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Proud Mary Theatre is Expanding the Boundaries of Theatre in Spartanburg and the State

January 03, 2019 | Features

Written by Sandy Staggs, Proud Mary Theatre Company Artistic Director

If someone told me 30 years that I would one day manage a gay theatre company in my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, I would probably have replied with a double-circle snap “Are you high, Clairee?”

But some 18 months ago, I launched The Proud Mary Theatre Company with $1, a web domain name, and an epiphany, and in the process (and by proxy), inadvertently came out to the world.

And never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the incredible artistic and box office success of this risky, nutty, insane, ludicrous venture, that could have easily flopped, gone down-in-flames, bit the dust, or just died a soul-crushing, embarrassing, and merciless death.

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Proud Mary is South Carolina’s Alternative Theatre, devoted to LGBTQ+ plays and themes. We are a regional community theatre with professional theatre aspirations.

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Much thanks to Chapman Cultural Center who has supported Proud Mary from the beginning, awarding a grant for our debut production of “I Am My Own Wife” by Doug Wright (regional winner of Best Play, Best Actor, and Best Director), as well as our Season Two premiere critically-acclaimed smash presentation of “The Boys in the Band,” our professional-quality 50th anniversary staging of this powerful lexicon of gay drama by Mart Crowley that featured a respected, high-profile Upstate  director and several professional actors.

Proud Mary is a success because we can produce material that many theatres may wish they could, but cannot, due to their audience demographics.  Our niche audience knows beforehand that our shows will have an edge, some language, a drag queen, a shirtless hunk, a gay kiss, and maybe even a bare bottom. This narrow, defined specialty allows our humble troupe to prosper with an entire canon of untapped amazing stories with themes of sexuality and gender that rarely make their way to Upstate stages.

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Proud Mary Theatre has a vital role to play in the Spartanburg arts scene and the LGBTQ+ community as truth-seeker, inspirer, storyteller, advocate, activist, friend, and entertainer.  We provide one of the few LGBTQ+ modicums of escapism that is educational, thought-provoking, heartwarming, heartbreaking, or just, reality. Proud Mary’s mission serves as a wide-reaching and impactful complement to our city’s network of support groups, social clubs, and AIDS advocacy organizations.

Our next production “Parallel Lives,” by the great comedy duo Mo Gaffney (“Absolutely Fabulous”) and Kathy Najimy (“Sister Act” and “Hocus Pocus,” stars two stellar professional Upstate actors Tiffany Stewart and Caroline Davis in a dozen roles each and opens March 1, 2019, in our newly-remodeled performance home at the fantastic West Main Artists Co-Operative.

We are organizing a Gay Valentine-themed cabaret show for February. And join us for the Upstate premiere of the Tony Triple-Crown winning “Fun Home” the musical in June 2019 as we kick off the Spartanburg Fringe Festival happening all month at the Co-Op.

For more information on tickets, season subscriptions, auditions, donations or volunteering, please visit www.proudmarytheatre.com/.

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