By Bernie Petit
“Create your own opportunity.”
For most folks, it’s just something people say. But for others, they are words to live by.
Just ask any of the entrepreneurs or artists in Charlotte’s South End, a place where making your own way has helped the historic neighborhood redefine itself.
Or talk to any member of Donna Scott Productions, which is bringing live theater back to the edge of town.
They’ve all created their own opportunities and, in turn, are providing opportunities for others in the emerging arts district.
“It seems like there is a possibility for a lot of theater people to be able to work here and this is the first step,” said Donna Scott Productions founder Donna Scott. “That’s how I think of it, if we get a good response.”
Donna Scott Productions – (from left) Glynnis O’Donoghue, Donna Scott and Tonya Bludsworth.
A Theatrical Return to South End
Donna Scott Productions, which consists of Scott and producing partners Tonya Bludsworth and Glynnis O’Donoghue, recently received a $5,000 Cultural Project Grant from ASC to help produce a series of theatrical events in nontraditional venues in South End in partnership with Community Trust, Charlotte Center City Partners and the South End Historic District.
The series will kick off in January at the Charlotte Trolley Museum with a staged reading of the critically acclaimed comedy “Carrie Ann’s Kiss” and will continue in late February and early March with the historical comedy “Shiloh Rules” by Doris Baizley.
“We definitely wanted to do something that is audience engaging,” Bludsworth said. “And having that humor built in – no matter what we’re doing, whether it’s a piece with a message, we all want it to come through with humor.”
The return of theatre to South End will mark Donna Scott Productions’ 10th anniversary. The first show Scott ever produced was “The Body Chronicles” in 2005, coincidentally at the old South End Performing Arts Center (formerly the Charlotte Cutlery Co. warehouse).
That space was converted into a daycare center not long after the production, “so to my knowledge, there hasn’t been anything here in 10 years,” Scott said.
An Opportunity to Work Together
“Carrie Ann’s Kiss” will also be Bludsworth’s and O’Donoghue’s first shows as partners in the theatre company.
Bludsworth hired Scott as an actress in the show’s original run in 2006. The two worked together again on “Aphasia,” Scott’s first film effort as an executive producer, in 2010 and Scott then co-produced Bludsworth’s “Least Likely Friends” in 2013.
“We’ve just always worked well together,” Scott said.
Scott forged a friendship with O’Donoghue after seeing her performance as an actress in 2008 (“I was like, ‘Who is she, because she’s pretty fabulous,” Scott recalled) and after seeing the short piece O’Donoghue wrote for the Theatre Charlotte themed reading and performance series Just Do It in 2012.
This summer O’Donoghue approached Scott about working together; Scott and Bludsworth had already been talking about ways to continue collaborating. It made sense that they all work together under the Donna Scott Productions umbrella, they said, and they locked in the partnership after realizing there might be an opportunity to work in South End.
Flying the Flag for South End
That came when a friend introduced Scott to Tobe Holmes, director of Historic South End. Holmes told Scott there were several neighborhood spaces that could be used for theatre.
The invitation was one Scott couldn’t refuse.
“When somebody opens a door really widely in front of you, you better be ready to run on through and figure it out,” she said.
The trio was drawn to the Trolley Museum because of its openness and its location in the heart of South End. It does possess its challenges – the walls are primarily glass and the company will have to bring in lights and a sound system for shows.
But that’s where the company’s grant from ASC comes in, helping cover some of those upfront costs, Bludsworth said.
“We’re bringing [theatre] back here but in the arts community, it takes a lot of people to make it happen,” she said. “It takes ASC helping finance those things because none of us are independently wealthy doing theater.”
The lesson, O’Donoghue said, is that when you work to create your own opportunity in the culture sector, you find that people in the community and organizations like ASC are willing to help.
“I feel like we pushed the idea and all of this stuff started falling into place,” she said. “It’s like Donna Scott has the flag and is like, ‘Let’s do it,’ and people and opportunities are drawn to that.”
“We’re bringing that flag to South End and I dig it.”
Check Them Out
Donna Scott Productions will present a staged reading of the play “Carrie Ann’s Kiss” at 8 p.m. Jan. 30-31.
It will present the historical comedy “Shiloh Rules” at 8 p.m. March 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Both productions will take place at the Charlotte Trolley Museum, 1507 Camden Road. For more information, visit www.donnascottproductions.com.