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Struggling Theatre West Virginia closes

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BECKLEY, WV (AP) — Financial troubles have forced Theatre West Virginia to cease operations.

General Manager Gayle Bowling tells The Register-Herald that funding reductions and wet weather that reduced attendance led to the decision. The outdoor theater company had been in operation for more than a half century but had financial struggles for several years.

"We are all heartbroken and devastated personally and professionally," Bowling said.

Bowling says employees have been laid off and the theater's assets will be liquidated. Bowling said "barring some miracle," she didn't see an alternative option to keep the theater open.

Bowling will continue to work on a volunteer basis to finish the theater's closing.

"Theatre West Virginia has been a huge part of my life for 23 years, and my hope is that, at some point in the future, it can be resurrected in a different way," she said.

Bowling said the theater found out last week it wouldn't receive $20,000 in state funding to support a touring company whose shows were set to start on Oct. 1

Doug Maddy, president and CEO of Visit Southern West Virginia, said the decision left him speechless.

"I know they've had financial difficulty, but I've worked with them and I had no inkling they were going to close," he said.

Theatre West Virginia was founded in 1955. Among its founders was former Gov. Hulett Smith.

Maddy said the theater was one of southern West Virginia's premier attractions.

"This really is bad news for all of us," he said. "There's no good spin to put on it. The theater is 50 years old. It's a big part of our heritage and our culture."

Delegate Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh, said the state's history was told through the theater's summer productions. She said there was no better place to take out-of-state visitors for a picnic and an outdoor theater experience.

"It also gave people a chance to start their acting career with lessons and the travel team," she said.

 

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