Take a Bow

Charleston’s theater company, The Kanawha Players, celebrates 90 years in the spotlight.


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Photographed by Joe Belcher

The Kanawha Players began as a group of people who wanted to put on a great show. The Charleston-based theater company has come a long way since beginning in 1922.

Over the years, the company has had its ups and downs—from the building catching fire to losing members, says Jennie Swan, a longtime member of the company. Nearly a century later, the group continues to entertain as it celebrates its 90th anniversary.

Jennie says The Kanawha Players has long been a kind of home for people who want to try new things. The group is very diverse—no one is turned away. No matter what you might want to do, The Kanawha Players will find a spot for you—onstage, backstage, or even building sets. “Just come and throw your hat in the ring,” Jennie says. Members don’t have to commit to a whole season, and many people come and go by shows. During a typical season there will be a big shows and small shows, musicals, and even an all-ages heavy metal concert once a month. Some seasons there will be 10 performances, others just five. President Katonya Hart says the current season is especially different. With a new board of directors and president, the company plans to involve the community more than ever. The Kanawha Players is working with local writers to raise awareness about the issues that close. This season they are partnering with Milkyway Production to help with Battered but not Broken, a play about domestic violence.

The theater company is also expanding its facilities with hopes of increasing the number of productions in a season. Plans include purchasing and remodeling a church that could serve as another performance space besides the Civic Center.

This season, audiences can look forward to a live performance of Little Women. The group will use the same costumes that were sewn by Jennie when the play was performed as many as 20 years ago.

See The Kanawha Players:
Little Women, April 26 to 29, 8 p.m., with schools’ shows on April 26 and April 27 at 10 a.m.
Our Lady of 121st Street, June 15 to 17 at 8 p.m. with matinee on June 16 and 17 at 2 p.m.

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