Charlotte's newest theater group, 'The Lotus Project,' debuts their first show this week
A new theater company in Charlotte opens its first production this weekend, at a time when the local theater landscape is still shifting coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new company, The Lotus Project, was started by Susan Cherin and her partner, Kayla Piscatelli.
They created the group in January after leaving their jobs at Charlotte's Jewish Community Center, where they founded a drama program more than a decade ago. Cherin said in addition to staging full-length productions, the group has also offered workshops, camps and classes throughout the year.
The group's debut production this weekend will be "Godspell," which premiered off-Broadway in 1971 with music by Steven Swartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak.
The musical takes audiences through a series of parables from the Gospel of Matthew and the crucifixion of Jesus. Cherin jokes it's a production she never could have staged at the Jewish Community Center.
While Cherin herself is Jewish, she said she chose the show in part because of her long history with it. She's been involved in some eight productions of the show, including once playing the role of the Jesus was she was 15.
She also chose the show because it could be adapted to include a large ensemble with minimal production, and because of its themes of radical change, caring for the sick, downtrodden and outcast, "and creating a community where everyone is accepted and where everyone is celebrated, and where those most marginalized people are brought into the fold, so to speak," she said.
The show's principal cast will include several LGBTQ actors, Cherin said, including Kel Wright, who will portray the role of Jesus.
The opening comes at a time when theater companies in Charlotte are working to bring audiences back to pre-pandemic attendance levels. Some smaller groups like Three Bone Theatre have reported steady ticket sales over the past year, but another company, Actor's Theatre of Charlotte, called it quits in 2022.
The Lotus Project will start off with a limited one-weekend run of "Godspell," with performances Friday through Sunday at HUG Charlotte on North Tryon Street.