CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Theatre of the Republic is putting on its first full-scale musical since before the pandemic. 

The pandemic hit the performing arts industry hard. Theatre of the Republic felt the impact.

“In one day this theater became empty. No one came through the doors, everything just stopped,” said Tim McGhee, executive director of Theatre of the Republic. “It was a very eerie feeling.”

No patrons in the seats meant no way for the theater to make money. 

“We had the bills still coming in,” McGhee said. “It has been a financial burden to the theater.”

Theatre of the Republic tried to come up with creative ways to make art during the pandemic. They tried Facebook live events and pre-recorded performances, but nothing was the same as being live on stage.

“There’s nothing like having this live audience here,” actor Megan Hoffman said. “[They are] feeding your soul and you’re feeding them. It’s something that you can’t replace.”

For many actors, theater is everything to them. 

“Theater is basically my whole life, my career and my pastime as well,” Hoffman said. 

Even more than that, they create special bonds with the people they meet. 

“I’ve made so many lifelong friends here that I’ve not been able to even in school anywhere I’ve been,” Hoffman said. “I’ve not been able to find a community of people like the people that I found here.”

When they were shut away from that community for more than two years, it was hard on them. 

“I missed it so much in the past two years,” actor Brandon Garris said. “I couldn’t keep telling myself, oh, you’re not gonna be able to do this again.”

They say the feeling of being back on the stage after two years is like no other. 

“This is just how it should be, like this feels normal,” Garris said. 

“It’s a joy you can’t replicate,” Hoffman said. 

Hoffman said the magic of live theater is just as special for those sitting in the audience. 

“The sitting in the audience with all these people around you watching the same show, laughing, having fun,” Hoffman said. “It’s just an experience that you can’t describe until you come see it.”

While the past two years have been tough, they said it is the camaraderie of the people that have held the morale together. 

“Theater is just a wonderful place and we have a family here,” McGhee said. “That’s the human aspect of theater and what it causes.”

Theater of the Republic’s current musical is The SpongeBob Musical. The show runs through the weekend. Tickets can be purchased on their website.