By Sarah Mansheim
They’ve come a long way, baby.
Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT) is celebrating its 48th season in Lewisburg, and the theater is thriving. Dubbed the State Professional Theatre of West Virginia, the theater provides not only a venue for original and non-original work, but a “home” for many actors from Greenbrier County and across the country. Not bad for a company that was born in a tent by the river.
Beginning in 1966, GVT’s first three years of production were in a tent alongside the Greenbrier River, and then in borrowed venues until 1976, when The Barn, a primitive performance space built near the Greenbrier Valley Airport, was erected and served as GVT’s home for 21 years. In 1994, the theater purchased the vacant Leggett’s department store in downtown Lewisburg and six years later, were able to finally move into the beautiful, state-of-the-art facility they now call home.
Now, the venue provides a home for theater lovers of all ages, from tots to seniors, creating a community center that hosts talent from across the country. “Greenbrier Valley Theatre has adhered to the founders’ concept [of] quality live theater centered around a core of professional actors and directors with opportunities for members of the community to learn stagecraft,” is how GVT’s marketing department describes the organization.
GVT’s 2015 season features classic theater from William Shakespeare, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse and Neil Simon along with original work from Producing Artistic Director Cathey Sawyer and longtime performer and board of trustees member Joe Buttram.
In addition to live performances, GVT partners with the Metropolitan Opera to bring live, high-definition screenings of classic operas to the theater’s screen.
GVT also offers extensive training to the younger set through its after-school drama classes, the most recent of which just began last month. Children ages five to 18 can enjoy the camaraderie and experiences that only working on stage can bring. Then, every summer, kids can attend a two-week long camp where they write, direct and perform their own original work.
As GVT rapidly approaches its half-century mark, they are gearing up for another full season. Tonight, catch the last night of the New Voices Festival at 7:30 p.m., and make plans for the upcoming season. Season tickets are available at a cost of up to 38 percent off the single ticket price. Tickets can be ordered by phone at 304-645-3838; by mail at 113 E. Washington Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901 or in person Monday through Saturday from 1-6 p.m. Tickets for individual shows can be purchased at www.gvtheatre.org.
The 2015 Mainstage Season is as follows:
• Apr. 10-25: The Skin of our Teeth, a comedy by Thornton Wilder
• May 8-23: Boeing Boeing, a comedy by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverley Cross and Frances Evans
• June 11-27: Chicago, a musical by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
• July 17 – Aug. 1: Laughter on the 23rd Floor, a comedy by Neil Simon
• Aug. 28 – Sept. 12: Beehive!, a musical by Larry Gallagher
• Oct. 29 – Nov. 14: Veronica’s Room, a drama by Ira Levin
• Dec. 4-21: A Christmas Carol, a musical with book and lyrics by Cathey Sawyer and music by Joe Buttram.