Local Theatre History - Part 1
In thinking about theatre here in Huntington, I often think about the history of it. As far as I know, no history of local theatre has ever been assembled - and there's not much to be found on the subject on the Internet.
Touring shows have probably been presented in Huntington virtually since the city was founded, and certainly local schools have put on shows since the first teacher or parent walked through the door who was willing to take on the challenge.
A quick look at www.Ask.com reveals that the newest section of Marshall’s Old Main - the part with the auditorium in it - was built in 1907, and no doubt the students started staging shows there not long after. Although I don't have any research to back it up (and I trust you'll correct me if I'm wrong, dear reader), it seems safe to assume that Marshall has the longest continuing tradition of putting on shows in Huntington.
I have wonderful memories of seeing great shows in that auditorium. When I was a student in the late ‘70s, one of the outstanding performers was a guy named Joe Johns, who is well known today for his work on CNN (and NBC before that). Perhaps Marshall's most famous acting alumni is the Oscar-winning Brad Dourif (although Billy Crystal also attended for a semester). Actually, my hero Soupy Sales is probably the most famous, though I'm not sure if he ever acted on the Marshall stage.
These days Marshall has a new theater, and it’s a beauty. The Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center is a state of the art facility, and the Department of Theatre uses it to maximum effect. The shows they’ve staged in recent years certainly live up to (and often surpass) the ones from the past. They stage at least four shows a year, most of them directed by professors Jack Cirillo or Eugene Anthony - and they do amazing work.
In just the last couple of years, they’ve done shows like “The Foreigner,” which is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen on a stage, the outstanding “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which should be required viewing for every student everywhere, and the phenomenal “Hair” (to name just a few). Almost every year they tackle a Shakespeare play, like the excellent “Romeo and Juliet,” "Julius Ceasar" and “The Tempest” - you owe it to yourself to see these.
Really, if you’re not checking these out on a regular basis, you’re missing some excellent work - not to mention the chance to see the potential stars of the future!
So I'm assuming Marshall has been putting on shows the longest - although certainly the local high schools are also in the running, even though their output has been sporadic over the years. So who's next on the longest-running list?
That's the topic of the next post, which we'll call: History Part 2 - The Musical Arts Guild.
UPDATE: In doing some research I discovered an interesting fact: Marshall staged its first show in the Old Main auditorium on March 13, 1908. I still don't know which show it was, but I'll keep digging.