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Charleston Stage Company calls it quits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Stage Company will take a final bow in the first week of July, according to a release from the theater group's media relations officer, Frieda Forsley.In the release, Charleston Stage Company cited declining revenues and attendance over the course of several years, as well as a loss in backing from the West Virginia State University's College of the Arts and Sciences, as the underlying reasons why the company was dissolving.Charleston Stage Company was co-founded by David Wohl, who was the dean of the college of arts and sciences at WVSU. Wohl served as artistic director of the stage company, but left Charleston in 2010, after he took a job at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, N.C.Bethany Cline, a local actress, said she got her start in the Charleston theater scene with Charleston Stage Company's 1993 production of "Night of the Iguana" and recently appeared in their production of "God of Carnage."Cline said she was sad to hear of the company's demise, but not entirely surprised."I was pretty sure they were going to have some trouble once David Wohl moved and he wasn't able to continue as artistic director."Wohl, she said, was the glue that held the company together."I think most theater companies like Charleston Stage Company have a person like that," Cline said. "And they have to pass the torch on to someone else before they leave or it all falls apart."Stuart Frazier, a member of Charleston's Stage Company's board since January, didn't specifically mention Wohl, but said the group has been trying to move forward past their relationship with WVSU. However, numerous financial challenges had built up because they were no longer associated with the university."We had bills we weren't used to," he said. "There were things we'd never paid before and that were covered by the university and suddenly they were on our lap."
Frazier said the group tried to adapt and explored what options they could. Some time ago, Charleston Stage Company's board sent an "SOS letter" to various people associated with the theater company, asking for help."We tried to find sponsors," Frazier said. "But things didn't really materialize as much as we wanted. We didn't find people to sponsor us."Without funding, the group's fate was more or less sealed.Charleston Stage Company's board will meet one final time at 6 p.m. July 2 at Good News Mountaineer Garage, 221 Hale St. The public is invited to attend the meeting.While it seems like this is the end of Charleston Stage Company, Frazier wasn't entirely sure what was going to happen at that last meeting.
He said, "What happens next is a better question for the president, Geoff Coward or some of the other members of the board, but basically, I think we're going to review it all again, look at our possible options, double check and see if we have any sort of 'Hail Mary' pass left to us."A message was sent to Coward and calls were made to other members of the board, but no one had responded by press time.If no solution to Charleston Stage Company's problems becomes available, Cline said it was heartbreaking that the theater company would close, but added that this would not be the end of theater in Charleston. She'd keep looking for roles that interest her."There are still people out there putting on quality productions," she said. "I'll be sad, but I have a lot of really good memories."Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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