Many people who come to Scotia Village soon find out that this community is full of surprises. One of the most pleasant and popular surprises happens to be the area’s thriving and talented theater community.
Although performances have been put on pause because of the pandemic, residents and staff alike are looking forward to taking the stage when the time is right. And one of the biggest reasons for this energy and enthusiasm has been the work of resident Brenda Gilbert, her husband Gray, and a cadre of other folks working behind the scenes.
According to Brenda, there is no shortage of talent at Scotia Village and the surrounding Laurinburg community. At least a quarter of the residents have participated in some way in one or more of the productions, from performing to painting backdrops to building sets and making costumes to playing music, running lights and more.
“I’ve always lived in a small town and done theater,” says Brenda, “but I just believe there are extremely talented people no matter where you are. I am thrilled that so many are willing to be a part of it.”
As longtime director of the Encore! Theater in Laurinburg which she co-founded in 1990 (Gray directed the group’s first production), she brought her lifelong love for and experience in theater to Scotia Village four years ago. “It’s been a real treat doing theater here.”
Since then, she and Gray started the Scotia Village Repertory Theater, staging four shows every year. “Two are more like reviews on Fourth of July and at Christmas,” explains Brenda. “Once a year we bring an old-time radio show script to the stage. And once a year we pull out all the stops and do a melodrama, which is our big production.”
The melodrama is a big draw. “We fill the auditorium and people from outside the community come to see it,” she continues. The group relies entirely on residents for cast and crew, including set and costume designs for the production. The last one they performed was in September, a fun play called “Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie. He Can’t Corner You There.”
Their most recent radio show was postponed back in March. “We were all prepped and ready to go,” Brenda says. “When we’re (able to gather again) we’ll be ready to perform within a week or two.”
Brenda has been in theater most of her life, starting in high school and continuing on as a voice major at Greensboro College before transferring to East Carolina University to study theater. However, others in the community have more recently caught the theater bug.
Allen Johnson, Scotia Village’s executive director, started out nearly three years ago by playing the son of the title character in Encore! Theater’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy.” Brenda played Miss Daisy in that production. Last summer, the pair acted together again in “Over the River and Through the Woods,” a comedy by Joe Dipietro.
“Allen got into it later, but he has a lot of talent,” says Brenda. “As they say he got the bug — he loves it.”
In March, Allen was preparing for the role of Felix Unger, in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” which also featured our own Karen Grimsley, Scotia’s Move-In Coordinator. According to the Encore! Theater page on Facebook, the group plans to perform the popular comedy at a later date and will honor all tickets that were already sold for the March performances.
Brenda and Gray have lived in Laurinburg of 50 years. Brenda, who had volunteered at Scotia Village for years, still serves on the community’s Board of Trustees. She was also working with student theater at St. Andrews on their production of the Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods.”