Waxhaw is known as a bit of an artist’s mecca, and its Storefront Theater is doing its part to contribute to that reputation. Headlining its 12th season, Storefront’s performances take place at Waxhaw Presbyterian Church, and showcase a reader’s theater. In other words, it’s a theater in which actors use their faces and voices to create the characters on the page, while the audience is actively filling in the inherent blanks (i.e., costumes, sets, etc.) with their imaginations.
Judy Cook is Storefront’s founder, and executive and artistic director. A playwright herself, Cook has spent a lifetime involved in play readings, and felt the tug to do something creative with her time. Waxhaw was an obvious choice to establish such an outlet, having grown up there, but knew she couldn’t compete with the Ovens and Blumenthal theaters of uptown from a sheer capital standpoint, not to mention space and mass convenience. That’s when she decided to open a reader’s theater that doesn’t require a lot of space, nor a large investment.
Named by Cook on the notion that she always desired a theater, based in a store in downtown Waxhaw, Storefront Theater was born, so that if/when the time came, it would have the proper name.
“I think sometimes people hear “reader’s theater” and think it can’t possibly be interesting and won’t have all the things that are part of a full production. But over time, I’ve come to feel it’s an art form in and of itself,” beams Cook. “People don’t realize how much they can live the life of the play in their imagination.”
With five performances a year, each comprising of a Saturday evening and Sunday matinee, the plays are concluded with a talk-back session. This book-club-esque idea allows attendees to discuss the play with the playwright, actors, and director, and enhance a sense of community among all involved.
A fan-favorite for the last five years, Storefront Theater will host its annual Festival of 10-Minute Plays – a competition that selects the best and brightest 8-10 plays, each only lasting 10 minutes in duration…for good or bad! In its first year, Storefront surprisingly received over 300 play submissions from all across the country, and even from India and Mexico. With a balance of comedy and drama, plus its fast-pace, Cook has found this festival to be the audience’s favorite performance of the year.
Storefront Theaters has been a venue for people who love the theater, but don’t always want the inconvenience of heading Uptown, or the hefty price tag associated with big productions.
Cook has been both shocked and thrilled with the success of Storefront Theater, and that they’ve been going as long as they have.
“I really enjoy doing my own shows and introducing them to a new audience, says Cook. “It’s really something when you get the right cast together and you can tell that the audience is enjoying themselves. Whatever age you are, we all want to be told a good story. That never changes.”