That there’s a street called “Stage Lane” is but one sign of the overflowing talent in Asheville. Tucked away there, you’ll find North Carolina Stage Company, an ideal venue to kick off an exploration of this city’s vast performing arts scene. The 127-seat theater, also known as NC Stage, was founded by New York theater veterans Angie and Charlie Flynn-McIver in 2001 to provide Asheville audiences with a more intimate theatrical experience.
On any given night of the week, you’ll find actors with dazzling credits to their names performing thought-provoking, humorous, and classic productions, such as the popular comedy Jeeves Takes a Bow or Thurgood, a one-man play told from the perspective of the legendary Supreme Court justice of the same name.
Nearby, in its central position on Biltmore Avenue, the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts has been one of Asheville’s premiere performance venues since opening in 1992. In addition to its 28,000-square-foot proscenium auditorium, the complex recently added two additional performance spaces to support its robust year-round offerings of live music, dance, theater, and comedy.
Inside the Wortham’s Tina McGuire Theatre, you might catch a performance by resident theater company Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective, presenting world-premiere plays, an emerging Black playwrights reading series, and other works designed to inspire audiences and create change. The Wortham’s resident dance company Stewart/Owen Dance offers community classes in the Henry LaBrun Studio and performs its critically acclaimed contemporary dance repertory on the Diana Wortham Theatre stage, as well as on tour throughout the southeast.
Formed in 1960 and conducted by Darko Butorac, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra draws from Asheville’s deep pool of consummate musicians and supplements its season of events with an impressive roster of guest artists such as Béla Fleck and Bryan Terrell Clark from the Broadway musical Hamilton. The Symphony’s ALT ASO program, introduced in 2022, brings orchestra members to unexpected local venues—including the charming 400-seat Masonic Temple and the legendary Orange Peel—for inventive concerts that showcase their gifts beyond the bounds of traditional proscenium houses.
Local theatrical favorites
On summer nights, you can find locals toting folding chairs and coolers as they head down the hill from Montford Avenue toward the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre to take in a show by the Montford Park Players. This community-based, outdoor theater offers productions of Shakespeare, kid-friendly classics, new works by local playwrights, and special holiday and short-run performances throughout the year.
Like the Montford Park Players, Asheville Community Theatre spotlights local talent in performances of popular shows such as Elf: The Musical, and frequent children’s productions. For old and new favorites, musicals, comedies, and drama, its 399-seat theater has been a go-to favorite of downtown audiences for more than seven decades.
Experimental performances and venues
Experimentation is also alive and well at The BeBe Theatre, home to Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre which was founded in 1979 by Giles and Susan Collard. ACDT offers imaginative performances by company dancers and students of its adult and youth classes, known for their stunning choreography, sets, and costumes.
The BeBe also presents performances by The Sublime Theater. Hosting around 100 performances a year, the venue hosts the boundary-pushing Asheville Fringe Festival (also founded by Collard), a growing event held each spring featuring dance, theater, puppetry, spoken word, film, and multidisciplinary performances.
Not all Asheville performances take place on a stage. LaZoom Comedy Tours takes the show on the road with their iconic purple bus, introducing passengers to characters along the way as they laugh through local history. Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance brings its esteemed professional contemporary dance performances to venues around Asheville when the company isn’t touring.
Asheville’s rich and varied performing arts scene reflects the city’s thriving creative spirit. There’s a stage and a show for every interest, offering surprising, moving, and even thrilling performances to make your visit to this singular city even more unforgettable.