By Mike Behler
For The Fayette Tribune
After nearly 20 years and hundreds of popular performances, the special lease on the Historic Fayette Theatre has expired and theatre officials need the help of HFT supporters.
The HFT group has the opportunity to purchase the building, which opened in December 1937 as Fayetteville’s first modern motion picture theater.
“We have a golden opportunity to purchase the theatre. We have made a 10 percent down payment and we have until next February to raise the remaining $90,000,” a theatre official said. “Once the property is ours, we plan to have it declared a permanent historic landmark to ensure it will never be anything other that what it is today — a quaint community theatre where people can come to be entertained and to express themselves artistically.”
Grant Thomas, the only owner/operator of the movie house, closed it in 1971. It lay vacant for more than 20 years when, in 1992, the Fayette County Historical Society was able to arrange a special lease for the property and the Historic Fayette Theatre was born.
No longer a movie theater, the interior was modified with a stage for the performing arts. To date, HFT has proudly presented over 100 different plays, shows, and concerts, most to raves of approval from patrons.
“We have provided a place for thousands of people to become involved in the exciting world of performing on stage. Many have told us it is the most rewarding thing they do or have done.
“Furthermore, the friendships that bloom from being in an HFT cast or crew, and the sense of accomplishment everyone feels, are invaluable,” the official said.
“We will diligently maintain the historical integrity of the building, which is now one of the oldest structures in Fayetteville. Many historical artifacts can be seen on tours of the theatre conducted on Fridays during the spring, summer and fall months. Renovations planned include a handicapped-accessible restroom and a restored marquee. Once comple te, The Historic Fayette Theatre will then be eligible for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations, and, therefore, will be able to continue indefinitely.”
That is the desire behind HFT board of directors’ plan to try to raise funds to buy the building.
“To that happy end then, we implore all our patrons, neighbors and friends to contribute all they can to this great cause. All donations are tax-deductible since we are a non-profit organization. We do not want to see HFT go away, and it certainly could without financial help from everyone who wants to keep the theatre going.
“Ninety thousand dollars is a lot of money to raise in 11 months, so your prompt and generous contribution would be greatly appreciated. If you are leery about risk, consider it a long-term investment to preserve a part of Fayetteville history and charm, namely your beloved community theatre. We need this arts venue to continue to operate in Fayetteville because, after almost 20 years, it has become a fixture — to lose it would be a remarkable tragedy!
“Keep in mind, too, that we are planning many fundraising activities and donor incentives all year, so you can divide your total gift into installments if that’s easier on your budget. The key is to meet our goal on schedule.”
Please make all checks payable to The Historic Fayette Theatre and send them to PO Box 448, Fayetteville, WV 25840.
The board of directors and the family of volunteers at HFT are thankful for any gifts of support. “We all cherish the theatre and hope you feel the same way. We are very optimistic about the future and look forward to years and years of providing you with the fine entertainment you have come to expect from us.”