STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) - While theaters and performing arts programs shut down across the country due to the pandemic, one man in the Shenandoah Valley decided to take a leap of faith and open a theater company.
Jeremy West lost his job after 8 years as the chair of fine arts and theatre director at Stuart Hall School in Staunton. COVID-19 cost him that, but not his dreams.
“I think every actor at some point in their life sort of daydreams about having their own company to play with,” said West.
But not every actor does it and certainly not in the middle of a pandemic. “It’s crazy. It’s kind of crazy,” stated West. “There comes a point where you just have to be fearless and do it.”
This is that moment for West. “You can’t go in halfway or else it will fail.”
The Shakespeare-trained actor normally spends his summers acting professionally or doing fight choreography. “I didn’t have anything coming up and so I was a bit sad. All of the theaters were closed,” stated West.
So he opened up the Silver Line Theatre Exchange in Staunton. “There’s a lot of opportunity for kids to perform, but what’s not really being offering right now is traditional training,” said West.
The conservatory fills that hole with acting classes for 5th grade through adults.
The meaning of ‘Silver Line” is two-fold. “It was the silver lining to a very dark cloud,” stated West. But it solidified as a way to make connections, like a metro train. “Using theatre to connect people and exchange ideas.”
West says it would be lovely to be the conservatory putting out tomorrow’s Tony and Oscar-winning actors. “But if I never do, but I put out confident young people who find some empathy and respect for their peers... that is fantastic,” said West.
Silver Line Theatre Exchange is a nonprofit with scholarships available to students. And, the exchange will eventually be putting on education-led performances once there can be audiences.