By: Lee Barbo, Mountaineer News Contributor
Posted: March 11, 2020 | 04:34PM EST
Buckhannon Community Theatre (aka BCT) will be celebrating 50 years in the summer of 2021, having begun as the passion-child of Jim Knorr, the founder of BCT and former vocal music teacher/choir director for Buckhannon Upshur High School. In BCT’s humble beginnings, Jim envisioned a theatre group that would perform Broadway style shows and, in essence, bring Broadway entertainment to the citizens of Buckhannon. The first BCT show Jim and the students from BUHS produced in the summer of 1971 was Annie Get Your Gun. Jim remained actively involved in BCT productions for many years until his retirement. In 2018, BCT decided to honor Jim Knorr with a namesake theatre artists’ award, the Knorr Award, whose first recipient was Keith Buchanan, a long-time thespian in and a supportive patron of BCT’s many various productions.
Since the early days of BCT, this community theatre group has remained a staple of local entertainment and an artistic outlet to members of the community of all ages in and around Buckhannon. Many friendships have been forged around BCT’s productions and many children have grown up on BCT’s stage.
My name is Lee Barbo and I am a proud member of Buckhannon Community Theatre! I have enjoyed being on stage, backstage, a (former) board member, a supporter, and a member of the audience of many BCT productions. I have born witness as children and adults in and around the community of Buckhannon have flexed their thespian muscles in BCT productions ranging from musicals to straight plays, and from kids shows to shows for adults.
BCT has not only produced a wide variety of shows, they have participated in helping to support, participate in, and promote other projects involving the arts and humanities, such as ART26201, Create Buckhannon, West Virginia Strawberry Festival, and Upshur Arts Alliance. Along with these worthy organizations, they are an intrinsic part of what makes Buckhannon a scenic place where people want to visit and to live. I see BCT as part of the colorful landscape of a thriving community that has a variety of restaurants, sweet shops, a kicking festival, a beautiful college campus, and a summer full of memorable Fridays at Jawbone Park.
Not only does BCT love Buckhannon, they have received love in kind. BCT has been made welcome to produce shows in many venues in and around the area, such as West Virginia Wesleyan’s Performing Arts Center, Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, the Event Center at Brushy Fork, The Opera House, The Colonial Theater, and others. Residents of Buckhannon and the surrounding area have attended BCT shows. Those who know me often ask: “When is the next production? What is the next show? When will auditions be?” I find that there is a lot of excitement in the community surrounding BCT’s shows, and for that, I am eternally grateful, but not just for myself.
Many children in our community look to BCT as their creative outlet and who take to the stage the way other children take to sports. Some of these children go on to major in theatre arts, voice, or music in college. Older students in high school and college who have already determined they will be pursuing a career in the performing arts look to BCT for experience and credit hours in their field.
BCT has even acted as host to a theatre master class taught by an honest-to-goodness Tony Award winning actor, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, best known for his role as Angel Dumott Schunard in the ever-popular Broadway musical, Rent. Why did BCT host such a class? Because they believe so much in their theatre craft and its role in civilized society that they wanted to foster the perfection of that craft in their own community. Art is life and life is art! So much of what we do in everyday life is performance art; teaching, politics, parenting, serving the public, and other professions incorporate performance arts in ways of which we are unaware. Much of the world’s history is not known without it.
I cannot imagine Buckhannon without Buckhannon Community Theatre. There are many close friendships I would not have without this organization and I hope you love BCT at least half as much as I do, and if you do love BCT productions, consider becoming a regular supporter. Here’s to you, Buckhannon Community Theatre, and here’s hoping for at least 50 more years! I love you, BCT.