Angelina Doyle was a single mother looking for a way to feel complete. With no acting experience, she started out as an actor with the New Bern Civic Theatre in 2006. Then she became the theatre’s administrative assistant. In 2010, she became the executive director.

Opened on April 11, 1911, then-Athens Theatre had 572 seats.

Riding out Florence and COVID

The theatre earns 80 percent of its revenue from ticket sales during normal times. These being anything but normal, New Bern Civic Theatre has had only two shows in 2020. While national disasters hit hard financially, the fact that New Bern Civic Theatre has just two paid employees has enabled it to coast through disasters relatively unscathed.

For now, it is impractical for actors in masks to perform plays to audiences of 25—the limit the theatre can seat during the pandemic. So to reengage the community, the theatre planned showings of Christmas movies: Gremlins on a Friday, White Christmas on a Saturday, and Elf on a Sunday, which also featured a guest appearance by a Buddy the Elf reenactor, candy canes and popcorn.

The hardest part of the past 10 months has been the theatre’s inability to engage with the community, during a time of social and political upheaval.

“That is the role of theatre,” said Doyle. “Arts help bridge people and the community. Through storytelling, you can see from the other perspective.”

At a time when people are depressed and isolated, taking two hours to feel normal and forget theirs and the world’s troubles is invaluable therapy.

“This is our job. We want to help, and we can’t,” she said. “The silver lining is that theatre participants are chomping at the bit and when they get the chance to work again, enthusiasm is going to explode.”

As for the 2020-21 season, Doyle says the theatre is taking its cues from the governor’s office. Broadway shows are tentatively set to open in the spring, and Doyle hopes New Bern Civic Theatre can follow suit.

By 1929, the theater had been renamed Show Shop Theatre and by 1943, it was the Kehoe Theatre, a name that lasted until at least 1950. The Tryon Theatre was owned and operated under Charlotte-based Stewart and Everett Theatres until its closing in the late-1970s. Since renovations in 1980, it is now operated by the New Bern Civic Theatre. Source: Cinema Treasures

An environment of diversity and inclusion

The theatre’s mission statement calls for inclusion. Accordingly, it has volunteers of all colors and ages.

There is also a group called the Saxx Bradbury Players, which consists of young people from ages 13 to 19 who learn all aspects of creating a show, including directing, producing, marketing, and choreography. The program empowers teens, and aims to introduce this internship model to neighboring communities.

Doyle said that she would have been lost had she not found New Bern Civic Theatre.

“I found where I belong,” she said. “I was in a place of support and empathy, doing things I never thought I would be doing. It’s the perfect world for me.”

Doyle says that most people initially participate in the theatre to have fun. Soon they learn that not only is it fun, the theatre is a place of camaraderie, belonging, empathy, and tolerance. To participate, you just need to go to the New Bern Civic Theatre website, or Doyle says, “Just walk in the door.”

“I know that there’s someone else like me out there, and if I keep the doors open, she will walk in and her life will change too,” Doyle said.

Production gallery

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