In their 78 years of existence, the Footlight Players have performed through depressions, world wars, and a hurricane named Hugo. Big and small details have changed with Charleston’s oldest theater company since they began in 1931, but their staying power remains.
The economy may have taken a nosedive, but according to Executive Director Jocelyn Edwards, the Players made four times more income this year than the year before. Sure, they’ve had to cut some fat from around the edges — recycling sets, shortening mailing lists, and personally cleaning up after shows. But the Footlight Players still present six shows a season, and that’s what they’ll continue to do.
As a community theater, the Footlight Players have always prided themselves on being for and by the people. All their actors are volunteers, and they allow people to vote for each season’s shows. Since the slump, Edwards says there’s been a surplus of people auditioning, buying tickets, and offering to volunteer for plays. Not surprisingly, the Footlight Players plan to expand their offerings.
Three years ago, the Players introduced the LateNight Series. The goal of the series was to draw in younger audiences with drink specials and inexpensive, edgy plays. Judging by their increase in revenue, it turns out that a little adult content and discounted booze was the prescription some Charlestonians needed. This year, the Footlight Players plan to double the number of LateNight Series offerings in an effort to significantly boost the number of theatergoers.
As far as marketing schemes, Edwards says they haven’t had to change much to attract more people to the theater. She says certain things have proven to work over the span of 78 years, so why mess with success? Also, Edwards believes these tough times have caused a resurgence in the arts. People want to laugh, get wound up in romances and deadly dramas, and forget their troubles.
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