encore auction 2

Mary Cherry, president of Encore Theatre Company, poses with an old portable typewriter in the theater’s building, Friday morning. The typewriter is among the many items the theater will auction off Saturday starting at 10 a.m.

Hats, gloves, coats. Old telephones and typewriters. Vintage furniture. Even a fake leg.

All are just some of the things Encore Theatre Company has accumulated over nearly 30 years that it hopes to sell at auction on Saturday.

Elizabeth City’s only community theater company is downsizing, and as part of that effort, it’s selling its rehearsal and set storage building at 1176 U.S. Highway 17 South.

To prepare for a potential sale, Encore members have been busy in recent weeks clearing out the building of old props used for the group’s shows since the early 1990s.

Mary Cherry, Encore’s president and one of its founding members, estimates the theater company has put on nearly 90 shows over its nearly three decades. And over that time, it’s collected a lot of everyday items it’s been able to use as either costumes or stage props.

“We’ve been fortunate that over the years our audiences and people in the community have donated these items to us when someone in their family passes away,” Cherry said.

Those items include old radios and typewriters, as well as furniture.

“A lot of it is vintage stuff,” Cherry said. “Not much of it works, and it didn’t need to because we used it for props. But you can’t duplicate a lot of this kind of stuff.”

Also up for auction will be more modern equipment the theater company has used to light its stage and provide sound for its shows.

Because it’s nonprofit itself, Encore has already donated a lot of what it had in storage to other nonprofits. For example, the theater programs at College of The Albemarle and Elizabeth City State University have received donations from Encore’s trove of treasures, as has the Carolina Moon Theater group in Hertford.

Encore also has donated a couple of truckloads of lumber used to build sets to woodworking classes at area high schools. Encore also donated a lot of doors used in stage sets to Habitat for Humanity.


“We’ve got a whole mess of doors,” Cherry said. “And it turns out there’s a door shortage, so they’re taking a lot of our doors.”

Cherry estimates Encore has reduced its store of costumes, props and equipment to about 25 percent of what it originally had. It’s those remaining items that will be auctioned off on Saturday.

A preview of auction items will be held at the Encore building on Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the auction itself will be conducted by Corner Market Auctions Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Encore’s building is located about a quarter-mile south of the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles office on U.S. 17 and nearly catercorner from the Biggs Collision Center, Cherry said.

Encore hopes to use proceeds from the auction, along with proceeds from the sale of its building, to help “reboot” the organization.

Cherry said the theater company’s membership decided to “take a year off” from doing plays this year to “evaluate everything we’re doing.” She noted the decision preceded the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which because of safety restrictions, made the idea of performing plays indoors moot this fall anyway.

Cherry noted the theater group has a steering committee currently looking at all aspects of its operations.

“We wanted to look and see where we had lost our way and how we needed to do things differently,” she said.

When it resumes producing plays, look for Encore to put on “smaller, more intimate shows” based on “good, well-written scripts,” Cherry said.

“We hope to be ready to do something in late 2021 or early 2022,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. But it’s more important right now that we get ourselves situated first.”

That includes getting the theater company on sound financial ground, she said.