I wrote earlier about discovering which dorm Andy Griffith stayed in for at least the first couple of years at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill while I was there reviewing his original scripts for The Andy Griffith Show.
I was also curious about seeing the building which hosted the Carolina Playmakers. This is a long-established student theater group at the university. It still exists though it is now known as the Playmakers Repertory Company though the theater still has the name “Playmakers Theatre” over the door.
I knew through previous research that Andy was passing by the theater one night and saw an audition sign-up sheet for the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Gondoliers. He recalled that he had absolutely no idea who Gilbert and Sullivan even were, but he signed up. He won a role and received good reviews for his solos in the show. He cited his involvement with the Playmakers as the reason he eventually decided to switch from studying ministry to music.
His involvement with the Playmakers also led to his not returning to Mount Airy to work in the furniture factory that summer but instead taking a cut in pay and performing in the outdoor drama The Lost Colony in Manteo, North Carolina.
Andy stayed involved with the Playmakers. One role ended up having an influence on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Andy was cast as the lead in a play called Egypt Land which was based on the life of folk singer and guitarist Leadbelly. This was his first dramatic role. He was cast by the play’s writer and director, a UNC graduate student named Bob Armstrong. The two had also appeared together in The Lost Colony and become friends. Armstrong eventually also became a successful actor and formally used his initials as part of his stage name, known to most as R.G. Armstrong, though Mayberry fans know him better as the gruff farmer Flint who would not initially allow his daughter, Frankie, to accept any cosmetics or dresses from Ellie.
When I discovered the location of the Playmakers building, I realized Andy being in Steele dorm meant there was almost no way he could not have been exposed to the theater group. Just as I had walked by Andy’s old dorm without knowing it at first, I had also walked by the rear of the Playmakers building, which stood just yards from Andy’s dorm.
Seeing the Playmakers Theatre and Andy’s dorm made the trip all that more meaningful to me.