Region finds new theatre opportunity


The region is getting a new performing arts venue, as the established Alchemy Theatre opens its own location this month.

The theatrical troupe was formed in 2018 and has produced 33 shows and events with dozens of regional performers. The troupe aims to stage six productions a year and hosts many other theatres and events, including the West Virginia Shakespeare Festival. On top of that, those involved have many, many additional years of performance history and educational background in theatre.

“Alchemy Theatre has established itself as a friend to all art organizations in our area. With ties to Portsmouth Little Theatre, Shawnee State University, the Paramount of Ashland, First Stage Children’s Theatre and HART in the Park in Huntington, to Charleston Light Opera Guild in Charleston, we pride ourselves on supporting other arts venues and other artists,” Alchemy Theatre’s Artistic Direcor Mike Murdock said. “We have had people from every corner of the region in our shows, attend our classes, participate in our festivals and more. We love to collaborate and work with all of the artists in our area, because we are stronger as a whole than apart.”

The new space is the group’s first permanent residence, and they plan big things within the walls.

“This building is a huge step forward for our organization. For the last five years, we have worked in all sorts of venues – from schools and auditoriums to warehouses and restaurants and others. While we are grateful for the venues we have been able to perform in, it hasn’t been cheap, and it hasn’t been permanent,” Murdock said. “It hasn’t been ‘home.’ Having a permanent home allows us to expand our work, not only technically, but with what we can offer the public as well. We hope Alchemy Theatre’s Geneva Kent Center for the Arts will be a hub for artists everywhere. We will be able to offer performance space, as well as rehearsal space and artist studio space to anyone that may need it. We will also be able to host more classes, workshops and lectures, as well as bring in and host out-of-town programming to the region.”

The group plans on being diverse with its space and offer many more resources to the art community.

“We intend to offer studio spaces that you can’t find anywhere else, too: sound studios, music rooms, a dance studio, podcast stations, etc.,” Murdock said. “We will also have spaces for artist showcases, displays and exhibits. We have a lot of space to fill, and we want it to be a place people will want to visit to work and play in a cultivating, safe and inclusive atmosphere.”

The group is accomplished, despite operating without a permanent space up until now. They see this growth as an opportunity for even more and will be planning next season around their new flexibility.

“Once we have a season in the new space under our belt and we get settled in, we intend to expand programing by adding classes, cabarets, workshops and other fun things to do in our area. Our 2024 season will be very exciting, as it will be the first season programmed specifically for the new space. We’re really looking forward to having all of our lights and equipment, etc., all in the same place,” Murdock said. “It will allow us to work more efficiently and more quickly, so we also hope to expand our normal season selections, too. Having the freedom to utilize all of the things we’ve learned from traveling around to different venues will really help our new space grow by leaps and bounds.”

The region is experiencing a lot of development in recent years and the arts are just part of that growth. Murdock views the growth in the arts as instrumental to a healthy, happy community.

“Community Theatre is invaluable to not only our area, but everywhere,” Murdock claimed. “Community theatre allows people to step out of their comfort zone or to scratch an itch they may have always had. The sense of family and camaraderie given by theatre and the communal experience of it is not only affirming, but sorely lacking in so many other places in the world. The goal of theatre is to always be inclusive and safe and inviting. It’s a place where you are side-by-side with people doing what they love, learning from each other, cheering each other on and picking each other up when you fall. It teaches teamwork, social skills, public speaking, kindness, critical thinking, problem solving and love. But most of all, it’s fun. It’s made up of everyone, from all walks of life, and you will always meet people you might not have ever met in any other way, who share a love and a passion with you for art. Community theatre brings people together, and that is so important in our world right now.”

The theatre’s new home is at 68 Holley Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia. Their website is and Artistic Director Mike Murdock can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 818.201.6208. Executive Director Nora Ankrom can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 304.544.1319.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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