CAPE FEAR REGIONAL THEATER, FAYETTEVILLE
Founded by a group of local actors in 1962, this esteemed institution is celebrating half a century as the region’s premier theater. Featuring a mix of local and regional performers with professional actors and directors, the theater is renowned for staging top-quality musicals, comedies and other productions.
“Our 327-seat main stage venue is perfect for traveling groups,” says Leslie Roraback-Flom, the theater’s marketing director. “We can also accommodate gatherings in a room off the lobby, such as a recent luncheon for a group of Vietnam veterans who came to see our production of Miss Saigon.”
Each May, the theater moves to the amphitheater on the banks of the Cape Fear River at Campbellton Landing.
“We took a bus group from Pennsylvania there last year to see a Patsy Cline production,” Roraback-Flom says. “We offer once-in-a-lifetime theater experiences.”
BANK OF THE ARTS, NEW BERN
Founded in 1974 as a volunteer organization to promote local cultural initiatives, the Craven Community Arts Council merged in the 1980s with the New Bern Art Gallery to become the Craven Arts Council & Gallery. Today, the council is headquartered in a former bank building known as the Bank of the Arts, which in addition to serving as gallery space for changing exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography, is available for group rental.
“With its facade of Ionic columns and Corinthian pilasters on the inside, the 1913 Bank of the Arts building provides an enchanting space for groups,” says Carol Tokarski, executive director of the council. “We are an ideal choice for smaller and more intimate gatherings, including receptions and evening functions.”
THALIAN HALL CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, WILMINGTON
Located in downtown Wilmington just four blocks from the Cape Fear River, this 1858 treasure has been in almost continuous use since it first opened and is among America’s most significant theaters.
“No visit to Wilmington is complete without experiencing Thalian Hall,” says Tony Rivenback, the center’s executive director. “Completed 154 years ago, the theater is open year-round and hosts a wide variety of musical theater, world-class concerts and the finest in first run art films.”
An enduring symbol of Wilmington’s cultural heritage and a major economic engine, the venue recently underwent an extensive renovation focused on audience comfort and safety, including new seats and a magnificent 1870s-style chandelier that rises before each performance.
The Main Stage and other facilities, including the Studio Theatre and Ballroom, may be rented for a wide variety of performance and group activities.
WEDGE BREWING COMPANY, ASHEVILLE
In this booming city on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, “crafts” means artfully produced beer from a growing number of breweries that have earned Asheville the moniker “Beer City USA.” It all started in 1994, when retired engineer Oscar Wong moved from Charlotte to Asheville and opened his Highland Brewing Company here. Art has also figured prominently in Asheville’s renaissance, including the revitalized River Arts District, which is where the Wedge Brewing Company offers a convivial escape for thirsty groups.
Housed in the lower level of an early 19th century produce and livestock distribution warehouse, Wedge features outdoor seating, food trucks and movie screenings on Saturdays.
“It’s an honor and feels really natural for me to make beer in the River Arts district, right in the middle of the artists’ community,” states Brewmaster Carl Melissas. “I like to think of beer as just another form of art.”
Regular Meetings Focus South contributor Jeff Heilman once put on a memorable show of his own in Asheville.