Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Interview: Elizabeth Doran & Eric Woodall of North Carolina Theatre

Article Pixel
BWW Interview: Elizabeth Doran & Eric Woodall of North Carolina Theatre

On June 8th, North Carolina Theatre announced that based on recommendations from the City of Raleigh and given the circumstances surrounding the current health pandemic, they ended up canceling the remainder of their 2019-20 Season, which includes productions of Memphis, The Sound of Music, and Edges. Recently, I was recently able to get in touch with two very important people from NCT about the news via email, President & CEO Elizabeth Doran as well as Producing Artistic Director Eric Woodall.

Elizabeth joined NC Theatre in March 2017. With over 15 years of experience as an arts leader and theatre producer, Elizabeth has successfully led several arts organizations serving as the CEO of San Diego Theatres, executive director of The Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theater of California, and as managing director of The Actors' Gang. Along with producing theatre internationally in Europe and South America, Elizabeth has worked on the development side of major Broadway-bound shows such as Jersey Boys and One Night with Janis Joplin, and has presented many Broadway touring shows including The Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King. Beyond her depth of experience in producing and presenting the arts, Elizabeth's focus on education, audience development, and diversity and inclusion has attracted millions of dollars of funding to support programs which break down barriers by merging the arts into schools, universities, prisons, underserved and new-immigrant neighborhoods, and businesses. Elizabeth has an MBA in strategy and entrepreneurship from Rensselaer (RPI).

<a href=Eric Woodall" height="135" src="https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2052116/Eric_Woodall_Curtis_Brown_Photography-DMID1-5mhz4rob0-640x360.jpg" width="240" />
Eric Woodall

Eric has a long history with NC Theatre; as an actor, teacher and director. As a high school student, he performed in Jesus Christ Superstar and George M! at NC Theatre. After successful years on stage and television, Eric returned to NC Theatre in the late 90's to direct and help cultivate the existing Summer Theatre Arts School program into the NC Theatre Conservatory. For the past16 years, Eric worked as one of New York's top casting directors in the office of Tara Rubin Casting. Through casting and developing new musicals, Eric has been lucky enough to work alongside Stephen Sondheim, Cameron Mackintosh, William Finn, Sir Richard Eyre, Stephen Daldry, Susan Stroman, Stephen Schwartz, Casey Nicholaw, James Lapine, Phyllida Lloyd and Hal Prince. A few of his Broadway casting credits include Sunset Boulevard, Aladdin, Falsettos, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, and Mamma Mia! (Broadway, National tour.) Past NC Theatre directorial credits include West Side Story, Annie, Mamma Mia!, Gypsy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary Poppins, Billy Elliot, Driving Miss Daisy, and Steel Magnolias. Other directing credits include Next to Normal, West Side Story, Big River, On Golden Pond (Casa Manana); Big Fish, The Light in the Piazza, Parade, August: Osage County, and Violet (Theatre Raleigh); Amadeus (Memphis' Playhouse on the Square), and Hay Fever (Playmakers Repertory.) As a guest lecturer, Eric has taught at universities and training programs around the country including NYU, Baldwin Wallace, and Elon. Internationally, Eric was invited to lead workshops in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia through Actors Equity of Australia. Last year, American Theatre named Eric one of the "People You Should Watch" in its "Role Call: Six Theatre Workers You Should Know" series. Eric is a drama graduate of Carnegie Mellon-University and is a member of SDC and CSA. He is grateful to be "home" at North Carolina Theatre.


To start things off, how have you been doing during this time of quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic?
ED: This has been a time of quick adaptation to change, projecting scenarios while facing uncertainty, and stewarding our relationships within our team, our audience and our community. Our staff size has reduced by over 40%. We lost a beloved staff member to cancer less than one month after her diagnosis. Our staff members and board have lost loved ones. NCT has a strong connection to the New York theatre community, and so the first part of the quarantine left us feeling helpless as we watched them toil with the virus, and followed the struggles of our artists who live there. As the summer began, the virus increased its hold on NC and halted our ability to uplift the power of unity and togetherness through art. Now, a cultural revolution has powerfully moved our nation forward, and the theatre industry, though ground to a total halt, is wrestling with introspection and action regarding racism. While juxtaposed against a backdrop of working separately from our homes, this has been the most dynamic period in this company's history.

EW: Through the complexity and confusion of the pandemic, I remain dedicated to finding creative solutions to help North Carolina Theatre pivot artistically. Through sleepless nights and long brainstorming sessions, we realize how important flexibility is. "Champions adjust."

Recently, North Carolina Theatre had to cancel the remaining productions of their 2019-20 season due to the covid-19 crisis with plans to resume performances in 2021. How difficult of a decision was it to make?
ED: Theatre is a communal art form, so the decision to cancel planned productions involved many forces beyond NCT. Our venue had been closed to the public due to government restrictions, our professional actors' union had made clear performers would not be allowed to return, and our drops in ticket sales made clear our audiences were not comfortable attending shows. Our biggest challenge was making a full-season decision, rather than canceling on a show-by-show basis. But, as these shows are painstakingly created by us over many months, we could see we'd be able to complete that advance work now. Think of NCT like an Olympic skater preparing to compete. Audiences see the beauty of human potential in that one culminating perfect leap, but it actually took incredible effort over time, with lots of falls and adaptations along the way. Like that tender and risky final leap, the success of our opening nights relies on tireless preparation. When it was clear that preparation was interrupted, the decision was clear. We grieve that loss. Now, different kinds of preparation are underway at NC Theatre, ones that examine our connection to the community and take aim at a more sustainable business model. We are excited to see where this work takes us - what leaps it will inspire us to take.

One of the most recent interviews I conducted for BroadwayWorld prior to the pandemic taking off was with Robert Hartwell, who was in the process of directing and choreographing NCT's production of Memphis. It must've been a real heartbreaker to postpone that show at first and then canceling it altogether.
EW: Heartbreaking is an understatement. Like so many other theatres with cancelled events around the world, we grieve the missed opportunity of sharing such an incredible production with our audiences. We've been so proud of every show we've produced this season, but Memphis was going to be something extremely special. The day we announced the postponement back in March, we were just a week shy of opening (we ultimately made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel Memphis, which was rescheduled to run July 28th-August 2nd, 2020). Before saying goodbye to it all, we had one final run-thru in the rehearsal room, which was absolutely magical. I've never experienced anything like it. Through so much uncertainty and fear, there was this palpable love and healing in the room. Robert urged everyone to celebrate the moment with gratitude. It was a beautiful example of grace through art. While I will never forget the power of that run-thru, I will always be sad that no one was able to see the show.

For the productions that were cancelled, can you see any of them eventually getting produced in a future season?
EW: It is certainly our hope to produce the cancelled productions at some point in future seasons.

In the meantime, you've been able to put together a great series on YouTube titled Star Gazing, where so many NCT alumni have sent in short videos reflecting on their time performing there (which includes people I've interviewed before such as English Bernhardt, Lauren Kennedy, and Ariana DeBose). How are things going with that?
EW: The Star Gazing project has truly been a gift. It has been amazing to reconnect with so many performers who have appeared in past NCT productions. At the beginning of quarantine, actors were reaching out and asking what they could do to help, so I had this idea of combining a fundraising effort with an opportunity to reflect upon some of the spectacular NCT performances through the years. For me personally, it has provided an artistic outlet. Though it isn't the same as producing or directing a full production, it gives me the chance to create. We are excited to begin expanding the series by incorporating other aspects of producing a show.

What are the plans right now for when NCT eventually reopens to the public?
ED: Our promise at NC Theatre is that reopening will involve the level of quality and relevance audiences have come to expect of us. Our plan is to make sure that audiences continue to have that experience of music, delight, beauty, and emotional connection that they have enjoyed with NC Theatre for decades. Some changes in how audiences return will be put in place. We are in dialogue with our venue on how to accommodate audiences safely, and over the next six months we will be providing updates on that. New safety and cleanliness protocols have been devised by the intrepid and professional team that runs the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, and you can learn more about that on their website:
https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/cleaning-protocols-and-attendee-safety

On a more positive note, would you mind telling us about what we can expect in the upcoming 2021 season at NCT?
ED: We began working toward an overarching institutional vision called All In a few years ago, and audiences will connect to this work even more in 2021. It began with the goal of mirroring our region's cultural demography throughout NC Theatre's stakeholder base by 2030, and was activated by specific and consistent artistic choices, community forums, and an evolution of our training programs. This work has motivated us to leverage our professional productions and programs to inspire, educate, evoke emotions and provoke conversations to create a more equitable and inclusive community with access to the theatre arts for all, and to shine a light on and partner with communities often under-represented in the arts.

EW: We are thrilled that we have been able to keep our 2021 season intact and look forward to producing such an exciting lineup! Raleigh audiences can subscribe now to secure their seats for our 2021 shows, including the February season-opener Sister Act, On Your Feet!, 9 to 5: The Musical, and more.

I thank you very much for devoting your time to this interview. It was great getting to reach out to you.
ED: Thank you!

EW: Thank you for reaching out to us and for all that you do to support live theatre!


For more information, please visit:
https://nctheatre.com/


Related Articles View More Raleigh Stories   Shows

From This Author Jeffrey Kare