CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Trillium Performing Arts Collective is located in the historic Lewis Theatre, 115 North Court St., Lewisburg. The core artists and teachers are Chally Erb, Carli Mareneck, Samara Michaelson, Lorrie Monte, Devin Preston and Jo Weisbrod.
According to the group's website, Trillium Performing Arts Collective began in 1982 when Carli Mareneck, Beth White and Lorrie Monte started working together. White and Monte met at Naropa University, in Boulder, Colo. Eventually, they migrated separately to West Virginia and shared a vision to create dance. They needed other people to perform, so they began teaching dance classes in whatever spaces would accommodate them.
The two women soon connected with Carli Mareneck, a dancer teaching in Union. The three women began performing throughout Greenbrier and neighboring counties. They opened studio space on Washington Street in Lewisburg and taught dance and choreographed original dance.
In 1992, Trillium received federal nonprofit status with the help of White, Elizabeth Janeczek and Jo Weisbrod. The group grew and became an outlet for original performance art. Dance performances and movement theater served as a way for many of the area's artists to express ideas and political views. Musicians began to get involved and live music was soon featured in the shows.
The Trillium artists realized the need for an informal forum for artists of all levels to perform, so they created the Friday Night Alive! series, which continues today. It is held eight times a year at the Lewis Theatre.
Devin Preston is the program coordinator of the group. He attributes its longevity to the dedication of the members. "Part of it is that several of the original group are still members, either serving on the board or as active artists," Preston said.
He described Friday Night Alive! as "an hour-long version of 'Lewisburg's Got Talent.' Each participant gets 10 minutes to perform in front of an audience. It's open to anyone -- dance, music, spoken word and different acts. It's family friendly. It's $6 for adults and $3 for students," Preston said. The next Friday Night Alive is Feb. 21.
"The Lewis Theatre was purchased in 2007 by three board members -- Ann Davis, Lin Preston and Larry Levine -- for a permanent home for the collective," Devin Preston said. "People sometimes ask, 'How can there be so many artists in such a small town?' and I respond that, as a town, we've figured out that we can do a lot more when we work together."
The theater began a capital campaign to renovate the theater and, by 2009, completed the first phase of renovation, allowing the group to host its first concert production in its new home.
"Really, Lewisburg has it all. You can get a great meal. You can see a great show -- but without the crime and the traffic," Devin Preston said of his move from Seattle, with his wife and child 13 years ago, back to his hometown of Lewisburg.
Preston also is manager of the Lewis Theatre movie theater that brings top-rated -- often independent -- films to the small town's residents. Currently playing are the critically acclaimed films "Nebraska" and "Dallas Buyers Club." The theater opened in 1939 with live vaudeville entertainment performed before film showings.
The Trillium School for Performing Arts is another part of the arts collective. Preston described it as "a school for ages 3 to adult that teaches dance, poetry, yoga, Qigong and more. We also have the Trillium Performing Youth, which is a group of teenagers who have four hours a week of lessons and present works in the community. We teach throughout the year and have four eight-week sessions. We have a recital on May 18 for all these students," Preston said.
Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamil...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.