I originally started this column by writing, "Last week I had the wonderful opportunity ..."
Then I stopped.
Sure, it was an opportunity. But even more so it was a very concerted effort.
At the July 23 performance of the Hatfields and McCoys, Wetzel County natives Bob Athey, left, and Dan Henthorn, right, honored their high school theater teacher, Eileen Miller, who was in attendance. Miller retired from her position at Magnolia High School this spring. In addition to both of them playing major rolls in the outdoor drama, Henthorn is directing the Hatfields and McCoys and Athey directed one-act plays at Raleigh Playhouse and Theatre on Monday and Tuesday.
Last week several members of my family and I made a point to go to Grandview National Park near Beckley, W.Va., and take in the Theatre West Virginia production of the Hatfields and McCoys.
I'd like to suggest that you do the same this week. Make the effort. Why? Let me count the ways:
1. You must make the effort as Grandview is not simply "on the way" to anywhere. It isn't exactly far off a major interstate, but you must take the exit and go the five miles north to get to the park. You will not just happen by it.
You must also make the effort because if you go to it "someday", that hypothetical someday may never come. Here would also be a good time to point out that the show closes Saturday, so you don't have much time to get there.
2. Four local actors are involved in this year's production and that may just be a record showing at TWV for Wetzel County.
3. This outdoor drama is in danger of never being produced again. They thought last year was its swan song, but it rose like a phoenix thanks to a lot of work, love, and trust. Couldn't you at least pay for a ticket or two (or more) and honor their efforts?
4. The musical by Billy Edd Wheeler recounts one of the most famous historical stories of West Virginia (and Kentucky--if we must mention it). So a visit to the show is an educational experience. Take your kids and grandkids.
Now this is where I should probably note that the show does contain a whole lot of shootin' and general fightin' that could disturb some children. However, I took my seven-year-old and three-year-old and they enjoyed it. Andrew simply put on his fuzzy neon green "ear muffins" whenever he saw a gun in someone's hand, which was often. There is also a small amount of foul language. End of disclaimer.
5. The setting is idyllic. Go early and walk from the amphitheater's parking lot along a short, cut-stone path to the main overlook. It is indeed a grand view. It is the one most people think of when they envision a West Virginia Visitor's Guide. Take your camera and snap away.
6. The play really is enjoyable. The acting is wonderful. The costumes are believable for the late 1800s. The singing is pleasant. And of course the guns are busy!
7. Dan Henthorn's rich voice carries, like it always does.
8. Bob Athey is a hoot, as he always is.
9. Haley Hizer and Travis Leonard represent Wetzel County well, as we expected.
Choose a side and root for them to win the feud that made history. There may not be any true winner in a feud, but Theatre West Virginia and the arts in general can win if you'll make the effort to support them.
I hope you will.