For 50 years now Horry County’s Theatre of the Republic has looked to bring art to the local population. The theater has operated in several rural, small-town buildings, but the mission of enriching lives through singing, acting and producing has remained the same.
During its half-century of operation, the Theatre of The Republic often looked to push the envelope, create discussions on stage and bring big shows to Horry County. And now, in 2019, it’s time to celebrate that history.
“They’ve been doing theater for 50 years somewhere in Horry County,” TOR’s Director Tim McGhee said.
The Threatre of The Republic, the official theater of Horry County, is located on Main Street in Conway next to Rivertown Roasters — its home since the late 1990s.
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In the past it has operated out of school theaters, buildings without roofs and other venues. Its musicals are the most popular attractions, often filling the seats, but the plays, especially on sensitive topics, don’t do as well.
One of the first shows of its anniversary year looked to create a conversation on a national topic. The play “The Library” debuted in early January with low ticket sales. It is about remembering tragedy following a school shooting and how tough the road to recovery can be for the people involved.
When McGhee picked this particular play, he knew its topic would be pushing the envelope and would not have the same attendance as the production Buddy The Elf had a month earlier. The tickets sales for the show were not great, but for McGhee, making sure quality and relevant shows are brought to the people of Horry County is a part of an important legacy of his theater.
The actual birth date for TOR is April, but the celebration will last all year starting with a special showcase running the weekend of Jan. 25. At this show, old cast members will return and perform numbers from favorite shows, do skits and solo acts.
“If you’re a theatre fan, of our theatre, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces,” he said.
Horry has a lot of theatrical options for locals and tourists. From true community theaters in Surfside to the dramatic arts program at Coastal Carolina University, there is almost always a show. But what TOR does is different than the others.
The Theatre of the Republic is here to entertain locals and teach the community the skills needed to work in the business. While it is a community theater in the since the actors volunteer for the shows, McGhee said people should come expecting a professional experience.
“We do have some very professional people,” he said. “I like to call it just a good hometown theater that does pretty things.”
McGhee is responsible for picking the shows and the artistic direction, as well as handling a lot of the business side. The type of shows vary depending on the season, and ticket sales often depend on what kind of shows are being done. He knows plays like The Library do not do as well as the musicals and fun shows, and moving forward McGhee hopes to do more comedies. He added he still wants to make sure TOR is doing shows topical to what’s going on in the world.
The theater holds open auditions that anyone is welcome to attend and try out. Role seekers must sing a song to show their musical range and then read a scene for the director. There are often roles from children up to old folks. For the musical Footloose, which premiers this year, over 40 people tried out.
In the future, McGhee hopes to see more young people and kids get involved in what TOR does. He said Netflix and movie streaming is keeping a lot of younger folks at home, but to him there is something special about seeing a live production.
But for McGhee, his work and the shows they produce brings an essential element of society to Horry County and all the various artists who work there.
“The arts is such an important aspect of society, without the arts, I think we see a different population,” he said. “You have to have the arts.”