Downtown Winston-Salem now has two new additions that will make the Theater District more iconic: The Little Theater of Winston-Salem and the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners played a major role in bringing this project to fruition, and there is also a historical element about this event that rings “fascination” and “significance.”
The event opened with a warm welcome from Randy Eaddy, President and CEO of the Arts Council. Eaddy spoke about the vision that the Forsyth County Commission Board had, not only to give the Black Rep Company and the Little Theater a new home that is closer to greater resources, but also to breathe more life and entertainment into the Winston-Salem downtown Theater District. Eaddy believes this addition to the District will have a long-term impact on the Winston-Salem Arts community.
Of course, the ribbon could not have been cut if it hadn’t been for Forsyth County getting involved. The County provided substantial financial support to help the two theater companies share the space in the Arts Council building. The Arts Council Theater was previously located on Coliseum Drive, but was outdated, since it was built back in the 1950s. There was only one rehearsal space for the two theater groups, and the building was gradually getting smaller because of the growing popularity of the companies, so something had to change. A vacant building downtown in the Theater District was filled in after the County voted to purchase the building. Thus, the Arts Council moved from Coliseum Drive to North Spruce Street.
Perhaps this move is symbolic, because there is an illuminating slice of history behind it. David Plyler, Chairman of Commissioners of Forsyth County, dropped some historical gems. Back in the 1960s, this same building on North Spruce Street was used as the entertainment community. It housed numerous radio stations, owned by Gordon Gray, and was once used for the local broadcasting industry. It was also a place where many without television sets in their homes would come and watch their favorite shows. The arts tradition continues with two legendary theater companies now occupying the place. This building may symbolize the heartbeat of the arts and entertainment community; without it, the creative flow of Winston-Salem would probably cease or dim down significantly. So, we are thankful that this historic building is still standing, stronger than ever!
But why does moving to the downtown Theater District mean so much to the companies? The leaders of the Little Theater are excited to have extra rehearsal space; the Black Rep Company board is looking forward to having a larger space, more administrative offices; and both companies are mutually happy to have more box offices for guests to order their tickets from. Another reason that being downtown excites these theater companies is that it is closer to the Marriot Hotel. This is where many out-of-city and out-of-state guests come and stay during the National Black Theater Festival—and they will now likely notice the two theaters! Also, the Arts Council is located a couple of blocks from the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts that houses a new 240-seat black-box theater, and will serve as the main performance venues for both theaters after it is completed this summer.
This open-house event included a tour of the new Arts Council Extension building. It is a spacious, two-level building with a level for each company: the lower level to be enjoyed by the NC Black Rep Company and the upper level to be occupied by the Little Theater. Both levels have a couple of rehearsal spaces, box offices, and administrative offices. The new building even has a kitchen and a conference room!
When asked what their future plans are for both companies, they stated that they would love to keep their essence alive and flowing, not only through the city or state, but throughout the world! Black Repertory Company members specifically expressed that they wanted to have a greater impact and bring in more diversity and community.
So, come on downtown and visit the new Arts Council building! Both theaters now have even more to offer!