Betty Brewer: The woman no one can say no to

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A positive attitude  makes Brewer hard to say no to, and that kind of tenacity makes her such a great producer. TLT is lucky to have her, as are we all. (Photo by Erik Olsen)

A positive attitude makes Brewer hard to say no to, and that kind of tenacity makes her such a great producer. TLT is lucky to have her, as are we all. (Photo by Erik Olsen)

By Susan McNabb
Photographs by Erik Olsen
Life in Our Foothills, January 2015

Betty Brewer is known in Tryon Little Theater circles as a woman no one can say no to. When asked why she thinks she’s earned that reputation, she laughs and shrugs her shoulders. “I guess I’m just always asking for something,” she says.

She asks for things because that’s what show producers do, and no one says no to her because she’s so well respected in the local theater community.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Brewer has been involved with the Tryon Little Theater in some capacity since 1970, and now fills a position she actually created. After years of directing, she realized if another person took care of production details, then the director could focus on directing, and the TLT producer role was born.

Brewer came to Polk County for the first time with her husband after graduating from Case Western Reserve University in her hometown of Cleveland. “It’s the Harvard of the Midwest,” she says, adding with a smile, “At least they think so.” She intended to attend medical school, but changed her major to teaching when she married Byron Brewer of Chicago, a Northwestern graduate who had served in the Army.

The Brewers came to Tryon to visit friends of his parents, and fell in love with it. “Why not start here?” they decided, and two weeks after making the move, she landed a teaching job at Green Creek High School.

As the Polk County school system changed, she went to Tryon High School to teach science. “It was so small,” she says, “I was the science department.”

Brewer stopped teaching to raise her three children. “I was retired, but not just sitting at home twiddling my thumbs,” she says, when the principal of Polk Central asked her to go back to school because a guidance counselor was needed in the high school.

Not wanting to leave her young children behind, Brewer attended Western Carolina University on weekends and in summer sessions and brought her children along with her, renting an apartment on campus. Her two older children attended WCU’s summer program for gifted students, known as the Cullowhee Experience, so Brewer was able to spend time with them while earning her master’s degree in school counseling.

While working as a counselor at Polk County High School in the 1990s, she was called away from her counseling duties to start the drama department, teaching one period a day until a drama teacher could be hired.

Brewer spent a total of 27 years working in the Polk County school system. She also spent many years as the organist and in the choir at Tryon Presbyterian Church, and directed the Community Chorus for 11 years.

One of Brewer’s favorite community involvements was her seven years on Polk County Community Foundation’s scholarship board. “I loved it,” Brewer says. “It does wonderful things for teachers and kids, and they even reach out to the Landrum area too.”

Brewer became involved with a local troupe of Savoyards—performers of the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan—and enjoyed working on these and other TLT productions. She loved directing, but when it comes to acting, simply says, “I’ve done enough of that.”

When asked what her favorite production was, she laughs and says she’s hard pressed to say.

“I took on directing Godspell as a challenge because the [TLT] board said, ‘See what you can do with it.’ It was shocking at the time.”

In addition to Godspell, Brewer names South Pacific as another show she loved directing, calling it “beautiful.”

Brewer is also proud of recent productions, Fiddler on the Roof and Shrek, both of which she produced and also calls “beautiful shows.”

“We had 10 people working on the 100 costumes in Shrek. It was something else,” she recalls.

Brewer’s next production will be Big River, which opens February 19 and runs through February 22 at the Tryon Fine Arts Center.

“I saw it at the Spartanburg Auditorium with Mickey Rooney,” Brewer recalls. She decided then, “We need to do that.” Brewer directed a small part of the Tony-winning musical based on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the Community Chorus, and is now producing the show through Tryon Little Theater.

In recalling her years with TLT, Brewer stops to remark how wonderful it is that they now have Sunnydale. “We’re so lucky to have the Lanes here,” she says, referring to Bob and Jackie Lane who donated the historic property to TLT.

“Lucky” is also how Brewer describes her family after a gas explosion destroyed their home in 2002. Everything was lost, but now Brewer calls it “just stuff.”

“Our kids don’t have to sort through 40 years of things now,” Brewer says. “We just started over.”

It’s that kind of positive attitude that makes Brewer hard to say no to, and that kind of tenacity that makes her such a great producer. TLT is lucky to have her, as are we all.