Raleigh natives Lauren Kennedy and Liz McDonald met in 1980 as young girls at a local theater camp. After 30-plus years of friendship, they’re using their network to bring intimate Raleigh theatre to Cary.
McDonald, general manager of Koka Booth Amphitheatre and Kennedy, artistic producing director of Theatre Raleigh, performed together for years as kids, and stayed in touch until both left Raleigh for college. Fast forward a few years, and both women were in New York City, Kennedy performing on Broadway and McDonald producing shows.
“We were in sort of two slightly different worlds,” Kennedy said. “But when you’re a Raleigh gal and you’re living in New York, you’re always interconnected.”
While they would run into each other on the street and occasionally see each other at award shows, they didn’t completely reconnect until they each moved back to the Triangle. When McDonald was interviewing for the position at Cary’s Booth Amphitheatre early last year, Kennedy was directing Theatre Raleigh.
“I had seen her work, and I thought it would be fun to get here and do something with Lauren once I got this job,” McDonald said.
Both women wanted to collaborate, but they weren’t quite sure how to do it. That’s when Kennedy suggested that Theatre Raleigh perform “Rock of Ages” at Booth.
“As soon as she said it, it was like the heavens opened up and the light showed through, and I was like, ‘Yes,’” McDonald said. “It was perfect.”
The show, which runs Sept. 7-10, is a lovingly ridiculous tribute to ‘80s rock bands like Def Leppard, Styx and Bon Jovi. It tells a classic boy-meets-girl story through song and dance.
“You’re not going to sit in your lawn chair and politely golf clap,” McDonald said. “You’re going to be standing up, you’re going to be fist pumping along with the music and having a really good time.”
This is the first year Theatre Raleigh and Booth Amphitheatre have worked together to put on a show. The collaboration gives Theatre Raleigh a chance to broaden its horizons and its audience, and gives Cary the opportunity to see the entertainment Raleigh has to offer.
“We tend to, in our suburbs, stay to ourselves,” Kennedy said. “Cary stays to itself sometimes, Durham stays to itself, Chapel Hill the same. What I think is so great is that we’re sort of ‘crossing borders’ and bringing Theatre Raleigh to Cary.”
In Raleigh, Theatre Raleigh performs at Kennedy Theatre and Fletcher Theatre, both of which are small venues that suit classic musicals, Kennedy says. “Rock of Ages” needed a larger venue, and Booth Amphitheatre is just the place.
“The collaboration between all parties is what is key to making it all happen,” Kennedy said. “It’s a big opportunity for us and we’re really excited to be working with the folks in Cary to help us grow.”
“ROCK OF AGES”
Who: Theatre Raleigh
When: Sept. 7-10
Where: Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre