WORCESTER -Established in 1937, the WCLOC Theater Company is known as the Worcester’s oldest active theater company, but now with its upcoming The Niceties, it has another distinction.
The WCLOC will host the first live indoor theater production to happen in the city since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WCLOC Theater Company Director Eric Butler spoke about the excitement of reopening theater performances as well as the social importance of The Niceties.
Butler said, “City Manager Edward Augustus calls arts and culture the ‘secret sauce’ of Worcester."
The Niceties marks an important collaboration between the WCLOC Theater Company, the Worcester Historical Museum, and the Worcester Black History Project. “Over the past couple of years WCLOC has tried to incorporate plays and works that focus on contemporary issues," Butler said.
Some of the social issues that the theater company has explored throughout the years include looking at the deaf community, LGBTQ community, mental health issues, and gentrification.
The Niceties is two-person play depicting the different perspectives of a black student and her white professor. The selection of The Niceties was heavily influenced by George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. After the murder of George Floyd, Butler said that the theater company, “Felt compelled to put out a statement of support for the black community.” Through this letter came a greater effort to have audiences see what happens in their community and in real-life “reflected on the stage”.
Butler described the interaction between the WCLOC Theater Company, the Worcester Historical Museum, and the Worcester Black History Project as a “nice and fun collaboration”. While the theater company is hosting The Niceties, the other two organizations are also actively contributing to the discussion of race. The Worcester Historical Museum created a free exhibit entitled Discovering Black Roots in Worcester. This exhibit will be available to the public in the BrickBox Theater lobby before and after the performances of The Niceties. Another program that will be available is the Worcester Black History Project’s Black Faces in White Spaces: Relating Black Experiences at Predominantly White Institutions. This panel discussion will feature black students and professors from predominantly white colleges.
For the Director, theater is important because it allows audiences to view themselves, society, and life in different ways. “I love theater that leave people asking questions,” he said.
After over a year since the shutdown, the WCLOC Theater Company is excited to have performances in a venue again. “This is our first venture back indoors,” Butler said. The new HVAC system at the JMAC Theater and socially distanced guidelines are all measures that will make theater goers feel safe and confident about going back inside the theater. Butler believes that some people might be tentative and cautious, but everyone is eager to get back to a sense of normalcy.
The all-volunteer theater company is happy to be doing what they love in front of a live audience. “We are just excited to be back performing,” he said.
The Niceties will have four performances at the BrickBox Theater at 20 Franklin Street, on June 18-19 at 8:00 p.m. and June 19-20 at 2:00 p.m.