Theatre taught me to Thrift

(This post originally written for the Metrolina Restore Blog)

I do love vintage items and that has been my primary focus when thrift shopping. However, my introduction to the Metrolina Restore, specifically the one on Wendover in Charlotte where I most often shop, is the fact that I am an independent theatre producer perennially with very little budget for sets. We have to borrow, reuse and recycle and repurpose everything we can–many times from our own houses and friend’s houses- to keep the costs low. But whenever I need building materials for sets and such that I cannot borrow but must purchase-I head to the Restore, cause that’s where the real deals are, people!

Sets for theatre, like shows, are many differing styles and time periods defending on the production. The Restore has been a consistent resource for me for all of them. In a show I produced in 2010, The Dixie Swim Club, the set designer thought it would be great to have a sliding glass door on the set of our 1980s beach cottage to allow the characters to have scenes on their patio. This a very sexy set design element that typically I would never have been able to afford, but I put on my positive attitude hat and headed off to the Restore. Positive attitude counts when shopping because luck shined on me that day–all doors, including sliding glass ones, were 50% off–yahoooo! I think I paid $12.50 for my authentic beach house sliding glass door and my crackerjack set team installed it perfectly:914518359_wwdsc_0130

Chandler McIntryre, Tonya Bludsworth and Stephanie DiPaolo in Dixie Swim Club. Note the beautiful sliding glass door in the background! Photo taken by Weldon Weaver

Well, I have learned a lot in the last two years– the primary thing being that the Restore is NOT just for building materials: furniture, pictures, accessories–they have it all! The upcoming play I am currently producing, Least Likely Friends calls for a very modern New York City apartment set that we are building. Some choice furniture items from the Restore will be getting there moment on the stage yet again.

We got 3 of these fantastic lamps silver stick lamps with white shades- they were actually marked down from the listed price when we picked them up:

Lamp from Restore

Also this snazzola glass and chrome side table that is a perfect fit for modern NYC apartment life:

LLF side table

And, books. We needed lots o’ books for the built in book shelves on the set. This picture of friendly helpful Restore employee Ashley from Julia’s says it all:

LLF Books Tonya

And we also got a great rug…but more on shopping the Restore’s rugs and carpet remnants (TEASER!) in a not-too-much later post. But, hey, now you’re curious about this theatre show with the cool set and want to know more about THAT, right?! That’s the playwright/ director Tonya Bludsworth in the pic above with Ashley and you can check it all out here: Least Likely Friends Website. We open on June 12, so once it’s all up on stage and set is finalized I’ll do a pictorial update so you can see the Restore items in action!

Update: fantastic set of Least Likely Friends, built by set designer Whitney Yale, with some items from the Habitat ReStore on Wendover:

Pic on the right was before we painted the floor!

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We actually went back to the restore and found these two fab pedestal tables that worked in the apartment as well:

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We had a fantastic opening weekend– and along with the great story and acting. the set is getting lots of kudos. We have one week to go! Check out the show here: www.leastlikelyfriends.com

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Baptism By Fire is Fun!

(This post originally appeared as part of the Charlotte Magazine Revue Blog Takeover Series)
Mixed metaphors aside, sometimes, you just gotta pull the trigger. And I am not talking about guns, people…I am talking about situations. Ideas. Events. Creativeness. Cleverness, even.
Space is THE BIGGEST COMMODITY for those of us in Charlotte in the Indy Theatre biz. It goes like this: You have a great idea for an event or show but you need a space to execute the idea. Spaces are expensive and usually booked waaaaay in advance. But sometimes, as you are confidently throwing your idea out there into the world, some fabulous forward thinking person that has access to a space buys in on your idea and you are put in a situation where you need to act quickly and seal the deal—possibly more quickly than you originally intended or planned.
Case in point No. 1: Chickspeare at NoDa Brewing
Susie Ford, owner of NoDa Brewing and Sheila Snow Procter were friendly aquantances. Upon a visit to the brewery, Sheila started talking one day to Susie about the Shakespeare group that she co-founded that at one time did shows in a brewery, and how fun and popular it was, etc, etc. Susie thought this was so fantastic and wondered if it would work at NoDa Brewing…and hey, maybe a food truck could be involved and here’s a few open dates, whaddaya think? Sheila agreed to jump in and pull the trigger-even though it meant she was gonna have to do something she hadn’t before: simultaneously act in and produce the show. This is no cakewalk, fyi. But, if you’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket to one of these fun ChicksBeer evenings, you know that they are now incredibly popular for NoDa Brewing and sell out whenever they are announced; it’s a perfect marriage of arts event and festive venue that’s a win for both groups involved, but wouldn’t have worked if either party hadn’t been willing to just go ahead and strike while the idea was hot.
Case in point No. 2: Yes and…Fest at Snug Harbor
Drea Cunningham had a fantastic idea for a local theatre arts fest that would showcase original work, improv and Indy theatre groups around town. She wanted it to be a benefit a worthy group: The Possibility Project, a group that allows Charlotte teens to create their own theatre piece and then present it to an audience. She knew Jason Michel, a partner at Snug Harbor and knew he was a supporter of the arts—he loved her idea and agreed with a pretty quick date less than 2 months away. She sent out a call with the opportunity to present to some groups around town and they agreed to make it happen—and on a rainy Sunday afternoon she produced her first ‘Yes and…Fest’ at Snug Harbor, complete with theatre companies presenting current work, a comedian, an improv short film, fun improv games for the group in-between sets and a special performance of a brand new piece by some of the teens of The Possibility Project. Such a funky arts way to spend a couple hours on your Sunday Funday…and yahoo!!! Tweeting, instagram, and social media sharing of the event was not only allowed but encouraged. Big win for all involved and there’s another one in the works for late summer/ early fall.
In both of these situations, the timbre of the event perfectly fit the venue, and for successful producing this is a crucial factor. More crucial than that—you have to be willing to strike while the iron is hot–cause sitting around and just talking is just that-and baptism by fire is a good way to learn stuff.