By Cassidy Clark, South Pointe HS (Rock Hill, South Carolina)
Theater lovers in Columbia, South Carolina, can find two options: the Trustus Theatre caters to a younger, more liberal audience looking for contemporary acting, while the Longstreet Theatre provides a more traditional, conservative audience through classic works such as Shakespeare.
“The theater brings the word to life, in a variety of ways. The director is able to create a world and we are immersed into it.” theater enthusiast A.J. Chambers said.
Longstreet Theatre stands tall at the corner of Sumter and Greene streets at the University of South Carolina. Built before the Civil War in the 1860s, Longstreet Theatre wasn’t always a theatre. It was originally designed to be a speaking hall, but the acoustics were so poor that people stopped visiting and it became more of a town joke. When the Civil War hit, the theater was used as a hospital of the Confederate army, which created the legend that the theater is haunted.
After the Civil War, the University opened the building as a science hall and later a basketball arena after the previous one burned down. Old elements of the basketball court can still be seen throughout the performance hall. Once basketball moved out, theater moved in.
To this day, it is the only 360-degree arena-style theater in the state of South Carolina, according to Kevin Bush, marketing director. Due to the unique 360-degree arena, the actors rarely use microphones during performances because of the surrounding sound.
Another interesting part of the arena is that is has a hydraulic stage, which means it goes down a full story in order to change sets and levels up two feet during performances. Because this is a school affiliated theater, the directors choose the productions based on everything other than the thought to sell tickets. This theater chooses to do more contemporary based plays that come from different eras.
“We want to provide work that makes our audience think,” Bush said.
The Trustus Theatre is in the heart of The Vista. Trustus was founded by Kay and Jim Thigpen to provide more diverse contemporary plays to the Columbia area. Just like Longstreet, their theater wasn’t always a theater but once served as an industrial tractor-trailer warehouse.
This theatre has a traditional, intimate type of theater in their main space and a small black-box theater in the back.
Compared to the play process at Longstreet, Trustus caters to contemporary audiences more than the traditional university theater. Trustus has made it their mission to break the status-quo.
“It’s not always feel good entertainment, but it is incredible theater,” Artistic Director Chad Henderson said.
Their audiences are typically younger and more liberal. They are not hesitant to produce plays containing nudity or profanity. For example, this past season they produced a show called Sunset Baby. Another thing that makes Trustus stand out from other theaters is their professionalism.
“We treat everyone like adults,” Henderson said.
[Check out the exterior and interior of both theatres on the CJI team’s official Instagram account.]