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Outdoor theater is a Southern W.Va. tradition

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- OK, July Fourth is history, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of summer left to enjoy outdoor entertainment.

For more than half a century, audiences have been treated to historical dramas about West Virginia.

One of the first was the production, in 1952, of "The Aracoma Story" about the Indian tribes that lived in the Logan County area. After two seasons, the show lay dormant until it was revived in 1975.

Meanwhile, in time for West Virginia's centennial celebration, the story of the state's formation was staged by Theatre West Virginia in 1961. Since then, more than a million people have watched "Honey in the Rock."

A few years later, in 1970, "Hatfields & McCoys" premiered at Grandview State Park, where it alternates performances with "Honey in the Rock." The musical has resulted in record attendance this summer mainly because of interest created by History Channel's miniseries on the infamous feud between West Virginia and Kentucky families.

Both shows continue through July. In August, "Rocket Boys" opens. The musical is based on the best-selling book by Homer Hickam about growing up in Coalwood in the 1950s.

Backstage tours are offered this season at the Grandview productions. The 45-minute tours begin at 6 p.m. and cost $5. Reservations are encouraged.

Here's a rundown on the outdoor theater offerings:

'The Aracoma Story'

Based on fact and legend and set about 200 years ago, the play tells the story of the daughter of Shawnee Chief Cornstalk, Princess Aracoma, who falls in love with a British soldier. A marketing blurb promises something for everyone: "Audiences will experience love, laughter, family, tradition, gun fights, raids and living history."

The drama is performed at 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays July 17-29 at the Spurlock Amphitheater in Logan State Park, about six miles off U.S. 119 on W.Va. 119/90.

Tickets at the box office are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children ages 3-12; advance tickets are $1 less for adults and seniors. Call 304-752-0253 for tickets. The box office opens at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.thearacomastory.com.

'Winnie the Pooh'

The classic children's characters are the stars in this musical. Set in the Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh is on his continual search for honey when he finds a note from Christopher Robin that leads the bear of very little brain to believe his friend has been kidnapped. His friends -- Piglet, Kanga, Tigger and Rabbit -- join in the hunt.

The show runs from July 31 to Aug. 12. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Spurlock Amphitheater in Logan State Park.

There are no shows on Aug. 5 and 6.

Tickets at the box office are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children ages 3-12; advance tickets are $1 less for adults and seniors. Call 304-752-0253 for tickets. The box office opens at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.thearacomastory.com.

'Honey in the Rock'

The tumultuous years surrounding the Civil War and the creation of a new state in 1863 is retold in the musical that is described as a "romping, rollicking, vibrant historical performance filled with drama, intrigue, music, comedy and romance."

Kermit Hunter wrote the play; Ewel Cornett and Jack Kilpatrick the music.

Shows begin at 8:15 p.m. on July 8, 11, 13, 17, 19, 21, 22, 25 and 27 at Cliffside Amphitheater in Grandview State Park. Take Interstate 64 Exit 129B near Beckley and go six miles on Grandview Road.

Tickets are $19 for adults; $17 for seniors, AAA members and military personnel; $9 for children 12 and younger and $7 for children of AAA members. Call 304-256-6800 or toll-free at 800-666-9142. For more information, visit www.theatrewestvirginia.com.

'Hatfields & McCoys'

West Virginia native Billy Edd Wheeler wrote the book and lyrics for this rendition of the infamous feud between the Hatfield clan of Southern West Virginia and the McCoys, who lived across the Tug Fork River in Kentucky. The bad blood between the two families spanned decades and resulted in about 20 deaths. Ewel Cornett wrote the music for the drama.

Showtime is 8:15 p.m. on July l0, 12, 14, 15, 18, 20, 24 and 26 at Grandview State Park. Take Interstate 64 Exit 129B near Beckley and go six miles on Grandview Road.

Tickets are $19 for adults; $17 for seniors, AAA members and military personnel; $9 for children 12 and younger and $7 for children of AAA members. Call 304-256-6800 or toll-free at 800-666-9142. For more information, visit www.theatrewestvirginia.com.

'Rocket Boys'

Theatre West Virginia performed the world premiere of the musical last summer at Cliffside Amphitheater.

Homer Hickam wrote the story based on his best-selling memoir of the same name. The setting is 1957 in the coal mining community of Coalwood. The launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik spurs several high school friends to build their own rockets.

Shows begin at 8:15 p.m. Aug. 1-5, 7-12 and 14-16 at Grandview State Park. Take Interstate 64 Exit 129B near Beckley and go six miles on Grandview Road.

Tickets are $19 for adults; $17 for seniors, AAA members and military personnel; $9 for children 12 and younger and $7 for children of AAA members. Call 304-256-6800 or toll-free at 800-666-9142. For more information, visit www.theatrewestvirginia.com.

Reach Rosalie Earle at earle@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.


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