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These articles were excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Three Bone Theatre's artistic director on bringing audiences back with works like 'The Lehman Trilogy'

Three Bone Theatre opens it's 12th season this weekend with "The Lehman Trilogy," at The Arts Factory in west Charlotte.
Three Bone Theatre
Three Bone Theatre opens it's 12th season this weekend with "The Lehman Trilogy," at The Arts Factory in west Charlotte.

Community theaters around the country have a tough time rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic, but you wouldn’t know it from the scene inside The Arts Factory in west Charlotte this week.

Actors run lines, as techies reposition lights for Three Bone Theatre’s season opener, ‘The Lehman Trilogy,’ opening Friday. There are clocks and signs hanging from the ceiling, and a giant plank wall still under construction that will transform during the show.

Three Bone Theatre’s artistic and operations director, Robin Tynes-Miller, took some time away from all the show prep to sit down with WFAE’s Nick de la Canal and talk about how the group is doing, now almost four years after the pandemic turned the theater world upside down.

How a community theater is thriving
Three Bone Theatre artistic director Robin Tynes-Miller talks about what it takes for a community theater to survive, and thrive, in the post-COVID era.
Three Bone Theatre opens it's 12th season this weekend with "The Lehman Trilogy," at The Arts Factory in west Charlotte.

Nick de la Canal: So for people who don’t know, you helped found Three Bone Theatre in 2012 as a place for adult contemporary theater. You’ve had lots of bright spots and standout productions over the years, but what have the last, let’s say, two years been like coming out of the pandemic?

Robin Tynes-Miller: It was tough. I mean I think it’s been tough around the country. We were small enough during the pandemic that we didn’t have a lot of the overhead that a lot of larger companies have, and that is what forced them to close, and so we had the ability to be nimble and flexible during the pandemic.

So coming out of it has just really been about introducing our audiences to the new space. We’re now at The Arts Factory. We were at the Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square before that closed, and so getting people to a new space, getting people back and comfortable with coming to see theater again, and just really trying to entice them with the type of programming that we’re doing.

Three Bone Theatre

De la Canal: You know, we’ve heard from other theaters around the country that have struggled to bring back audiences to pre-pandemic levels, but then also on top of that, there’s been sagging donations, which are really critical for nonprofits -- this is just other regional theaters in general. How are you guys on those fronts, and what do you think is at play here? What are the challenges that you’re up against?

Tynes-Miller: Yeah, I mean I think we’re in a good spot in terms of having been a really fiscally responsible company for our whole tenure, and so we have a good foundation.

We haven’t seen — knock on wood — the drop in donations that other organizations have, and I like to attribute that to the fact that we really try to prioritize doing work that we feel like is relevant to the community here.

It’s definitely been a challenge getting people back from the pandemic. I think we’re kind of getting back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of ticket sales, which is great. It is a smaller space, but we do three weekends of runs now, so we have the same number of performances in order to try to get those numbers to work.

De la Canal: And so let’s talk about the work too that you guys are planning. How did you think about putting together this new season, and do you want to talk about some of the shows that are coming up?

Tynes-Miller: Yeah, absolutely. I’m so excited about this season. We are doing four Charlotte premieres. Three of them are right off of Broadway. They are epic shows and just really challenging for us.

With Actor’s Theatre closing last year, we wanted to really make sure that we’re doing everything that we possibly can to keep adult contemporary theater alive here in Charlotte, and so we picked out fantastic shows.

We’re opening “The Lehman Trilogy,” which won every major theater award last year. It is an intense, large production — definitely the largest production we’ve ever done, even though it has three actors in it.

Three Bone Theatre

De la Canal: I was going to say, there’s only three actors.

Tynes-Miller: Yes, they play like 30-something characters, and it’s a three-hour show. It spans basically 150 years of the Lehman family history, and you wouldn’t think that a three-hour play about finance is interesting, but it is so fantastic. I’m so excited for people to see this show, and we’re only like the third or fourth company in the country to be producing it, which is just such a huge win for the Charlotte area.

De la Canal: So this theater company has been going for more than a decade now at this point. It’s changed locations and withered a pandemic, and even despite some of the challenges that are facing the industry at large right, I just want to ask what keeps you going? What keeps you motivated to keeping this theater alive, and why is this work important?

Tynes-Miller: You know I think it goes back to our mission, which is doing theater that is a catalyst for conversation and change in Charlotte, and we believe in the work that we’re doing.

We believe that it has the ability to create empathy, to share stories with people that they wouldn’t necessarily get to see, to create amazing opportunities for local artists here as well, and we want to do work that in some way changes lives, and in that way changes the world, which seems totally lofty and squishy but that’s why we do that work we do.

“The Lehman Trilogy,” runs Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 3–18. Tickets and showtimes on Three Bone Theatre’s website.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal