CHARLOTTE — Yellow Bird Theatre, a new Charlotte theater company created with a focus on LGBT issues, will premiere its first production, “Play on Words,” on Aug. 8.

Founded by Greensboro College sophomore Benjamin Brian McCarthy, who is also directing “Play on Words,” Yellow Bird is almost entirely student-run and managed.

In the production, actors Brandon Curry and Daniel Pietruszka play Colin McBride and Nick Emerson, respectively, two high school guys who fall in love. The production takes the characters through a journey and struggle to stay together as they face problems with drugs, alcohol, sex and abuse.

“One of them is addicted to a lot of different drugs and is an alcoholic and the other is very against that,” McCarthy told Q-Notes. “It is their story of how they deal with these problems and how it affects their relationship.”

Pietruszka, 20, is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and a senior studying music at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He is also openly gay.

“I think that being gay will help me in my character development,” he said. “I believe I will put some of myself in the character I play.”

Pietruszka believes that when more people in America are educated on issues of sexuality “it will be easier to have it be a part of our society and not have it ridiculed.”

McCarthy, 19, has been active in theater productions since his days as a student at Northwest School of the Arts, a high school in Charlotte. His idea for the play and the company began simply as a student assignment.

“When we started working with the play I was able to get Theatre Charlotte to work with us,” he said. “They told me to think about having another name to be the other producer. I decided to make the company an official thing instead of just a one-time thing.”

Although Yellow Bird has yet to receive official non-profit status, McCarthy said some groups have shown interest in the fledgling drama company. Next year, he hopes to have the non-profit status and more funding. He said the company is currently looking for donors and patrons.

“The name of the company, Yellow Bird, comes from the first play I directed, ‘The Crucible,’” McCarthy explained. “During the courtroom scene one of the main characters, Abigail Williams, says she sees a yellow bird in the rafters.”

McCarthy said the company will focus exclusively on issues of sexuality and gender during their summer productions. “I’ve never heard of any company that focuses on these issues. I wanted be a little different than any regular theater company here in Charlotte and draw in different types of audiences.”

Rehearsals for the company’s first production have already begun. McCarthy said he hasn’t had much time to focus on anything else — although a few long-range thoughts are bubbling in his brain.

“I haven’t really thought about next year but I do know that I want to do more than one show,” he said. “I’d love to do ‘The Laramie Project’ and there are a few others that I’m hoping to look at.”

The one-act, approximately one-hour play was written by local playwright Aubrey Nolan and will be performed in cabaret style at Theatre Charotte’s Stage 501. Admission is $8 for students/seniors and $12 for adults.

“I hope to see it sold out,” McCarthy said with a laugh.


Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.