News Column

TWV resurrection startles nonprofit organizer

July 5, 2014

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

July 05--BECKLEY -- Most of the theater community was ecstatic to hear when Theatre West Virginia announced plans to reopen, but for one woman, that wasn't the case.

When she heard about TWV's closure and the end of the professional training academy, Gayle Oaks decided to make sure the youth in the community would still have a local theater company.

Her 7-year-old son, Thomas, encouraged the endeavor, saying, "Mom, why don't we do our own show?"

"I didn't know what to do or what to call it," Oaks said of the concept for a theater group.

She decided on Beckley Children Theatre, a nonprofit organization open to children ages 5 through high school, no matter their financial means.

"It's absolutely free. If they show up and they want a part, they have a role."

The kids put on the entire production -- sound, lights, acting and everything in-between. They even select the play for the performance.

Approximately 20 students signed up for Beckley Children Theatre, many of whom were involved with TWV's training academy.

So when she heard a few months later that Scott Hill was attempting to reopen Theatre West Virginia, she was a bit upset, to say the least.

"I called Scott and I said there is a huge conflict here. Half of my cast will come back to Theatre West Virginia."

Hill, though, told her he had a plan and hoped they could collaborate.

He asked Oaks to become the production stage manager for Act II, and she decided to host the Beckley Children Theatre in TWV's off-season.

She said she's happy to be a part of TWV's rebirth, while still offering a chance for children from all backgrounds to be a part of the theater community with Beckley Children Theatre.

"Some kids are involved in theater year-round now," Oaks said of the rotating theater schedule.

Opening night of Theatre West Virginia's production of "Hatfields and McCoys" will be July 11.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.

An open casting call for students K-12 for Beckley Children Theatre will be at 6 p.m.Sept. 11 at 607 Johnstown Road in Beckley.

For more information, check them out on Facebook or e-mail

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Source: Register-Herald (Beckley, WV)

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