The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 19, 2012

It’s all in the family this season at Theatre West Virginia

GRANDVIEW — This season at Theatre West Virginia, one family from eastern Iowa has joined the family at Grandview.

Stage manager Annie Bellinger, originally from Maquoketa, Iowa, first came to Theatre West Virginia with her husband (actor/fight captain/head pyrotechnician) Chris, last season.

Chris said one reason they wanted to return to West Virginia was because it was a place with positions available for both of them.

The company, however, has become a family away from home. This spring the choreographer met her with a hug and a “Welcome home,” Annie said.

This year the couple brought on board two of Annie’s siblings at Grandview Amphitheater.

“This year I was not going to be able to be here at the beginning of the season and the only person I trusted with 80 cast members was my sister, Ali (Simpson). Even though we have never done a show together, we have been ships in the night at a lot of theaters and I knew she had dealt with this sized cast before,” explained Annie.

Annie’s brother, Joe Simpson, decided to take a break from working as a technical director in Iowa to return to his first love, lighting. He is serving as master electrician for the theater.

For many thespians working contract to contract, moving across the country as jobs become available, spending time with family can be difficult. Even getting home for holidays is sometimes impossible.

Annie said this has been the first time in a decade the siblings have been able to be in the same place for an extended period of time.

“We really get along well and it is really nice to have all of us in one area,” said Ali.

Before arriving at Theatre West Virginia, Ali said she had not seen Annie for about a year and had not seen her brother since Christmas.

“Usually when we see each other on holidays we have to spend the time telling each other about what has happened with us over the last year. For the most part it has been really enjoyable to finally work together in a professional venue,” Joe said.

Joe did add that his housing is separate from his siblings so he can get away for solitude as needed.

Chris added that it is not just the three siblings that get along well. The two families also pair well.

“Annie’s parents and my parents also get along. In fact, they get together without us. It is cool because we have theater in common and our parents have in common the fact that they have to deal with people who do theater,” he said.

“Our parents don’t do theater,” Annie explained. “We don’t know how the three of us ended up doing it.”

And so it has been a blessing the family gets along so well, especially since Theatre West Virginia’s 52nd season has been off to a rocky start with nearly two weeks of performances lost in the power outages following the June 29 storm.

“This year the company has been so good and we have had to deal with extraordinary circumstances. They have bonded together and decided to take on the challenge together,” Annie said.

“I was glad I was with the crew I was with when the big storm hit. We all just really worked together to make sure everyone and the equipment was safe,” Ali added.

To purchase and reserve tickets to “Honey in the Rock,” “Hatfields & McCoys” and “Rocket Boys: The Musical,” visit www.theatrewestvirginia.com, or call 304-256-6800.

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

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