South of Broadway Theatre Company’s 2016 grant from the American Theatre Wing, the governing body behind the Tony Awards, was recognition of Mary Gould’s organization’s high standards and educational program, she said. But, it was also a sign to get to work on what’s next.
“Once I got that, to me, it was kind of an imprimatur for, you know, we’re serious, we get we’re doing our best,” said Gould. “I didn’t want to produce our main stage productions anymore here, in this facility, because I felt like we’d taken this facility above what it should actually do.”
Sensing that South of Broadway had outgrown its original Park Circle space, where it has worked since 2004, Gould started looking for ways to expand. Plans for a performing arts facility on Daniel Island, a multi-million dollar, 400-seat house, were in the works.
“As frequently happens, things happen. People change. Ideas morph,” she said. The Daniel Island entertainment facility plans fell through, despite great excitement from the community. After taking a year to regroup, a new opportunity presented itself.
“In late 2019, I had gone to Tiffany Silverman at The Citadel, knowing that they are building a 250-seat theater and I said, ‘We are looking for a venue for our main stage productions and would love to talk to you about what your needs are.’”
The collaboration was all set to begin in 2020. Plans for a joint production of Biloxi Blues, which had been done at The Citadel in the 1980s, were set in motion. March 12, three days before move-in, COVID-19 caused the world to close.
“I hung onto it,” Gould said with the tenacity of someone who doesn’t give up easily. She tried to adjust the plans for Biloxi to the changing world of the pandemic, hoping to bring that production to downtown and the peninsula’s bustling theater audiences. But by October, it was impossible to get back on campus at The Citadel, so South of Broadway hosted a pared-down version back home, in Park Circle.
With the pandemic continuing to impact protocols and attendance, South of Broadway has kept itself going with smaller performance opportunities, but bigger changes have been in the cards for South of Broadway for the past few years.
“We think that this is a long-term strategy for this space,” Gould said.
But, the dream of expansion doesn’t mean that Gould is abandoning East Montague Avenue’s roots. “There are some things I’d love to do. I’d love to blow it out to a second floor. Add some rehearsal rooms up there.” But, Gould admits that’s further down the road — though the theater did recently update its lighting grid.
South of Broadway Theatre Company is also becoming home to an array of alternative theater offerings. Cabarets featuring singers from around the country and homegrown performers like Matt Singledecker have been rolling through the pandemic and will continue. Nameless Numberhead, the local comedy company run by Henry Riggs and Maari Suorsa, has taken up residency there as well and have been producing comedy shows and improv classes. Park Circle will also continue to serve as the performance space for the youth company.
As part of the new direction, there are discussions about rebranding the space and the company. “South of Broadway Studios” is being floated as the name for the space in Park Circle, the first performing arts space in North Charleston, with “South of Broadway Productions” becoming the producing arm of the company, responsible for shows in North Charleston as well as The Citadel.
And, Gould is not done. She’s hoping to do more original production, with an eye toward cultivating shows for Broadway. Last year’s stirring Love and Southern Discomfort, staged at Charleston Music Hall, was just the start of something Gould wishes to see more of in Charleston.
Once the coast is clear to return to in-person theater, The Citadel will host some productions, with Gould dreaming of what she can produce. “Hopefully, when we can get back to producing a theater season, I’d like to get back to some real classics: Amadeus, To Kill a Mockingbird, a couple of others. That’s where we are.”
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.