Theater marks grand opening with gala

Lindsay CravenStaff Writer

February 12, 2013

The Willingham Theater at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center held its grand opening gala to a full house on Feb. 8.

The invitation-only event was held in honor of individuals and groups that made the theater possible through donations and sponsorships.

“Two and a half years ago I stood on a milk carton and welcomed most of you all to the completion of phase one of the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center,” said John Willingham, Arts Council President. “We’re gathered tonight to christen this wonderful new theater and the completion of phase two of this project.”

The theater is the product of six years of fundraising, planning and construction. Two years since the opening of phase one of the arts center and $1.1 million later the theater saw its first musical and theatrical act.

“Each of you here has had a hand in the journey to this moment,” Willingham said. “Your contributions of time, ideas and especially money are what make the Willingham Theater come alive tonight. You’ve come through and you have made this a reality. This is your theater and we appreciate it.”

The theater features state of the art equipment from front to back. It is equipped with a 7.1 surround sound system, a control room that allows manipulation of the lights, sound and video from the back of the theater, the back wall features sound absorbent tile and all entryways are sound and light blocked.

Behind the stage the theater offers a men’s and women’s dressing room equipped with showers. There are also prop rooms, storage rooms and a scene shop with a welding hook up.

For movies, the theater houses a 17 foot wide screen and Blu Ray technology.

The gala event featured a performance of “The Old Timey Radio Show.” The performance is a musical revue based on music of the north piedmont. Ron Stacker Thompson was the host of the show and also acts as the artistic director for the 2013 performance season at the Willingham Theater.

“The Old Timey Radio Show” performance was a “live broadcast” from Yadkinville’s fictional radio station WYAD. The show took the audience through a performance of music that had roots in the Yadkin community and in surrounding communities.

The performance started with a performance by the Salem Band of traditional Moravian brass band music. Next up was a blues performance by Thompson of songs made famous by North Carolina native Blind Boy Fuller as well as a performance by Thompson’s wife, Cle. Jazz was up next and the band’s trumpet player, Joe Robinson, played a powerful cover of John Coltrane.

The show rounded out with performances of bluegrass and old time string bands covering songs from Tommy Jarrell, the late local legend Doc Watson and a performance of “The Fishin’ Hole” a song made famous by “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Ron and Cle closed out the evening with a gospel performance of a Shirley Caesar song and an R&B cover of The 5 Royales song “Dedicated to the One I Love.”

Prior to the performance the audience was treated to a standing buffet provided by Third Branch Café and The Branch Bakery.

A follow-up performance of “The Old Timey Radio Show” was held to the general public on Feb. 9. The show sold out all 193 seats.

Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at lcraven@civitasmedia.com.