Theatre of the Republic adds block party to annual Torry Awards celebration

It’s a festive time of year for Theatre of the Republic, with one season, its 44th, down, and a new year, its 45th, dawning.

The annual Torry Awards celebration will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, outside the troupe’s home stage, the historic Main Street Theatre, in downtown Conway, right outside the doors, with a street party afterward, with the public encouraged to take part.

Tim McGhee, deep into his second decade as Theatre of the Republic’s executive and artistic director, spoke Thursday about this break between seasons and shows, on the heels of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” which wrapped up three weekends of performances July 6, and “Avenue Q,” which opens Aug. 15 for three weekends.

This past season’s other shows comprised “9 to 5: The Musical,” “The 39 Steps,” “Holiday on Main Street: My Favorite Things,” “Monty Python’s SpamALot” and “Bonnie & Clyde: A New Musical.”

The Torry Awards, though, celebrate everyone’s contributions to another season of community theater, whether acting or helping direct on stage, assisting with the whirlwind of duties behind the curtains, selling tickets, designing scenes, or ushering patrons to their seats.

Question | How many years have the Torrys marked a new milestone among the seasons?

Answer | I would say this is the ninth annual, and it’s something that when we started, was a little smaller, but look at how it’s grown.

Q. | How are the ceremonies put together for a memorable evening for everyone involved?

A. | We usually kind of sort out ideas for award recipients with a Torrys committee, but this year, we wanted to switch it up a little. Besides the actual Torry Awards, we will have a video of a show, and at the end, you will text and vote. ... So when we show when to choose for best actor, best actress, and the other categories, you text your number. We’ll have a helper working in back for the totals. So it’s something different, and we’re really doing a lot of video work now in advance.

Q. | What is the capacity for the audience? The same as the amount of seats inside the Main Street Theatre?

A. | 300.

Q. | How many rounds of voting will ensue?

A. | We have 18 different categories. ... But it’s more symbolic awards, because everyone on stage has volunteered his or her time. ... We’ll have red carpet interviews, and we’ll do a lot of comedy and impromptu stuff. It’s just a night to celebrate theater and friendships. ...

Q. | Doesn’t everyone in the company really make up a family?

A. | You cannot have that many dysfunctional individuals and not call it a family. Art people are one of a kind; there’s something electric to it.

Q. | How is each year’s schedule of shows chosen?

A. | We’re trying to keep a current mix to attract people. ... To me, theater is an experience, more than just going in and seeing a show. ... We’re starting with “Avenue Q.” .... It’s won everything ... a musical about adults with compassion interacting with each other. ...

Q. | How far ahead does scouting go?

A. | Not very far; we’re looking for 2015-16, and I could book all the shows now, but I miss the opportunity to have something right off of Broadway. ... It’s just a matter of getting the contact and the theater rights. I have been trying to get this show called “Memphis” for three years. ... I look at shows for their entertainment value.

Q. | From how far do theatergoers come to Conway, also proving Theatre of the Republic’s value to the community goes beyond Horry County’s seat?

A. | Our audience base goes all the way up to Shallotte. N.C., down to Georgetown, and as far as Florence. We have a very large radius of memberships. ... We do a majority of musicals, and are probably the only theater to do musicals. We do 14 performances for each show.

Q. | How many people team up, from front to back and all the nitty gritty work behind the scenes, to put on a show?

A. | You take our largest productions like “Hairspray” two years ago or “Young Frankenstein” coming up this fall, and we have about 50. ... All of them donate their time – that is the amazing part and the beauty of our theater. That’s why the Torry Awards is our celebration and our thank you. ... Some people do one show per year, some people do three shows. We have designers, lobby personnel, ticket sellers ... just a massive amount of volunteers. And for everyone who wants to volunteer, we have plenty of ways to help, even if you don’t like being on stage.

Q. | How has the Coastal Youth Theatre, with its classes and a play to end each semester, become another extension and connection under the theater umbrella?

A. | We’re very excited about that, and the youth have Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.” coming up July 25-27. We’ve been averaging 22 to 40 students pre class, and they do spring, summer and fall. ... We also have one week to change to Torry Awards stage into the “Aladdin Jr.” set.

Q. | Having police cordon off a whole block in front of the theater for the Torry Awards, how will the celebration shift outside from in?

A. | After the awards inside, we’re having a party and celebration on the streets, with bands, groups singing, and beer and wine. We’ll bring the party outside, and it’s free for the public to partake in the vendors’ sales. ... We’ll have a red carpet in the middle of the street. ... I have to keep the awards show under two hours – that’s my challenge. ...

Even if you don’t attend the awards, we invite everyone to come out.