BEAVER, W.Va. — West Virginia’s longest-running live theatre company is about to begin its 59th summer season, featuring two concerts and three musical drama productions.
Theatre West Virginia will present the nostalgia rock band Phil Dirt and the Dozers at Cliffside Amphitheatre at Grandview in the New River Gorge National River Saturday evening, beginning at 7:30, weather permitting. Productions of Annie will be performed at the outdoor theater in June. Hatfields and McCoys and Paradise Park: the Musical will be presented in July. A second summer concert featuring the Beatles tribute band Rubber Soul is scheduled for June 30.
General Manager Scott Hill told MetroNews the theatre company owes much of its longevity to the intimate setting provided by Grandview State Park.
“There’s really not a bad seat in the house,” he said. “We’re still in one of the greatest amphitheaters you could have. I mean, you’re outside and the stars are looking down on you. My grandfather used to say, ‘If you could bottle something like this, it would be illegal.’ ”
As the amount of state funding for the arts has dwindled over the years, Hill said Theatre West Virginia has been able to adapt through an increased reliance on community support and on fundraising events during the off-season. He also cited the 2016 relocation of the West Virginia University Institute of Technology to the campus in Beckley as an important development for maintaining local interest in live theater.
“The successful smaller towns in this country have an education hub, whether it’s a really strong community college, whether it’s something like Tech, whether its something like (Shepherd University) up in Shepherdstwon. They actually even have a drama (theater) situation going on now. There’s a lot of things going on that I wish we could have, and eventually we will blend in with our university as our university grows. And, that gives us more resources, more auditoriums, more people. And then, Tech brings in their set of folks, writers and poets and all the different folks that they bring in,” said Hill.
According to Hill, reliance by the theater’s training academy on the pool of available local actors is a practical necessity, both logistically and financially.
“That’s always best because there’s no housing involved, and housing gets to be a problem when you get above 45 percent (of budget). And, that’s one of the reasons we use a lot of college kids, because they’re from the area here, they’ve kind of grown up with us.”
Among the fundraising events scheduled for this year in Raleigh County are the annual Rocket Boys Film Festival in September, the Haunted Coal Mine at Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in October, and a dinner theater presentation of A Christmas Carol at the Black Knight Country Club in Beckley in December.
A complete schedule of events is available at www.theatrewestvirginia.org