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Created as an annual event to celebrate West Virginia’s birth and generate tourism in the Beckley area, the outdoor drama Honey in the Rock was presented at Grandview for more than 50 years. Upon hearing a presentation by the play’s author, Kermit Hunter, in 1954, the Woman’s Club of Beckley agreed to endorse the project. Later, the West Virginia Historical Drama Association was incorporated to produce the outdoor drama.

Association board members included many Beckley business, professional, and government leaders, among them a former governor, Okey L. Patteson, and a future governor, Hulett Smith, and newspaper publisher Charles Hodel. The board began fund raising and with assistance from the state constructed Cliffside Amphitheater at Grandview. Honey in the Rock opened on June 27, 1961. In 1970, the play Hatfields and McCoys was added, and in the mid-70s the association became Theatre West Virginia, a repertory company, which performed at Grandview each summer and toured the schools and rural communities of West Virginia and surrounding states in the off season.

Honey in the Rock is about the birth of the state of West Virginia. Told through the experiences of the fictitious Morgan family, the play recounts the settling and development of the land and the political maneuvering in Wheeling to break away from Virginia. It includes famous historical figures such as Stonewall Jackson, soon-to-be president Andrew Johnson, and the state’s first governor, Arthur I. Boreman.

The play’s alumni include Academy Award nominee Chris Sarandon; actor, director, and playwright David Selby; actor David Schramm; and many theater professionals. Honey has stood the test of time because it is fine theater. As New York Times drama critic Milton Esterow said in his review of the play, ‘‘In a time when America is busy reliving its past and looking toward the future, Honey in the Rock, in a setting of breathtaking grandeur, perpetuates the magic of the theater and the majesty of the land.’’

Theatre West Virginia temporarily dissolved in 2013. However, it was announced early the following year that the feud musical, Hatfields and McCoys, would return for 17 performances beginning in July 2014. In 2015, 12 performances of Honey in the Rock were part of a more complete season of shows. After a several-year hiatus, the show returned in 2021.

This Article was written by Norman L. Fagan

Last Revised on September 13, 2023

Cite This Article

Fagan, Norman L. "Honey in the Rock." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 September 2023. Web. 25 June 2024.


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