The new executive director Loree Houghton is excited that the theater’s new home is in downtown Morgantown’s newly renovated Metropolitan Theater.
Houghton comes from a background in fundraising and development and studied musical theater in college. She replaces Ron Iannone who was the founder and director of the theater for 28 years. West Virginia Public Theater
started in 1984 and for many years the shows were put up in a tent just outside of Morgantown at the Lake View Resort. Last year the theater moved into the newly renovated Metropolitan Theater in downtown Morgantown.
“It’s a beautiful space. It’s a very intimate space," Houghton says. "It’s truly more like a broadway theater. It’s that intimacy and smallness and beauty that makes it feel really special when you walk in there. You feel like you’re going somewhere, like you’re really going to the theater when you walk into the Met. That’s a real plus and we’re really excited to be there.”
“The summer season starts on June 27," Houghton continues. "The first musical is 9 to 5, which is based on the 1980s movie that was so popular with Dolly Parton and Lilly Tomblin. And Dolly Parton wrote the music to turn the film into a musical. The musical was on broadway. I think in 2009 it was nominated for some Tonys, so it’s a pretty new musical. We’re excited to do that; it will be a lot of fun.”
Artistic Director Michael Licata has been with the theater since 2000. Licata is involved in the season’s selection of musicals and will be directing 9 to 5.
“There are a number of factors that go into the choice,” Licata says. “We do an audience survey and we ask people to ask what they’d like to see. Then we sit down and take all the high-rankers and we try to figure out how diverse we can make it so that we can attract everybody—not just people who know theater but branch out to other people in the region.”
Licata says they have an intense 70-hour rehearsal schedule. Rehearsal for 9 to 5 began in a facility outside the theater on Monday, June18th and about five days later the company will move into the Met Theater space to incorporate the technical aspects of the show—light, sound, and costumes—and open the show on Wednesday June 27th. Licata says the actors are professionals. They walk into rehearsals very prepared.
Nancy O’Bryan is one of the principal actresses who plays the role of Judy in 9 to 5.
“She’s an interesting character to play because she changes from being this meek person who has always had a husband, never had a job, always been kind of weak and didn’t make decisions to—all of a sudden she has to get a job and be her own person. She says in it that she ‘grows a backbone.’ So she’s kind of a cool character to play because she has a great transition in her personality.”
O’Bryan says she’s been acting for a while now and it’s interesting to observe which theater companies are finding ways to hang on in these tougher economic times.
“I think people sometimes feel guilty spending their money on entertainment. But I also think we need that. I think it’s kind of important to just go to the theater and just forget about everything for a night and have fun. At least for two hours not having to think about when that next bill is being paid or who is going to pick up your children tomorrow and take them to school, or whatever. I have a daughter so I think about all these things, too, but I think it’s important. And I think West Virginia Public Theater makes it accessible for anybody.”
Like many of the talent employed through the theater, O’Bryan will be in more than one of the shows. She will return to the Metropolitan Theater stage in August for the final musical of the season, Ring of Fire, which features a selection of Johnny Cash music.
The rest of the season includes:
Godspell: July 4 - 8
Anything Goes: July 11 - July 15
The Marvelous Wonderettes: July 18 - July 22
All Shook Up: July 25 - 29
Ring of Fire: August 1 - 5