There are some who consider church to be a theatre.
There are some who consider theatre to be a church.
These two types of communities share many similarities, such as storytelling, community of members, outreach, the sharing of beliefs and evoking of emotions.
Coming in the not too distant future of Bluffton is a collaboration of church and theatre that will bring the best of both worlds into one place: Live Oak Performing Arts Center.
The idea has been simmering with the church leadership at Live Oak Christian Church for nearly a decade, Pastor Michael Beaumont said. Planning began in earnest two years ago when the church invited leaders from the theatre community to a meeting. Among them were board members of Main Street Youth Theatre (MSYT).
“Dream with me,” Beaumont said to those gathered.
A man with a background in choral groups and theatre, as well as worship ministry, Beaumont said, “Two of the groups where I’ve found the most community were church and theatre.”
The shared vision, and now the architectural design, will result in a 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art performance space with 400 seats, where the church can hold services and the theatre can hold its plays and musicals.
It will be a home for both entities, and it will be located in Bluffton Village, near the Post Office, on land that the church purchased in 2015. Sharing the space with a theatre fits perfectly with with the mission of Live Oak church, Beaumont said: “Love God. Love people. Bring the two together. That’s how we do life together.”
Beaumont said the Live Oak congregation currently holds services at Bluffton School of Dance, having previously met at Bluffton High School for years. Church offices are in a building on Palmetto Way, near the Bluffton Library.
The joint venture couldn’t have come about at a better time, said Cinda Seamon, chairman of the MSYT board. The group, long based on Hilton Head Island, has been without a home for a number of years, and must rent space to present its season of plays and musicals. “It’s challenging, because there are so many theatre groups” vying for space, she said.
Both groups are launching campaigns to raise a total of $5 million in funds, with the church beginning a $3 million capital campaign, while the theatre has started its $2 million “One Home” fundraising campaign.
If all goes well, Beaumont said, “shovels could be in the ground in November,” and construction can begin.
Live Oak will own the building and the property, and will cover all overhead, Beaumont said. MSYT’s investment is the equivalent of 30 years of rent for up to six shows a year.
LOPAC is a new 501(c)(3) that was created as a management entity, Beaumont said.
MSYT will be able to sublet some of their time in the space to other theatre groups, traveling tours, or other kinds of performances.
The church will have no say in what shows or performances MSYT chooses, Seamon said. “And there shouldn’t be any issues anyway, because we’re a youth theatre, and we have our own standards.”
The location will be great, said Daniel Cort, vice chairman of the theatre group, because “about 90% of our kids and audiences are coming to Hilton Head from Bluffton. It’s our largest circle of influence.”
Main Street Youth Theatre began life as Hilton Head Community and Youth Theatre in the early 1990s. For a time, its home was in a converted movie theatre on the island.
MSYT’s mission has always been to provide theatrical experiences, both onstage and backstage, for youth and their families.
Once they get into the LOPAC, Seamon said she expects ticket sales to increase by 15% to 20%.
Beaumont said Live Oak was “planted” in Bluffton by Savannah Christian Church, now called Compassion Church, in 2004. He became lead pastor in 2008. Membership is currently about 450, with weekly attendance between 200 and 300 worshipers.
He expects once LOPAC is completed, their membership will increase and they would likely launch with two services, maybe three.
Beaumont is pleased that the location happens to be in a part of Bluffton designated by the state to be a cultural arts district.
So far, all is well with the collaboration, and all parties consider it will remain that way.
“In a culture and time where so many groups are at odds, here’s a story about two groups coming together to do life together,” Beaumont said. “That’s something.”