News Column

Theatre West Virginia's 54th season: Young area actors hone their onstage chemistry

July 10, 2014

By Wendy Holdren, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.



July 10--BECKLEY -- The star-crossed love of Roseanne McCoy and Johnse Hatfield will be brought to life by two young, talented performers -- Allie Patton and Ben Stoll -- starting Friday night for 17 performances of "Hatfields and McCoys" at Theatre West Virginia.

Patton, 21, of Knoxville, Tenn., and Stoll, 22, of Stuarts Draft, Va., have been rehearsing for several weeks together, perfecting the on-stage chemistry between the forbidden lovers.

Playing Roseanne is a long-time dream for Patton, who has been attending Theatre West Virginia performances since she was a girl.

Every summer when Patton would visit her grandparents, they would attend a live performance together, and when she was old enough, she decided to audition.

"I auditioned and I've been doing it ever since," Patton said with a smile.

"It's very exciting, especially to be playing Roseanne. I've grown up and done the historicals and always watched the Roseannes go through, so it's exciting to finally be playing her. It's kind of surreal."

Although this is Patton's biggest role to date, she's no stranger to the stage -- this year marks her seventh year at TWV. She has played Veruca Salt in "Willy Wonka" and Dorothy Plunk in "Rocket Boys: The Musical" and before she tried her hand at acting, she performed as a dancer.

Patton is attending school in New Jersey at Rider University, where she is majoring in musical theater, but she loves coming to Grandview for the summer.

"Every summer you get a cast of people who are just fun-loving. It's like a big family and it's always hard to leave at the end of the summer."

She said when she heard about Theatre West Virginia closing, she was heartbroken because of her lifelong personal connection to the theater.

"It's such a great opportunity for actors to come here and even for local children who would be involved in the shows. It was heartbreaking at first when I heard, but I'm glad they're trying to get it back up and going. I definitely think it's a big part of the community."

Patton is quite familiar with the Cliffside Amphitheater, but her on-stage love interest, Stoll, or "Johnse Hatfield," will be experiencing Theatre West Virginia for the first time.

Stoll is attending James Madison University in Virginia and is double majoring in musical theater and English; one of his professors actually tipped him off about the possibility of playing Johnse.

His professor connected him with the casting director and the musical director, he submitted his resume and audition material and they soon offered him the part.

Stoll said he had never heard of Theatre West Virginia before, but coming to the area and meeting the cast and crew has been fantastic.

"I'm having a blast. The other actors are so skilled and there's a strong sense of community that I've felt since the first orientation day. It's nice to be starting to fit in with that."

Stoll's past theater experience includes children's theater at James Madison University and murder mystery dinner theaters with a troupe in his hometown.

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Patton encourages everyone to come to see the production, even if you've seen it before -- "With the direction Dan (Henthorn) has taken the show, it's not the same show the audiences have come and seen every year."

She said it's a different show with a new cast, and many of the new aspects of the show are a lot of fun.

And Stoll adds -- there's no better form of entertainment than live theater.

"Story has been such a huge part of my life since. I love reading and I love watching plays and performing and movies... but theater for me is one of the most real-time impactful methods of telling a story."

He said not only is "Hatfields and McCoys" full of local history that's exciting for everyone to learn more about, but "it's that beautiful method of telling a story that people can really get into."

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.theatrewestvirginia.com or call 304-256-6800.

-- E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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(c)2014 The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.)

Visit The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.) at www.register-herald.com

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Source: Register-Herald (Beckley, WV)


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