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Elizabethton's historic Bonnie Kate Theater undertakes ‘Rocky’ path to new start

Jennifer Sprouse • Oct 31, 2012 at 10:54 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Built in 1926, the Bonnie Kate Theater, a historic landmark for the town, will soon say goodbye to first run movies, but not to entertainment for the community.

With a switch being made from film to digital projectors, theaters like the Bonnie Kate have been forced either to convert or run the risk of not having movies to show.

And while a digital projector is too costly for the small-town community theater to invest in right now, owners Cindy and Brian Higgs will stop showing new movies.

“The way I try to explain it to people is they think that we have old movies like upstairs. We don’t have old movies upstairs. It’s almost like we’re on VHS and everybody else has gone to DVDs,” Cindy said.

Not giving up and not wanting to close their doors, Cindy said she hopes to find other uses for the theater, such as theatrical and music shows.

“We’re going to do the second part to ‘Breaking Dawn.’ That’ll be our last movie and then we will do, hopefully, some live shows, some older movies and concerts,” she said.

Cindy said she’s had many people approach her about remodeling the Bonnie Kate, making it into one big theater, but so far nothing has been done and without financial support, the theater will continue to struggle to remain afloat.

“At this point, we are just open for suggestions,” she said. “This isn’t our choice. We love the theater. We want it to stay and we want it to be something that the community can use, but we’re going to have to have help doing it.”

Two Pence Theatrical Productions has been a positive for the theater these days, naming the Bonnie Kate the place where they will perform Richard O’Brien’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” beginning tonight.

“It’s definitely a Halloween-flavored show. It’s a fun show and it’s a musical,” Amanda Seehorn, the production’s director said. “The entire show is based on the feel of old science fiction and old horror movies, so it’s really kind of a modern day twist on the old horror movie.”

And while the show tries to maintain many things seen in the original adaptation of the story about two young lovers, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, coming into contact with mad scientist Dr. Frankenfurter and his Transylvanians, Seehorn said there are some things they’ve changed.

“We are actually going to be doing something that I know that no other production, at least in our area, has ever done. We have filmed a couple of scenes and we’re actually going to project them,” she said. “That way we can interact with the screen and it’s going to be kind of neat. There will be backdrops via the video also. ‘Rocky Horror’ is also an audience participation show and so you have the props that the cast use, but then you have props, or what we call “goodie bags” for the patrons.”

Seehorn said the show’s costumes and makeup also will take on make of the same characteristics from the movie and stage play, with each one playing a significant part in pulling off the show.

“No. 1, they’re very iconic because the show is so familiar to most of its audience. Most of the audience, I would guess 50 percent or better, are going to be people who are extremely familiar with at least the movie, if not the stage show,” she said. “They expect certain characters to look a certain way.”

But the theater is not the only business in the building, with the Bonnie Kate Cafe doing well for itself, Cindy said.

The cafe, located to the right of the theater offers patrons stopping in breakfast, lunch and dinner options of every variety and a little something for everyone.

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