Company Carolina was founded in 1994. Its founders wanted to build a theater group based on a professional model, said group alumnus Daniel Helias.
Their first shows included “Man of La Mancha” — a musical version of “Don Quixote” — and “Glengarry Glen Ross,” a play exploring the male-dominated world of real estate.
The following spring, the company staged “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Previous members, including Helias, recalled company legends about the show’s popularity.
“I have heard stories that the lines for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ wrapped around the building and the show sold out most nights,” Helias said in an e-mail.
Helias worked as a light board operator, master electrician and light designer for the company during and after his years as a student, he said.
His first show with Company Carolina, “A Chorus Line,” sold out every night and brought significant funds into the budget, which has always been supported by donations, current producer Stephanie Waaser said.
Helias’ continued involvement after graduation allowed him to witness firsthand the company’s split from the Department of Communication, he said.
“In my years as a producer, I felt pressure from the department to represent performance studies more,” Helias said.
In exchange for performance space, Company Carolina was required to maintain Swain Hall Studio 6, former members said — even when the mess wasn’t theirs.
The affiliation officially ended in the spring of 2002.
“The company pretty much became an orphan after that,” Helias said.
The group used space in the Carrboro ArtsCenter and on campus, members said.
Company Carolina grew after leaving the Department of Communications, Watson said.
Julianne Clancy joined the company in 2003 as a freshman.
“It was that history of determination, struggle and perseverance that in part drew me to it,” Clancy said in an e-mail.
In the fall of 2009, the company put on a wildly-successful production of “RENT” in the Forest Theatre, and its current production of “Once on This Island” hopes to duplicate this success, Waaser said.
Clancy recalled the success of “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” a last-minute show performed after the rights to perform the play “Harvey” were denied.
With only a month of rehearsal, Company Carolina performed the show to large audiences and great reviews.
“We may have had our difficulties,” Clancy said. “But we were small and mighty, vibrant and determined.”
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