FAIRMONT — A theater with billowing red curtains, beaming stage lights and a sizable dressing room is one of the last things you’d expect to find in a quaint town like Fairmont.
But The Stage, a small theater in downtown Fairmont, opened under the management of Vanessa Abernathy, vice president of the Robeson County Arts Council, two years ago. Abernathy’s father purchased the building with the dream of giving the people of Fairmont a place to immerse themselves in the arts while getting to know their community.
Now, The Stage has become a hot spot in town, bringing jazz musicians, movie screenings, workshops, fashion shows and game nights to the local folks.
Recently, The Stage hosted Delano Townsend, a jazz musician from Orrum, during its first Jazz Night. The Stage also hosted broadcasts of the Republican and Democratic National Convention and holds the occasional fashion show featuring local models and designers.
“We are trying to offer the people of Fairmont a place to come and enjoy a program with other members of the community,” Abernathy said. “And we’re doing it one step at a time, and one art form at a time.”
Abernathy moved to Fairmont from Philadelphia a few years ago to be closer to her family. She is the sole employee of The Stage, but gets by with help from volunteers.
Although the building is primarily used for in-house programs, Abernathy said it is often used by emerging musicians as a place to practice.
“An emerging artist can’t afford to rent out a space, so we offer them a place to practice for free,” Abernathy said.
The Stage may soon be the site of a playwright’s first play. According to The Stage’s Facebook page, a theatrical reading of the play “Love or Hate” by Fairmont High School graduate Saberia Singletary will premier on Aug. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.
“The Stage is a phenomenal asset to the arts and culture community of not only Fairmont, but the whole county,” said Mary Ann Masters, president of the Robeson County Arts Council. “Vanessa Abernathy provides diverse and excellent programming for all ages and interests. She is doing a wonderful job of fulfilling her father’s vision for a venue for entertainment in Fairmont.”
The lights stay on at The Stage thanks to Abernathy’s father, who pays the bills, but Abernathy said the arts venue accepts donations. She said that her father’s dream of a thriving art scene in Fairmont could bring more business to the town, which many pass in route to the beach.
“Having events increases our attractiveness to travelers,” Abernathy said. “The challenge is communication.”
Charles Kemp, former mayor of Fairmont and a current councilman, agreed. According to Kemp, The Stage is a little off route for those traveling to and from the beach, but he believes some creative marketing and strategic event planning could help re-route those travelers to The Stage.
“I do know that The Stage has been instrumental in bringing local performers out and giving them an opportunity to showcase their talents,” Kemp said. “[The University of North Carolina at Pembroke] and other regional performers have come along with small business presenters and used the facilities for information, presentations or entertainment. There’s no other place like it. It’s unique in town.”
The Stage is located at 205 W. Thompson St. in Fairmont. The auditorium seats 70 people and features a full-size dressing room with a makeup counter, mirror and private bathroom as well as warming stations for banquets. For information on The Stage, visit FairmontArts.org or find The Stage on Facebook.