The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

May 11, 2014

Community rallies around Theatre West Virginia

BECKLEY — Theatre West Virginia is more than just a theater company — it’s a family.

Some people have found lifelong friends, or even husbands and wives during the theater’s 50-plus years at Grandview.

Not only have lasting relationships formed among the cast and crew, but these actors and producers are devoted to the theater itself, which is proving beneficial to Act II’s new casting director, Dan Henthorn.

“These people have a true love of Theatre West Virginia,” Henthorn said.

Actors and actresses from the ‘70s and ‘80s are now coming back to fill the roles they once performed in their younger years.

“The love that people have who have worked for this theater company is overwhelming. It really isn’t just a company, it’s family.”

Sharon Fenwald Chadwick, who played Levicy Hatfield, the wife of Devil Anse in “Hatfields and McCoys,” back in 1983, will assume the role once more, this time without the aide of aging makeup.

She’s now a high school teacher in Las Vegas and the State Thespian Director of Nevada.

Henthorn said she didn’t mind a small paycheck, she’s simply coming because of her love for Theatre West Virginia.

A couple who played Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy, Lucas Harms and Megan Sauzer-Harms, will also offer their services during tech week. They said they will help clean, paint, build or whatever else may be needed.

“They said they didn’t care about the money, they just wanted to be part of the rebirth.”

The couple met during their work at TWV and now they have two children together.

Casey Henderson, now a Hollywood stuntman, got his start at TWV as a technician and actor, and has graciously offered to choreograph the fight scenes.

Deb Brady, who holds a master’s degree in voice, and who played Golde in TWV’s 1984 production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” will join the cast also.

“It’s a very special season. We have an extremely talented cast, and one of the oldest assembled casts because of the short time frame.”

Henthorn said hiring college-age students and professional actors, as the company typically does, was out of the question because of the tight budget, and the fact that they are usually hired for a three-month period instead of the five-week production the budget allowed for this year.

Henthorn himself will be on stage as well, taking the role of Randall McCoy, a part that he played back in 1983.

The 52-year-old laughed as he recalled dusting his hair with white for the show, but that won’t be necessary this year, as his gray hair is starting to come in naturally.

He’s acted, directed and much more, but Henthorn said it’s impossible to pick a favorite title — “I love it. All of it.”

Although his favorite role as an actor was a tour of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” TWV will always hold a special place in his heart.

He said he has played nearly every male role in both “Hatfields and McCoys” and “Honey in the Rock.”

“I have a passion for this place. When I found out it was closing its doors after 55 years, I was heartbroken.”

Henthorn said he was on board immediately when he was asked to help bring the theater back to life.

He started with TWV back in 1983 while he was in college at Marshall University working on his degree in acting and directing. He acted in 1983-84, then performed with the touring company in 1990. Throughout the ‘90s, he served as the artistic director for touring shows.

Henthorn has since lived in Charleston for a while and Baton Rouge, La., as well as his hometown of New Martinsville in Wetzel County.

He spent three seasons directing the Paden City High School Thespian Troupe, also in Wetzel County, and produced two solos and two duets that were recognized by the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb.

The week before the “Hatfields and McCoys” rehearsals begin, Henthorn will actually be in Nebraska with the students for the festival.

June 30, though, he’ll be back in town and rehearsals will last until opening night, July 11.

Productions of “Hatfields and McCoys” will be held July 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, Aug. 1 and 2.

Open auditions were held last Thursday at Tamarack for the remaining roles, but Henthorn said if anyone was unable to attend, he is still accepting prepared auditions by e-mail at castingtwv@gmail.com.

When casting for family groups, like with the “Hatfields and McCoys,” he said it’s important to put similar looking people together.

“It’s about the physicality of the role. If the Hatfields were all brunettes and we put one blonde in, that person would stick out.”

He said singing is also a very important aspect to casting this show, since it’s a musical.

Henthorn hopes to stay on board for future TWV productions in some capacity, even though he will remain in the northern part of the state with his mother.

At the end of the 54th TWV season, he hopes to partner with Tamarack to present some one-act plays for a dinner theater event to allow the actors some additional opportunities.

When Henthorn isn’t acting or directing, he can be found singing in a band he formed a couple years ago called The Battle Weary Band that plays Civil War-era music.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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