Members of the Carolina Moon Theater gather in their new space to prepare for the upcoming production in October. The group put tickets on sale recently and sold out faster than they had anticipated. Subsequently, they added an additional night.

Peter Williams/The Perquimans Weekly

Members of the Carolina Moon Theater gather in their new space to prepare for the upcoming production in October. The group put tickets on sale recently and sold out faster than they had anticipated. Subsequently, they added an additional night.

Hertford's Carolina Moon Theater sees wild success in second season

By Peter Williams

The Perquimans Weekly

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HERTFORD —Tickets for the upcoming Carolina Moon Dinner Theater production Hertford sold so fast the group is adding a fifth performance.

This is the second season for the Hertford based group. That also means this is the theater company’s second orgiginal production. “Times are Changing in Hertford” was written and produced by Hertford residents.

“I thought we’d still have tickets to sell at the Indian Summer Festival, but we didn’t,” said Lynne Raymond, the president of Historic Hertford, Inc. The festival is today and Saturday.

“I honestly though it would take two weeks to sell out,” Raymond said.

Tickets are being sold through Carolina Trophy on Church Street in Hertford. Tickets for “Times are Changing in Hertford” went on sale Aug. 25 and more than 80 were sold in the first 20 minutes. People were lined up outside of Carolina Trophy a half hour before the business opened.

The new play looks at the period in Perquimans County between 1946 through 1957.

Tickets went fast last year for the inaugural season of Carolina Moon. All of the tickets were sold a month before the first play opened. That play looked at the period in Perquimans County just before, during and after World War II. It also was written by Ray Sawyer, a local resident.

Both plays are based in part on real people and real events.

Last year the group performed at the American Legion building on Academy Street. This year the group got a permanent home in the same building on Grubb Street that houses HHI.

The new venue is smaller and can seat 86 people. The Legion could seat 125. So the original plan was to put on the play for four nights, instead of the three that were held in 2013. But by last Friday Raymond said at the rate the tickets sold, a fifth performance would be offered at 6 p.m. on Oct. 24.

The original dates were Oct. 16-19.

Raymond said a sixth performance is not being considered.

“We’re all volunteers,” Raymond said. “It’s not just the actors involved, we have to find people to serve the meals. We’re hoping that some people who were going to be out of town on the original days will be able to come on Oct. 24.”

Raymond said the cast ranges in age from fourth graders through adults in their retirement years.

“We never thought it (Carolina Moon) would be this successful period,” Raymond said. “But everybody from Hertford has supported us.”

Raymond said Carolina Moon has tried to keep children involved in both performances, and may do more in the future.

“We’ve tried to include some students, but we’re not a children’s theater,” Raymond said. “We’d like to do a children’s theater sometime in the future. This is a great opportunity to show people you don’t need to go to Elizabeth City and you don’t need to go to Raleigh to do this.”

According to a 2013 interview with Raymond, The Rev. Larry Bowden, pastor of the Hertford United Methodist Church offered the idea that would become Carolina Moon Theater. Bowden’s parents are involved with a similar hometown production in Alabama, “Come home it’s suppertime.”

“He thought that Hertford could do this, so why not Hertford?” said Raymond.

So Hertford got together a committee to begin planning the strategy for the theater group’s first production. They began talking about what they would like the play to be, and how much history they would like it to cover.

Raymond, who is a New York native, moved to Hertford seven years ago with her husband. She says she loves her adopted home quite a bit and she’s become well acquainted with its history, especially the time during the 1930s and 1940s, the period the play will cover.

It was then that Hertford began to see a significant change, Raymond explained.

The U.S. Navy had set up a naval station at Harvey Point, on the Perquimans River. It was there they would train sub-chaser pilots to protect the U.S. shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

Raymond says the officers who came with their wives would live on base, but their wives had to live in town. They would rent rooms in the homes of local families.

And some of the officers who were stationed at Harvey Point were single and would eventually marry local women. After the war they would start families here in the region.

Raymond says out of the many people they interviewed, former Perquimans County Commissioner Estelle Felton was one. She was interviewed three weeks before her death. She talked about the Savoy, an African-American juke joint during the period.

To do the research for the play, playwright Ray Sawyer not only had to read about the period, but he also went out and interviewed people in their late 80s and early 90s, on tape. This aspect of his research is very significant historically, says historian and Museum of the Albemarle collections specialist Leonard Lanier.

Sawyer was tasked with writing a play based on the material he has gathered. He said he had looked at Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Our Town,” as a guide.

The theater group had one play written, but Raymond said it was too broad and perhaps overwhelming. They brought veteran Encore Theatre, director Mary Cherry. Cherry helped them achieve more focus.

“I suggested they narrow it down,” said Cherry. “The war years.”

Cherry told them to focus on what makes Hertford different. “What sets it apart?”

Cherry is still working with Carolina Moon Theater into its second season

The new location for Carolina Moon is 300 W. Grubb St. Carolina Trophy can be reached at 426-4644.

 


Robert Kelly-Goss contributed to this story.