By Wendy Holdren
Love for Theatre West Virginia is certainly not confined to the Mountain State, as actors, actresses and volunteers from as far away as Las Vegas and Chicago have returned to show their support for the rebirth of the theater.
Sharon Fenwald Chadwick is the Las Vegas representative and she said she simply couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be a part of Act II.
“I have a very special place in my heart for Theatre West Virginia. It’s the first place I worked professionally.”
Chadwick grew up in a small town in Illinois, and attended college in Mississippi and New York. After college, a professor encouraged her to audition for TWV and she was soon hired with the company.
She worked with TWV from 1980-83, performing in the “Hatfields and McCoys,” “Honey in the Rock” and “Dracula.”
Chadwick has lived in multiple states since then, but she said, “There is no place like West Virginia.”
“I’ve been all over and there is no place like West Virginia. It is so peaceful and so beautiful.”
She stayed in touch with TWV alumni, including Dan Henthorn, who is serving as casting director this year.
Henthorn gathered everyone together for a reunion for the 50th anniversary, Chadwick said, which brought back many fond memories of the theater and the friends she made.
“When I heard this theater had closed, it really broke my heart.”
She said the alumni discussed the history of the theater and the nostalgia they felt for it.
But a few months later, Scott Hill announced plans to resurrect the theater and re-open again as Act II.
“I have always thought about how much I would love to do this show again,” Chadwick said.
Living over 2,000 miles away, though, posed a bit of a challenge.
For the past 12 years, Chadwick has worked as a theater teacher in Las Vegas and even taken her students to the state Thespian Festival.
Despite her living so far away, when the opportunity presented itself for her to come back and be a part of the theater’s revival, she said she simply couldn’t say no.
“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do this,” Chadwick said, with a mile-wide smile as she prepared for rehearsals Monday.
She said she asked her husband before committing to the part, but he said, “Well, duh! You’re going!”
So now, Chadwick will assume a role she performed back in 1983 — Levicy Hatfield, wife of Devil Anse — for a second time 30 years later.
Bringing a part of the theater again was not only a personal dream come true, but Chadwick is also glad to spread the message of the importance of the arts.
“We need to resurrect this piece of history. The importance of the arts in our communities is huge. It really changes people’s lives.”
She said as a teacher, she can truly see the impact the arts can have on someone. Theater students build confidence, they improve speaking abilities and they also excel with presentations, Chadwick said.
Many of the actors and actresses are getting paid little to no money, including Chadwick, but that doesn’t seem to matter to any of them.
“That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to let politicians know that the arts are important. How can you get rid of such a well-loved and historic theater?”
She said nothing is more important than bringing back the theater’s legacy and ensuring a future in the arts for young people.
Opening night of “Hatfields and McCoys” will be July 11. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.theatrewestvirginia. com.
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