There’s a new theater company in the southern part of the state. West Bay Community Theater is getting ready to move into a new space in the heart of Wickford.
“When Academy Players left East Greenwich and the North Kingstown Players folded, the West Bay was left without a community theater,” says Terry Shea, president of WBCT’s board. There is the Arctic Playhouse, but that’s in West Warwick, and this being Rhode Island, it wasn’t really in the same area.
“For years, people kept saying, ‘Someone should start a theater in this area again,’” says Shea. He decided that “someone” should be him, so “I banded together with former members of both of those theaters, and we formally incorporated in July 2018.”
Most of the original board members were or are based in North Kingstown, so the home base, says Shea, “was bound to be in that area.”
Then synergy occurred. That’s Shea’s explanation. “I was drumming up support for the idea at an Arts Council meeting and a guest in attendance stated she was buying the Old Library building in Wickford and wanted to see a theater company take up residence in the planned black box space. She joined the board, and the rest is history. In the making.”
The pandemic and the resultant construction costs and delays have pushed back the timeline for opening the new space. “We’re realistically looking at another year and a half. We will be nomadic in the meantime, using the North Kingstown Beach bandshell and wherever we can arrange space.”
Enter Academy Players. They are now doing fairly well in their new space in Providence’s West End. And they’ve offered their space to WBCT’s first show, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”
“It’s the funniest, most irreverent show that no one seems to have seen. If the ‘Jerry Springer Show’ were a musical set in a trailer park in Florida, this would be it.”
Shea saw a production ten years ago. “It was one of the funniest shows, musical or not, that I had ever seen, and I’ve been waiting for someone to do it since. We finally decided to mount our own production, simply because I want to see it.”
As it’s WBCT’s first full production, “we wanted to make a choice that would stand out among a sea of ‘Oklahoma!’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’”
The show features a diverse cast from locales ranging from Westerly to New Bedford and will help raise some funds to help establish their permanent space.
The new space at 55 Brown Street – formerly the North Kingstown Town Hall Annex – will be a “flexible black box space that will seat approximately 75 people when finished,” says Shea. The audio/visual elements will be portable, allowing anyone renting the theater space to do whatever they need to do. There will also be private space and storage in the basement of the building for dressing rooms and administrative use.
The board, Shea emphasizes, is “administrative in nature, so it’s not a situation where shows and casting decisions are based on who’s serving. We will never pre-cast or make casting decisions based on insider trading.”
Once fully operational, Shea hopes to be able to present three mainstage shows a year and “interim performances of a smaller, more experimental nature.” This summer, WBCT will be presenting “Hair: In Concert” at the NK Town Beach bandshell.
Shea wants WBCT to be a “true community theatre. Anyone can take part, and everyone should.”
For more information on the West Bay Community Theater, check out www.wbctheater.org. You can also get tickets for “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which runs May 13, 14, and 15 at Academy Players in Providence. WBCT’s box office can be reached at 401-372-7201.