History of Theatre West Virginia
Theatre West Virginia was first founded in 1955 as a means to preserve and promote West Virginia history and to promote tourism. Its mission is to produce, present, and administer the highest quality performing arts programs (i.e., plays,dance, musicals) for the entertainment and cultural enrichment of the public in West Virginia. Our year-round administrative team consists of four individuals and a six person Acting Company. In addition, we employ approximately one-hundred thirty five summer company members that consists of cast, crew, and in-house staff. Theatre West Virginia carries out its mission in the areas of community development, arts in education, and the company's Professional Training Academy.
Theatre West Virginia has been dedicated to community development for over 50 years to promote history and tourism while leading the performing arts within West Virginia. Theatre West Virginia’s historical plays started in 1961 and we’ve always reached for the next level within the creative arts. “Honey in the Rock
,” the nation’s oldest Civil War drama, was our first production and we added “Hatfields & McCoys
” in 1970. In 1984 we were one of the first outdoor drama organizations to add Broadway musicals to our repertoire and that developed a long-standing reputation in the arts community. A few examples of our presentations include “Annie!,” “Wizard of Oz
,” “Grease!,”“Footloose,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Theatre West Virginia desires to be on the cutting edge of artistic excellence which has evolved Theatre West Virginia into a test market for new works, including 2011's world premiere of “Rocket Boys: The Musical
,” a new and original work that is making its journey to Broadway. The musical was written by best-selling author Homer Hickam, Jr., co-authored by Carl Anthony Tramon
, and based on Mr. Hickam’s life in Coalwood, WV. This experience further proved Theatre West Virginia’s reputation as a training ground for not only artists, but for new works as well. A new relationship was fostered between the company and New York based theatre professionals that will hopefully result in Theatre West Virginia becoming a frequent test market for new works.
Theatre West Virginia has also presented new works through its touring company. Theatre West Virginia is the only professional theatre in the state with an educational touring company that fulfills the mission of spreading the arts to underserved areas. The touring company’s objective is to strengthen and advance education in theatre arts through presentation within the state’s education school systems to augment arts programming through workshops, presentations and seminars. We have performed musicals, fairytales, educational literature, and self-esteem oriented productions for elementary, middle, and high school students throughout the years. The educational tour allows a different type of access to theatre that most students would never experience. We bridge the gap that budget cuts have created in arts education. West Virginia communities cannot afford to bring their family to the theatre; therefore, since 1972 we have brought theatre to the families. Theatre West Virginia’s educational tour maintains the highest quality of artistic programming, which led to a partnership with Scott Ferguson from TheatreBam in Chicago. This two-year relationship has evolved into a successful partnership because our company has been the only theatre outside of TheatreBam to perform these productions (“The Main Street Kid’s Club: A MathStart Musical” and “Parker in the Park: A Natural Science Musical”), which indicates the magnitude of our work. Our tours perform for schools throughout West Virginia and surrounding areas, reaching close to 35,000 students annually.
Theatre West Virginia not only provides education in a theatrical way, but we also provide theatre instruction through our Professional Training Academy
. Since 1998, theatre professionals have been educating close to 500 southern West Virginia theatre enthusiasts age five and up in music, theatre, film and stagecraft classes. Our mission with this endeavor is “to develop human potential in people of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels through performing arts training and performing opportunities.” Access to arts training is limited in southern West Virginia, so we provide an outlet that wouldn’t otherwise exist.The caliber of talent in our academy so impressed us that we decided to add a show to our summer season. This opportunity would allow our Training Academy students to practically utilize the stage after their education in the classroom. Past summer academy productions have included “Disney’s High School Musical,” “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka,” and “Disney’s Jungle Book Kids
.” Our students have the rare opportunity to perform for a large audience at a young age amongst other professionals. This invaluable experience has helped students move on to prestigious theatre programs at places like Point Park University and New York University.
Another educational component we are proud to offer is our Professional Training Program for College Interns
done in coordination with University of Charleston.The program coordinated and implemented by Dr. Pamela Chabora, a performance specialist and actress with TWV. Since 2009 ten to twelve students are selected each summer from auditions all over the country. As a TWV PTP Intern, one performs roles in all summer productions, receives weekly private vocal instruction, a minimum of two dance classes per week through West Virginia Dance Company, and regularly scheduled Master Classes in Acting as well as various Master Classes with Guest Artists. Free housing is provided by University of Charleston, a small food stipend, and three undergraduate credits (or Graduate credits) in “Field Experience in Theatre” from University of Charleston.
Now in its fifty-third summer season, Theatre West Virginia is presents a summer focusing on preserving West Virginia’s culture and legacy in addition to celebrating one of America's most beloved classics. From June 11 – August 11, 2013, “Honey in the Rock
", “Hatfields & McCoys
", and this year's musical, "The Wizard of Oz
" will be playing in rotating repertory in our 1,259-seat house in Cliffside Ampitheatre – Grandview – part of the New River Gorge National River. Our season will then conclude with the return of our 2011 world premiere of “Rocket Boys: The Musical
” August 15 – 25, 2013. In addition to Theatre West Virginia’s cultural impact it also has an estimated economic impact in Southern West Virginia of two million dollars each summer. Through our annual season of 65 performances over eleven weeks, we attract 30,000 patrons representing 47 of the 50 states, while attracting six to ten foreign countries. We will also be presenting two music concerts (The Embers and Phil Dirt and the Dozers
) at Cliffside Ampitheatre. Our 2013-2014 Acting Company Tour will present “A Year with Frog and Toad,” a musical based off the children’s literary series, to elementary schools, teaching the values of friendship. For middle schools and high schools our Acting Company
will present an abridged version of our “Honey in the Rock” in honor of West Virginia’s sesquicentennial. Our six-person Acting Company will also be instrumental as our instructors in our Professional Training Academy as we go into our sixteenth year of theatre education.