Trustus Theatre ended its most recent fiscal year in August 2017, and ended it in the black. As the theatre enters its 33rd Season in Columbia, SC, it is positioned to not only create meaningful programming on both of its stages but will also boast new programs that will bring the power of theatre to the community by making it available in public settings.
The narrative surrounding Trustus for the past three seasons has been focused on transition, growing pains, and financial burden. However, the story has changed in the theatre’s 33rd Season as it is producing over a dozen productions in the coming season including three world premieres and various award-winning scripts. Moreover, a solid staff is united towards one goal: making Trustus the most influential theatre in South Carolina.
Trustus had been without a full time Director of Development for one and half seasons. The previous Director was Debbie Cohn, who was responsible for the last capital campaign that brought in a new sound system as well as the renovations to the Trustus bar. At the end of last season, Brad Martin was hired by the Trustus Board of Directors as the new full time Director of Development.
Considering that the theatre hadn’t had a committed Development Director for most of Season 32, the fact that Trustus not only balanced their budget, but also landed in the black for Season 32 is a huge testament to the community’s support via ticket sales and donations. Ticket sales account for about 33% of the theatre’s operating budget, a percentage that is a text book figure for performing arts non-profits. However, while donations were lower in Season 32 than in previous years due to the lack of a development director, the ticket sales sky rocketed and allowed the theatre to stay afloat while the staff continued to transition and form into the current group that is managing the theatre’s daily operations. Obviously, the Midlands community was craving though provoking work and showed their support by purchasing tickets.
In its 33rd Season, the organization is excited to take the Trustus experience beyond the walls of the building on Lady Street. Trustus is partnering with the Columbia Museum of Art to present free short improv and sketch comedy sets from Trustus’ resident comedy troupe, The Mothers. These free Mothers sets are presented at 6:30pm at the CMA during each First Thursday on Main Street. This allows Midlands residents to experience an offering of comedic performance that is popular in larger markets such as New York City and Chicago.
Trustus is also partnering with the Richland County Public Library this season to provide free readings of 20th Century American classics featuring professional actors from the Trustus Company.
The Trustus Apprentice Company has returned to its original goal of providing energetic and bright high-school theatre students from the Midlands area with free monthly workshops focused on various topics and led by theatre professionals. This program lasts for the duration of the academic school year and also provides its students with the opportunity to work on Trustus Main Stage and Cohn Side Door Productions.
Trustus is producing three original works this season, all of them created by local South Carolina artists. A Christmas Miracle at the Richland Fashion Mall will make its debut on the Thigpen Main Stage this December. This original Columbia-based comedy is written by Trustus’ resident sketch comedy and improv troupe, The Mothers. In the Spring, Trustus will premiere The Restoration’s Constance, an original musical based on the concept album of the same name by Columbia band The Restoration. The Restoration’s Constance is historical fiction that takes place in Lexington, South Carolina. The music and lyrics are by Daniel Machado, Adam Corbett, and The Restoration. The book is by Trustus Artistic Director Chad Henderson. This summer, Trustus will end its season with Boy About Ten, a world premiere play by SC playwright Jon Tuttle.
With so much on the horizon, it is clear that Trustus Theatre is positioned to make bold strides into the organization’s future. The era of transition has settled, and the staff, Trustus Company, and the Board of Directors are ready to explore what the next thirty years can bring.