Friday, December 9, 2022

Backstage tours, free tickets: Wilson Center hosts community day

The Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College will host a community day on Saturday. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — In 2022, when tickets for a show go live, it’s almost always online — meaning endless keyboard warriors are scooping up prime seats in seconds flat. For the Luddites out there who still prefer to call into a box office or show up in person, well, it can also mean settling for the nose-bleed section.

Wilson Center is making sure those who want to purchase tickets in person to its 2022-2023 Broadway series have a better chance at securing the good seats. On Saturday, the performing arts venue on Third Street is hosting a community day, which will include early dibs on tickets for its upcoming Broadway touring season.

“If you only want to buy tickets to ‘Chicago,’ for example, you can at the community pre-sale instead of waiting until that show goes fully on sale July 11,” senior managing director Zachary Pluer said. 

The Wilson Center’s nine-show season includes the local debut of the Tony Award-winning “The Book of Mormon.” 

“‘Book of Mormon’ is the frontrunner for sure,” Pluer said. “When Wilmington turns out, we have access to more and more of these high profile shows.” 

Other features of the season include “Tootsie,” “Annie,” “Anastasia,” “On Your Feet!”, “Legally Blonde,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “My Fair Lady.” And there is no cap on how many tickets are up for grabs Saturday.

“We will sell as many as possible,” Pluer confirmed. 

Early sales have already launched for some of the shows but only as season subscriptions, meaning buyers have to purchase at least three or more performances at a time. Otherwise, tickets open to the public at staggered times throughout summer. 

Pluer said the in-person sale could also benefit somewhat as a deterrent for online scalpers.

“It’s an opportunity for our community to purchase tickets before online third-party resellers inevitably do — and against our valiant efforts,” he said.

Aside from first dibs on tickets, there will be tours given of the Wilson Center throughout the day. Individuals will have the opportunity to “pull the main rag” (the curtain), as well as get a peek into the dressing rooms and opera boxes, and see the lights and special effects up close on the stage. Attendees can tour the center’s architectural design and state-of-the-art sonic features as well. 

“Our staff will tell fun anecdotes of our experiences dealing with the stars we frequently host,” Pluer said.

Information booths will be set up for the community to learn about volunteer, internship or employment opportunities at Wilson Center. There also will be community partners on hand, such as DREAMS Center for Arts Education, Wilmington Symphony, and Wilmington Choral Society.

It’s part of Wilson Center’s outreach as a community hub to work with area nonprofits, arts programs and schools. It provides free tickets annually as part of its Broadway for a Better World program, to allow underserved populations, particularly people under 18 years old, access to professional tours without the worry of financial barriers preventing the experience. To date BFBW has given away over 1,400 tickets in value of more than $115,000, funded by multiple private donors. 

BFBW averages a dozen tickets given to each organization that applies, which in the past included DREAMS, Brigade Boys and Girls Club, Domestic Violence Shelter and Services, Good Shepherd Center, StepUp Wilmington, Theatre for All, Volunteer Older Citizens Action League, and others.

Grants are awarded every January and July, as administered by the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County. Organizations can apply year round, but the next deadline to be considered for the summer cycle is July 13. 

“Participants say they are inspired by the grandeur of the Wilson Center and the caliber of talent it brings to our region,” said Rhonda Bellamy, president and CEO of the arts council.  

In addition to hosting Broadway touring shows, the Wilson Center books concerts, game shows, magic performances and ballets annually. 

The center recently received the National Endowment of the Arts grant, a $15,000 award to support the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble as part of its MOVE! Dance Series. The dance company utilizes movement to tell stories of cultural relevance. When the company comes to Wilmington for its multi-day residency, it will work with New Hanover County Schools and host master classes with students at DREAMS, Cape Fear Community College and UNCW.

“We are stewards of this great community asset,” Pluer said. “It’s important for us to provide as much access as we can.”

Saturday’s community day, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., features pre-sale tickets to the Broadway series only, accessible in person. There will be complimentary concessions, raffles and giveaways, including tickets, a year’s worth of free parking and opera box upgrades. 

The Wilson Center is located at 703 North 3rd St.


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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