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Apollo refurbishing with pair of grants

August 10, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Shirley Baker, the Apollo Civic Theatre's only paid employee, laughed aside any notion that state Sen. John Unger's niece will forever be guaranteed a role in future productions at the community theater.

Unger, D-Berkeley, whose niece appeared in the recent production of "Bye Bye Birdie," helped secure two $10,000 grants for the theater.

Half of the grant money will be used to continue restoring the theater's stage. The other half will be used to make the front lobby and bathrooms handicapped-accessible.

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"This is a very special (grant), to be honest," Baker said.

Although the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, along with other organizations, supports each show put on by the theater, the grants Unger helped secure can be used to improve the building.

Restoration of the circa-1913 building's stage is being done in phases, with the $10,000 helping with the second phase. A total of $200,000 is needed, Baker said.

One grant was awarded under the governor's Community Partnership grant program, while the other was an economic development grant, Unger said.

Along with community theater - in which performers and crew members are culled from the area and from high schools - the Apollo also hosts political debates, traveling troupe shows, the West Virginia Ballet and an annual performance by the Wheeling (W.Va.) Symphony Orchestra, among other events.

A few scenes for the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals" were filmed inside.

Several in-house performances - dramas and musicals - are given each season.

Unger said acting in a supporting role helped his 10-year-old niece overcome a tendency to be shy.

"It just really helps them get over their shyness and they become more confident in themselves," he said, adding of the Apollo, "I've heard nothing but good things about what they do out there."

The theater's next production will be "100 In the Shade," a musical set in the West during a drought. Auditions begin Monday, Aug. 22.

The Apollo was one of four theaters open in Martinsburg in the early 1900s, but the only one that was not razed. Community members formed a nonprofit group in the 1970s to buy the building and save it from being demolished.

For more information about the theater, go to www.apollo-theatre.org.

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