On a recent June evening, as the sun set, turning the sky orange over Grandview’s Cliffside Amphitheatre, the seats began to fill up and the crowd made its way in for a night of entertainment.
Legs bounced in excited anticipation as audience members shared smiles, laughs and stories about their last visit to see a show.
For some, it was last week. For others, it was years ago. But almost everyone had a story about their last visit to Theatre West Virginia.
And then, the lights flashed and a momentary hush fell over the crowd. They knew it was an indication the show was about to begin.
Behind them, tucked away between wooden rails and a boxy sound system, Dr. Joe Dangerfield was casually dressed in a black T-shirt and grey basketball shorts.
He took a few steps to a black podium, casually sliding the glasses that had rested atop his gray hair down onto his nose. He slipped on a white glove, took a sip of water and looked down at a clock.
It was time.
The white glove swayed. “Annie” had begun.
• • •
Fayette County resident Joe Dangerfield hadn’t planned to spend his summer at Grandview’s Theatre West Virginia, but he received an unexpected phone call in early June asking if he could take over musical direction of “Annie” and “Hatfields and McCoys.”
The director previously scheduled for the productions, he explained, had been in a car accident and could no longer make it.
Dangerfield had never directed a musical but has an extensive music background. So, he accepted the position and began rehearsals the next morning.
“It’s home,” Dangerfield said. “One of the reasons I moved back was to be with my family. But another reason, when I left for college, I left with the intent of going out, studying and gaining experience and coming back home to teach so that I could bring those experiences back to the students in this area.”
Dangerfield has a musical career both locally and abroad that he’s been expanding for 18 years.
During the school year, he teaches music at Meadow Bridge Elementary School. During the summer, he usually teaches at the Alba Music Festival in Italy.
Except for this summer, which he’s spending at TWV.
“They needed help, and I like to do things for my community,” he said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something different. Something new.”
He explained how he helped the two girls who shared the title role in “Annie.”
“After working with them a few days, wonderful things started to happen,” he said, explaining the girls had little to no acting and singing experience before this summer. “I could hear them really well. They were projecting.
“To see them, to do that on stage, sort of makes you have a proud parent moment where you’re like, ‘Yes!’” he said with a laugh.
His hard work has been noticed by others as well.
“Some notes she couldn’t hit before,” said Sharon Cook, whose daughter Bethany shared the role of Annie. “Then, she did.
“He did that,” she continued. “Now, those notes just come right out.”
She said Dangerfield has taught her daughter to “push” herself and has instilled a confidence in her.
“There is such a huge difference from the time she first started to now,” she said.
Dangerfield said he’s enjoying himself but added the hours are long.
On a recent Sunday, he said he left his home around 11:30 a.m. for a “Hatfields and McCoys” rehearsal, got ready for “Annie” at 4:45 p.m. and got home close to midnight.
“I’ve gotten pretty good at taking catnaps in my car,” he said, laughing.
Despite the lack of sleep and his last-minute joining of the summer ensemble, he said he’s enjoying himself.
“We go, have fun, make music and what happens happens,” he said.
For more information about Theatre West Virginia, visit theatrewestvirginia.org.
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