HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – The Keith Albee Theater on 4th Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia, is more than 90 years old and one of the last Keith Albee’s in the nation. Time has taken its toll on the theater and two people are determined to see the theater stays open.
Marshall University Head Basketball Coach Dan D’Antoni says the Keith Albee is fundamental to the city and that’s why he’s joining Senator Bob Plymale to raise money to keep it open. “I came back to be a part of the community,” D’Antoni said. “This is a big part of it, I think, and I want to help and do what I can.”
The Keith Albee first opened its doors in May 1928 and is the largest theater between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It has been home to thousands of performers over the decades. Senator Plymale says losing the Keith Albee would be nothing shy of devastating for the entire community.
“It’s almost like ripping the heart out of your body because this is the heart and soul, and has become the heart and soul, of entertainment in the region,” Plymale said.
It’s an atmospheric theater made to look like you’re in the courtyard of a starlit, night sky. At the time of construction, it cost $2 million to build this part of a 153-theatre vaudeville circuit around the world.
So D’Antoni is headed from basketball court to the theater. He and Senator Plymale have a winning strategy to keep the doors of the historic Keith Albee open.
“It’ll just be a good time,” Plymale said. “A good time for people to really fellowship and get ready for basketball season.”
They decided to host a “Hillbilly Ball” at the theater Friday, October 11, from 7 to 11 p.m. “Hillbilly Ball” is a phrase D’Antoni coined to describe his style of basketball and Senator Plymale asked D’Antoni if he could use that phrase as the title of the fundraiser.
“The only way we can keep it booked fully is to be able to have the funds to run it, to be able to do the improvements we need to do,” Plymale said.
That will cost between $15-20 million, but they only need about $50,000 right now to keep the doors open.
D’Antoni says as a coach he always tries to get the best team on the floor, but he’s more than a basketball coach.
“As a community member [it’s] putting the best face forward for the community, and this is a big part of that,” D’Antoni said.
What started as a childhood adoration when they first came to the theater with their parents, is now two men trying to give this theater her encore performance.
You can find out how to buy tickets by going to the Keith Albee website.