For the first time with vintage reupholstered seats, curtains, and full sound and lighting, the renovated Ansonia Theatre in uptown Wadesboro hosted its first performance on Thursday, April 7.
Renowned poet Glenis Redmond performed several of her works, along with three Anson High School students who’d written their poems with Redmond earlier in the day. The theatre previously hosted a performance of Bright Star Theatre in February, which was the first performance in the theatre in nearly 20 years.
The Ansonia originally opened in 1925 as a vaudeville theatre, before becoming a movie theater. It closed in the early 1990s and was donated to the Anson County Arts Council in 1993 by the Poulmott family.
Since then, the arts council has been working on renovating the theatre and finally, the work is nearly finished. “The seats came in about two weeks ago,” arts council secretary/treasurer Catherine Crandell said Thursday. “The only thing left is the seats in the balcony, and they will come in next Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Since the February performance, lights and sound have been added, as well as the stage curtains.
“Most of you have never been in here, at least not when it looked like this,” Crandell told the Anson High and Middle School students and other community members who attended Thursday’s performance. “This is the first performance with stage lights, sound, everything.”
Crandell added that she’s hoping that some of the county’s students will regularly appear on the Ansonia’s stage as performers in the months to come.
The three students who performed prior to Redmond — Aaliyah Escalera, Whitney Meacham and Nigel Lowery — all participated in a workshop with Redmond earlier that day, and wrote their own original poems, with the professional poet’s help and inspiration.
Redmond, who’s originally from Greenville, S.C., but now lives in Asheville, started off her performance by saying that all of her work is autobiographical. The first poem she performed, in fact, was titled “Hats” and talked about the hats that many African-American women wear to church.
Redmond walked all over the stage, gesturing and changing the tone and speed of her voice to truly perform her poetry, rather than just reciting it.
She explained that her first book, a collection of her works, was titled “Backbone” and on the book is a photo of her with her mother from 1968. “I’m leaning on my mama’s backbone in the picture,” she said with a smile, before performing a poem written for her mother, called “Mama’s Magic.”
She told the students that her family had grown up poor, but because of the way her mother ran their household, she was never aware of it.
Redmond went on to say that her father was “jealous” when she wrote a poem about her mother, so she wrote one about him, as well, focusing on his love of music.
After her performance of the two poems, she asked the students if they felt she was closer to her father or her mother. The answer was pretty well split between the two, but Redmond finally said she was closer to her mother, but inherited a lot of her personality from her dad.
She also wrote a poem about her grandmother, who recently passed away at the age of 109, called “She.” Another poem was written for her great-grandfather, who was born a slave. it was called “What My Hands Say.”
Redmond said she travels about 176 days of the year, and spent most of the month of March in New Jersey, visiting prisons, alternative schools and others. Her latest poem, “Bruise,” was written as a result of her visit to an alternative school and her talks with the students there.
Finally, she ended her performance with a poem titled “Say Carolina,” about the state of South Carolina and her “love/hate relationship” with it, and “If I Ain’t African,” about her ancestors, who are from Nigeria and Cameroon.
Art Crawl this Saturday
Those interested have another chance to get a look at the newly renovated Ansonia this Saturday, April 16, as students from all over Anson County will have work displayed for the annual art crawl. The show will be on the 100th block of Rutherford Street from 10 a.m. to noon. Visitors can “crawl” (walk slowly) down the street. There will be art in the windows, art in the Arts Council Gallery, art on the sidewalk, and art in the Ansonia Theatre. There will also be performing artists—on the stage at the Ansonia! This event is free. There will be refreshments, music, stunning and unique pieces to see, and lots of fun.