Tap that potential

Published 8:44 pm Friday, May 2, 2008

By Staff
As the Turnage Theater ends its first main season, it’s time to congratulate the renovated performance venue for a job well done. The theater is adding significantly to Washington’s artistic and cultural offerings.
We hope the next main season will provide even more such offerings. As Robert Chumbley, executive director of the Turnage Theaters Foundation, points out in his May 1 column concerning the Turnage, the theater and its supporting amenities will have presented 27 events and six films in its inaugural main season. The Turnage has also opened its doors for numerous uses of its facilities by the community.
From music concerts to plays, the Turnage has provided a wide variety of entertainment choices. Those performances bring people, including first-time visitors, to Washington and Beaufort County. Because it does that, the Turnage is more than just an arts and cultural engine for the area. It’s an economic engine with plenty of potential.
This summer, Washington and Beaufort County should get at least a glimpse of what happens with that potential.
The Turnage is preparing for the East Carolina University/Loessin Summer Theater. ECU’s summer theater program is coming to the Turnage because ECU’s McGinnis Theatre is being renovated.
In May 2007, ECU officials met with Turnage Theaters Foundation representatives to develop strategies to bring performances — and revenue— to the Turnage complex after it was rehabilitated. Well, the Turnage has been rehabilitated. It’s presenting performances.
During its second main season, it is hoped, the renovated Turnage can double or triple the number of events and activities it hosted in its first main season. That’s something the people who run the Turnage should be able to do.
Ballard’s statement was about the potential of the Turnage, which had not been opened for business when he made that remark. Almost a year later, the Turnage is open for business.
It’s time the potential became a reality. There’s no doubt the Turnage is working to become an economic-development tool for use by eastern North Carolina. The more events and activities at the Turnage, the more people visit Washington. The more people who visit the city, the more opportunities for shops and restaurants to find new customers.
To attract patrons, the Turnage will have to offer shows and events that people want to see.
Perhaps the Turnage should consider hosting a multiple-day film festival that features movies filmed in North Carolina or movies starring actors and actresses from North Carolina or with strong ties to the Old North State.
Cecil B. DeMille, Ava Gardner, Andy Griffith, Murray Hamilton, Jaime Pressly and Reginald VelJohnson either were born in North Carolina or have ties to the state. Movies such as “Nell,” starring Jodie Foster; “The Last of the Mohicans,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis, “Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks; and “Bull Durham,” starring Kevin Costner, were filmed entirely or partially in North Carolina.
It’s an idea worth exploring.
The Turnage’s first main season indicates the theater can be a major player in the local economy. With a second main season not too far away, the Turnage has another opportunity to fulfill that role. Doing that would be good for the Turnage and the region.
Break a leg, Turnage.