The Marshall Artists Series celebrates 75 years.
Photo Courtesy of David Fattaleh
Seventy-five years ago, a Marshall University professor had a dream of bringing the greatest in entertainment to Huntington. That dream became the Marshall Artists Series—now the second oldest institution of its kind in the nation—and brings in some of the most famous performers, as well as acts on their way to the top. “We do programming that gets people excited,” says Angela Jones, director of marketing for the series.
This winter, tickets are in high demand, as Young Frankenstein, Larry King, and In the Heights are a few of the season’s choices. Organized in 1936 by the late English Professor Curtis Baxter, the series has brought tens of thousands of people into Huntington for top-notch shows—most of which now take place at the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center downtown. Baxter himself was a theater buff who wanted to bring the college and community together, as well as provide, perhaps, some cultural education.
The first series was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Marshall College. “It was supposed to be a one-time event, but it was so successful,” Jones says. “It’s grown leaps and bounds. It’s gone from just a few events per year to an annual series with at least 10 to 12 events, fundraisers, and two international film festivals each year.”
multimedia show and rarely seen silent film portraits in 13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, celebrate 100 Years of Broadway, or have a laugh with Larry King like you’ve never seen him before—standing up.
Jones says many ticket holders come back year after year—renewing their passes and sitting in the same seats. “They would buy our series without even knowing who’s in it because they love the programming.”
The Keith-Albee adds to the experience, she says. “Seeing shows in that venue—with the proscenium opening and the lights in the ceiling—the atmosphere in that building, people treasure it.”
Ralph Hagy has been traveling with his family from Williamson to Huntington for the series for 15 years. They moved to Huntington last year. “We got the award for driving the worst roads the longest way for shows,” he laughs.
Hagy calls the Keith-Albee one of the classiest theaters left in the country. “To have a chance to go there, it’s something a lot of people have not had a chance to experience,” he says. “It’s one of those grand, old theaters you don’t see anymore.”
Hagy says he used to want to expose his young sons to the culture, but now, many years later, they go on their own as adults. He says, “It was a class act and something we wanted to be part of.”
The family has seen everything from a performance by Frank Sinatra Jr. to comedians and Broadway shows as part of the series. This year, Hagy looks forward to Michael McDonald and Larry King. “This year is going to be an exciting year for the 75th anniversary. We love everything they do—all these shows, we take them all in.”