State of the Theatre

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.

Annual Fund Renewal Campaign


We kicked off our fall Annual Fund Renewal Campaign back in the beginning of September, and thanks to all the wonderful Trustus patrons and supporters, we are almost halfway to our goal of 200 donors and $50,000.

I’m excited! When I took over as Development Director here at Trustus I heard that the support for this theatre was incredible. Now I have seen it firsthand. And, I have found out quickly why people love this theatre. It’s because of the people. It’s because of the people like Artistic Director, Chad Henderson and Technical Director, Brandon McIver. It’s because of Production Manager, Patrick Kelly, and all the stage managers, designers and company members who work tirelessly every day to put on the best stage productions in all the Carolinas.

I’ve seen this commitment first hand. Just recently, I worked on a grant with our Education Coordinator, Martha Hearn-Kelly. Martha not only works with Trustus Theatre, she is a public school drama teacher in Columbia, and she leads the Trustus sketch comedy troupe, The Mothers. In addition to all the other work she does she spent hours on her own working to collaborate with me on this particular grant. And this isn’t the exception…this is what everyone here does.

You want to know where all this started and why folks pour their hearts into this theatre? It’s because of Jim and Kay Thigpen, who started Trustus Theatre back in 1985. When they bought a building in a rundown part of town called The Vista there was very little around. Without their vision and commitment, The Vista would not be what it is today. At the end of August when Jim Thigpen passed away the theatre overflowed with fans, friends, family members and patrons all here to honor the legacy and memory of Jim Thigpen. He and Kay have been loved and respected by the arts community in this area for decades, and the people that come to this theatre everyday work hard to honor their legacy.

Recently I spoke with Kay and she wanted to write a brief note. She asks for the help of patrons and donors again.

Trustus lives! Five years after Jim & I retired, Trustus thrives. There is no better legacy we could have possibly wished for. A lot of changes have been made as this fantastic group of young people found their way. None of this would have been possible, however, without you & your faith, your commitment & your donations. So yes, I’m asking once again. If you’re a past donor, please continue. If you’re new to Trustus, I promise you will not be disappointed. After all, not only is this professional theatre, but it’s the best theatre! Please be a part of it.

Kay Thigpen, Co-founder

There is not much more that I can add. Please take a moment to make a donation to Trustus Theatre. CLICK HERE to make your donation to Trustus Theatre today.

Thank you so much,

Brad Martin

Director of Development
Trustus Theatre
[email protected]

Evil Dead, The Musical

What could possibly go wrong when five college kids break into an abandoned, secluded cabin in the woods, especially when nobody else knows where they are? Find out at Trustus Theatre this October as the hit show Evil Dead, The Musical returns to the Thigpen Main Stage. Evil Dead, The Musical will run from Friday, October 27 through Saturday, November 11, 2017. Tickets may be purchased at, or by calling the Trustus Box Office at 803-254-9732.

Audiences went crazy over the Trustus production in 2014, and have been asking for it ever since. Three years later, they’re bringing back this hilarious live stage show along with several of the original cast members. This show takes all of the elements of the cult classic films, The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness and combines them for one of the craziest theatrical experiences of all time. Five college students go to an abandoned cabin in the woods, and accidentally unleash an evil force that turns them all into demons. It’s all up to Ash (a housewares employee turned demon-killing hero), and his trusty chainsaw to save the day. Blood flies. Limbs are dismembered. Demons tell really bad jokes, and it is all set to music. The songs in the show are completely off the wall with titles like “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons” and “What the F**k Was That?” The show is pure comedy and will have audiences laughing and screaming for more and more blood.

The book and lyrics of Evil Dead, The Musical were written by George Reinblatt and the music was written by George Reinblatt, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris, and Frank Cipolla. Trustus Theatre’s Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, is the director and the Music Direction will be provided by Randy Moore.

“We had so much fun producing Evil Dead, The Musical in 2014, and the company members who were in the original production were hinting that they were ready to do it again,” said Henderson. “It’s also one of those productions that people ask us about a lot. So—it’s back on our main stage just in time for Halloween. Evil Dead is pure fun, and it’s also a musical that could only be produced by Trustus Theatre here in Columbia. At Trustus we like producing thoughtful and meaningful works, but sometimes we just need a laugh. Evil Dead is the perfect prescription for folks looking for a break from our political landscape. We’re having an incredible time re-working this piece. We’ve got four new cast members coming on board with four of our original cast members, we’ve changed the scenic design a bit, and we’re reimagining some of the effects.”

Katie Leitner, who will be stepping into the role of Cheryl for the first time, says, “There is a balance you have to find between honoring what made the original production successful and making the role your own. The cast and our director have been great in helping us find that balance. Without giving anything away, I think that the production quality has been amped up with regards to blood, sound, and set effects. If you decide to spend your Halloween season with us, you can be sure that you will be in for a few tricks but most definitely a treat!”

Join Trustus Theatre for a Zombie Block Party outside of the theatre on Lady Street on Friday, October 27 from 6pm – 7:30pm before the opening of Evil Dead, The Musical. Local food truck, Wurst Wagen, will be in attendance in addition to happy hour drinks in the Trustus Theatre bar (Happy Hour lasts from 6-7pm), music by DJ Preach Jacobs, zombie face-painting, and plenty of fun. There will also be a costume contest—come dressed in your best zombie attire!

Evil Dead, The Musical will run from Friday, October 27 – Saturday, November 11, 2017 and tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Trustus Theatre Box Office at 803-254-9732 or online at Opening night is Friday, October 27, at 8pm. The performances following are on Saturday, October 28, at 8pm; Sunday, October 29, at 3pm; Tuesday, October 31, at 7:30pm; Wednesday, November 1, at 7:30pm; Thursday, November 2, at 7:30pm; Friday, November 3, at 8pm; Saturday, November 4, at 8pm; Sunday, November 5, at 3pm; Tuesday, November 7, at 7:30pm; Wednesday, November 8, at 7:30pm; Thursday, November 9, at 7:30pm; Friday, November 10, at 8pm; and Saturday, November 11, at 2pm (matinee) and 8pm.

Evil Dead, The Musical is sponsored by the University of South Carolina Department of Sport and Entertainment Management.