Theatre Ph.D. Dissertations


Musical Theatre in the Mountains: An Examination of West Virginia Public Theatre's History, Mission, Practices, and Community Impact

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Theatre and Film

First Advisor

Michael Ellison, PhD

Second Advisor

Elaine Colprit, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Jonathan Chambers, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Ronald Shields, PhD (Committee Member)


The purpose of this study was to examine the ways in which a professional theatre can impact its community and to provide useful suggestions for young producers hoping to start their own theatre. By using the West Virginia Public Theatre as a case study and by examining its three-part mission (to entertain, to educate, and to improve the quality of life), this study highlights both effective and ineffectual practices conducted by the theatre, its administration, and its staff to ascertain the efficacy of that mission. Furthermore, the numerous voices stemming from my personal interviews with a cross-section of the community have served as a principal source of data from which to analyze the theatre’s impact on the blue-collar, sports-focused society of North Central West Virginia.

West Virginia Public Theatre was established in 1985 and since has grown to be a reputable summer stock company. Modeled on the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, West Virginia Public Theatre has developed from a small, unknown theatre performing in a parking lot tent to a well-respected summer stock theatre with aspirations of further developing into a regional company. By investigating the efficacy of the theatre’s attempt to satisfy its three-fold mission through the guiding lens of Jill Dolan’s theories of “utopic performance,” I have gleaned several considerations for burgeoning producers to contemplate as they attempt to launch a new theatre company or to grow an already established company. These considerations, meant to be suggestions assembled from the analysis of my case study, will provide touchstones for fledgling companies to contemplate as they develop their own missions and attempt to impact their own communities.