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The Warehouse Theatre Keeps the Community Entertained and Thoughtful

By S. Mathur

The Warehouse Theatre might be officially described as "alternative." To which audiences will add "thought-provoking, entertaining, and passionate." True to its name, the theater is housed in a repurposed textile warehouse. It offers about fifteen productions each year, ranging from classics like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Rocky Horror Picture Show to new and innovative work like Important Hats of the Twentieth Century and Strange Snow.

Since its founding in 1973, The Warehouse Theatre has been an anchor of the Greenville arts community and a local favorite. According to the mission statement, it is a professional theatre dedicated to theatre as a serious art form; to high-quality, diverse and challenging productions; to the training of theatre professionals; to community outreach; and to education.

Community involvement is crucial to the success of the theatre, says Jason D. Johnson, Managing Director: "We take the central themes of each play or musical and place them in a free community forum before the opening of each show. This gives community members time to come together and have meaningful conversations about topics that are affecting our community. This season because of the themes in the shows we are having discussions about affordable housing, female equality, privileged populations, sex education, and how fashion shapes a city."

Among past productions, a popular one was Christmas on the Rocks, judging from the frequency of mentions in community discussions. With an intriguing subtitle, An Off-beat Collection of Twisted Holiday Tales, it features the child characters from Christmas movies, now grown up and meeting in a bar.

The Upstate Shakespeare Festival at Falls Park is an annual feature with free admission where, says Johnson, "You bring your own lawn chair, beverages, and food and sit back and take in Shakespeare in an incredibly beautiful setting. We feature two different Shakespearean works each season with a comedy being paired with a tragedy or history. Producing Artistic Director John Fagan is working his way through the entire canon at present with Titus Andronicus making its Falls Park debut next summer paired against perennial favorite A Midsummer Night's Dream."

As an elite professional theatre, The Warehouse attracts talent from across the country. It supports local professionals through workshops and master classes, and a Conservatory for emerging artists who could be recent college graduates, current college upperclassmen, and young professionals. The theatre partners with local schools for K-12 arts programming including workshops, masterclasses and residencies for students.

An interesting past event, says Johnson, was the regional premiere of Important Hats of the Twentieth Century. It was "a comedy full of sci-fi, 1930's fashion, 1990's fashion, and maybe even a few zombies. Fast-paced with actors playing numerous parts, it's one of those comedies that didn't let the audience catch their breath."

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