The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 7, 2013

Theatre West Virginia

Do yourself a favor; take in a drama at Cliffside Amphitheatre


— Raleigh County has some of the best theater you could ever see in its own backyard, but how many locals really take advantage?

Theatre West Virginia has been producing live dramas at Cliffside Amphitheatre in Grandview Park for over 50 years. It started with “Honey in the Rock,” the story of the birth of West Virginia.

When it expanded to add a second drama, it went to the history well again with “Hatfields and McCoys,” the blood feud between two mountain families, one in West Virginia, the other in Kentucky.

Another of the shows that TWV will present for the third time this summer is “Rocket Boys,” the dramatization of the novel “October Sky,” written by McDowell County’s own rocket scientist Homer Hickam.

Also on the marquee this year will be a fan-favorite, “Wizard of Oz.”

Top-notch actors bring life to the dialogue, singing and dancing packed into each of the shows. Among the alumni are Beckley’s own Chris Sarandon and Morgantown native David Selby, who both have gone on to star in Hollywood films and television shows.

Local children — and even dogs when it’s an Oz year — have performed on the Cliffside stage.

Spending an evening under the stars watching a Theatre West Virginia production is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. The action from the stage is enthralling, the nighttime insects in the surrounding tree chime in with a chorus, the moon shines softly down on the audience.

What more do you need on a soft summer night?

TWV opens its 53rd season Tuesday night with —what else? — the one that started it all, “Honey in the Rock.” Admission to it and Wednesday night’s “Hatfields” will be free to residents of Raleigh, Wyoming, Fayette, Summers and Mercer counties who bring a donation of non-perishable food. Reservations are required; call 304-256-6800 or visit www.theatrewestvirginia.com.

Maybe you’ve heard that TWV has had some tough financial times in the last few years and you wonder if the Cliffside dramas are still around.

The answer is yes, emphatically, yes. Theater West Virginia is back on its financial feet. The dramas never faltered.

If you have lived in southern West Virginia all your life, if you are a newcomer or if you fall somewhere in between and have never seen a TWV production, do yourself a favor.

Make this the summer you take in an evening at Cliffside.