provide libations for upcoming shows.

“We already feel like we’re part of the community,” Scott says.

South End is a neighborhood where businesses support other businesses. “One of South End’s great secrets to success is our people,” says Tobe Holmes, director of Historic South End. “There are lots of outgoing and generous business owners and residents who make the time to collaborate and celebrate one another.

“They all seem to understand that what is good for one is likely good for another, and that relying only on a motive for profit is not only ineffective but also pretty lonely. South End merchants (have) come forward to support the effort. (They’re) providing everything from marketing to product sponsorship.”

The neighbors aren’t the only ones offering support. The Arts and Science Council awarded Scott’s team a $5,000 cultural project grant.

Next for the vagabond players is a fully staged “Shiloh Rules,” a comedy about female Civil War re-enactors. “Shiloh” will be staged in March at Charlotte Art League on Camden Road. Theatergoers may discover a painting or artist they love, and gallery crawlers may stumble on a play they didn’t know about. (The first Friday of “Shiloh” coincides with the South End Gallery Crawl and the weekly Food Truck Friday.)

They’re open to any kind of plays, but gravitate toward comedies. And they’ll offer something rare in the theater scene: the 100-seat, intimate theater experience.

Scott and her partners have also gotten support from Theatre Charlotte and Actor’s Theatre and Michael Ford of UpStage NoDa.

Those theaters have offered to cross-promote South End theater. “This isn’t a competition,” Scott says. “I think in the last six years or so, theater companies have learned that the way to survive is to collaborate and cross-market.”

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