September 19, 2008

In the past, eastern Kentucky's performing artists have had to travel hours upon hours to the nearest concert hall or theatre to showcase their talents. But with the completion of the Black Box Theatre, the new facility for Artists Collaborative Theatre, Inc., that is about to change.

The theatre's ribbon cutting and grand opening scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 23 in Elkhorn City will feature performances from talented local artists. Refreshments will be served.

"Not only will aspiring and professional actors and artists be able to use the facility to showcase their creativity, but it will generate income for Elkhorn City and Pike County," said Stephanie Richards, University of Kentucky fine arts extension agent in Pike County. "I believe it's going to give Elkhorn City a name as an arts tourism destination."

The 5,000-square-foot facility has been a work in progress for the past four years. The Artists Collaborative Theatre's board of directors purchased the location, and coal severance tax dollars funded the construction of the facility. Residents from WestCare, a local drug rehabilitation center, helped finish the facility. Additional support was provided from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Pike County Extension District Board, state Sen. Ray Jones, state Reps. Keith Hall and Leslie Combs.

"The Country Music Highway has a long tradition of producing artists like Patty Loveless, who is from Elkhorn City, and Loretta Lynn. This facility will help young people in this area get a start and provide an opportunity that they otherwise would not have had without Stephanie Richard's vision in Elkhorn City," Hall said.

The theatre has 120 seats that can transform into six different stage configurations to meet the needs of any performance. In addition to hosting various plays and performances, Richards said the theatre will provide opportunities for local young people to explore various art forms, in which they can develop critical thinking skills and build self-esteem. They are already holding classes for an afterschool theatre program.

"Our goal is to have something going on in the facility every day of the year," Richards said.

The space is booked already for this year's theatre season, and the company is in the process of scheduling plays for next season. The first production will be "Always ... Patsy Cline," a play by Ted Swindley. Its run will begin Sept. 25.

The Black Box Theatre is located at 270 N. Patty Loveless Drive in Elkhorn City. For more information on the theatre, contact Richards at 606-422-7333 or 606-432-2534.