In its 35th Anniversary Season, Trustus Theatre will take a look back at some classic Trustus Theatre productions. They’re bringing patrons some of the best in contemporary, theatre we’ll look at the bright possible future of the human experience with plays that teach us to listen, learn, and relate. Trustus Theatre will also provide our audiences exciting new experiences by reconfiguring our Main Stage into a round for three consecutive shows, as well as commissioning two world premiere plays based on true Columbia stories that will be presented in repertory during our Trustus Playwrights’ Festival. Tickets and Season 35 Flex Passes may be purchased at or by calling the Trustus Theatre Box Office at 803-254-9732.

Trustus Theatre’s Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, says, “For Trustus’ 35th Anniversary Season we wanted to continue honoring our mission of providing Columbia with shows that speak to the conversations we’re having in our community, while also producing some productions with high name-recognition that will bring many patrons to the theatre for the first time. We’ve got classics, we’ve got the most current Pulitzer winner, we’ve got world premieres, we’ve got a punk-rock Andrew Jackson, and we’ve got a summer musical so hot that we’re not contractually allowed to announce it until the Fall (but we’ll give you a hint: Mr. Fahrenheit). This season will be a great way to celebrate 35 years of provocative Trustus programming, while bringing many new stories, ideas, and visions to our stage. Folks will want to grab a Season 35 Flex Pass immediately so they can join us all year at a savings!”

Season 35 begins with Company, the 1971 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, that will run Friday, September 27through Saturday, October 25, 2019. Remaining Season 35 productions include Miss Bennet, Christmas at Pemberleyfrom December 6 to 21, 2019; A Streetcar Named Desire, the 1948 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Drama, from February 7 to 22, 2020; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jacksonfrom March 13 to April 4, 2020; Fairview, the 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Drama and the 2018-2019 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, from April 24 to May 8, 2020; Composure, a world premiere written by Trustus Company Member Jason Stokes, from August 13 to 29, 2020; and House Calls, The Strange Tale of Dr. Gale, a second world premiere production; from August 20 to August 29, 2020.

For the first three shows of 2020, Trustus Theatre is turning their Main Stage into a round orientation. Audiences will converge on these plays from all sides bringing a new level of intimacy to the Thigpen Main Stage. This format will allow for audiences to be immersed in these stories and will in turn connect performers more deeply with the audience.

Trustus Theatre continues their history of bringing award-winning productions to Columbia for audiences to experience. Their 35thSeason includes a Tony Award Winner for Best Musical (Company) and not one, but two Pulitzer Prize Winners for Drama (A Streetcar Named Desireand Fairview). Trustus Theatre’s revival of Companywill be reimagined to set this story in a modern landscape where swiping right, liking, and sharing are all part of starting a relationship, and will leave you pondering how true human connections begin in this generation.

In August, the Trustus Playwrights Festival debuts two new works of art based on true Columbia stories. Columbia True Crime Repertory will feature Composureand House Calls. This year, the Trustus Playwrights’ Festival is commissioning two plays about true Columbia events that were scribed by local playwrights, Jason Stokes and Charlie Finesilver. Composure, by Stokes, tells the story of the murder of State Newspaper Founder Narcisco Gonzales at the hands of Lt. Governor Tillman, and the trial that followed. House Calls, The Strange Tale of Dr. Gale by Finesilver, tells the story of Dr. Ian Gayle – a successful psychiatrist turned burglar who stole over $500,000 worth of guns, antiques, rate coins, jewelry, and other loot from the residents of Forest Acres in the 1970’s. Both shows will be performed in repertory, with performances alternating nightly.

Flex Passes are available for purchase at, or by calling the Trustus Box Office at 803-254-9732. Trustus Theatre wants to put the power of ticketing right in the audience’s hands. With a Season 35 Flex Pass, you will receive 8 tickets that may be used flexibly over XX productions (8 on the Main Stage, XX in the Side Door Theatre.) This is the best opportunity to ensure prime seats and tickets for the season—Flex Pass holders also receive priority purchasing with a special ticketing window that opens up to them one week prior than ticket sales open to the general public. One Flex Pass is $220 for an adult and $160 for a student.

Tickets for Season 35 will be available for purchase at, or by calling the Trustus Box Office at 803-254-9732 one month prior to the opening day. For more information and updates on each upcoming production, visit the Trustus Theatre website or social media, or call 803-254-9732.


Trustus Theatre continues their 34thSeason, The Art of Adaptation, with the production of Heathers, The Musical,a musical that has been adapted from the 1988 cult-classic film, Heathers. This energetic musical arrives at Trustus Theatre just in time for the summer season, and will open up on Trustus Theatre’s Main Stage on Friday, June 28 and will run through Saturday, July 27, 2019. Shows will run Thursday through Sunday for five packed weeks. Tickets may be purchased at, or by calling the Trustus Box Office at 803-254-9732.

Based on the 1989 film, Westerberg High is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather, and Heather, the hottest and cruelest girls in all of Ohio. But misfit Veronica Sawyer rejects their evil regime for a new boyfriend, the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plans to put the Heathers in their place—six feet under. Brought to you by the award-winning creative team of Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness, “Desperate Housewives”)and Laurence O’Keefe (Bat Boy, Legally Blond), Heathers, The Musical is a hilarious, heartfelt, and (at times) harrowing new show based on the greatest teen comedy of the late 80s. With its moving love story, laugh-out-loud comedy, and unflinching look at the joys and anguish of high school, Heathers, The Musicalwill be one of Columbia’s most popular musicals of the summer. Are you in, or are you out?

The book and lyrics for Heathers, The Musical were written by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe and the musical is based on the film written by Daniel Waters. Heathers, The Musical will be directed by Trustus Company Member Dewey Scott-Wiley, will have music direction by Randy Moore, and will be choreographed by Grayson Anthony.

“It’s always a blast to bring a cult classic to life,” said Director Dewey Scott-Wiley. “This type of dark comedy plays so well at Trustus. It’s a beautifully dark and lethally funny musical comedy with an extremely energetic and talented cast. About half of the cast is new to Trustus, which is a great infusion of energy and excitement. The characters, storyline, and favorite lines are the same from the movie to the musical adaptation, which will be a delight for the movie fans. Anytime a movie is adapted into a musical, the creators make decisions about what parts of the story need to be spoken, and which need to be sung. The really heightened moments fromm the original are sung, which adds another layer. I think the fans of the movie will be delighted by the musical. I can’t think of a reason why anyone would want to miss this one! Top-notch performers telling a twisted and hilarious tale is a great way to beat the summer heat!”

Heathers, The Musical will run from Friday, June 28 through Saturday, July 27, 2019 and the 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, June 28, at 8pm. The performances following are on Saturday, June 29, at 8pm; Sunday, June 30, at 3pm; Friday, July 5, at 8pm; Saturday, July 6, at 8pm; Sunday, July 7, at 3pm; Thursday, July 11, at 8pm; Friday, July 12, at 8pm; Saturday, July 13, at 8pm; Sunday, July 14, at 3pm; Thursday, July 18, at 8pm, Friday, July 19, at 8pm; Saturday, July 20, at 8pm; Sunday, July 21, at 3pm; Wednesday, July 24, at 8pm; Thursday, July 25, at 8pm; Friday, July 26, at 8pm; and Saturday, July 27, at 8pm.


Trustus Theatre has been a member of Theatre Communications Group for over a decade now. TCG is a nonprofit service organization headquartered in New York City that promotes and networks professional nonprofit theatres in the United States (check out their website: This year, Trustus is endeavoring to maximize our membership opportunities by attending TCG events as well as applying for grants offered by the group. So, last week, I packed a suitcase and took to the skies to attend the TCG National Theatre Conference in the beautiful city of Miami, FL. I even got to bring my wonderful wife with me.

The 2019 TCG National Theatre Conference took place for three consecutive days at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami.  Overwhelmingly large, this conference provided over 1,000+ attendees an exploration which addressed the field’s most pressing issues, from the evolving landscape of fundraising, to organizational culture, to leadership development, all while nurturing the field’s growing commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. The Conference community engaged with thought leaders from within and beyond the arts to grapple with theatre’s true constant: the challenge of adapting and sustaining our organizations and our work in times of great change.

Since social justice is a focus of our programming at Trustus, I chose to attend workshops and breakout sessions that focused on that theme.

My first workshop was a TCG Lab called “EVER FORWARD: Addressing Culture Shift & the #MeToo Movement in the Theatre Field.” This three-hour lab addressed the many ways that safety, nurture, and caregiving can be provided to artists and audiences. I was encouraged to learn that the work Trustus has been doing this season with The Chicago Theatre Standards and the Pillars of Intimacy is not only “right on time,” but that we’re ahead of the game in comparison to many other organizations. There were also some enlightening considerations offered in regards to meeting audiences in an appreciative way by considering the singularity of their experience. For example, what is our late-seating policy? Do we have one? Or, if a patron gets up in the middle of a show and bolts for the door, perhaps ask them on their way out “if they’re ok?” It’s a possible moment of understanding and compassion rarely offered. [Admittedly, when I’ve seen patrons run for the door I’ve thought “Wow, they can’t handle it,” “Wow, they hate this,” or “never have spicy foods before seeing a play.”]

I believe the most valuable experiences I had at this conference were focused on Anti-Racism work. These three sessions, that amounted to 5 hours of examination (not nearly enough time for such an important issue), set forth a call to action and a recognition of the theatre’s responsibility in dismantling the systematic racism that exists in organizations, especially PWI’s (predominantly white institutions).

While it’s impossible to fully encapsulate the entirety of the conversation in a brief blog, various themes continued rising to the surface. The success in Anti-Racism work actually lies in the failures. Try, try, try + fail, fail, fail = SUCCESS. Also, organizations must lean into discomfort. Being in an uncomfortable space indicates growth, acknowledgement, and the possibility for change. Action is necessary, followed by more action. Take one step, then take another. Our guide posts should be: Transparency, Follow the Money, Relentless Inquiry, and (as stated before) Continual Action.

I was also able to attend some workshops on audience engagement, audience experience, and marketing in the digital age. All of which provided relevant considerations for the 21stCentury.

To say the least, this conference provided inspiration and important conversation that I think will serve our organization as we move forward. We want to work for a more representative theatre. A theatre that mirrors the community we serve, and tells a diverse range of stories. To share our collective experiences so that we can listen, learn, and relate. We want to make meaningful experiences and engender a culture that makes space and lifts up unheard voices.

I gathered from this conference that the conversations in the American Theatre are focused on the possibility of a better world through our work. You’ll have to continue holding us accountable…

Vista Queen

More than one hundred fifty fans and friends joined Trustus Theatre on Friday, June 7, for Vista Queen 2019, Battle Royale. This was the twenty first year for the Vista Queen pageant, hosted by Columbia educator and performer, Terrence Henderson (aka Alexia Bonet), and Dreher High School Choir Director, Walter Graham (aka CJ Grant). “The Vista Queen Pageant is one-of-a-kind,” said Trustus Artistic Director (and former Vista Queen winner), Chad Henderson. “We gather Trustus friends, family, and supporters each year to compete in an annual drag pageant that is also Trustus’ longest running and most successful fundraiser. With an opening number, a talent competition, and an evening gown interview section – it’s a great event that keeps growing.”

“Vista Queen serves as Trustus Theatre’s largest yearly fundraiser, and I cannot thank the volunteers, hosts, contestants and judges enough for their time, energy and creativity in putting together such an amazing event,” said Trustus Development Director, Brad Martin. “We raised a record amount of money for Trustus Theatre which we will put to good use as we make some much-needed repairs to our roof, the HVAC systems and upgrade our lighting and sound equipment. The success of this year’s pageant was a product of the amazing team work that everyone brought to this event.”

The four contestants this year were no strangers to Vista Queen. The theme was Battle Royale, and four past contestants came back to battle it out for fans and judges’ votes.

The show opened to theme music from the movie Rocky, and contestants took the stage dressed in boxing robes, sequined gloves and feathers, setting the stage for the battle to come. The four contestants, all active performers at Trustus and community leaders, business owners and educators, included Raven Black (Chris Cockrell), Crystal DeCanter (Daryl Byrd), JustGia! (Greg Garrett) and Abortia Clinique (Mark Ziegler). Special guest performers, Nicole Roberts and Paris LeFaris, also took the stage, and Trustus Company member, Abigail McNeely, served as the live stream host so people who didn’t get a ticket could watch the sold-out pageant at home.

This year Trustus invited six amazing local women to serve as judges, including artist Kirkland Smith, Richland County Councilwoman Allison Terracio, founder of Acting Up with Tiffany, Tiffany James, Partner with Burnette Shutt McDaniel Law Firm, Janet Rhodes, owner of Revente, Heather Burns, and Executive Director of Harbison Theatre, Kristin Cobb.

Crystal DeCanter won over the judge’s score sheets, while JustGia! was crowned Miss Vista Queen 2019, as her combined judges score and audience votes gave her the nod over first runner-up, Abortia Clinique.

Trustus would like to thank all the volunteers who helped make this event such a success. Also, thanks got out to sponsors including Jason Carpenter and William Frye, Robin Gottlieb Hair Studio, Revente, Workshop Theatre, Scott Hall and Bone-In Barbecue, Lock Reddick and Green’s Beverages, Arabesque, and The Nickelodeon Theatre.